How to stop your past from affecting you
Relationships are not always sunshine and rainbows, everyone brings their own set of baggage that is vitally important to understand before jumping in. We’ve all been through relationship trauma that has shaped us into who we are today. Like everything we choose to do in life, we must always take a step back and ask ourselves if we are ready to hold the key to someone else’s heart.
Two years after her last relationship, Arianna, though she was ready to date. She had been in a three-year relationship before this decision and thought she was ready to find someone who would share their knowledge and love in a new chapter of her life. Arianna did not know about relationships other than the toxic one she had been in, she lacked security in being loved properly by her ex-boyfriend; this predicament gave her a culture shock when she realized how different the dating world was.
A majority of the men she met would say anything she wanted to hear in order to fulfill their needs and wants, so she fell head over heels for every “I want you”, “Don’t worry, you’re all I need” and “I love you” she heard. This caused her to trust quickly, give endlessly, and most of all love passionately until she had enough and stopped herself from displaying emotions.
What happened? As she told herself she was ready for new relationships, she wasn’t. Slowly but surely those words began to circulate as deceiving lies in her head; Arianna began to notice the pattern as her heart no longer had room for love from past relationships that continued to shine light on the trauma she carried moving forward.
Stories like Arianna’s represent the cycle of broken hearts that lowers our self-esteem, hope, and trust in one another. I want you to take a moment and think of a time where you have either caused this or have been a victim…Now, don’t worry, we have all been there.
1 Accept Your Past
The first step toward a healthy relationship is to acknowledge past trauma in order to accept it for what it was and move on. I don’t necessarily mean to tell yourself that it was okay, because it was not, but accept that your past made you who you are today.
“After going through multiple heart breaks, I sat back and asked myself why the pattern kept recurring…and that’s when I realized I had been seeking for emotional comfort that my ex-boyfriend did not provide for me. But I’ve come to realize I don’t need the love from anyone until I have found it from within.” – Arianna
When it comes to romance people sometimes repeat behaviors over and over again to make up for the previous ones. In psychology this is called Repetition Compulsion, which means you are seeking to fix the past by pursuing situations or people that are similar to the ones who hurt you. Now, as for the men in her life, it is clear that they were also seeking for something they had lacked in their past.
Also, individuals who have been broken tend to become the breakers intentionally or unintentionally due to their pain, but I promise you… what goes around comes back around.
2 Look For Signs
You’re probably wondering, how will I know if my partner or I carry old trauma? There are a handful of signs that may indicate whether or not an individual has let go of the past, which ultimately can give you a better understanding of how they will behave with their current partner.
- They may compare their past to their future and carry doubt or have a hard time trusting. For example, if the new partner has similar qualities or tendencies (music, food, fashion, mannerisms, etc) it may bring back bad memories, causing your mood to shift while you second guess a future with this partner. However, instead of comparing the small things, learn to look at them as a new partner with qualities that make you happy.
- They have trouble opening up or being physically intimate. Sometimes signs may not show up until you two are alone and in a vulnerable place, such as the bedroom. Perpetua Neo, a doctor of psychology and founder of Detox Your Heart states,
When people feel they cannot be sexually intimate because of their ex-partner,” she said. “We’re not just talking about general sex, but also certain positions, or certain ways in which a person touches them, or how they see themselves sensually…Really importantly, a big sign is if you say to yourself ‘I’m not going to think about it.’ But if it still owns you emotionally, in the middle of the night, or if you’re triggered or stressed, then it still affects you.Neo
- Their self-doubt will project onto their partner through harsh judgments as a defense mechanism. A harmless sentence could trigger a bigger flame inside of them where they may shut down or blow up and they see their partner with a lot of negativity for no reason.
- They disrespect themselves. If their past relationship was abusive verbally or physically in anyway, they may disrespect themselves as a result. They may tell themselves things like ‘you are so stupid’, ‘you will never be good enough’ , or ‘it’s all my fault’, then that is a clear indication that the negative criticism has caused them to think they are a broken record. However, it is important to be aware of this and remind yourself that the past only has control over you, if you let it!
- Lastly, their paranoia will naturally make them see negative outcomes toward their future as they have trouble trusting others. The paranoia can lead to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, etc.
3 Learn What You Can/Can’t Handle
Once you have taken this time alone to collect your thoughts, the next step is to observe the person you want to be with and ask yourself what qualities you can and can’t handle. I would advise you to write down all the distinctive qualities about this partner but also keep in mind that not everything will go your way and that this step requires a lot of time and patients to study them in a variety of situations.
For example, you might want to know how their relationship with their family is, what they value long term, how they react to stress, etc. If their bad outweighs their good then let me just tell you…it will never work out. If you witness red flags in this process, then no amount of time or communication will truly change how you feel. I say this because although people want to believe in “change” it is almost always done for a short amount of time and will resurface later.
However, if the two of you want to work through it, make sure honesty becomes the center of your relationship. Relationships only work when both individuals are willing to compromise and recognize the needs and wants for each other. For this step, you must revisit how you feel about yourself, your partner, and your overall happiness to break the cycle of broken hearts. I have seen long-term relationships end over not revisiting the steps you first took. We are all human and we make mistakes but when we ask ourselves if we are ready to date, we must prepare ourselves with the challenges that it may bring.