A co-worker and I went out to drinks recently and we realized we have very similar physical preferences in men.   Our outlook on personality traits and, more importantly, baggage couldn’t be more different.

She started telling me about her “non-negotiables”.  Her ideal future mate is not a divorcee, doesn’t have children, can’t have tattoos, must have a high paying white-collar job and can’t be a momma’s boy.   Of course she has great reasons for her list, but my list reads practically the opposite.

I wouldn’t mind if my future mate has been married so that my partner could understand what a failed marriage is like and work towards a successful marriage one day.  I wouldn’t mind if he had children, because I love the thought of becoming a “bonus-parent”.  While I think finances are incredibly important (and perhaps I was a little too lax on this point in previous relationships), my future man could be a big time executive or a construction supervisor and I would not care a bit, as long as he is responsible with the money he makes. I have mixed emotions on the momma’s boy point, so that would need to be case by case. And… tattoos are just hot.

While we discussed our preferences another co-worker of ours added to the conversation…

“So, basically, Erin just loves baggage!”

After a lot of laughing, I realized I do like baggage, but only if used properly.

We often see our potential mate’s baggage as a red flag.  Trust issues.  Failed relationships.  Inability to commit.  While sometimes (note: sometimes, not always) baggage is a red flag and a reason to run, I would argue baggage can be a benefit to your future relationship.

I know the way my baggage looks.  But let’s unpack it.

Victim of infidelity. Divorced. Bankrupt.  

Red flags all over the place there.   It doesn’t look good on paper.  If I put that in my Bumble profile, I can practically guarantee that not a single person would “swipe right” on me (translation: want to take me out).

However, the benefit of baggage is the road map you now have to avoid future similar problems.

Victim of infidelity: Bad baggage (assumption): unable to trust, paranoid, snooper, quick to draw conclusions/Road map: my future partner needs to know I am sensitive to lies.  A lie at any level could cause me to run.

Divorced: Bad baggage: damaged goods, something must be wrong with her, quitter/Road map: I have a different perspective on relationships based on my failed marriage.  Despite the facts that AJ cheated and lied, we had other issues and I know what I want and how to ensure my future relationship has those things.  My future partner needs to understand that I may call out small problems early on to ensure they do not become larger issues.

Bankrupt: Bad baggage: irresponsible, big spender, can’t live within means/Road map:  I had an ability to see the problems I was left with after my divorce and handle it without prolonging my healing process.  I could either choose bankruptcy or taking AJ to court to have them rule on payments he wouldn’t have ever made. The cycle of taking him to court/fighting would have kept me in an angry and unhealed place. My future partner needs to be someone who can handle finances on their own, so that when and if we combine our finances I can be comfortable and not be taken advantage of again.  They need to know it may take me a while to get comfortable with the idea of combining finances.

This is why I want to challenge you to think differently about baggage.

Your past experiences shape your dating style, your reactions to problems, and comfort level with your next person. Don’t allow the baggage to hurt you, allow it to help you.

Are you packed properly for your next trip?

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