Check Your Baggage at the Door

I have little patience for people who use emotional baggage to justify treating someone poorly in any type of relationship. Our world has forged crutches and cultivated convenient excuses for individuals to use whenever they choose not to take responsibility for their own actions. My lack of sympathy for these individuals likely causes some dissent, maybe even anger. I simply don’t understand why anything someone endured in the past gives them permission to take it out on someone else, especially someone they “love.” The seriousness of the behavior can range from commitment issues to abuse.

Commitment issues seem to be the most common reason people invoke their past to make excuses for present behavior. Aside from the I’m-a-man-so-commitment-is-not-in-my-nature cop out, past shattered hearts seem to be the most common culprit. “I had a really bad break up when I was 15 and I just haven’t gotten over her” or “My first boyfriend broke my heart when he chose a college across the country.” I’m sorry, but c’mon who hasn’t had a broken heart? People overcome it and move on to happy, healthy relationships. It is possible, if they wasn’t, no one would be in a successful relationship. (Save for those lucky fools who met the love of their life in kindergarten and have been together ever since.)

Now some of these reasons may be legitimate psychological problems resulting from serious abuse in the past, but even these can be overcome. The biggest problem I have with commitment-phobes is that they must know they have these problems before entering in a relationship with someone, yet they knowingly choose to drag someone else into their mess. Is it really fair to get years into a relationship and then decide you will never marry the person you are with because when you were 18 your high-school sweetheart dumped you for the captain of the rowing team? Or worse, you hook up with every Tom, Dick and Harry then swear to Prince Charming that you only cheated because you never got over your abandonment issues.

Then there is the dirty fighter, the one who escalates a disagreement to an all-out love brawl with a few angry words and a couple nasty names. If they really have no respect for the person they are with, they will flippantly suggest breaking up every time they find themselves losing an argument. Most people, including myself, have fought dirty at one time or another, but there are individuals who immediately resort to these tactics. I’ve heard various excuses made about this behavior too: “His parents fought a lot and he never learned to communicate properly.” Or “I’m just scared of losing you so I’m testing you to make sure you aren’t really going to leave.” Regardless of what the justification is the truth of the matter is, using these tactics is destructive and manipulative.

The insidious dirty fighter actually boarders on and sometimes steps into the realm of abusive, yet I still hear people making excuses for their significant others. I, myself, have used the ever-popular, “he’s been through a lot in his life and has a hard time coping with it all.” Friends of mine have told me the people they are with mistreat them because of things in their past that they never dealt with before entering into a relationship. Why is that their problem? As crass as it may be to say this, it isn’t and they shouldn’t be penalized for it. The offending individuals should never get away with hurting another human being because they view themselves as damaged. Yet it happens more than we like to admit.

The majority of the time these lame excuses for misbehavior aren’t as serious as abuse, but I’m still astonished at what people get away with based on their own personal demons. Maybe it’s because we want people to be forgiving of our pitfalls or maybe we are closet enablers. Whatever the reason, we need to start recognizing the difference between helping someone cope with their past and allowing someone to control us with it.

I’m not suggesting everyone should end relationships they are in because their partner has baggage. I’m saying that people need to own their actions and those that have made excuses for their significant other’s behavior need to step up and demand that they get what they deserve in the present regardless of what has happened in their past.