By Kerri S. Smith
The long-ago hurts of failed relationships leave emotional footprints on our souls - and it's hard not to flinch when a new love stirs up these memories. But experts say facing your fear and apprehension is necessary if you are to fully embrace a present-day sweetie. Here are tips on clarifying the "here and now" you:
1) Take a written inventory reflecting how the more mature you different from the 20-year-old you. Ask and answer these questions: How am I different? What have I learned? How is my ability to take care of myself changed? What are mistakes that I will not make again?
2) Fear provokes irrational emotions. If you find yourself over-reacting to a new lover's casual comment or innocent action, fear is kicking in. Find a quiet corner and ask yourself, am I reacting to something similar in my past that turned out badly? Am I afraid that this new person is going to hurt me? What is the worst that could happen, right now? It's possible your present-day guy is very different from men in your past, so don't assume he will behave like a former lover who did you wrong.
3) Make a list of the things that define you outside of the new love affair - great friends, a close family, an adventurous career, funky hobbies, political activism, a reputation for being wild and crazy or pleasantly practical. Realize that all these things exist and will continue to exist regardless of how you and your sweetheart fare.
4) If painful memories are scratching at you, consider conducting a private ritual or ceremony to bid goodbye to the negativity. Grab a stack of 3"x5" index cards. On each card, describe a nasty episode or heartbreak that you want to forget. Read the cards once a day for a week. On the seventh day, read them a final time. Close your eyes and say, "I release these bad memories from my soul and open myself to new love." Tear up the cards, and scatter the remains on the wind or moving water. Another idea: write a letter to an ex-love, fold it into a paper boat, light the top with a match, and set it free in a stream or tidepool.