Baggage – how much is too much?

“Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future – Oscar Wilde.” 

We’ve all made mistakes and most of us have a skeleton (or two or three) lurking in our lives. Everyone has baggage, but as we get older and wiser, we improve and grow as hopefully, over time we learn from our mistakes. For some it might take a little longer to demolish those demons, while others manage as best they can.

When we meet someone, its natural to want them to love us, warts and all. Unfortunately what tends to happen, when that baggage gets unloaded – or offloaded, is that we often end up carrying more than our fair share. So, what is acceptable? How much is too much?

Mental & Emotional Baggage

Trust, honesty, respect and communication are the foundation upon which a healthy relationship is built. Be wary if he:

  • still hasn’t recovered from his divorce, or the loss of his previous relationship
  • is damaged from an unhappy childhood
  • can’t show affection because his mother never loved him
  • has trust and/or commitment issues
  • doesnt want children, and you do
  • is married
  • lies or belittles you
  • has erratic mood swings
  • is an addict (sexual or substance abuse)

The aftermath of a breakup is often painful, and the scars from an emotionally impoverished childhood can take years to overcome, but human nature is amazing in its adaptability. Old sayings such as “the condition upon which you enter a relationship is often the way you exit”, and “fools rush in…” etc. often come back to haunt us. People who lie generally continue to lie. Those who belittle you will continue to put you down. Married men very rarely leave their wives and commitment-phobes are either not in love with you and will never commit to you.  There are people out there who are manic depressive, or suffer from clinical depression, are alcoholics, drug or sexual addicts.  Some men will take you for a ride, or abuse you, because they can.  Thankfully the same cannot be said for all men, but unless a man is willing to either go for counselling or put in the time and effort in some way to prove his worth, he is simply not worth knowing. It does pay to take time to get to know someone before its too late. At best, if he is genuinely a good guy, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you built a solid foundation for a healthy relationship. At worst, you can put an unsavoury interaction down to experience and do better next time.

Financial/Material Baggage

Sex and money are two of the major reasons for breakups and divorces.  Alarm bells should be ringing if he:

  • can’t hold down a job or  provide a steady income
  • has a record of financial instability
  • is debt-ridden
  • wants to control the purse strings
  • is stingy
  • overly-materialistic

In these difficult economic times and recent recessions, most people have had to redress their financial situation, tighten their belts and adjust their standard of living. It happens; people do experience job losses, or have their company fold, while others choose to downscale. Its natural for any person, or couple, to face challenges in their lives, and adapt after a tough time. However, if a man continually exhibits any of the above patterns, he is one of 3 things:

  1. inherently financially unstable – which, unless you have a trust fund, is going to put a strain on your relationship
  2. superficial, controlling or mean-spirited, which is abusive and will undermine your self esteem
  3. using you; in which case, run!

Physical &  Sexual Baggage

Is he:

  • physically aggessive, with a history of abusing his previous partners?
  • sexually aggressive or abusive?
  • unfaithful?
  • addicted to pornography?
  • impotent?
  • gay, or bi-sexual?

If  a man is bullying, or physically abusive and hits you once, its highly likely that he will hit you again. Similarly, if he’s abused previous partners, the odds are high that he will abuse you too.  Also, while there are men who make the mistake of straying once but are basically faithful, there are certain men who will always be unfaithful. Additionally, a healthy sex-life is vital to a good relationship, and it is important that certain problem areas such impotence and matching sex-drives are dealt with, for people who truly love each other. Then again, while ‘anything between 2 consenting adults’ is a matter of choice, there are men who will take the ’50-shades-of-grey’ scenario a little too far for comfort, and others who are experimental or unsure of their sexual orientation. Choose wisely. And be ever so careful of the difference between lust and love.

Spiritual Baggage

  • Are your religious or spiritual views compatible?
  • Is one an aetheist, while the other more conventional in their beliefs?
  • Are you willing to  date or marry across the religious divide?

Men and women go to war for religious, political and sexual beliefs. Families renounce one another because of religious, political and sexual beliefs. It is fundamental for most people to have something to believe in, to defend their choices, and be accepted in spite of them. As with those who decide to convert to a different religion and/or culture, it is not an easy path, and for while for some it may prove to be too big a bridge to cross, tolerance can work wonders.

As long as we dont keep hammering on that closet door, we can make peace with our past and let those secets die a natural death. We can banish our baggage and leave it behind, or re-pack the luggage and move on. If you can’t, then you’re not ready for a relationship. If someone can’t – or won’t – then move on to someone who can.

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