Since today is Halloween, this seemed an appropriate post…
Another way to put this is, what sins are you making your current partner pay for that aren’t his or hers? And how are they hurting your relationship?
Him or her?
All of us, no matter who we are, bring some baggage into a relationship. None of us on this side of heaven are perfect. Still, some of us may bring a little or a lot more than others, and it can hurt or hinder ourselves and the other person, leading the relationship to become unhealthy, sour, or even end.
What ghosts of our past are lingering in our closets, causing unhealthy fright and worry?
Shortly after my sweet boyfriend and I began dating, the crazy began to come out. He doesn’t know “all” the crazy because I tried to go to God, my counselor, and my girlfriends with the major crazy, but he does know a “good amount” of it. As my wise, calm friend Becca told me, when I asked her to talk me off the crazy ledge one day, “This is your first real relationship since the last one, so naturally, that’s where your brain is going to go.”
And while my last long-term relationship had some good moments, despite it not being God’s best for me, it ended in the most painful way possible: I was replaced. He left me for a younger, peppier version, right when things were improving between us. It felt like he traded me in for a newer model, despite all we had invested in each other.
So J., my sweet, patient boyfriend, has been the recipient of this baggage, baggage that I’m realizing, perhaps, I had never fully worked through or that, to be fair, I didn’t even know I had to because I hadn’t dated anyone seriously since then.
Add this fear to the longer-term baggage I carry as a child of parental abandonment, and you have a recipe for a girl whose natural instinct is to self-sabotage so she doesn’t get hurt—who prepares herself for crisis and hurt, who shores up her defenses, who battles the urge to bolt when she senses a problem (especially one that touches upon her fears) or a pull-back from her guy. But man, I thought that baggage was worked through too (I wrote an entire unpublished memoir to work through that!), but again, to be fair, I had never been in a fully God-centered relationship either, so I had nothing amazingly great to fear losing.
Yuck. This is hard to write. But I share because I realized last Friday during another moment of crazy that I don’t want J. to pay for the sins of my past. I don’t want to hurt this relationship. I want to work through the lingering baggage not only for us but for myself. I want to be the best version of myself—the healthiest version, the happiest version.
So I called my sponsor. Yes, my sponsor. The woman I can go to when life has become unmanageable and I need help reigning it in. Someone whose presence is an absolute blessing in my life. My sponsor listened to me yet gently and firmly told me it’s time to make an inventory, to get this ex-boyfriend and the parental abandonment out of my current relationship.
In other words, get those ghosts out of the room and out of the house!
Okay, so what the heck is an inventory?
Only the most amazing exercise that can clear the nastiest, meanest, scariest ghosts out of your heart and mind!!!
Okay, so in Celebrate Recovery, a group I am not ashamed to be a part of, a Christian Recovery group for those with all types of hurts, hang-ups, and habits (meaning EVERYONE), the basic inventory has five columns, and you can do an inventory for each person who has hurt you. The five columns are, essentially:
- Column 1, The Person: Here you list the person who has caused you pain.
- Column 2, The Cause: Here you list the specific action(s) this person did that caused you pain.
- Column 3, The Effect: Here you list the specific ways this person’s action(s) affected your life, both in the past and the present.
- Column 4, The Damage: Here you list how this experience has hurt you on a deeper level, like your sense of safety or security. (Don’t worry if columns 3 and 4 seem to overlap; just list the ways this person’s actions have affected your life.)
- Column 5, Your Part: First of all, no condemnation. But part of a balanced inventory is to examine our hearts and see the part we may have played in a situation. The CR handbook asks, “What part of my resentment against another is my responsibility?”(1)
A few things to remember:
- List the good too! As you do this inventory, you may (surprisingly) realize that this painful situation had some positives. Maybe you became stronger, maybe you met a friend in a support group for it, maybe you’re realizing now that it’s made you more empathic toward people or influenced your career choice, etc. List these on the back of your inventory sheet. Keep balanced.
- Don’t do this inventory alone. Have someone you can share it with, a support to talk with afterwards. Perhaps make a counseling appointment or schedule coffee with your sponsor or accountability partner. This exercise may bring up difficult feelings.
- Find a comforting setting to do your inventory. Try to give yourself at least an hour or two to do this exercise, and treat yourself kindly. This could mean sitting in a park with a journal and hot cocoa, at home with your favorite music and a candle, or in whatever setting brings peace and concentration.
If you’re interested in learning more about the CR Inventory, find a local chapter or purchase materials online (P.S., I am not getting anything to share this info—I simply love this organization and its resources!): http://www.celebraterecovery.com.
So this week I will be doing an inventory for my past relationship and my parent. And I’ll make a coffee date with my awesome sponsor afterward. And I know, and trust, it will bring freedom and release some of these ghosts out of my mind and heart. Because doing one years ago chased other ghosts away.
Thank God for the tools He gives us to heal and chase away ghosts.
Jesus is the true Ghostbuster!!!
Have a wonderful week! Remember, candy goes ON SALE tomorrow!
(1) John Baker, Taking an Honest and Spiritual Inventory: Participant’s Guide 2 (Zondervan, 1998), 28.