Checking Your Baggage: Sorting Through Your Issues Before Settling Down
Another relationship lost. It’s something that I’ve become quite familiar with ever since my first day as a freshman in high school. On that day, my first love called me up after dodging me in the hallways all day to tell me that our summer loving was coming to an end and that he wanted to break up (and by the way, he wanted his jewelry back as well). To be honest, those next few years of high school hurt a lot until I did some honest soul-searching.
With other relationships came more breakups, but more than simply slaying my exes with the insults that I never said directly (“Your breath stank anyway! You should be happy you had me! THIS is your new girlfriend? I’m just saying you can do better…”), what really helped me was taking a good hard look at all of my relationships and understanding what I could learn from them about myself (along with my “I Hate Men” mixtape complete with the sounds of Tamia, Kelly Price and a pissed off Foxy Brown).
One of the biggest things that can sink a new relation-ship (get it?) is the heavy burden of past issues. Some may say the best way to get over an old relationship is to start a new one. But what they leave out is that this out of the blue new relationship should be the one you revisit with yourself. When you serial date and jump from relationship to relationship, you lose the ability to look at each relationship on its own because you’re too busy comparing it to the last one. Before you decide you’re ready to move on, check your baggage by asking yourself the following:
1. Am I over my infidelity insecurities?
I can’t say that I was never cheated on before, but I can say that I never stayed around long enough to find out. Once my gut felt like something was off with my man’s feelings, I hauled a**, which may not have always been the best decision. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many a woman sabotage their new relationship because they are too busy holding on to what the last boyfriend did against the new one. By chanting the mantra, “Every man cheats,” many women are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy where a man feels like he might as well do what he’s already being constantly accused of. Give yourself a chance to trust again and give that brother a break.
2. Do I know how to enjoy being single?
No more second-guessing every move you make when out with the girls because you don’t want to disrespect your dude. And you probably missed out on some quality mani/pedi time with your bestie because you were always up under your man. You have a single period, and finally you don’t have to pick up nasty tube socks off the floor and you can light your damn Tahitian rose candles without worrying about invading his space. These are some of the things you sacrifice when entering into a relationship and it’s important for a woman to know how to enjoy her own company and not always feel like she needs someone around. Knowing how to occupy yourself without a man will also help avoid you being too clingy in your next relationship since you’ll gain a fond appreciation for your “you” time. How can you expect someone else to enjoy your company when you’re not sure if you can?
3. Am I willing to give up a part of my independence?
In relation to the last question, it’s important to think about if you’re at a point in your life when you can accommodate a relationship. Relationships by their nature require some selflessness. If you know you want to devote this time of your life to climbing your career fast track or you know that finishing grad school in two years is going to mean a lot of late night classes, you may want to avoid pursuing anything new just yet. New relationships especially can take considerable time and investment. There’s nothing wrong with doing you. You may have given up too many of your hopes and plans in a previous relationship, which could have caused resentment to brew, but this time around, figure out what you want to do for yourself before jumping in something head first.
4. Do I really like THIS man or do I just enjoy having A man?
Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and you’re likely to see a lot of women (and some men) getting booed up in the next few weeks all so they can feel like they’re truly a part of something. Unfortunately, that means a lot of old flames will be rekindled that are better off drowned, and someone will start devoting their feelings to someone who truly doesn’t deserve it. Better happy and single, than crying and committed.
5. Am I over my ex?
You don’t want to be that girl who shows up on the first date with an endless serving of “Bash-A-Boyfriend” talk. You may feel like you’re just venting, but you’re on a date, not a therapy session. You may have every intention to communicate exactly why you’re so over the last relationship, but bashing an ex couldn’t scream any louder that you’re still in love with him. And if you’re still laying up with old boy on the regular, why are you even on a date? By still being invested in the past, you’re only denying your new guy a big part of you.
6. Can I admit the part I played in the downfall of the last relationship?
And while we’re talking about bashing, did you ever consider that maybe your ex wasn’t so pleased with you either? It can be easy to see yourself as the martyr who did no wrong in a past relationship, but even if you dated a cheater and liar who was sexually unsatisfying, it doesn’t mean his opinions of you have no truth to them. Maybe you do nag a lot or tell your friends every damn thing. I’ve had exes tell me that I was bossy, immature and didn’t take their feelings seriously. Instead of instantly getting defensive, I considered their opinions and looked at ways I could be a better girlfriend for the next guy.
7. What did I like about the last relationship? What didn’t I like about it?
While we’re still talking about the filthy unfaithful liar with no penile skills, let’s consider what we actually liked about him in the first place. Many women are quick to throw an ex under the bus when things go sour, but at the end of the day, you chose him. You were obviously interested in him at some point. Maybe he was funny, reliable and a great cook. Don’t be so quick to throw away good qualities with the bad, no matter how shallow they appear to be. It’s okay to list sexual satisfaction and good teeth as a priority in a relationship if you know that’s what you want. Just have an equal understanding of what you don’t want as well, and when you finally find a guy that meets most of your needs and wants, you may have actually found the one.
8. What did the last relationship teach you about love and life in general?
I recently caught up with a sibling of a guy I had a long-term relationship with in high school. We ended up breaking up because he had no goals or motivation. Today, almost 15 years later, the sibling informed me that he’s still not the most motivated, but lives a humble life being a decent father to two kids. And for his woman, that’s more than enough. I still know he wasn’t the best choice for me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a bad guy and he obviously means the world to someone else.
“Just because he was bad for me, doesn’t mean he’s a bad person”; “Sometimes there’s no one to blame”; “A bullet for me may be a blessing to someone else.” These are just some of the lessons I’ve learned from past relationships, and every relationship, no matter how bad, has the potential to teach you something about yourself.
9. Is it time for me to try a new “type”?
Think about the places you met the men in your last few failed relationships. Do you always fall victim to an office romance only to find that it fizzles as soon as you clock out? Maybe you always go for the thug with a checkered past because his swag is just crazy, but quickly realized that bill collectors don’t take “swag” as a method of payment. You can’t help who you’re attracted to, but you have to admit when a certain “type” isn’t working for you. Try meeting your next guy at the library and don’t be afraid to go on a blind date. Sometimes you don’t know what it is you want–until you try something different.
How do you check your issues before jumping into something new?
Toya Sharee is a community health educator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee.
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