Talking About Baggage
Top Heavy by RJR
NS: Someone told me recently that a prospective date had asked them: ‘Do you have any baggage?’ My first thought is that we all have what is referred to as ‘baggage’, ie stuff from the past that has played a role in making us what we are, and which may affect how we are now. So can we somehow live and function while carrying this baggage – or do we have to jettison it in order to live to the full in the present?
RJR: Personally, I really dislike the term. It is negative and meaningless. If children are considered baggage, then we live in a very strange world indeed. Maybe a better question to ask or be asked is: ‘Are you carrying wounds?’ Wounds weigh much heavier than children ever do. Do you feel wounds need to heal before a new relationship begins?
NS: There probably are people who might include children in their definition of ‘baggage’. I certainly wouldn’t. I’m sure that we all have, or have had, wounds. But to carry on with that analogy, wounds can heal, but they tend to leave scars. Won’t the scars always be there? And so won’t those scars have an impact on the way that we behave, either on our own or in relationships?
RJR: From my experience there are levels of healing, and when it occurs more deeply, the scars will, hopefully, disappear too, and then we are only left with healthy learning integrated into our soul. Otherwise, I agree, we will walk around as an amalgam of those scars, and they can create real blocks in communication within relationships. Many people do consider children to be baggage within relationships, though. And when issues are not resolved within a family before a new partner is introduced, difficulties will most certainly arise. What do you think people are referring to when they think of baggage?
NS: I agree that some people mean children, but often they probably mean divorces or troublesome exes. I think that we can get to the point where scars have healed – and we need to do that in order to be able to consider a new relationship – but is it always possible to convince the ‘new’ person that our scars have really healed? Even if they truly have, it might be that one might be suspected of still having strong feelings for an ex – which could, of course, be the case, even though that relationship is now in the past.
RJR: And of course exes can be troublesome. A lot of people move into a new relationship without clearing up communication with their ex-partners – and poor communication, of course, might well have been why they actually broke up. I don’t think we need to convince the new person we are in a relationship with of anything. If our scars have healed, then they have healed. If we need to convince someone of that, then perhaps we have been fooling ourselves, or perhaps we are being misunderstood and/or projected upon. What do you think? Why would feelings be suspected, if they are not there? Perhaps our new partner has insecurity issues? For me, if a new relationship is set up with honesty, integrity, authenticity and self-awareness at its core, these issues hopefully will not arise. Again, what do you think?
NS: I agree that if scars have really healed, then it is possible to enter into a new relationship. Honesty with ourselves, and with someone else (and with that being reciprocated) are the keys. Otherwise, everything will fall down. Do two people need to know everything about each other’s past in order to have a complete relationship? I would be interested to know your thoughts on this.
RJR: What is a complete relationship? And what do you mean by everything? What kind of things do you feel might be a good thing to hold back, and for how long?
NS: A complete relationship would be one with total trust and honesty. By everything, I mean all the skeletons in the family cupboard, past relationships, and one’s own failings, foibles or addictions. I think it would be tempting to hold back on things that may be off putting or unpleasant, but the more one holds back – and the longer one holds back – the more that would erode trust/honesty. Is it a pity that we appear unable to start with a clean slate – just move forward, rather than look backward? Or is it essential that we are willing to reveal ourselves (and our past selves)?
RJR: So a complete relationship to you is the bad and the good; the things we want to share and the things we perhaps are scared to share in case we might be rejected? Maybe more like a complete honest history, rather than a complete relationship? I like to think of life as a journey, throughout which we learn. That is why I am struggling to answer your question. I do not see any of my experiences as negative, and I do not feel ashamed about them. I do not walk around feeling regret. I take with me all the learning, and I would like to think it has made me a richer, wiser person as a result. Without my experiences – good and bad, well chosen, and sometimes not – I have become more me. I accept myself. And I am open and honest about it.
NS: So there is no ‘baggage’ and only lessons learned… I think this makes perfect sense and seems to be the only way to have a hope of moving on. Your words are inspiring and really do point to a much more positive approach to life and to relationships.
RJR: I’m glad our conversation has inspired you, Nigel! Reading it through now, a couple of weeks after we wrote it, and I feel my positivity might be considered arrogant somehow. I would love to know how our readers feel about all of this.