Dating and relationships are chock-full of lessons, experiences, intimacy, and interpersonal exchanges. Whether two people make arrangements to go on a first date or are going on 50 years of marriage, there is always something new to discover. This is the beauty of being human; we require the basic needs of affection, sharing, conversation, and contact to enrich our spirits and well-being. However, there are varying degrees of human connection in which each of us determines how much or little we give and receive. When two people enter into a romantic relationship, they are making the choice to see if they are compatible as life partners or perhaps the new flavor of the week.
Regardless of what the desired outcome is, how high or low the expectations are, along with approaching it with fear or with ease, there is always history that comes in a variety of packaging. It could be a large travel trunk or a small carry-on bag. It is the responsibility of the carrier to determine how much or how little of this emotional baggage and past experiences will be “unpacked” within the new or pre-existing relationship. It is also the responsibility of the recipient to have a level of sympathy but the strength to express that they, in fact, should not be paying for the past mistakes of others. If a point of comprise can be reached, this is a positive victory for both parties.
As someone who has been judged based on a previous relationship and wasn’t able to succeed in creating a deeper level of emotional connection because my partner feared suffering in love as he once did, we could no longer move forward. But I have done the same—comparing various dates to the one man that I loved deeply. In turn, I wasn’t giving others a proper chance and I too was putting up a strong wall of self-protection so I wouldn’t get hurt based upon prior heartbreak. What I learned from my personal experiences in dating and relationships is that each person has to stand on his or her own and be treated with respect as an individual. Give each person a chance as not everyone is the same. Just because someone may have hurt us in the past, doesn’t mean the person in the future will. However a lot of our mental state, relationship patterns, and how much we have become self-aware also has impact on the people that we attract and are attracted to.
If a person is continuously attracted to a partner that is emotionally unavailable, the chase of cat and mouse will be inevitable—spanning over one relationship or through a series of partners that function in the same manner. Same lesson, but different “teachers.” Until there is a shift in wanting to be with someone who is available, present, and emotionally healthy, not much is going to change. If however we are those who are emotionally unavailable and desire a level of intimacy that our walls and various periods in our life simply won’t permit, we too will continue attracting those who want to be close to us, yet we push them away. If we make the conscious effort to be in a relationship with ourselves first and foremost, we can find the healthy balance to create healthy relationships with others—and in turn attract those who also are ready for what it is we deserve and need along with being able to give to them freely as well.
By choosing not to accept responsibility, we live with the pain of those who have harmed us and let us down. Continuing to perpetuate the heartbreak or mistakes made in past romantic relationships that for whatever reason didn’t work out, we are only closing ourselves off to living a life that is full, loving, and can allow us to grow. But approaching ourselves with kindness, personal boundaries of respect, yet with the willingness to be non-judgmental and open, we can continue to evolve into the best versions of ourselves.
The next time we look across the table on a first date or after years of countless meals with our life’s mate, let it be with new eyes—those that do not carry suffering, anger, resentment, and judgment, but rather cautious optimism, fairness, and openness. With a clear mind and heart comes the clarity to in fact see the person who is in front of us in the here and now.