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Is Looking Back to Past Relationships a Good Idea?

 Unless you married the first person you ever dated, chances are you have at least one ex in your past. How you deal with your past relationships can have a huge affect on your current and future relationships, but navigating the past is tricky.

I can remember talking with a friend about a new relationship and comparing it to a past guy who fell into the dreaded “friendlationship” category. I spent a lot of time going on about why the new guy was so great because he was upfront about his interest and didn’t make me wonder about whether or not he was actually pursuing me. The new relationship was a million times better compared to that confusion, but my friend challenged my comparison.

“You mention that friendlationship situation a lot,” she said. “But instead of always going back to the past, why don’t you start with expecting a guy to be honest about his intentions?” She reminded me that it’s good to learn from the past to the degree that we don’t keep making the same mistakes, but we can spend too much time dwelling on the past.

Some of the best advice on not looking back is from Gary Thomas, a favorite here on Boundless and the author of The Sacred Search and Sacred Marriage, among others.

“A relationship from my teen years still makes me wince whenever the girl’s name comes to mind. One day I was praying about looking her up to tell her how sorry I felt for how I acted over 25 years ago.

“One of my best friends adamantly opposed the idea. In his experience from counseling, Steve has discovered that looking up someone after two decades can be dangerous; you don’t know what’s happening in their life. The potential for hurt is just as great as the potential for healing.

“But the clincher came when he said, ‘Look, why don’t you take all the energy you’re using thinking about something from your distant past and instead spend it planning on how you can love your wife today?’

“That’s when it dawned on me that guilt attacks us by using a dead relationship to distract us from a living one….

“Don’t let a dead relationship pollute or weigh down a living one.” 

I liked Thomas’ advice about spending more time investing in what God has for us today instead of revisiting something that is over and done with. And when there isn’t a relationship in the present, it’s even more tempting to look back. When I’m feeling very single, it’s easy to replay the past and try to figure out what went wrong and what I should have done differently. But what if instead I focused my energy on investing in the relationships in my life now, even if they’re only friendships? Wouldn’t that be a better use of my time and energy? We don’t do ourselves any favors when we let what happened in the past distract us from the good God has for us today. Tweet This

Have you ever been distracted by past relationships? What has helped you move forward to focus on the present?

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