My friend Susan, a beautiful, intelligent and successful professional single, recently announced that her tumultuous 6-month relationship was over.
“He’s got too much baggage and I don’t know how to handle it”, she explained over a skinny decaf latte at our weekly hangout session.
So how much baggage is too much, and when do we hang out the “overloaded” sign?
It’s a fact of life that any man over the age of 30 is going to bring some sort of baggage to a relationship. Heck, I know 20-year-olds with more baggage than the Orient Express!
And it follows that the older we get, the more likely it is that the baggage is going to exponentially increase — ex wives, children, stepchildren, in-laws, lifestyles or commitments, just to name a few. But it’s not about how much baggage he has, it’s more about how he (and we!) deal with it.
Kathryn Bigelow, behavioral scientist and director of the Burnett Behavioral Science Unit at Sydney University in Sydney, Australia says, “Baggage is merely a name for our collective past experiences. What we do with our history and how we manage it is a clear indication of how we will deal with current and future experiences.”
So back to my friend Susan. Her difficulty was in trying to deal with her partner’s obvious inability to let go of past relationships. According to her, this man wanted to remain friends with every woman he had ever gone out with. At least twice each week he would arrange to meet up with at least one of his ex’s for a coffee, or whatever. For Susan, her gripe was how to get his ex’s to exit – permanently.
According to Dr Bigelow, here is a list of ways to put the baggage down and get on with life:
*Take a good hard look at what you expect from a relationship and a partner. Then list the absolute essentials. The rest is baggage that needs to be discarded.
*From the list of essentials, try to imagine what it would be like to go without one of your “must-haves” for a day. How would you feel? Then try to imagine letting go for longer. The less demanding we are of ourselves and others, the less baggage we accumulate.
*Take a good hard look at who you are – yes, who you really are. Do an honest appraisal of your good and bad points and decide what you would like to change. Then imagine what it would be like if you could rid yourself of that trait for a day. Then try to imagine how much more space you would have in your life if you could let go of one of your negative qualities for good.
*Don’t take yourself too seriously. OK, you’re not 20 any more, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun. Think about the traits you have that annoy you, or other people, and try to find something funny about them. Creating a humorous side to a bad habit or trait can help diffuse it.
*Be your own best friend and don’t beat yourself up about things that happened in the past. The past is in the past, so there’s no point in worrying about things you can’t change.
*Let go of the anger, resentment or guilt that you may be holding on to. You’ll be amazed at how much lighter you’ll feel!
We all know how cumbersome it is travelling with excess baggage, and the costs it can incur, so the object is to travel through life with just the right amount of baggage to travel well, but happily.