I don’t like the term “baggage,” but I think everyone has something from their past that they think will affect their romantic futures. Whether large or small, it’s only natural that bits from our past shape how we perceive both ourselves and others. In fact, I believe that one of the healthier benefits of relationships is that they serve as a mirror, exposing our true selves.
My last relationship completely changed me.
At the age of 23, I was living in Tel Aviv, Israel, getting my Master’s degree and enjoying the recluse and adventure that being in a foreign country brought me. I was independent, I was young, I was happy, and the unexpected happened. I fell hard, twice, which resulted in a broken arm, and a heart full of love.
After much internal debate, I decided to return home, leaving my boyfriend behind. Thanks to technology, we stayed in touch and kept our love alive. Neither one of us was ready to let go. For my birthday, we decided to meet up in London, a halfway point, and discuss prospects for our future. Very mature right? Of course, we came to the inevitable conclusion that to make our relationship work, one of us would have to sacrifice our country, and we left London without being able to commit to that.
Finally, I made a decision. I could make Israel work for me, I would fight for our relationship, and I would take the risk of a lifetime and follow my heart. My parents and friends were supportive, I had chosen a path, and I was ready for my next chapter. Next thing I know I’m on a plane, moving in with my boyfriend, adopting and raising a puppy, and being a little family unit.
The next challenge presented to us was an exciting one, my boyfriend got accepted to the most respected university in Israel for engineering, the school that he had dreamed of attending, and was able to make a reality. Of course I was very proud of him, but knew that this would mean more sacrifices on my end. We would have to move again, this time to a city where I didn’t know anyone and would be more challenging for me to find work in. I would have to live with a student, which meant that I would get less attention, but most of all it meant at least four more years with my boyfriend being in the same spot.
I was resilient, but I struggled, mostly silently. I survived living with my boyfriend’s mom, I endured living in Israel during one of the darkest wars in Israel’s recent history, we went through the apartment hunting process yet again, we fought at Ikea, and we made our new situation work. Something inside of me was boiling, and I wasn’t even aware of it most of the time. Occasionally I would fight with my boyfriend, I would complain about the littlest things, I was looking for things to go wrong, but I couldn’t admit to myself what was really bothering me. I felt trapped; I was 25 and living the life of a stay at home dog mom, far far away from my family and friends, and my people.
Again, I made a decision. I needed to withdraw from my situation, I was ready to leave Israel, knowing that I would probably lose the love of my life, but that I would be gaining the freedom to learn and grow and love myself.
My boyfriend was my world, he was part of my family, I was part of his family, and we thought we would spend the rest of our lives together. Taking a step back and looking our relationship allowed me to pinpoint not only his flaws, as of course I needed to do in order to feel better and move on, but also my own behavioral mishaps.
Because of my “baggage,” I am emotionally stronger, more confident, and ready for love. I choose not to let my past weigh me down, I try to use it to propel me forward. It wasn’t easy to arrive at this juncture, and I am proud of myself for getting to this point.
The dating world can be a confusing and challenging place, but one thing that stays consistent is my transparency. I am not ashamed of my past, nor am I afraid of exposing it, because it’s part of me, and I want whoever I date seriously to embrace what defines me, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Most people experience some degree of trauma and hardship, and some may feel that their pasts are too troubling to recall or share with people they love, let alone those people they would hope to love. My advice is to set aside some time and unpack the past, for doing so might eliminate some extra weight, allowing more room for new, fulfilling experiences.