We all have baggage. Whether it’s emotional or physical, each person brings their past experiences to their current relationship. But what happens if your partner has a lot more baggage than you? What if they’ve lived an entire life before, or two, before you ever met? Does it mean you’ll live in a constant state of competition with the life that once was?
My husband is twice divorced. Yep. That means I am this third wife. Third time’s a charm, they say. Bullshit, I say. Do you know how many places we’ve been to that my husband has said, “Oh, I’ve been here before” and I know it sure as hell wasn’t with me? Would any experience ever be new and exciting for us or had he seen and done everything the world had to offer? Would I always feel like I got the leftovers?
No. Believe it or not, just because your partner has a lengthy past doesn’t mean you can’t have a long, fulfilling future.
1. Make New Memories
There are two ways to achieve this. Find a place that is completely new and special for you both. Or, if you’re visiting somewhere your partner has already been, create a new experience that is unique to you two. There has to be a city, state or even attraction that your partner has never visited. Find out what it is and go there. Immediately. If you have a trip planned or it’s inevitable that you’ll be visiting a location that your partner has already been with someone else, find a way to create new memories in that space.
For example, my husband has visited his parents in the Florida Keys since he graduated high school, which means that both his wives joined him there at one time or another. When it was time for us to make the trip I was less than thrilled. I was excited for the sun and sand but much less excited for the ghosts of marriage’s past. We discussed my apprehension before going and decided that this was the trip to change all others. We would do things he had never done before. Not with any wives before me or ever before. We visited new restaurants, took water skiing lessons and rented a boat. We made our own memories in the Florida Keys. Ones that were special and unique to us. If your partner has baggage, don’t let it weigh you down. Simply find ways to create new memories. Even if they seem small, it’s not about the size of the experience it’s about the quality.
2. Sometimes, Ignorance Truly is Bliss
Did you really need to know your partner’s exes favorite food was lasagna? Did he have to mention that this beach was where they first met? Sometimes ignorance is bliss and when it comes to openly sharing information about your past relationships, it’s damn near required. By no means am I suggesting that you lie to your partner or hide things from them. If they ask, you should tell. But if you’re planning a trip somewhere or sharing a romantic dinner at a local restaurant there’s absolutely no need to say things like, “Me and Sally used to love this place” or “I remember going here on my honeymoon”. No, no and no! If you don’t trust yourself to keep your mouth shut during these moments then pick a different place! Don’t frequent the same eateries or areas that you visited in the past. This is a new relationship and that means it’s time to make new memories and visit new places.
3. Live in the Present
Dwelling on the past serves no legitimate purpose. You can’t change what happened so you either need to accept it and move on or be honest with yourself that you can’t handle it and break things off. Focusing on what was will prevent you from ever discovering what could be. Okay, so your partner was married once before. So what? Those two are no longer together. It’s not about “them” anymore, it’s about “us”. And chances are, your partner probably learned a thing or two from their previous relationship that might help them be a better partner now, to you. So, really, look back at those exes and mentally thank them. They broke your partner in and now you get to reap the benefits.
4. Put Your Personal Touch on Things
One of the hardest things for me to accept when my husband and I first got together was moving into his home. The home that he and his ex-wife (number two) lived in with her children. The home that was her childhood home at one point. It was not mine. Nothing about it was mine. I hated the carpets, the countertops and the smell. My name wasn’t on the mortgage and my personal stamp wasn’t on anything. I felt like a stranger in my own home. But over time, I began to redecorate. We replaced the carpets with hardwood and repainted every bedroom. We redid the outside deck and both bathrooms. Over time, I started to feel welcome. My husband told me that before, it was just a house he lived it but now, it was a home that we built together. And even though it was corny, it was true.
If you find yourself living in the thick of another person’s world, find ways to make it your own. Interject your opinion or preferences where you can. Transform the space or situation from one that was once “theirs” to one that is now “yours” or “ours”.
5. Appreciate Life’s Process
Everything happens for a reason. Some believe this is a ridiculous concept that optimistic people tell themselves in order to rationalize whatever horrible circumstance they currently find themselves in. And so what if it is? Is it so bad to see the silver lining or look on the bright side? Our past is what shapes who we are. It’s the lessons learned, mistakes made and interactions that help us become the person we were intended to be. Without your partner’s past, they may not have found their way into your present. And with an open mind and understanding of how to let go of the past and create new memories, they will quickly become your beautiful future.