Do you know what’s a pain in the ass? Dealing with the emotional baggage from past relationships. Here you are, bravely trying to date again, find The One or have a casual hook up. But no matter what you do, your past keeps popping up, following you around, stinking up all the shiny new potential relationships. It’s frustrating, annoying, painful, and it’s stalling your ability to move on.

The relationship is over; why doesn’t the baggage just F OFF!?

Emotional baggage feels like you are struggling to move forward. Like you take two steps forward but somehow end up five steps back.

The emotional baggage may not just come from past romantic relationships; it can come from our childhood experiences. You can inherit emotional baggage from your parents and family, or you can develop it from stressful, tragic or traumatic experiences as a child that repeat in your adulthood. Or it could be a once-off situation that happened when you were a child, and you created a belief from that experience. Or it could be your toxic ex.

What I’m saying is that emotional baggage is complicated. It makes us unsure, insecure and gives us hang-ups that follow us around and impact all of our relationships: romantic, friendships, work, and so on.

And not all emotional baggage is created equal. There’s layers to our baggage; our childhood experiences are deep baggage stored in our mind for so long that we assume it to be true. Our newer experiences may not have the same depth but are likely attached to something from our childhood. The newer baggage is easier to dispose of, the older stuff takes more time and work.

Toxic Relationship Baggage

Romantic relationships are complex; when they end, the same complexity sends shockwaves through our lives. This is particularly true for abusive or traumatic relationships. Freeing yourself from an abusive relationship or a relationship where trust was broken can leave you feeling lost, hopeless, and vulnerable. Without taking the time to heal, learn and grow from the experience, you will likely find yourself repeating the same pattern in future relationships. And you’ll likely sabotage any relationship that is healthy because it’s unfamiliar to you.

If you’ve been cheated on, controlled, abused, with a narcissistic partner or left a toxic relationship, the emotional baggage is going to be heavy. There is a lot of hurt, trauma, and a whole mindset issue that needs to be worked on.

How to let go of emotional baggage from past relationships

Dealing with emotional baggage is minus fun; it takes time, repetition and awareness. Letting go is icky at first, challenging in the middle and liberating at the end. And trust me, it’s worth taking the time to remove the baggage from your life.

Learn from your past relationships

One of the first things I do with new coaching clients is dive into their past relationships and family history, not like in therapy, where we rehash everything. But in a way where I can see where the baggage started to pile up.

Take time to reflect on your previous romantic relationships, notice the common patterns in each one. Notice if there are common characteristics and traits in each partner. If there is a common occurrence, like cheating, emotional or physical abuse.

Once you’ve looked at your romantic relationships, ask yourself, “Who else in my life has the same characteristics?” “Where else in my life have I seen these patterns play out?” “Did I see this happen when I was a child?” Work your back to the root; when you find the root you can pull it out and leave it behind you.

See what you can learn from your past relationships. You may realise that all of your exes share a common quality that you never want to see again. Now that you have awareness around what you don’t want, it will make letting go much easier.

Listen to your thoughts

“What went wrong?” “Why did s/he cheat on me?” “If only…..” “What’s wrong with me?” “Why couldn’t we have made it work?” 

Sound familiar? I’ve been there too. If you’ve had a really shitty relationship, your mind is likely repeating thoughts that keep you stuck. And these thoughts are on replay, all the time. 

To let go and move on, you need to end the thought cycle. Let go of the story you tell yourself around the relationship. Stop asking yourself repetitive questions. When your mind starts asking questions, I want you to start saying to yourself, “It’s safe for me to move on.” And I promise you it is.

All of your feelings are valid

Baggage tends to stick around longer when we don’t allow ourselves to experience it and deal with it. The more you hold it in, the longer you’ll have the baggage. If you’re hurt, allow yourself to feel the hurt. If you are sad, be sad. Get emotional. By allowing yourself to experience what you feel, you validate yourself and release a lot of the baggage. Let the tears flow; crying is cathartic. Shouting into a pillow is a massive release. Do what you need to do to allow the feelings to come up to the surface and spill out.

If you are extremely angry, upset, hurt or feeling hopeless talk to a professional counsellor or coach who can help you navigate through the emotions and help you get to the other side safely.

Prioritise yourself

After a relationship ends, you will need to pick yourself up again. Your confidence, self-esteem, self-image and self-concept will all need a revamp, especially if it was a long term, destructive or toxic relationship. Recognise how you feel, how you were treated in the relationship and know that you are worth more and deserve more.

Work on finding yourself again, who you are now as a single person, what makes you unique, and who is the best version of you. Build yourself back up. Meditate, exercise, eat well, journal. Do the things that will boost your confidence and release happy hormones so that you can start being the new you now.

Practice self-acceptance. Accept that you’ve been through something, it’s tough; you’re feeling how you feel and that’s ok. Accept that none of it defines who you are as a person. Give yourself permission to be free of it.

Say goodbye to your ex for good

Stop talking to your ex (exes). We’re not doing the 2 am horny drunk messaging thing. No. Not us. We’re healing. Please be smart, delete their number, remove them from social media. If you keep them accessible, the temptation is too big.

Once you’ve eradicated your ex from your life, you will find it so much easier to let go of the baggage and move on. You need to create distance, even if it’s temporary. 

Take them off the pedestal

If you’ve put your ex on a pedestal as the perfect partner, take a sledgehammer and knock the pedestal down. You can’t move on if you think of them as the perfect partner, and you will never let anyone else in. It’s ok to miss them. Or maybe you miss the idea of being with someone, not necessarily your ex. Take them off the pedestal and allow yourself to be open to new possibilities.

As you shed layers of emotional baggage from past relationships, you will feel lighter. You will feel free. If you’ve held grudges or ill feelings towards your ex, you will feel them release. The more you hold on to negative feelings and thoughts, the less space you have for joy and love. 

Commit to releasing your emotional baggage, allow yourself to grow and finally have freedom.