Even the most well-adjusted person in the world has emotional baggage. But chances are if you feel you are constantly dealing with your partner’s then they have had a rocky past, at least in some respects. The trouble is we are usually ensconced in the relationship by the time we get a sense of what their emotional baggage is. Most of us do not have a radar for these things. Of course, we love who we love and we need to act compassionately towards that person. But they don’t always make life easy. One thing to do is to evaluate this emotional baggage. Some people have a Florence Nightingale complex. They fall in love with someone but perhaps more so with the idea of saving them. But if the person does not want help, is in complete denial, or has too significant a problem to be in healthy relationship, they may just weigh you down instead of you holding them up. If this person is able to have a stable relationship, is working on their issues, and has the ability to support you and give back, the relationship may be worthwhile. If your interaction can be mutually beneficial, and you wish to move forward, here are some things to think about to help you deal with your partner’s emotional baggage.
The first part is to come and understand exactly what happened to them. Was it a sudden, traumatic incident or a long, protracted period of neglect? But do not pressure them into telling you. When we love someone and are motivated to help them, we may try and pry every aspect of the traumatic experience out of them. But this can do more harm than good. Reliving it alone can be very painful. Be patient and ready for when they feel comfortable enough to divulge. When they do open up be sure to listen closely and actively. You need to understand not only what happened, but how it impacted them, and the significance. There should be no judgment or criticism pointed at them, or they may never open up to you again. Instead, merely validate their feelings. If part of their condition includes bouts of anger or irrational fear, such as with PTSD, come to recognize what their triggers are and how best to avoid them. Understand why it is they get moody or clam up sometimes. Do not take such things personally. Realize that they are just part of their condition. When things are going in the wrong direction, be patient. Take a deep breath. Then step back and see if there is a better way to handle the situation.
Remember that you are there to support and love them, not to solve all their problems for them. Be emotionally available and empathetic. But if they need help and cannot handle things on their own, suggest seeking the aid of a mental health professional. Do not expect their recovery to happen overnight. Instead, celebrate even small accomplishments. Do not isolate them. If anything is going to make them better it is having good, strong relationships in their life. Encourage them to meet with friends and family and spend quality time with them. Remember their situation and if they go off on you for no reason, try not to take it seriously. Understand that some things you will have to let go. Don’t forget about yourself. Practice self-care. You need some time to unwind and re-center yourself, as well as spend time with your friends and family too. Some of the strongest, smartest, most caring people in the world have gone through some of life’s most traumatic situations. Remember always that it is not your job to fix them, but to be there for them.
To help your partner further get them to read Heal Your Life Workbook: Resources and Tools for Clearing Emotional Baggage so You Can Love Your Life by Sharon Whitewood