Can we start anew without the past?

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I began dating this summer after taking some solo time to settle into my new job, home, and country. Also, after having been through a divorce in 2018, I wanted to be healthily single before I embarked on dating in this new modern landscape. The last time I dated would have been in the mid to late 90s, a time before mobile phones, social media, and the plethora of dating sites and apps. Additionally, I am a foreigner living in a different country which means there are cultural mores and customs to learn and be aware of. For all those reasons and more, I dipped my toes apprehensively into the murky waters of modern dating.

Over the past five months I’ve had four first dates: three were great, one was good. Two of the first dates moved onto a second date. With bachelor number one, we agreed that while we enjoyed one another’s company there was not a romantic attraction. We opted to be friends and get together from time to time to talk about life. And we have done just that a few times now.

Recently I have found myself seeing a lot of one man. The most recent first date quickly moved into multiple dates a week for the past few weeks. We have common interests, are the same age, and are fully functioning and self-sufficient adults. We lead rich lives individually–have meaningful work, circles of friends, hobbies we spend time doing, and we each have a home we maintain on our own and a cat (or two) as companions. I feel confident that I am transitioning from single hood to couple hood in a healthy, natural, and organic way.

All that said, I want to share my latest revelation that came to me thanks to this new man. I asked a question about his last relationship. He paused at first and then said something along the lines of the following to me:

“You know Heather, it’s been my experience that there is nothing to be gained in a new relationship by spending too much time talking about previous ones. It is not that I have anything to hide. Rather, I don’t like how talking about a past relationship is how we share expectations with a new person. It’s a back-door way of expressing expectations, likes, and dislikes. Of course I have expectations, as I’m sure you do. But let’s state them clearly and directly to one another. We’ve both had relationships before now. We know the basics. And if you must know, of course ask. But let’s try a different way and not obsess or focus on the past.”

As I listened to him express himself (and well, I might add!), I thought “why not?” For every relationship before now I have participated in the domesticated/trained way of hashing out previous relationships in great detail with a new person. As I reflected on this practice, I recognized that which he highlighted. I had shared about how Man X did this or didn’t do that and how that led to difficulties. I could see how that sharing created an expectation in a roundabout way with the new person.

On the fly I was processing a new concept, a new way of being in relationship. At the time of this conversation we were walking seaside, holding hands, and enjoying the lovely night air. I like this man and he continues to surprise me at every turn, especially given that we are foreigners to one another. We will have challenges along the way, I have no doubt, but choosing this way of beginning anew was enticing. If all my previous relationships had started in the ordinary and trained way of hashing out previous relationships, why not try a new way?

And so we have agreed to this. To not inquire so much about past relationships. We talk about our families, our varied work over the years, our interests and hobbies, and personal histories. Most important though in this date and time is who he is now and who I am now. The way I am in relationship now is NOT the way I was in relationship before. We are ever-evolving creatures; we should enjoy and embrace the moment of now, and who we are and want to be in it.

While I have nothing to hide in my past, it is liberating to leave it all there–IN THE PAST! What an original concept. Yes, I feel free to embrace the now, and this unique find of a man, because we are leaving the past where it belongs.

Have you tried this approach before? Is it only new to me? Of course no single approach works for everyone or in every time. I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts and observations around this topic. Many thanks for reading!

Heather Caveney

Heather is an American expat working abroad as a Teacher Librarian. She lived in Mongolia from 2015-2018, and recently relocated to Turkey. She wrote about her Mongolian adventures on her blog, An American Tomboy in Mongolia. She has recently created another blog for her new path in life, you can now find her at All For Something.
Heather Caveney

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7 comments

  1. Hahaha…..relationship is not about being frank or what. Relationship is also not about love or a throbbing heart. For love goes out of the window the moment you do not have any more money. Relationship is about standing by your partner as a team, good or bad. There is nothing more simple, or profound or obvious than this hehehe…..

    1. Hello Om Ni. Thank you for taking the time to comment. While I certainly know that management of and beliefs around money impact relationships, I do not believe “having money” the sole determinant of success or failure of a relationship. I have found that being frank and honest, as well as having depth and breadth of feeling create the space and opportunity to know another human being in the ways necessary to be able to talk about money and find common ground as well as notice where two individuals might have disparate values (around money and finances). To stand by a partner requires understanding of him/her from all aspects and ways and, I believe, a huge commitment to communication at all times. Relationships are complex organisms with many facets that require attention and care. Best of luck to you!

      1. Hahaha……this is getting complicated, this is getting complicated. Too many horses to flog. That is why things break down sooner than later. Keep it simple, keep it simple!

        One other thing – WWAMBAM should secure the site with https!

        Please do, for everyone’s piece of mind! Especially for those who want to post comments.

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