Have You Brought Ex Baggage Into Your New Relationship?

Love & Relationships

"Just because you have baggage, that doesn't mean you have to lug it around."---Richie Norton

OK. What I'm about to say is super idealistic, but just bear with me for a second. Imagine if all of us waited until marriage before giving our hearts and parts to anyone, we married the person who was our best complement and we remained with them until death parted us. Whew! Nevermind how much the STD, unwanted pregnancy and brokenheartedness rates would become seemingly non-existent, think about how little baggage we'd bring into our dynamic.

If I were on a relationship panel today and the question was, "What's one of the most underrated causes for relational issues and drama?", I would definitely say "baggage". Not just any kind of baggage either. Baggage that a lot of us have as it directly relates to our ex (or exes).

Personally, I think a lot of us carry emotional impediments around because, whenever someone hurts us, we're so focused on not feeling the pain that we don't take the time that we need to heal. Or, we sit up under the total disillusion that what will eradicate the past is starting a future with someone as quickly as possible.

The problem with that oh-so-very-flawed way of thinking is when we don't heal first, it can cause us to A) pick someone who really isn't the best for us; B) sabotage a potentially great relationship or C) idolize our ex when really they need to be totally dismantled from the pedestal we put them on, based on the selective memory about the relationship that we have.

No matter what letter of the alphabet that may apply to you, just like a plane that's trying to soar that has too much luggage on it, if you're carrying a lot of ex baggage around, at the very least, your relationship is gonna see some very turbulent times; at the most, you're gonna help it to crash and burn.

How can you know for sure if you have more ex-man baggage than you should? Girrrl.

You Got into Your Current Relationship Way Too Fast


In one episode of a Black web series called PILLOW TALK, a woman who plays the character of a relationships podcaster said this: "Some break-ups can be so debilitating that it can throw off everything in your life. So often we take the emotional devastation caused by our previous lovers into our new relationships, secretly pushing our turmoil and confusion from the last situation onto our new partners. So, my advice would be to wait until you're completely past your last heartache before embarking on a new journey of love. But I know that that's easier said than done, because, I'd be lying if I said a new partner doesn't help you get past an old one."

There's quite a bit of truth to that statement. Although, if I was able to edit it, I would say that a new partner distracts you from doing the work that it takes to get past the old one. Yeah, I am a huge believer that motive reveals a lot—a ton, really—so if you were in a long-term relationship and less than three months later, you're involved with someone new, be honest with yourself. Was it really because true love came out of nowhere or was it because you didn't choose to do the self-work necessary to heal from your past situation?

If it's "B" or even a little bit of Column A and Column B, there is about an 80 percent chance that you're going to bring some sort of baggage into your current relationship. Why? Because, like it or not, there's a part of you that's still emotionally involved with your ex. Just because it's over doesn't mean you're totally over it. Think about it.

You Tend to Put Your Man Through a Constant Series of Tests


All of us test people. Not just when it comes to our romantic relationships either. My true confession for the day is when I was in my 20s, if I was beginning a new friendship with someone, I would tell them a lie, just to see if I would hear it back. The bad thing about this lil' test is it was a lie itself. The worse thing is about 45 percent of the time, I would hear it back. Lies on top of lies. SMH.

Usually, testing folks comes as the result of not being able to trust very much. This is especially the case when someone we once loved broke our heart (or just totally showed their tail). But just like most of us hated tests when we were in elementary and high school, no one wants to feel like they are constantly having to prove themselves based on someone else's faux pas.

So yeah, if you're sending the one you're seeing now through a series of tests because someone in your past now makes you want to give everyone in your future the side-eye, not only is it a surefire sign that you've got some baggage, but it's also a pretty good way to drive "current guy" away. If not immediately, eventually.

90 Percent of What Triggers You Has to Do with Your Ex


The guy you're seeing now doesn't immediately text back and it pisses you off. If he takes a call while you're sitting together on the couch, you secretly wonder if he's seeing another woman. He can't make it to an office party, so you feel like he's not invested in the relationship. Be real—is all of this really about them being tied into your actual relationship pet peeves or is it that your ex did these things and it reminds you of this very fact?

All of us have triggers. You know what else? All of us can deactivate them. It starts with figuring out exactly what they are and then spending some time figuring out what they are directly tied to. If it's your ex, try and do some healing so that you can be sure that whatever is bothering you about your current relationship is happening in real time…not the past.

You Are Constantly Comparing Your Past with Your Present


I'm pretty candid about my past. Some might say to a fault. So, most of my boyfriends got the TMI version of my world before they came along. Anyway, when I asked my last boyfriend how he felt about what I made him privy to (especially since he knew a couple of the guys personally), he simply said, "I have no problem with your past, so long as it doesn't become a part of your present."

Hmph. I thought about that when I watched the season finale of the TV series Boomerang. "Simone, why would you go out on a date with your ex (not just an ex but an engaged-to-someone-else ex) when your own boyfriend Bryson is so devoted to you?" That's what I was thinking although I already knew the answer.

Somebody cue Heather Headley's "In My Mind" here, please. A part of the reason why it's a good idea to be single for a while following a break-up is because, until you get your ex out of your system, not only will you probably leave your heart door cracked to them (to some extent), you'll constantly find yourself comparing them to the one you're currently with.

It's kind of like the difference between a wound and a scar. When a wound is fresh and something (or someone) bumps into it, you feel it. When that wound is a scar…you don't. If your ex is a wound in your life, a new man is actually going to cause you to reminisce and compare because your ex is still in your heart and mind. You'll constantly find yourself comparing your past with your present.

Living in the past not only keeps you stuck but it can sabotage your present and future as well.

Something About Your Ex Is Always Referenced in Hard Times


Your relationship with your ex wasn't all bad. If it were, you wouldn't have been with him so long and accumulated so many experiences and memories. Because some of those experiences and memories were good, it's perfectly normal to reflect on them from time to time. Thing is, when you're currently involved with someone else, timing is everything.

What I mean by that is, just because you're with someone new and (hopefully) the relationship is better, healthier and more fulfilling, that doesn't mean you aren't going to experience challenges and maybe even trials. If during those moments, you immediately think back to the happy times with your ex, there are two problems with that. One, you may trick yourself into editing out the bad that caused you to break-up with them in the first place. Two, if you bring them up to your current partner, not only is that deeply offensive, it could cause trust issues.

Issues that could've been avoided if you had chosen to work through the hard times with the one you're with rather than harp on the easier moments with the one you're not…with.

You’re Horrible at Trusting, Forgiving and Vulnerability


A lot of us know that no healthy relationship is able to last without trust. When you trust your partner, it means you give them space, you don't go through their things (including their phone) without their knowledge and permission, you take their word at face value, you aren't threatened by their friendships (including opposite sex friendships)—you get that just because the two of you are a couple, that doesn't mean that either of you should relinquish your individuality. But when an ex betrays your trust on some level, it can take a while for you to trust other people again. You can know if you trust your current partner or not by going down the checklist that I just provided you. Do you?

Trust isn't the only thing that makes for a happy union, though. There's no telling how many relationships could be saved if people learned how to forgive their partner for being just as human as they are or for not making their partner have to knock down wall after wall after wall in order to get to the core of their being.

If you just read that paragraph and jumped defensive because your ex is why you aren't trusting, forgiving or vulnerable in your current relationship, well…you already know what I'm about to say about that…right?

You Are Somehow Unable to Take Things to the Next Level


Don't get it twisted. Men aren't the only ones who struggle with commitment. I know A LOT of women who do as well. That said, if you are fortunate enough to be with a man who truly cares about you and wants to cultivate a long-term commitment but you're dragging your feet and aren't totally sure why…could your ex have something to do with it? If in your mind, you're thinking things like, "The last time I gave my all, I was devastated" or "The last time a man claimed he wanted to be exclusive, he cheated on me", remember that last time isn't this time.

Not too long ago, Boris Kodjoe said something about his approach to his exes that we all could stand to apply to our own. "First of all, if there's too many of those exes, I think you should have a conversation with yourself…for me [running into an ex] is a party every time. Either we're friends still, then there's hugs and kisses. And if not, I dodged a major bullet, so I'm super happy about that. So, there's still hugs and kisses 'cause I'm so grateful that I got you out of my life." YEP!

By adopting Boris's perspective, it will prevent you from giving your ex (or your past with them) so much power in your life that you can't move forward with your present. Because just think about it—out of all the things he did to you, letting him still affect—and infect—you in such a way that you can't move on and forward with your life is probably the worst.

Do you and your future a favor. Let your ex baggage go. TOTALLY GO.

Featured image by Getty Images

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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