Experiences from past relationships can, in lots of different ways, infiltrate the ones that follow. But your current love has the best chance of flourishing when the reasons for past failures are learned from and not brought into your current partnership.
Have you been feeling like Mr. Scrooge recently? Like when your partner does something that weirdly triggers you, do you “Bah, humbug!” your way to giving them the silent treatment? Maybe you’ve been unusually bothered by them coming home late, and something about the way they mutter makes you wonder… “Why is my inner cray-cray coming out?”
What if your reaction actually has nothing to do with your sweetie? What if it actually has everything to do with *gulp*… Your EX?!
We all intuitively understand this on some level, but our past experiences with old flames really do influence how we show up now in our relationships. Past lovers might have been our first experiences with intimacy – ever! And therefore, they might have revealed to us our greatest desires and also our greatest fears. So, if you’re looking for possible answers to your puzzling reactions, here are four different ghosts of your relationships past which might be “haunting” your love life now!
Ghost of the First Love
Ahh….the sweet, magical memories of young puppy love. Whether it brings you back to the crush you had on the soccer team captain or that hot exchange student who got away (but who you technically still kept in touch with on MySpace). We will always remember awkward dancing and the smell of teen perfume on prom night.
Reminiscing about memories of the first love is totally normal from time to time. But when it’s used as a means of comparison to adult relationships, it can do more harm than good. Sure, let’s definitely validate that it has a special place in your heart, but it’s also helpful to remember that first loves are driven by hormones and novelty. Free from adult responsibilities, we recall it feeling “purer” simply because we didn’t yet have a mature understanding of how relationships really work.
So, don’t mistake the laundry piles, trips to ASDA and sweatpants movie nights as “mundane” (though sometimes it can feel like it).
Communication and couples therapy may not sound as sexy, but they’re just as important. It’s always the ordinary moments that we end up missing the most when we lose loved ones. There is so much magic in the little things – all you need to do is look for it.
The Ghost of Trust Issues
This is an obvious one. If you’ve been cheated on in the past, it doesn’t take much to end up projecting that same narrative onto your new partner. This can manifest as: Checking your partner’s phone, interrogating about whereabouts, or just a general air of mistrust that you bring to the relationship. If not corrected, trust issues can ironically lead to fears coming true. Not the fear of being cheated on, but the fear of pushing your sweetie away because the relationship suffers when your partner feels constantly attacked and vilified by you. It’s not that they don’t empathise. They just feel like they’re unfairly paying for crimes that your ex did.
The Antidote: Process your past traumas with a good therapist or couple’s counsellor. Then, make a conscious decision to really see and love your partner as they are, not a reflection of your ex. Start from a clean slate, your relationship will thank you for it!
The Ghost of Baffling Breakups
Did your last relationship end in drama of epic proportions? Could your drunk-texting performance have landed you a role in the next rom-com? Whether you were the dumper or the dumpee, it can still hurt even years later. Nothing is more crushing than your loved one saying the words, “We can’t be together anymore.” That’s why sometimes you remember the breakup even clearer than the relationship.
Bad breakups can lead to abandonment issues, AKA doing everything possible to avoid feeling the sting of your rug being pulled out from under you. But on the flipside, relationships require taking a leap of faith into the unknown. People can’t be controlled into staying, they have to choose to stay out of their own free will.
You wouldn’t want to feel held hostage by the entire weight of responsibility of your partner’s happiness either, right? So, if you have abandonment issues, it’s important to develop your sense of self to include things other than just your partner. Friends, a new cosplay hobby, or even start a band! Ultimately, it’s all about balance.
The Ghost of Amicable Endings
Hey, we didn’t say it was all bad! Sometimes past flings didn’t work out, but we ended up learning a lot from the experience – in a good way. Friendly partings can give us confidence for the success of future relationships. Maybe you found a new love language, or discovered that you’re really good at giving back massages and your lucky new boo-thang gets to reap alllll the benefits!
A fun way to make this a bonding experience with your person, is to ask each other three positive things you both learned from past relationships and how that’s shaped you now. At the end of the day, past wounds are just a reminder that love is vulnerable and that’s the beauty of it.
Love requires staying present and open, even when it terrifies you.
Love is rebuilding the layers of healing into something awesome.
And if we peek into the Ghost of Relationships Future, you’ll see that you both can be riding off into the sunset. Sipping tequilas and laughing about how these issues used to bother you in the past.
Ride on, cowboy, ride on!
About Gloria Zhang, MA
Gloria is an ink-lovin’ Psychotherapist and Relationship Coach based out of Canada, and host of Top 100 show The Inner Child Podcast. Gloria helps High Achievers break the pattern of toxic relationships and create lasting love by healing the inner child. You can find out more about her at bygloriazhang.com and follow her on Instagram @bygloriazhang.
This article originally appeared in issue 46 of Rock n Roll Bride magazine. You can purchase the latest copy here, or why not subscribe to never miss an issue?
- Photography: Electric Sugar Elopements