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We Both have Baggage... But it’s Cute and it Matches!




By Susan J. Hetrick


“It’s true we all have baggage, but if you are getting remarried
you’d better make sure your baggage is one of those tiny little carry-ons, not a huge steamer trunk.”

~ Rance Meyers



Due to the fact that all the members of your stepfamily didn’t just magically appear one day, we have to acknowledge that we all have a past. Unfortunately, one of the results of the past is emotional baggage, and having tons of unopened baggage can be deadly to a new stepfamily. So, take a deep breath and fight that urge to throw all your bags into the attic or hide them in storage. We have some unpacking to do.


Initially on life’s journey, we may be carrying nothing larger than a metaphorical wallet which includes photos and memories of our family of origin, our birth order and our personality type. However, as we travel through life we pick up souvenirs from each new destination and roadside attraction along the way. Some of those souvenirs we can see, and others we can’t. They may include things like childhood traumas, teenage angst, decisions (both good and bad), romantic relationships and life experiences. Often other people in our lives add souvenirs to our collections without our knowledge. As our souvenirs accumulate, we are forced to get even larger luggage to carry them. Before you know it, you may need a porter!


It will benefit you as a person, as a couple and as a family to unpack your individual bags and identify your souvenirs. Some of them may not be pleasant. There is probably a reason you shoved that particular souvenir to the bottom of the suitcase. Be brave – you survived the original event and you will not die by revisiting its memory years later.


Remember that your new spouse and your children also have baggage, and that some of their souvenirs may cause them pain. Be understanding and compassionate about this. It continues to amaze me how people can refuse to see things from other people’s point of view, and can’t seem to get their eyes off of themselves! You may not like that plaid shirt that your new husband has in the closet, but just because it’s outdated and torn doesn’t give you the right to discard it. Ask him about it – it may have sentimental value to him. It might turn out to be the shirt he wore on the last fishing trip he took with his grandfather just before granddad passed away.


Be kind and talk with your family about your baggage and your souvenirs – both the ones you see and the ones you don’t. Unpacking your baggage will give your family a greater understanding of each other as people, and will help all of you to be more compassionate.


So what kind of baggage are we talking about?


  • Spiritual issues: How do you view God? Is He your loving father, an angry scorekeeper, or a disappointed, distant being? Why do you think you see Him this way? Do you pray?


  • Skeletons in the family closet: Were there abusive behaviors, mental illness or addictions in your parental home? Did your parents divorce or spend years in angry silence? Were your parents like Ozzie and Harriet, or more like Ozzy Osbourne? What roles did you take on in your family of origin?


  • Work and career: What did you want to be when you grew up? What are your career goals now? Have you ever been fired?


  • Emotional traumas: Have you fully recovered from your divorce? Have you survived any abuse, addictions, disasters or other traumas? How do you cope with painful emotions?


  • Finances: What does money mean to you – is it power, control or security? What does your checkbook say about you and your values?


  • Conflict and management skills: How do you handle conflict or stress? Do you ever numb intense emotions with food, alcohol or drugs?


  • Sexuality: Have you ever looked for love in all the wrong places or confused sex with love? Is there any sexual trauma or abuse in your past? What emotions does sexual intimacy invoke in you?


This list is by no means complete, but it will give you and your new spouse a starting point for empathetic discussion and emotional healing. Help each other unpack your baggage!



Taken from Advice from the Blender: What to Know Before You Blend So Nobody Gets Creamed by Susan J. Hetrick.  Used with permission.


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