03/02/2011 11:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Ghosts of Marriages Past

Recently an issue came up between my husband and I that probably would have looked mundane to an outsider--basically, we were both under a lot of stress and we found ourselves decompressing separately. We weren't upset with each other at all, we just had a few long days and we retreated to separate activities to unwind.

Doesn't sound like a big deal, huh?

Well, I freaked out.

This is my second marriage, and it's been an extremely successful and happy one, but despite the therapy I put myself into post-divorce, despite my own training as a couples therapist, and despite my rational brain, I still deal with what I call "The Ghost of Marriages Past."

Just after my first marriage dissolved, my wonderful therapist (plus my friends, family, and basically anyone who would listen) and I would sit around and talk about my place in my divorce. What had I done wrong? What things I had I been quietly ignoring because things were busy? What things felt unsurmountable, and therefore went unaddressed? What was I taking responsibility for? It was a painful but extremely necessary process for me, because I learned that I wasn't someone that divorce happened to, I was someone who helped let a marriage die. I needed to know that so that I could feel empowered for future relationships.

The only downside to this hard work was that I became hyper-aware of these behaviors, and remain hyper-aware of them to this day. In my commitment to not repeat the same mistakes that I (yes, I) made in my first marriage, I will sometimes overreact when anything looks like a Ghost. My husband and I unwinding in different parts of the house, in my head, was a sign of us walling ourselves off to each other, making our lives separate things. Worst case scenario, it was a sign that things were happening the exact same way they did before, and I was doing nothing to stop it. My mind tripped ahead fifteen steps, and next thing you know, I'm in damage control mode- when there was no damage occurring.

Ghosts of Marriages Past can haunt many aspects of a new relationship--your expectations of what a man should do, how you behave in conflict, your ideas of how commitment should look--they can even make your new man look untrustworthy when he's really behaving normally. These Ghosts can be helpful, but when you see them, you have to take the time to figure out if what you're upset about is genuine or just an apparition.

It is extremely important, for the health of any healthy relationships you hope to have in the future, to figure out your own place in the downfall of your marriage. Without knowing your own history, you are doomed to repeat it. However, you must find the balance of being aware of your own Ghosts without letting them scare you, Haunted House-style, out of relationships. In any couple, both people are bringing their own pasts to the table, but that should never stop you from creating a future with the person in front of you, who is not a Ghost.

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