One of my favorite songs, “Previouscats” by Musiq Soulchild, discusses the issue of baggage from a perspective we often don’t get to hear about. The viewpoint of the new partner who is taking the heat for the mistakes made by their lover’s exes:
First things first girl,
Recognize who is with you now
Second thing, can’t blame me for how
You were treated before I came
I’m not to blame for the pain that was caused by previous cats
Who had your heart before me
The psychological encumbrances we carry from one relationship to another are often negative. But apparently, baggage doesn’t have to be harmful to a relationship — if you take the right things with you from partner to partner.
In his article “10 Tips: Is Your Relationship Baggage Carry-on or Cargo?,” psychotherapist Dr. Barton Goldstein said that learning what to keep and let go of is healthy for a relationship. He wrote that a person should choose high-quality baggage. “Only bring the things from your past that will make your present and future better,” Goldstein wrote. “If there is someone or something that makes your current partner uncomfortable choose to leave it behind.”
This is not what I did at the beginning of my relationship with my husband. I admit that from the time my husband and I started dating years ago, I was waiting for him to mess up. Before we officially started to date, we talked, as people say nowadays, for a year. My husband is one of those “nice guys” and I knew after meeting him that he was someone I could marry — if we ever dated.
Once we started courting, as people used to say back in the day, it took me about a year to move past my expectation that he would fail in some way and give me a reason to flee. I would often think to myself, “There’s no way he’s this great of a guy,” and “He only did this because he’s hiding something.”
Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t share the numerous times that I searched his name on the Internet, you know, just in case something popped up. I now assume that my paranoia stemmed from dealing with shady men from my past. Were they horrible guys? Not necessarily, but they weren’t for me and they either disrespected me by cheating or by talking to me in discourteous ways.
Needless to say, my expectations were low and I was wasting time looking for something negative in my relationship just because I was used to it based upon my previous experiences. It became obvious that I was more so driving myself crazy over nothing.
Fortunately, my relationship has been successful, but my thoughts, in the beginning, did hinder my ability to open up completely to my husband. I was afraid of being hurt by the one guy who would be the least likely to do so.
Some experts recommend that you should recognize the signs of negative baggage before entering a new relationship. And while that sounds great, I don’t think many people really know they have baggage or admit it until they are already knee-deep into a relationship it’s affecting. If you’re already in a relationship, the best thing to do is to talk about any issues that could drive a wedge between you and your partner. It could provide the reassurance that you need. Admit that you have concerns that stem from your past and work toward not blaming your significant other for the mistakes or behaviors of others.