We say to people we love, “stay the same,” but we don’t mean it, nor should we mean it. We should change, we should grow. We all carry baggage we should eventually let go of to become better people. The beauty of relationships is that we can share the burdens, but the difficult and more meaningful part of relationships is helping each other let go of those burdens.
We All Carry Baggage
When Betsy and I were dating, we both realized that we were carrying our own personal baggage into the relationship.
I was in a lot of credit card debt. We’re talking over $10,000 in debt. And this was excluding my school debt, which is much higher.
Betsy had a history of unhealthy habits which led to unhealthy teeth. We knew the dental work would be in the thousands. We recently discovered that it would be over $10,000.
This is not to mention the range of emotional baggage we both had. We all have our issues. Some a result of poor choices, others a result of unfortunate circumstance.
We Enter Relationships to Share the Baggage
People connect to each other to share. What was once personal now becomes communal. Whether it’s successes or failures, resources or needs, the essence of relationship is that what was once mine, is now also yours, and what was once yours is now also mine.
Betsy and I knew we would be carrying our baggage into our marriage (as much as we both hoped we would deal with it before getting married). My debt was now also her responsibility – her income would go to paying off my credit card debt. Her expenses are now also my responsibility – my income will go to paying off her dental bills.
It may not be the case for everyone, but it’s harder for me to accept that she has to carry my burden, rather than the other way around. And yet the mysterious beauty of relationships is that carrying both your baggage together is somehow lighter than carrying your individual baggage alone.
We Stay in Relationships to Release the Baggage
Both Betsy and I understood the weight of each other’s baggage, and we made a decision to carry it together. But it was on the understanding that we would not carry it forever.
We accepted each other where we were at. But neither of us were content with staying there, both for ourselves and for each other. We both wanted to be free of our financial burdens, as well as our emotional flaws. And we saw in each other the desire to be free of them, as well as the evidence of progress.
I think this is where a lot of relationships break down. We generally tend to be good at accepting each other where we’re at. And despite how much we deny it, we all want the other person to change. But we often expect them to change, when they have no desire to change or evidence of changing. We expect marriage or time to be the magical solution that fixes problems, but it doesn’t. There has to be some indication of a desire to move forward.
Accept your partner for where they’re at. See the potential person they could become. But whether or not you can journey together depends on the in-between. Are you willing to carry each other’s baggage? Do you want to release your own baggage? Are you committed to helping each other drop off your burdens along the way?
We all carry baggage into our relationships. The beauty of relationships is that we have others to share the burden with. The messy part of relationships is that we have to carry baggage that’s not our own. What makes carrying each other’s baggage uncomfortable is that it sometimes reveals our own shortcomings. What makes carrying baggage frustrating is that we may be doing it for a long time.
Know the baggage your partner is carrying, and accept them for what they bring. But don’t leave them where they are. Make sure that they want to drop off bags along your journey, and that they’re actually doing it. Take hope in knowing that someday the weight will all be gone. But in the meantime, carry each other’s burdens, while helping each other let go of them, one piece at a time.