You can't holiday on Love Island without a few bits of baggage
I was having a serious catch-up with one of my oldest guy friends the other day and inevitably the conversation turned to our love lives – as it always does when you’ve not seen or spoken to someone properly for a solid year.
My friend is marginally older than me – 35 to be exact – and like me, he’s single.
Also like me, he feels is ready for a proper relationship. You know one where you genuinely commit to sharing a proper adult-ish life.
So as any good friend would, I asked him what he was now looking for in a partner so that I could rack my brain catalogue of single female friends to see if I knew anyone who might fit the bill.
He started listing his key attributes.
“She’s got to be….
Slightly older than me
Intelligent (preferably with a successful career)”
I know from his past exploits that he appreciates an alpha female.
“Great”, I thought – “I’m sure I know some chicas who tick those boxes.”
But then his final box made things hard.
“She shouldn’t have any baggage.” He said.
“What do you mean by baggage?” I asked
“No emotional baggage and no physical baggage i.e. children….I just want someone easy. No ex-boyfriend issues.”
And this got me thinking – does anyone who’s single in their late thirties or early forties….hell at any age beyond 25…not have a few bags at their feet?
If you’ve ever had an awful date, that’s a bag. If you’ve ever had your heart broken, that’s a bag. If you’ve ever been married and divorced, that’s deffos a bag.
Basically if you’ve lived any kind of remotely normal life, you’ve got baggage.
It’s part of being human. We’ve all got our issues. And anyone who seems like they don’t have any is probably burying them dangerously deep because they’re so terrifyingly bad.
Instead, now I've paused to think about it, I’d argue that it’s how we deal with the baggage that is the important bit.
Going through tough experiences doesn’t have to be a bad thing. As long as you take the time to empty out each bag, sift through the contents and work out what is valuable and should be kept for future use, and what should be binned or given to the charity shop.
I personally really value all my potentially baggage inducing experiences. Particularly when it comes to relationships. I’ve spent the last decade of dating and relationships learning what works and what doesn’t. What my best qualities as a partner are, and perhaps more importantly my worst too.The older I get and the more things I experience, the more self-aware, capable and confident I feel. And far better equipped to make a life changing relationship commitment.
When you think about it like this bags can be viewed as badges of honour. They’re tough experiences we’ve faced, and crossed through successfully – while hopefully learning some valuable lessons about how to be a better human along the way.
For instance, someone who’s been married and divorced is probably capable of making life-long commitments, or you’d hope they were and that’s why they decided to get married. And they’ve then learnt the slightly harder way what doesn’t work for them and why…and by doing so what does work. And, fingers crossed, how to do things better the next time around.
So instead of immediately ruling out people who at first glance look like they might be carrying a few bags, should we spend more time determining how they deal with them or seeing if they just don't wanna sift through them at all?
I met someone like this recently. He was actually very open about his challenging life experiences. They didn’t put me off as we actually shared a few similar and unique ones. What did put me off was his admission that he was never going to address the issues that these experiences had caused. Issues which he admitted had caused the end of all his past relationships.
Almost all people in successful, healthy long-term relationships tell me the ability to work through this kind of shit is crucial to making things work, so my alarm bells were ringing off the hook. Which was a shame as he was otherwise awesome.
It reminded me of something a very good friend's mum once said to her when she was thinking about ending a relationship because she didn’t like certain things about her boyfriend….
"Every relationship has its problems, every person has their issues. The grass isn’t going to be greener with someone else. The problems will just be different. Instead you have to work out whether this person and this relationship's problems are things you can learn to work through or live with.”
Wise words from a lady in her sixties who's been through it all and then some.
You’ll be pleased to know that my friend and said boyfriend then had a very mature conversation about their bags, made necessary changes on both sides and are still happily together.
As a single person I like to watch and learn from these experiences in the hope that I remember to put them into practice when I next find myself in a proper relationship.
And in the meantime, I hope my guy friend sees this and changes the last box on his girlfriend tick-list from “No baggage” to “Is willing to deal with her baggage”...