Spring Cleaning For The Soul

Does your baggage have you stuck in a rut? Clear out room for romance with these life-changing tips.

By Margot Carmichael Lester

s long as you're cleaning out the clutter from your closets and cabinets during National Cleaning Week (March 26-April 1), do a little touch-up on yourself while you're at it. We all carry baggage from our past that can keep us from finding romance in the future.

"Unknowingly, we always take the past with us into future relationships," explains Patrick Wanis, a Miami-based celebrity life coach and clinical hypnotherapist. "When
Getting rid of that kind of baked-on grease requires some determined cleaning.
we don't clear out the pain, bitterness, resentment or judgments about ourselves and the other gender, then we naturally project that onto the next romance, and we and our new partner then pay the price of the past painful experiences, and the hurtful, unhealthy pattern keeps repeating."

Makes sense, but why is it so hard to jettison the baggage? "Romantic 'hurt' happens when the person or the relationship doesn't turn out to be what you expected," notes Laurie Cameron, a Littleton, CO-based certified relationship coach. "When the stories you tell yourself about the way it 'should have been' keep running through your mind over and over, your focus remains on all the gunk. And whatever you put your energy toward expands. In this case, that's the feelings of being hurt."

Getting rid of that kind of baked-on grease requires some determined cleaning. Here are four steps to bring back your shine:

Increase socializing.
The best way to forget the old is to replace it with something new. "Get out there and meet new people — and not necessarily new dates, either," says Christine Whelan, author of Marry Smart: The Intelligent Woman's Guide to True Love. "Find a new group of friends, a new activity or challenge that will take your mind off of the recent past and help focus you on the exciting possibilities for the future."

Trade blame for responsibility.
"Accept responsibility for your actions but don't accept responsibility or blame yourself for the way he/she chose to respond to you," Wanis counsels. "You are
Even in the worst relationships, there is some upside.
not to blame if your partner cheated on you, became an alcoholic or a gambler. Each one of us makes the individual choice about how we will treat the other person and ourselves. Until we accept that someone did he or she they did because of who that person was and we did what we did because of who we are, then we will continue to chase the wrong person, trying to prove ourselves, to get approval, forgiveness and acceptance."

Focus on the good.
Even in the worst relationships, there is some upside. "Reframe the issues as hidden gifts in the relationship and find a way to learn from them," Cameron says. "What did you learn about yourself? How did it help you clarify what you want in a relationship? How did the difficulties and challenges in the relationship help you to grow stronger and more confident? How did your partner mirror for you what you need to change in yourself?"

Dig yourself.
A lot of the baggage we carry from our romantic failures is related to our view of ourselves. And it's just as unhealthy as the other stuff. "Often, without even knowing it, we base our self-worth on whether we're in a relationship — and what that special someone thinks of us," Whelan says. "Now is a great chance to take a step back and get to know who you are. Get comfortable with yourself, carry yourself with confidence and be optimistic about your goals for the future. Break that negative cycle and find love by first declaring the 'I'. What am I looking for in a partner? What does success and happiness mean for me — and then finding the right match for a strong, successful you."

Ditching the baggage will create more room in your life for love. So start cleaning!

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina.
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