It's a common story: when you exit one relationship, the next one can seem like a potential time-bomb until the same problems from before show up. And it's an all-too-familiar feeling, waiting for your new partner to display the same hurtful behavior of your ex. So, how do you move on from a past relationship, and prevent past issues from affecting your current relationship?
"Our own perceptions of other people cloud our view of the relationship," Jennifer B. Rhodes, licensed psychologist, tells Bustle. "Previous hurt and pain either from our family or other relationships is the biggest reason why people develop negative mindsets around relationships in general. We all need to do our healing work and get to a place where we can see our behavior and our partner’s behavior in a positive light."
A good way to tell if pain from a past relationship is still affecting your current relationship is to pay attention to the types of fights you and your partner have. "Typically, when people are holding onto past issues there is a fair amount of arguing about things they aren’t really upset about," Nicole Richardson, Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, tells Bustle. "Often, they are so focused on the immediate issue they don’t even realize there is a deeper hurt at play so it can be really difficult to address."
So, if you can't shake the past, here are seven common issues that may still be affecting your relationship, and how to move past them.
Having been cheated on in the past can create a distorted lens when building a new relationship, experts say. "When you've been cheated on you are more likely to guard your heart and expect it to happen again, this creates a challenge in creating true intimacy," Jasmin Terrany, licensed mental health counselor (LMHC), tells Bustle. This "guilty until proven innocent" attitude can keep you defensive around your partner, Terrany says, making it difficult to really connect.
If you are having difficulty letting your partner in because a previous partner cheated, try to remember that this person is different. Be open about your reservations due to your past experiences, but do not deny them the chance to earn your trust.
2. Lying/Lack Of Trust
Like cheating, any form of lying in a past relationship can make trust in a new relationship more difficult. "When you've been lied to in the past, especially if it was unexpected, it makes it harder to trust again in the future," says Terrany. "It's important not to treat someone [poorly] for faults of another."
In a relationship, this manifests as a lot of misplaced worry and concern. "People who’ve been severely impacted by a lack of trust in the past will find themselves looking for the other shoe to drop. They can’t believe that the good qualities they see in their new partner are true," author and relationship expert Susan Winter tells Bustle. "Wounded individuals will doubt their partner’s sincerity, question their motives, and find fault where no fault exists."
Remember, though, that it's completely valid to feel scared and offput. "Our partner was supposed to be the one person we could trust. This is the kind of memory that’s hard to remove from our present day relationships," Winter says. Don't blame yourself, but be honest with your partner about the trepidations you feel.
3. Abandonment/Being Dumped
Having been suddenly dumped, or unexpectedly abandoned by a past love can make it really difficult to build a new relationship without that in mind. Carrying that fear into a new relationship often makes it feel like the abandonment is going to happen again.
"When you've been dumped or abandoned previously it can feel difficult to open your heart to someone for fear of that pain again," Terrany says.
She advises that people with this fear care for their own hearts, and be open and honest about putting themselves first. "It is important to realize that the goal is to be secure in your vulnerability, rather than avoid vulnerability," Terrany says. "Its important not to 'just hand your heart over' but remember you are responsible for your heart." Basically, know that you don't need to be coated in emotional armor to be in a secure relationship.
4. Issues With Sex
While sex is obviously a fun and important part of a relationship, if you've previously felt used for sex by past partners, sometimes it can get in the way of intimacy in future relationships. But focusing too much on sex to try to keep a partner interested can be an insecure foundation for a relationship.
Thinking sex is all you have to offer can reduce sex to its physical aspects only, and can deny you all of the other fantastic things sex is good for. "If you have felt used and that someone only likes you for your body it can be common to lead with sexuality rather than your true self," Terrany says.
When you feel this way, it's important to remember that true love is much more complex, and that someone who loves and respects you won't leave you feeling used. If you find yourself strategizing how to keep your partner around, based on sexuality alone, Terrany recommends reframing your thoughts. Remember that someone who loves you will find you sexy no matter what, and will love you in and out of the bedroom.
5. A Lack of Vulnerability
A lack of vulnerability in a past relationship can lead you to put up unnecessary or artificial boundaries in your current one, says Terrany.
An inability to share deeper thoughts or feelings can build up from having once been vulnerable, but then completely closing it off. "The walking wounded who’ve resolved ‘never to love again’ finds little joy in their new relationships. And their partners suffer from their emotional withholding," says Winter.
On the flip side, it's also hard if you've never experienced emotional intimacy before. "If you've never been emotionally close to someone it can be hard to take that plunge," Terrany says.
Regardless of whether you're closed off from hurt or fear, it's important to work on this issue. "The more comfortable you become with yourself, the easier it is to share your full self with another," says Terrany. Again, vulnerability is a badge of honor, so don't guard your heart too much. Being honest with your partner about some of your hangups can help plant the seed for emotional intimacy, while making you feel more comfortable opening up.
6. Deflecting Blame
Another major issue that can affect your new relationship is not being honest with yourself about mistakes you've made in the past. If you're constantly deflecting blame, you won't find a healthy way to build intimacy with someone new. Old habits of picking fights, making assumptions, and overstepping boundaries can damage new relationships. It's healthier to just admit that you were in the wrong, then work on ways to make it right.
"We need to have the willingness to face up to our own issues, and make the needed corrections within ourselves in order to alter errors of the past," says Winter. "Without doing this, we’ll simply repeat our mistakes. We’ll blame each new partner that comes into our life. 'It’s their fault,' and we are the victims once again. It’s this kind of mentality that keeps us stagnant and unable to move forward in our own evolution of love." And no one wants that.
It may be difficult to overcome past hurts, but it is essential for forming healthy connections thereafter. If your past is affecting your current relationship, it may be time to do some soul searching, and find out what your fears are in regards to love. Once you do that, and confront these issues head-on, you can start to move forward.