How am I carrying my baggage?

Got emotional baggage?

Course you have. It?s normal: everyone who has dated someone other than their current partner brings ?stuff? ? unresolved emotional turmoil from the past? to a new relationship.

Sometimes they?ve got an overnight bag; sometimes they?re hauling enough to fill an ocean liner.

But that?s okay: the amount of baggage matters less than the type ? and how you carry it. The important thing is to figure out whether your old emotional wounds are well tended ? or infecting your love life now.

We?re all different ? and our emotional histories (family, life and relationship) vary wildly ? so there?s no absolute guide to figuring it out.

But if you feel negative experiences from your past might be getting in the way of your potential happiness with a new partner, it?s worth exploring.

To experience one or two signs is normal, especially as you adjust to a new relationship ? but when a bunch of red flags wave up in your face, it?s time to take a closer look at what?s going on.

Here are the key signs to watch out for (and what to do about them).

7 Signs Your Emotional Baggage Is Eroding Your Current Relationship

1. Closeness: You find it hard or stressful to get close to someone.

When you get to a certain point in a relationship, or in being intimate, you feel yourself put the wall up (even when you desperately don?t want to).

Take notice when someone tells you you?re closed off or difficult to get to know or hard to read. You might have valid reason for this (such as being wary of a particular person) but don?t ignore the comment, especially if it?s not the first time you?ve heard it. Examine it for any truth because it will limit your capacity for intimacy and may make it hard for you to fully commit to someone. And, if you?re in a relationship that matters to you, talk to your partner about it.

2. Neediness: You?re (a lot) more needy than your partner.

Lots of people feel a surge in neediness when they get into a new relationship ? or get deeper into one. The need reassurance about their looks, personality, who they are and that their partner is into them. They need their partner to touch base lots, and to spend a lot of time together.

A little of this is normal when we get together with someone new, because we?re just not sure of the status of the relationship. But it can be exaggerated by our previous experiences. So be careful you?re not over-cooking the need for reassurance: it can put unfair pressure on a partner and undermine their enjoyment of being with you. Put your phone away and distract yourself with something else you enjoy.

3. Control: What are you doing Saturday (and Sunday and Monday)?

Pushing to lock down plans together is anxiety in a different package. But going overboard to ?make plans? can come across as wanting to control the relationship and your partner?s time. If your partner doesn?t want to be with you every hour of every day it doesn?t mean they don?t like you or they?re not invested in the relationship. It probably means they are healthy, have other things to do and they want to take time getting to know you. So try to keep making some plans for yourself, with your friends, too.

4. Sensitivity: Your emotional reactions are a little too extreme.

Perhaps you?re too quick to get defensive when your partner calls you out on something? Maybe you?re constantly jumpy, easily upset or pick a fight or you read too much meaning into a lack of reply to a text?

Whatever it is, you?re aware you are over-reacting, that your emotions are more extreme than fits the event or occasion, but you struggle to control it. Train yourself to hit pause before reacting. And use the space to assess accurately what the situation requires.

5. Reassurance: You burn to know what your partner is thinking and feeling.

Everybody wants to know what?s going on for their partner because good communication helps build connection.

But be aware that constantly wanting to know what?s going on inside your partner?s head is probably more about you seeking reassurance for you and the relationship than genuine interest in the contents of his/her mind. Train yourself to leave a little space; it?s okay to say nothing sometimes.

6. Dj vu: Your partner pushes the same buttons in you as a previous one.

Oh no, you think, when those familiar feelings rise up. Not this again.

But wait. There are two possible reasons why you?re experiencing the same reactions. (1) We are often drawn to be with the same kinds of people; (2) We may be have been traumatised in a particular area (e.g. by cheating, or being unable to be contacted or rejected) so the slightest reminder of that makes us react.

Examine the strength of your reaction, to see if it has validity and, if so, discuss and explain your sensitivities to your new partner.

7. Looking back: You still feel connected to an ex.

Oops not good. And not fair to your current partner. While it?s true that a new partner can help us move on from an ex, it?s not fair to them if your thoughts are constantly in the past ? and particularly if you are making comparison with a former love.

Ask yourself if you?re in this relationship for the right reasons. It may be that you need more time to put the past to rest.

Emotional baggage is not to be feared ? just understood. It can teach us so much: about ourselves, how we react, how we love, how we cope with pain and rejection, what we want in relationships ? and life.

BUT we can?t stow it in the closet and forget about it. We have to (slowly) open the suitcase.

Thanks for reading! Join my email list here if you?re interested in practical psychology for everyday life.

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