Most of us have been there one time or another in the past.
You leave a relationship — sometimes cleanly, sometimes not so much — but the next one all too quickly feels like a ticking time bomb. Old worries, anxieties and concerns begin to rear their ugly heads and elicit a growing sense of dread deep inside you. And, as much as you loath to admit it, you’re waiting. Waiting for everything to go wrong. Again.
Our past relationships impact how we think and behave within our relationships in the present. It can be so subtle that you don’t even realise it’s happening — but it is. How can you identify the signs? And when the ghosts of old flames begin to haunt you, what proactive steps can you take to ensure they don’t doom your love to failure?
1) You struggle to communicate why you’re upset
If you feel you weren’t listened to in a past relationship, you may notice yourself communicating more aggressively with your new partner. Alternatively, you may find yourself flat-out unable to tell your partner what’s up until it all comes pouring out in a row way after the event.
2) You’re always on edge
If you have a history of failed relationships and partners who simply didn’t make the grade, it’s somewhat inevitable that you’ll have a nagging doubt in the back of your mind that this new relationship will be an unavoidable repeat.
3) You disrespect yourself
If a past relationship was asymmetrical, difficult or even abusive, you may have brought that hurt with you into the present and begun to believe you were actually in the wrong. We all scold ourselves from time to time, but really listen to your internal monologue. Is it you speaking — or is it your ex? And once the rot has taken hold, you may find yourself settling for less, accepting behaviours you would have previously shut down without a second thought.
4) You just cannot trust
If you were cheated on, that scar can run deep through your psyche. Lack of trust in your new partner can manifest in paranoia and controlling behaviours. You risk becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, because this kind of toxic atmosphere serves only to drive your partner away.
5) You don’t let them in
If an ex-partner abandoned you, whether emotionally or literally, this can manifest in you pushing your new partner away, even years after the original hurt. The warped logic goes something like this: if you don’t let them get too close, you can’t be abandoned all over again… right? Alternatively, you might find yourself demanding constant reassurance from your partner that they’re going to stick by you. This kind of pressure can be exhausting and draining, even if they are genuinely invested in the relationship and want only to be with you.
Moving on from the past
It can sometimes feel like nothing you do will help you change the past. But you can fix the seemingly irreparable.
First off, acknowledge your ghosts. This isn’t about blame, regardless of whether or not you think fingers should be pointed. Just remember, you are the one in control of your mind, your thoughts, your destiny — not them. Focusing all your energy on spite will serve only to perpetuate the feeling that you are a victim. This could doom you to repeat negative behaviours and emulate destructive attitudes indefinitely.
Loving is a courageous act, make no mistake about it. Love means allowing yourself to be vulnerable, open, willing to leap into the unknown. Love means honouring your partner’s flaws and — even more importantly — your own. You are not your mistakes. The key is how you acknowledge, address and deal with your past in order to forge a bright and happy future for both you and your partner.
The Vida Consultancy’s in-house relationship psychologist Madeleine Mason Roantree has over 15 years’ experience helping individuals overcome the barriers we put up that prevent us from finding love. Get in touch today to book in a coaching session, and discover within yourself what changes in your mindset would work wonders for your relationship.