How To Help Your Man Unpack His Baggage
If you think you can find someone who doesn’t have baggage, you’ll be looking for eternity. Dating someone with baggage is unavoidable, but letting that baggage make your relationship miserable is avoidable. You just have to decide if managing another person’s baggage is worth it for you. And if you do, here’s what you need to do.
Know his triggers
Figure out what his triggers are and be conscious of them. When you can, just avoid them.
Ask yourself if you can manage those triggers (and if you should)
Of course, you shouldn’t bend over backwards to help a guy avoid his issues. It’s one thing if your boyfriend prefer you not sleep over at your male friends’ house. It’s another thing if he forbids you from having male friends. Be realistic with yourself about how sustainable it will be to avoid his triggers. If it’s too much work, you’re not a bad person for deciding that and letting the guy go.
Don’t argue at the time of the triggers
When you can see that a trigger has been pulled for your guy and all those emotions from the original incident that cause his baggage are rising to the surface that is not the time to try to talk about what’s happening. He’s blinded by emotion at that time.
Don’t try to reason with him, just listen
The odds are your guy knows he has baggage and that when it’s triggered he becomes unreasonable. He doesn’t need someone telling him that—that only adds insult to injury. Don’t tell him he’s being unreasonable, or try to say he is overreacting. Just let him tell you how the situation makes him feel.
Don’t judge him
You may have a hard time imagining how someone could get so worked up over the things your guy gets worked up over, but don’t judge him. You probably have areas in your life you’re particularly sensitive to, and wouldn’t want to be judged for. Everyone is entitled to his or her feelings.
Give him space when his issues emerge
Typically, guys don’t want someone to console them or try to fix them. When they’re dealing with something, they want space. They don’t want to subject you to their roller coasters of emotions. So give him space.
Don’t get angry: it’s not personal
If your guy has, for example, trust issues, and gets upset that you were hugging one of your male friends, don’t take it personally. You are not a bad girlfriend. You are not “misbehaved.” Know that it is all him.
Never suggest he see a therapist
No guy wants to be told he needs professional help. If you suggest your guy see a therapist, you can expect a huge backlash. Encourage him to talk to someone, but be careful of using the T-word.
However, mention how therapists have helped you
When you can slip it in naturally, and at a time far away from any incidents that have triggered his issues, talk about your experience with therapy and how it has helped you. Plant that seed, and let him decide if he wants it to grow.
Be solid for him
If you want your guy to learn to manage his baggage better, be conscious of managing yours. Meditate, write in a journal, see a therapist—do what you have to do to become very aware of when your baggage is overpowering you, so you can learn not to react in those moments. Your guy might take a cue from you.
Work from empathy
Think about how much he is hurting and not how much he is hurting you. If you love him, and really put yourself in the headspace of all the fear and pain he is feeling when his baggage comes up, you’ll overpower your feelings of anger and you’ll just empathize with him.
Don’t rush things
No guy with baggage is going to want to move in after 6 months of dating, or say I love you after two weeks. If you’re dating a guy with baggage, just know what you’re signing up for and have patience.
Ask yourself is his baggage keeps him from giving you what you need
At the end of the day, the only thing that should matter is if your guy’s baggage holds him back from regularly giving you what you need out of the relationship. If it doesn’t stop him from being a good and giving partner, you can handle an emotional episode here and there.
Don’t make a big deal out of his baggage
When he has an episode, stay calm. Treat the situation like it’s no big deal, and maybe he’ll see it as not a big deal, too. Don’t jump into explaining mode—that will only agitate him. Stay quiet. Go read a book. Give the episode as little attention as it deserves.
Remember that anyone would bring this out in him
Don’t drive yourself crazy wondering if past girlfriends managed his baggage better. Nobody can manage another person’s baggage. You can be certain that anyone your guy would date would bring out his baggage because relationships bring up baggage.