Many of us bring emotional baggage into our marriages. Simply put, emotional baggage consists of life’s negative experiences from past relationships that we carry with us through life. If left unchecked, they could bring plenty of harm into our marriages.
Here are four steps to freedom from emotional baggage:
Step #1 Become aware
Try to identify what triggers you to have a meltdown or start an argument with your spouse. Don’t accept your behaviour at face value, but be curious about what causes you to react the way you do in times of conflict with your spouse. You can start by looking back at your past relationships to identify what went wrong in those relationships. Perhaps your boyfriend or girlfriend cheated on you in a past relationship, you’ve been in an abusive relationship or your family practiced unhealthy ways of handling conflict where there is constant fighting, with no real healing taking place. Even unresolved conflict with a parent can rear its ugly head in your marriage.
Step #2: Make links between your emotional baggage and your behaviour towards your spouse
After you have identified your emotional baggage, reflect on your triggers or when your buttons are pushed – these are areas of constant unresolved conflict that you have with your spouse and analyse how emotional baggage might be the root cause behind them. For example, your overwhelming insecurity from not knowing exactly where your spouse is and lashing out at him when he is late in returning your phone call – all these could be a product of emotional baggage. Perhaps you’ve seen infidelity in your parents’ marriage and you are carrying the fear of losing your spouse to another person.
Step #3: Speak to your spouse about your emotional baggage
Share your findings with your spouse. You might be surprised at what your spouse might share with you as well regarding his or her own emotional baggage. The key is to own up to having emotional baggage but not using your past hurts as an excuse for bad behaviour towards your spouse. Instead, make a pact to deal with them as a team and to separate the current reality of your marriage from your past relationship experiences. Decide on how you both want to act or behave when your buttons are pushed.
Step #4: Get Help
If you find difficulty in coping with your emotional baggage, and seem to fall into an endless spiral of unresolved conflict with your spouse even after discussing your emotional baggage with each other, getting help from a trained counsellor or marriage coach can give your marriage real breakthroughs in preventing past hurts from hurting your marriage.
It has been said that we are all products of our past and upbringing. From the way we relate to our spouse to the way we parent and handle relationships, it is difficult to run away from the fact that what we have experienced in our past relationships can play a huge role in determining the success of all our current relationships, in particular, our marriage. As such, it is best to do all we can to not sabotage our marriages with unresolved emotional baggage but instead, take concrete steps in overcoming them with the help of our spouse.
Copyright © 2016. Focus on the Family Singapore Ltd.
Get practical tips on how to handle emotional baggage and overcome conflict as a team through our marriage preparation workshop, Connect2!