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You’re in a new relationship and he or she seems great. Yet somehow every time you’re having fun together you find yourself a bit on edge waiting for things to go wrong.

Or, you meet people you think could be interesting and fun, but you keep telling yourself you’re just not ready for a new relationship right now.

Or, you’ve been together for years but have always kept some small part of yourself from your partner. As a consequence, you don’t feel like you are as close of a couple as you’d like to be.

Do any of these situations sound familiar?

If they do, you’re not alone. And chances are what you’re struggling with are unhealed wounds from past relationships that are now sabotaging your chances for future happiness. So, what can you do to heal those wounds and allow yourself to be happy?

We all carry baggage from past relationships. Each relationship we have leaves it’s mark (bad and good) as we carry those experiences forward. Hopefully through the process of moving on we learn things about ourselves, mature, and find some level clarity about things we want and don’t want in a partner. But let’s face it, if there were no issues, problems, or pain the relationship probably wouldn’t have ended. And we carry those painful experiences with us too.

Unfortunately, for many those painful experiences can impede future happiness by casting a constant shadow over every subsequent relationship. So, finding ways to heal those wounds is crucial.

To help get you started check out these tips.

1. . Identify the source and describe it.

We often try to avoid thinking about painful things. But before you move on and heal you need to be very clear with yourself about what caused your pain in the first place. A good way to do this is to write it down and add all the details you can recall about the situation and experience. Doing this may be difficult, but it will also help you regain control over your past.

2. Lean into those feelings – briefly.

If you have compartmentalized your feelings and tried to ignore them by “powering through,” or “moving on,” you probably think you were doing the right thing. We hear all the time that you should “get over” things and “get on with your life,” right? Well, that is the ultimate goal, but before you can do that you need to acknowledge those painful feelings and let yourself feel them. Otherwise, they will sit in the shadows of your brain occasionally bubbling up and causing problems. But don’t let yourself get stuck here.

3. Acknowledge your part and learn.

As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. There’s very little chance that you didn’t play a role in the painful experiences of your past. This isn’t about assigning blame, but rather about taking responsibility. Doing this will allow you to learn and grow from the experience and hopefully not repeat the same mistakes.

4. Look at the larger picture.

Putting things in perspective can be a good way to get past pain. Take a step back from things and look at your life, relationships, and opportunities for happiness. This larger picture can help you gain perspective and realize that the previous pain is small on its own and ultimately just not worth losing time and happiness over.

5. Have a solo conversation with your ex.

Do you have things you wish you could say now that you never thought of then? Say them! Say them while you’re driving, while you’re cooking, or to your favorite inanimate object. Having a solo conversation with your ex may sound pointless, but it actually can be very cathartic and psychologically beneficial. You can tell them off, explain your feelings, even forgive them – doing this can help you put to rest all the pain and unfinished business and then let it all go.

6. Talk to someone.

If talking to air isn’t working you may need to talk to someone else. This can be a friend or family member that you trust or possibly a professional counselor. Talking to someone can help you work through all the tips above and see yourself and your circumstances in a new light.

Getting past pain can take time, especially if there was emotional or psychological abuse involved. The tips above may need to be revisited and repeated often. And for wounds that stem back to childhood or involve abuse, counseling may be the best choice for a healthy and sustainable recovery.

What happens if you don’t get past old wounds?

Sound like a lot of work? It is. Doesn’t sound like much fun? It’s not. But it is very rewarding and the person you become on the other side will thank you for having the courage to do it. If old wounds never heal, they will haunt you and prevent you from ever truly being happy and healthy.

The effects of unaddressed relationship pain from the past typically shows up in new relationships as trust issues, or defensive and destructive behavior. But to be clear, you don’t have to be in a new relationship for these past wounds to cause problems. Many people have developed coping mechanisms and the ability to hide things well enough to have long-lasting and seemingly successful relationships. And although these relationships may have some longevity to them and general feeling of contentment, when one partner has unresolved issues from the past those issues will have likely been the source of many difficulties within the relationship, even without them realizing it.

If you know, or suspect, you or your partner have old wounds that haven’t healed, it’s time to resolve them. Without effectively getting past the hurts from past relationships your ability to be completely happy will be severely hampered.

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