comparing new relationships to old ones after widowhood


Young Widow

Young Widow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“….. and everyone has baggage.”

I ran across this quote on a widow blog. It was written by a widow, lamenting/raging/venting after her second break up with a post-dead husband boyfriend. And the thing that struck me was the negativity of it. Which is odd because the idea behind the concept of “having baggage” is relatively common in our modern culture. Most people, at some point or other, will christen their histories with the term because they are frustrated and see the past as an obstacle to what they want right now.

It’s a curious way of framing things. After all, how can events that are chronologically behind you be blocking your future? Unless, like Lot’s wife, you are still looking back. In which case, the fact that you are tripping up shouldn’t come as a surprise. Walking backward is a good way to fall down.

After the question of “how soon is too soon to date again”, the problem of how to put away the past and not use it as a measuring stick in potential/new relationships is one of the bigger issues of dating again. Whether our late marriage was good, bad or ugly, any future significant other and the relationship formed deserves its own space where it is not judged by or compared to the late spouse and marriage.

Sure, everyone has “baggage”, but its less than helpful to label what is merely a chronology of events as such rather than simply calling it what it is – your history.

You have a history. It shaped you, taught you what you know for good and not so much good, and that is all that it is. The minute it becomes “baggage”; it’s time to rethink your readiness to date or to be in a serious relationship. Nothing good is likely to spring up from negative comparisons, blame and generally wishing your new someone was your now deceased someone, who has magically stopped being human and levitates in an photo-shopped state of romantic perfection. Constantly going back to “SoNso would never have x, y or z.” whether it’s just in your head, or worse, thrown out into the open spaces  at your new partner, is the teenaged emotional blackmail weapon of choice that adults should hesitate to pick up again.

Baggage is synonymous with issues. And still having active issues will, more often than not, hamper the development of a new relationship. It’s good to know what you want out of a relationships and what can’t be tolerated no matter how sexy, charming and good on paper someone is, but don’t confuse idealizing the past and the dead with a checklist for new love.

Love me/love my baggage?

Um, no.

Why should anyone have to sift through your issues in order to get to know you?

And why should anyone have to be your grief counselor or help you work through your bad relationship habits (the ones your late spouse let slide because you were both too young to know any better)?

The answer, of course, is that they shouldn’t. If you are ready to date again, you are ready to be an adult who is honest with yourself about who you are and what might be a problem as you move on with your life. Seek real professional help if your “baggage” needs to be filed away under “past life”, but don’t expect someone else to carry it for you or accept being treated like crap because “… everyone has baggage”.

Everyone has a past – a history that often has bruised squishy spots in it – but no one but your mother has to “love you anyway”. If you want love, you have to earn it and part of that process is getting your history together rather than using it as an excuse.