The end of a relationship hurts in ways you may have never experienced before. The isolation can be exhausting, nothing feels the same, and no one’s company consoles you.

But there’s a silver lining, even if you can’t see it now: you will learn a huge amount about yourself during this turmoil. There can be positive takeaways from the experience, if you can leave the negative lessons in the past where they belong.

How can our past relationships impact a burgeoning new one?

There are three primary ways our negative past romantic experiences can damage our dating prospects in the future:

  1. They alter our self-image: Let’s say you’ve been cheated on. A natural reaction over time would be to feel you’re no longer good enough, desirable enough, or attractive enough. This major knock to your self-esteem may make you more nervous and hesitant to trust again, and come to shape your outlook on the present and future. You might become pessimistic; that creates a negative feedback loop, in which your originally unfounded fears about not being wanted come to be actualised, as you manifest negative feelings and, as a result, become less pleasurable to be around.
  2. They alter your behavior and choices: If your confidence has been damaged, you may end up dating someone with a personality or inclinations similar to your ex because you’ve become accustomed to those patterns of behavior. The familiarity, regardless of how toxic, may supersede what’s healthy or destined to make you happy. At the opposite end of the spectrum, perhaps you instead go for someone utterly different from your ex. But just because they’re incomparable, there’s no reason to think they’re any more suitable.
  3. They make you unnecessarily judgmental: After having been hurt in the past, you may become quick to see red flags based on what your ex used to do, even when none really exists. You might assume the new person has bad intentions and tarnish them with the same brush, when in actual fact all that’s happened is you’ve dragged your emotional baggage into the here and now.

How can I leave my emotional baggage in the past?

Baggage exists for a reason: We’re human, not robots. When bad things happen, we’re prone to take them personally—because often they are personal. We question ourselves: Why did I end up in that situation? Am I weak? Do I attract the wrong sort of people?

The question isn’t how to erase our baggage. That’s unrealistic, and also doesn’t account for the benefits that it can afford you such as valuable life lessons. The question asked should be, “How can I compartmentalize my relationships so my ex’s bad behavior doesn’t impinge on my dating happiness today?

  1. Work on yourself: Perhaps the single most effective way to get a “handle” on your luggage is to take steps to make yourself happy and content in the day-to-day. When you’re able to put the best version of yourself forward on the dating scene, you might just be amazed at the difference in how people perceive you, and the caliber of singletons lining up to meet you. So whether that’s working out, getting a hobby, or practicing mindfulness, do whatever makes you satisfied—and in the process you’ll accomplish more romantic groundwork than you probably realize.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions: When you’ve had a bad experience in the past, it’s tempting to make assumptions based solely on what your ex did in a similar situation. But instead, try to approach dating with an open and curious mind. Really take in what’s going on in the moment, and resist letting past sadness and disappointment taint a clean slate. And if you’re unsure of your new partner’s intentions or meaning, ask. They’ll appreciate you caring enough to request clarification.
  3. Adopt a growth mindset: Give yourself the time you need to get over the breakup—then recalibrate your way of thinking. Acknowledge that what’s happened has happened, and there’s no undoing it, but that it doesn’t have to affect you anymore. Reframe the bad experience as a wake-up call to galvanize progress in your life, and you can help yourself feel more positive, motivated, and calm as you dive back into the dating pool.
  4. Live in the moment: Emotional baggage can lead to endless rumination on the past, on the what-could-have-been, but ultimately this serves only to do you a disservice. Being mindful of everything there is to be appreciative of in the present brings your attention back to what matters right now—including any new romantic interest in your life, who deserves your attention…and needs it too, if they’re to feel validated and like you actually care about their company.

Emotional baggage is normal—but it’s not the boss of you

We all have a past, but you owe it to yourself to not let your ex have a hold over you as the two of you part and go your separate ways. We all have a tendency to allow our past dating experiences to frame our expectations of new ones, but if you don’t acknowledge, mediate, and address these negative thoughts, you risk them unnecessarily stymying a promising new relationship. If you’re still struggling to let go of the past, we can help.

Maclynn International is a boutique, multi-award-winning introductions agency with offices in New York, California, and London. We’re experts at bringing you together with highly compatible singles, even after you’ve been through one or several difficult breakups. Get in touch today, and let’s help you meet that special someone who shows you how to leave your baggage in the past.