Today’s guest blogger is Susan Meissner, author of the brand new novel (out today!), A Sound Among The Trees. In the book, Marielle Bishop, who has watched all her friends marry and begin families, has at last found love online. She leaves the Arizona desert to marry a Virginia widower, joining him and his two children —and his first wife’s grandmother— in an ancestral family home where it seems like ghosts are everywhere, real and imagined. Here Susan shares insights on how to give the past a proper place in a new relationship.
Everyone brings to new relationships echoes of their past relationships, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Our life experiences, both the good and the bad, shape how we think, what we value, and who we are. Falling in love with someone is learning to love the person they’ve become because of their life experiences.
It’s tempting to write off every bad or tragic experience that’s happened to us or a prospective life partner as “baggage” and therefore not to be touched, considered, or embraced. Treating the past like it has no part in the here and now is like tossing every diploma and award and blue ribbon you’ve ever earned into the trash because, hey, the past has no part in the present. The fact is, everything we’ve learned in the university of
life has molded us into the person we will be in all our future relationships.
Your past, or someone else’s, can seem like baggage if it prevents you or them from moving forward and taking new risks, but it is not baggage if it helps you and those you care about discover what is real and what is not, what matters and what doesn’t. The past teaches us why we are who we are, but it doesn’t define who we are. We are who we are because of the choices we made, not just the circumstances that were imposed upon us. The past doesn’t have to be feared or adored or ignored. The best thing you can do with your past is learn from it and then walk forward. The best thing you can do with someone’s else’s past is learn from it and then walk
A great way to gauge how much each others’ past will play into a dating relationship is to have the conversation early, perhaps when you both sense the relationship is “going somewhere.” Agree to be transparent about it. Past experiences either strengthen or weaken our ability to trust. When you agree from the get-go to be honest with each other, you begin to tutor your heart to again risk trusting someone. Honesty is made possible with trust. Trust is made possible with truth. Truth makes us feel secure.
Your past is not just what happened TO you, it is also what you responded to. You made choices, you made adjustments, you survived.
If it holds you down and paralyzes your ability to love fully, it’s baggage. If it reminds you of what you risked for love, it’s more like a medal.
Don’t be afraid to wear yours.
And don’t be afraid to see someone else wear theirs.