You see, my story is a bit different than many, because I actually found my soul mate while in my mid 20's. We had a year and a half long relationship, then it was over. But I knew deep down inside that I would never love any other man with the intense depth of feeling I had felt for him. There was a comfort, a familiarity that I had never felt with anyone else on this planet. I'm convinced this is why no other relationship worked for me.
Cut to 20 some years later, at the ending of my 4th marriage, which coincided with his relationship demise, which we then found out about when we ran into each other at a local bar. How goofy is that? The Universe is amazing. We made a coffee date for later that week, and the rest is history, or rather ourstory.
So how did we begin a new relationship with all of that old baggage from the past? Very carefully! First off, we had to re-learn how to communicate, how to speak to each other in a healthier way. We had to change our relationship paradigm when it came to healthy communication. He came from an abusive, controlling relationship of 20 years, and I had my own history of abuse whose baggage followed me around like a hungry pup nipping at my heels.
We literally had to learn how to argue correctly, a more gentle approach without trying to destroy each other with hurtful statements or name calling. He would come rushing out from his default corner of defense, and I would come out verbally swinging from the default corner of sarcasm. That first argument was a doozy and almost a deal breaker, except...except...we weren't really even fighting with each other. We were fighting with our ex's without knowing it.
Relationships do not work if the people in them only want to be right. If that's why you're in your partnership...to be right...then it won't work. Perspective is a strange thing, because two people can have a different perspective and still be correct. If you want your relationship to work, then put your need to be "right" in the waste paper basket and leave it there, because successful relationships strive toward finding a resolution that works for both parties.
A constructive way to engage in healthier arguments would be to sit down with each other when the both of you are in fairly good moods, and lay down your ground rules. In coaching, this is called a designed alliance, and it works! Take the time to discuss what anger looks like for you, and find out what it looks like for your partner. Decide what your needs are. I have the need to know that my partner is not leaving me just because he's upset and unhappy...because that's how our relationship ended so many years ago. He has the need for me to not blame him or say that I'm disappointed in him.
These are the personal things we pledge NOT to do because in the end, we do not want to hurt each other. We desire a mutually beneficial, loving resolution. If you take the time to design your alliance or lay your ground rules, the next time an argument crops up on the horizon, those rules can help you navigate through the conflict.
Another key to a successful relationship is knowing the both of you are different. You are different, he is different...and no comparisons should ever be made between you and his ex, or between him and one of your ex's. Never ever EVER! It's just a painful, hurtful way to bring up the past in order to strike out. There are no restorative benefits to these types of comparisons, so don't make them! If there is a certain aspect of your partner's personality that is causing you stress or anger, than might I suggest a conversation...once again, when you're both in fairly good moods...about how to create a more positive space within your relationship.
For Andy and I, we lost what seems like a lifetime to be together, so the time we have left is precious to us, and we want every second to count in a loving, positive way. It is for these reasons that when those arguments do rear their not-so-attractive heads, we are prepared to work toward a solution instead of fighting to be right.
The bottom line in any successful relationship is communication, communication, COMMUNICATION! Take it from me, the once-upon-a-time four time loser. And now? I know that everything else in my past was just a dress rehearsal for the real thing, and what we have now was definitely worth the wait!
Peace, love and some positive relationship vibing,