One of the most frequent conversations I have with both friends and readers is about readiness for a relationship. They feel more than ready, often citing all the things they’ve done and wondering where the hell The One is. They’re understandably frustrated, especially because they often see what isn’t happening as a reflection of their lack of ’enoughness’. Sometimes they want a relationship so badly that by extension, they’re persistently reminding themselves that they don’t have it which gradually sucks the joy out of other areas of their lives.

Who, where and how we invest our time, energy, effort and emotions directly impacts our capacity for a relationship and/or the quality of relationship or type of partner we choose.

We don’t have an unlimited capacity, and so we have to tidy up and clear out. We have to make space for what matters.

For many of us humans though, we want to hoard old emotions, stories, exes, harmful habits and the like, while also acquiring other things, people and opportunities that might not fit with what’s piling up.

Here’s just a sample of some of the questions I’ve asked recently:

  • If your parent/sibling is behaving like your substitute husband/wife or as if they’re the boss of you (and you’re going along with it), where does a healthy, loving partner fit into the mix?
  • Or, if you’ve felt pissed off, resentful, victimised, powerless, hurt and frustrated on a near consistent basis over an extended period of time, where does a healthy, loving partner fit into the mix?
  • If you’re talking to your now-married ex a few times a week claiming that you’re “friends” while secretly being in love with him throughout all of your relationships over the last two decades, where does a healthy, loving partner fit into the mix?

The short answer is that it doesn’t.

If you’re in a child role with your parents/siblings, this blocks you from fully growing up. You have to compromise yourself in certain ways to facilitate that dynamic. You’ll choose a partner with who you can either continue a similar dynamic (authority figure and likely on the shady scale) or who isn’t threatening to the dynamic (passive and unlikely to expect you to step up).

We don’t have an unlimited capacity for our emotional baggage. The same place where we’re storing up old stuff is the same space for joy, our self-esteem, and fulfilling and loving relationships and opportunities. Our desires and authentic self become overshadowed by the distortion.

The more people and experiences we’re holding blame and shame about and/or the longer that we’ve held those emotions for is the less space we have for a loving, healthy relationship.

Whether you’re talking to your ex regularly or occasionally, they’re parked in the space reserved for an available partner. The only relationships you’re going to have room for are ones that don’t challenge the status quo. They’ll offer the perfect reason to go back to yearning for your ex.

Who (or what) is parked in the space where you want certain things to happen?

We don’t have an unlimited capacity hence the need for boundaries, discernment and refinement. We get better at these because we want our quality of life and our self-esteem to rise.

If we could accumulate emotional baggage (including untrue and negative beliefs, misunderstandings that we persist in judging ourselves with, and harmful habits) without it impinging on the quality of our life in any way, there would be no impetus to learn or for us to process and heal.

We can’t take it all with us.

By metaphorically unpacking, decluttering and tidying up our emotional baggage, we go from bursting at the seams to having room to breathe and feel.

We do this by questioning anything we’re saying about life or ourselves that’s causing us to shrink instead of grow.

Updating our perspective on past experiences and challenging the rules that we impose upon ourselves liberates us. We become more of who we really are.

Experiencing hurt and loss is a part of life that’s unavoidable. Sometimes it feels as if we’ve experienced too much.

I’ve identified with this sentiment at times because I’ve been over-responsible for as long as I can remember. Childhood, as well as various adult experiences, have undoubtedly affected me. In an ‘ideal world’, mine would have been a trauma-free childhood or I’d have been exempt from trauma in adulthood. But this isn’t how life works and as hard as it’s been at times to confront and heal from my past, I wouldn’t be me without it. All that said, my perception of my options doesn’t have to be based on the past.. and neither does yours.

We don’t have control over the past. What we do have control over is how much space it takes up in our present.

Holding on to the past is a security blanket. If we cling though, we’re not free to be our authentic selves or to receive what we want. Holding our anger close about that certain individual in our life might feel ‘right’ because it spares us from being vulnerable. Ultimately, we’re the only ones held hostage by those feelings.

This doesn’t mean we should belittle our own experiences and shrug ‘em off though. The past is real but what we say about ourselves including our options, our worth in response to it, isn’t.

When we’re not getting what we want, it’s oh-so-easy to blame it on not being enough or to assume we’re being screwed over. There’s no need for this. Get clear about who (or what) is parked in your space.

  • Who am I overdue on having some much-needed boundaries with?
  • Which feelings and negative thoughts about a person/situation am I ready and willing to let go of?
  • Which person or situation is parked in the space where I want something else to happen? And what am I going to do about it?

Make a list for each question. There might only be one person or situation for each one. If there’s more than one, pick someone or something to address.

Need help with making emotional space? Check out 48 Ideas For Increasing Emotional Availability and Breaking Harmful Relationship Patterns

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