Haunted By Past Relationships?

In our exclusive Q&A below, author, matchmaker and reality show co-host Amy Laurent explains how to exorcise the ghosts of relationships past from your love life — permanently.

By Amy Keyishian

keletons in the closet. Ghosts of partners past. Sometimes, dating and relationships can feel like a real horror show — making you feel like that one female character in the movie who goes wandering around the wax museum in her nightie.

There are so many different ways that your past relationships can still cause you to get goose bumps. Maybe you suffered through an emotionally
That’s just not a smart approach to successful relationships.
abusive ex and find yourself snapping at your current partner, yet are unable to explain why. Or you could have the opposite problem — obsessing about “the one who got away,” an impossible ideal against whom you measure every potential mate (and miraculously, each new person comes up short). Or maybe you’re just so worn down after years of dating that you feel too jaded to get excited about the latest “wink” in your inbox or person staring at you across the bar. Is there any relief from “The Ex Who Would Not Die” in your romantic future?

To find out, we talked to Amy Laurent, one of the co-hosts of Bravo’s reality show, Miss Advised and co-author of 8 Weeks to Everlasting: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting (and Keeping!) the Guy You Want (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012). In our Q&A below, she puts the final nail in the coffin of your romantic woes — just like we knew she would!

How can you tell the difference between a hard-won lesson that benefits you and a troublesome bad habit that’s damaging to your current relationships?

It’s simple to decipher your hard-won lessons: You’ve had an “ah-ha moment,” and you have no desire to make the same mistake again. On the other hand, if you’re still bitter or angry about a past mistake, you’re likely carrying a chip on your shoulder — which means you’re putting up walls against relationships that haven’t even begun yet. That’s just not a smart approach to successful relationships.

So check your shoulder for chips, along with any past relationship baggage; got it. What’s the best way to ditch that mentality and start over fresh?

First, you’ve got to pinpoint your reactions, take a look at them more closely, and then identify what’s a valid reaction, and what’s just a trigger. To do that, look at where you’re at with any given person: What are your expectations? What are his/hers? Are you misreading signs, or jumping the gun on a relationship that you expect to go faster than normal? If you’re feeling insecure about the past, you’ve got to get yourself into the present. Look at what’s in front of you, not what’s behind you.

What if I did totally drag the stinking corpse of an old relationship into my current one without realizing it? Should I apologize and explain, or is that just turning an undead zombie into my leading man, so to speak?

Look at what’s in front of you, not what’s behind you.
Oh, you have got to be able to reach out to your partner and discuss this if you’re in an exclusive boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. More often than not, he or she will be relieved to finally understand the situation and be more sensitive to the buttons that might be prone to getting pushed. Of course, you want to do your part by not making those buttons into an emotional minefield that your poor partner has to navigate with ever-increasing care in order to avoid setting you off.

What if the trouble isn’t due to having negative feelings about an ex, but overly positive ones? How do I elude the chilling shade of the “one who got away” putting a damper on my current relationship?

I don’t see that as a positive thing at all. Instead, I see that as holding onto a past that might not even have been as wonderful as you’re remembering it. The past is out of your control; you can’t live in regret, force someone to love you back, or change something that’s already done. We all have an obligation to live in the present and focus on what we want for the future.

What about guilt? Sometimes the baggage you carry is caused by feeling bad about the way that you behaved in your past relationships, so you try to overcompensate — and then become too accommodating — in the present.

One word: therapy. If you’re overcompensating, it means you haven’t gotten to the root of a problem; you need to deal with it sooner rather than later, or else you’ll always be off-balance.

OK, got it. So what’s your final bit of advice for exorcising the demons of your dating past and going into the light — but not in the Carol Anne sense? (What? I’m surely not the only person who watched Poltergeist too often as a kid...)

“Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future” — or so Oscar Wilde said. Know that nobody is perfect — not you and not your future spouse, either. We all deserve to be happy within ourselves and with others. Taking the right lessons from your past will allow you to live out your future in a way that makes it all worthwhile.

Amy Keyishian has written for Cosmopolitan and other national magazines.
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