Reframing Relationship “Baggage” - How To Win a Man's Heart

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August 10, 2014

Reframing Relationship “Baggage”

Some of us assume that if a person has previously been married, has kids, or has had any challenging life experiences, then they automatically have “baggage” and that this may render a relationship a non-starter.

What many people don’t realize is that baggage, or as I like to call it “life experience”, is only a negative concept if it presents as something that holds a person back from being able to engage fully in a relationship.

Baggage carries with it a negative connotation in which people have become downtrodden, hardened or weakened by their experience to the point that they are unable to bring any positivity into a relationship.

Baggage only holds people back when they experience so much fear that they become too paralyzed to put effort into their relationships. However, those who have worked through past relationships can instead benefit from both having the experience and being able to learn from the experience and grow from it.

Those who have experienced painful serious relationships and can look back upon them as a learning curve or an education, can only benefit the next relationship they are in.

For those among us who have had a varied life experience and have grown and learned from it can bring so much more to a relationship than someone who hasn’t lived life as hard.  We understand that living life fully takes initiative and effort.

We have seen how being in a challenging place requires compromise and seeing someone else’s perspective so that we can become excellent listeners and really offer space for the relationship to grow and develop.

It takes a very strong person to be able to open themselves up to the challenges of a relationship.  This is why once you have jumped into a relationship, it can be that little bit easier to let someone in, even if that particular relationship did not work out.  The first time is always the hardest, which is why the sooner one starts again, the easier it will be.

While the wound of a broken relationship takes time to heal, it is the healing process that can make us come out the strongest. When we learn about the things that we could have done differently – that we could have spoken more assertively, expressed our needs more, put our foot down and not tolerated poor communication and or even abuse – this is when we really flourish.

A former client of mine came to coaching at the age of 35 and mentioned how disappointed he was that every woman he dated came with so much baggage that he felt he was never able to establish a relationship with them.

When we were able to reflect upon his own relationship wounds, he realized he was inviting women into his life who had not worked on their past relationships. He soon began to understand that he was actually projecting his own baggage onto the women he was dating. This did not mean that he stopped dating women without baggage.

On the contrary, he began dating women that were vibrant and fearless. After therapy, he dated women who had rich dating histories, but who had dealt with the pain that came with it and had come out of those relationships valiant and glowing.

What made this happen? When you become aware of your baggage and deal with it, you can then recognize others who may have lived through a lot but who are also stronger as a result. This is because someone who is aware of their own challenging history feels entitled to be with someone as equally strong.

Fear can be a form of invisible baggage that if not acknowledged and removed can weigh a person down. When we shove our relationship experience to the back of our minds, it takes over our head space and makes us incapable of moving forward.

By giving ourselves permission to reflect upon our challenging relationships, understand what drew us to people who treated us a certain way, learn from how we may have reacted that invited the bad behavior and yet understand how we have grown – only then can we move forward.

By turning around a challenging life experience and gaining insight and awareness as a result, we are then less likely to run off when things get challenging. People who have worked through challenging relationships are more likely to put in the effort to try and make things work if that is what they really want.  Baggage only wears down a relationship when the person carrying it is unaware of it, or has done nothing about it.

Top tips on why baggage/relationship experience can be positive:

– Once you have been in a relationship and survived, you may be more open to other experiences

– As long as you have grown and learned from the experience you can offer the next relationship the benefit of your previous relationship.

– Previous experiences are opportunities for growth and enrichment.

– People who use their relationships as educational experiences can have deeper more meaningful relationships going forward.

About the author

Micki Lavin-Pell

If you are carrying around excess emotional baggage that may be keeping you from entering and sustaining a dynamic and satisfying relationship, contact Micki Lavin-Pell, MSc, MA,  an experienced Marriage and Family therapist/Dating Coach at