Your past doesn’t define you. This is a lesson that has taken me 30 years to learn. I haven’t had the easiest of upbringings, childhood or relationships – both familial and romantic. I certainly haven’t had the hardest but y’know – relativity.
Some bits I choose to share on here, others are so shocking I just don’t think y’all ready.
But entering a new relationship. One where you have to get to know people’s past to determine if you have a future. Well, sometimes your past gets in the way.
As children, we see a strict set of behaviours modelled by the adults around us. Our primary caregivers are the blue print of which we follow to learn how to have other interpersonal reactions. If those models are lacking or not ideal – how then can you grow into knowing what is right or wrong? Who else is going to show you?
My model growing up was of a marriage that didn’t display any explicit signs of love. There was no affection, kind words or thoughtful actions. There was only arguments, lying, manipulation and resentment. How then do you function as an adult in a serious relationship? When all you’ve seen for 30 years is bitterness, mistreatment and distress, how do you escape the worry that everything is like that. Especially when it’s all you’ve ever known.
Another model of behaviour I had growing up, was of a mother who shouldered all of the emotional burden. Asking my father to do the washing up was nagging. Forgetting his family’s birthdays were completely her fault. Hey, she should’ve been grateful for the ‘brand new iron Birthday present’, right? If only she’d asked my father to take on equal responsibilities – of course he would’ve! Or would he have set fire to the oven to prove he was incapable of cooking and therefore never asked to do it again?
When all you’ve known is a relationship that is unequal with regards to emotional burden – isn’t it then hard to see how future relationships will be equal? How do you know if the person you’re with will empty the dishwasher without you having to ask, until it’s too late?
Furthermore, when you’re trying to grow into a no-nonsense, and independent woman with a high sense of self-worth but all you’ve known is your poor, down-trodden mother staying in a relationship out of guilt and ease then it becomes very easy to stay in future relationships for the same reasons. If no one has shown you how to value yourself, it makes it hard to know your own worth.
Letting these models define you as you enter every relationship isn’t healthy. On one hand you start accepting sub standard behaviours because that’s what you’re used to and on the other hand you’re always anticipating further mistreatment which negatively influences how you perceive new people.
When you begin to learn more about your past and can reflect on how and why certain things happened you begin to notice the patterns in your own behaviour. THIS IS A GOOD THING. Being able to talk about your influences and explain to people around you why you don’t mean to be so influenced and that you’re working on it can give them an insight.
You know what else is a good thing? Being with someone who challenges it. Being with someone who says, ‘I’m not going to do that,’ or ‘I’m not them,’ goes some way to eradicate those fears. But also choosing to be with someone who’s unlike anyone you’ve ever met before. Someone who displays none of the behaviours you used to unhealthily seek out because it was all you knew, well they go some way to eradicate that cycle of influence too.
But when you fully realise that every loss you’ve suffered, mistreatment you’ve witnessed or resentment you’ve felt at your core doesn’t mean that every future relationship will be full of suffering, mistreatment or resentment then you really can stop letting your past define you.