After a relationship ends it is inevitable that it leaves a little aftertaste. By aftertaste, I mean that we carry on aspects of our previous relationships with us into our new relationship. Some call it baggage but I prefer aftertaste, because baggage alludes to grudges or attachments to the previous relationship. Attachments to me include children you may share with your ex, business partnerships, financial obligations you share. These are the ties that bind you to your ex. However, that’s not what I’m talking about. What I am talking about is the experiences from your previous relationship that tend to linger in your mind like a layer of film coating the choices you make and your actions.
After my divorce I settled into the realization that living “happily ever after” is not dependent on someone else. Happily ever after is a metaphor for sustained happiness with the life you make for yourself, with or without another person. After years of marriage and its eventual Jerry Springer style end, I developed a fierce independence. I was always independent but post- divorce, independence turned into a dominate beast that motivated my actions and choices; particularly when it came to my daughter and finances. I was open to developing new relationships and the possibility of falling in love again, but the aftertaste of my previous relationship prevented me from relaxing into complacency or complete submission to love. I understood that the sustainability of this attitude could take a toll on my future relationships but no matter how many times I rinsed my mouth, the aftertaste was still there. After all, if I couldn’t rely on my husband or the father of my child to be there…who could I rely on? Who would want to be relied upon?
I casually dated for a couple years with no intention of getting involved in another serious relationship until I felt all the emotional connection of my marriage had dissolved. Enter, my current boyfriend. Though the foundation and characteristics of this relationship do not resemble that I had with my ex-husband, I still can’t shake the aftertaste! My fierce, at times irrational independence creates tension where there ought to be none. My boyfriend’s love for me and my daughter motivates his desire to assist us in any way. His willingness to help support us financially and emotional comes from the most pure of places, his devotion to those he cares most about. This is a genuine gift from the heart and one that I treasure. Although, I am aware of this logically, the aftertaste from my previous relationship continues to coat my decision to not take him up on his help 90% of the time. As time marches on, I do feel the aftertaste fade ever so slowly, allowing me to relax and take things as they come in the moment without tainting them with the flavors of the past.
Aftertaste can come in a variety of flavors and intensity. It is all dependent upon the person that you are and the experiences you have had. For some, like my boyfriend, it can be trusting a woman is genuinely communicating how she feels, for others it can come in the form of avoiding relationships with people who share a characteristic that aggravated them in their previous partner. Each relationships experience is unique and at the end of each relationship we are hard pressed to separate without a little aftertaste but this is part of the flavor of life. We have to learn to savor the flavor and help it evolve into wisdom that contributes to stronger future relationships.
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