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by Rebecca Cooper-Traynor

Newsflash: We All Have A Past. Own It and Move On

We all have a past. For most of us, it’s not easy for us to share. Some people carry guilt, remorse, confusion, and secrets, and not everything is easy to understand. This makes for a challenging situation when we start a new relationship.

To Share or Not To Share?

When you consider sharing something with a new partner that you don’t feel great about, you might wonder whether there’s a point. Will sharing it make them feel better about something in their own experience? Or will it raise more questions that you’re not prepared to answer? Unfortunately, there’s no right way to frame the situation. Instead of wondering how others might feel, sometimes it’s best to put yourself first. Here’s my story:  I had two significant relationships before meeting my husband, Mike. When Mike and I met, we were both in our thirties. I believe that mentioning our ages is essential here, given that many people at that age feel that love has passed them by (it hasn’t, by the way, but if you’re in your thirties and you think like that, you’re normal). The relationships I had before Mike were juvenile. I can’t even describe my former partners as men because they acted more like boys. I dated one of these “boys”on and off for many years. Although we had hardly anything in common, I felt a need to keep him in my life for a few reasons. First, he liked me. Second, he found me attractive. Third, he thought I was special. It’s shocking to me now, just to see those words written down, but it’s the truth, and that’s what is surprising. Those are the reasons that kept me in a dead-end relationship for the better part of ten years! We started dating when I was 15. My self-esteem was low, but he was very handsome, and I was thrilled that he felt I was special. As we got to know one another, it was apparent that we came from two different worlds.We lacked any real chemistry, and most of the time, I actually felt uncomfortable being in his presence. Though our relationship was turbulent, I felt like I wouldn’t find anyone better. I didn’t want to be alone. I kept telling myself he was someone I should stick with, and although I knew deep inside myself that I was settling, I still felt that he was my only option. Don’t get me wrong. I did care about him a lot, and I am not throwing him under the bus. I’m just speaking my truth. In fact, I felt like I truly loved him for most of our relationship, but I understand now that it was a desperate attempt on my part to try and keep someone—anyone—in my life. I knew we weren’t well-suited, but the thought of being alone terrified me. After sometime, we ended things permanently.A few months later, he wanted to reconcile, but I stood my ground.

The Next Chapter

My next relationship was with a person I met through a mutual friend. Before dating him, I spent several months casually dating others and having fun. It was enjoyable, but I wanted to feel needed by someone. I honestly thought I was ready for a relationship, but I wasn’t. I was still suffering from low self-esteem. When I was introduced to this person, his life-loving personality and vibe were very attractive. We were off to a good start. However,our relationship moved faster than I hoped. He had to move out of his apartment, and he gave me an ultimatum. Although I didn’t feel comfortable with our relationship moving so fast, I gave in. The bigger problem was that I wasn’t listening to myself. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to be exclusive with him, and here he is moving his stuff into my apartment – because I allowed it. Although we got along well, there was never a time when I felt like I was “in love” with him. Instead, I felt like we were friends.We liked to laugh, we had fun together, but we had different friends and different priorities. I questioned myself, my choices, and my behaviour on a daily basis. Why did I feel one way but do something completely different? Why didn’t I speak up when it mattered the most? How long could I continue to live like this?  Finally, after much effort on my part to end the relationship, we split. I felt a massive sense of relief.     I was with this person for five years of my adult life, and yet it’s a relationship I rarely look back on with any kind of feelings, fond or otherwise. I don’t have any good or bad memories about it, or him. I have nothing. It’s weird to think this way. I had so many career successes during this time.But thinking back on my personal life, my relationship with this person, at that time … it’s almost like there’s a big empty space there.

Does Your Past Define You?

All things considered, if someone were to define me based on my past relationships, they would probably say I make poor choices. Yes, I DID make poor choices.But even though it took me a while to figure it out, I learned from them. I learned how to care more about myself. I needed to give my inner voice more credence and to honour myself instead of staying in a relationship just for the sake of being in a relationship. I needed to put myself and my own needs first. I needed to listen to myself. I needed to act on how I really felt instead of letting those relationships drag on. Once I finally took the time to know myself, I found a happiness that I didn’t know existed. There was purity, a sense of fulfillment, a sense of gratitude. And once I reached this place, that’s when my life changed direction. I went from putting the needs of others first to caring about myself. Once I got to know my true self, I was amazed at how capable I was. I could appreciate my own value and my ability to be a wonderful person, sister, daughter, friend, colleague, and partner. So, if there’s a takeaway from all this, it’s that we all have a past. Life sends us twists and turns, and sometimes, hard stops. It’s okay to be unsure about something. It’s okay to want to learn.But what’s not okay is putting other people’s needs above your own. Your past is yours and yours alone.You should own it. No regrets! Even if you feel like you wasted a lot of time, hopefully, you learned something about yourself along the way. Is it worth sharing? That’s up to you and your level of comfort with it all. Just be proud of yourself for being who you are today and for getting through each day the best you can.  

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