The 10 Commandments Of Marriage: 6. Leave The Baggage At The Door Don’t impose your pre-marital baggage on your new spouse. BY LYNNE Z. GOLD-BIKIN
Don't let the baggage of past relationship weight down your current ones.
Let's face it. You're all individuals with your own histories, feelings and responses. That means that each new relationship into which you enter will layer on new histories and feelings and, probably new responses. This "baggage" is something you carry around forever. And, of course, when you marry you bring all your baggage from past relationships to the new relationship. By baggage, I also mean past hurts, happiness and attitudes.
For example, you have developed ways of dealing with situations from your family of origin. If you are the youngest child in a family, perhaps you expect more attention from others than would a middle child. If you have come from a bad personal relationship, you may anticipate similar behavior from the new spouse that you received from the old one. A man whose former life partner did all the packing of suitcases for travel may assume that the new partner would have that responsibility. A woman raised only with sisters could use sarcasm as a way of dealing with problems rather than straight talk. All of these are examples of "baggage" from a prior life.
It is important that you recognize your new partner as an individual and not as a reincarnation of an old partner. It is also important that couples adapt to each other, rather than continuing to behave as they did in their prior relationships—be that intimate or family of origin relationships. If the assumptions and the actions from the past are brought to the new family, without adjustments for the new person, this couple can never get close or build a new future together.
You must learn to separate the new wife from the old, who dumped you or not look at the new husband as that ex-husband who cheated on you. All men and women are not alike and, hopefully, you have chosen better this time. All women are not like your mother who nurtured you or your ex-girlfriend who was a spendthrift. Assuming that you will receive the same response from your new spouse as you previously received from your ex-spouse is patently unfair. For example, tightening the purse strings in the new relationship because your former girlfriend ran up the credit cards, may destroy your marriage almost before it begins. Showing jealousy when your new husband talks to a female co-worker because your ex cheated on you is not a good way to start the new marriage. And, expecting to be the center of attention throughout the marriage, as you were in your mother's home because you were the baby of the family, even after you become a new father is simply unrealistic.
The reality is a simple one. What we learn from our parents growing up shapes our entire lives, but that doesn't mean you can't adjust and change. As you grow older and mature, hopefully you adjust to new situations. But you must also see each new relationship with fresh eyes, not clouded by previous interactions. Realize that your new partner will have quirks of his or her own and welcome the differences of this very unique and new person in your life. Being open with love and trust with this partner, without superimposing another’s characteristics on him or her, is the only way to a healthier and more productive relationship.
Nationally known family law attorney Lynne Z. Gold-Bikin is chair of the family law practice at Philadelphia-based law firm Weber Gallagher. Ranked one of the top ten divorce attorneys in the U.S. by Worth Magazine, Gold-Bikin is a former chair of the American Bar Association's Section of Family Law, and has more than three decades of experience advising clients on everything from financial matters, prenuptial agreements and divorce, to custody disputes and domestic violence.