It’s Halloween and everyone is gearing up with their spookiest stories. Maybe you’ve never experienced a bonafide haunting, but there might be a ghost in your midst and it could be wreaking more havoc than you’d imagine. We’re talking about the deep, dark issues that haunt your relationship — the kind that pop up and scare the crap out of you and your partner on an otherwise uneventful Tuesday evening. From unresolved crap with mom and dad to the emotional affair that’s been eating away at you, no relationship is safe. Happy couples know that the only way to deal with these phantoms, is not to hide in fear, but rather, shine a light on them. Unfortunately, there are no proton packs that will turn your issues into green slime — if only it were that easy! — but here are a few tips for scaring your relationship ghosts out of the dark corners where they lurk.
The Ghost: Unresolved Parent Issues
How It Haunts Your Relationship: Your need for approval from your dad has started to affect the way you interact with your boyfriend. Guilt-trippy phone calls with your mom leave you irritable and grumpy for days on end. Lingering anger from all the miscellaneous ways your parents messed up is seeping into your relationship in a major way.
How To Bust It: One of the best things you can do for your relationship is to let it be its own entity. Try your best to separate your current connection with your partner from the lurking hurt of the past and the creeping anger of the present. If you can, rip the white sheet off the mommy or daddy issues and explain to your partner why certain things might trigger more-intense-than-expected fear response from you. And then, make a commitment not to go on flight or fright auto-pilot whenever your childhood junk is triggered. Because as many times as you yell at your partner for working late, it’s not going to make your resentment at your dad vanish. Only honest emotional work — and ultimately, forgiveness — can do that.
The Ghost: The Bad Ex
How It Haunts Your Relationship: Almost everyone shows up to a relationship with an ex or two who obliterated their heart. That’s to be expected. But baggage from past relationships can turn spooky when your boyfriend starts to compare you to his ex wife or you when you start to fall down into a horror plot where you imagine that your partner is going to break up with you suddenly, without reason, the way bad boyfriend did.
How To Bust It: People’s pasts are scary and unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to make them disappear into thin air. All you can do is remind yourself that your relationship is different than the ones that came before and remember that past heartbreak is not threat in the present. Make peace with ghosts of failed relationships that live in your house by allowing the space for grief and closure if it’s necessary. Vow not to let the ghosts chill out where they don’t belong, but don’t banish them completely. If for no other reason, than to remind you that they made you the people you are today.
The Ghost: Low Self-Esteem
How It Haunts Your Relationship: Your deep-seated belief that you don’t deserve happiness is sabotaging your relationship at every turn. The worst part? This ghost is most likely to go bump in the night when things are going well. So rude.
How To Bust It: Until you can get a handle on why you struggle with a sense of worthiness, this ghost will not only remain, it will grow bigger and stronger and invite all its scary friends. Figure out the source of your low self-esteem and then start actively practicing the antidote to this ghost: self-love and compassion. Accept yourself as a flawed human who’s doing the best they can, in life and in your relationship. From there you can learn to accept love from your partner without putting up walls or picking fights, because guess what? You deserve it.
The Ghost: Sexual Violation
How It Haunts Your Relationship: Ghosts don’t get much scarier than a sexual violation in your recent or distant past. This ghost appears in your current relationship in the form of unexpected outbursts and unexplainable feelings that frustrate both people — the one who experienced the trauma and the partner who wishes they could make it all better.
How To Bust It: Remember that this scary thing that happened will always be terrifying, but keeping it hidden away only feeds its power. Whether you’re the survivor or trying to help your partner, be brave enough not to flinch when this bad spirit pays you a visit. Make sure both parties know it can be talked about whenever it needs to be talked about, in a safe and comforting atmosphere. Know that this experience will always haunt you to some degree, but it will get less and less scary over time. In the end, a simple “I love you” can be all it takes to quiet this specter.
The Ghost: Infidelity
How It Haunts Your Relationship: Statistics indicate that a staggering number of couples have experienced either emotional or physical infidelity. Whether you are the cheater or the cheatee, an affair will make you feel like there’s a poltergeist in your house. You’ll find yourself with chills up your spine, snooping through emails and covertly checking cell phone messages in the middle of the night. Or else, you’ll lay awake in bed having your guts eaten out by guilt, blame or shame.
How To Bust It: As you know if you’ve seen the movie “Poltergeist,” you either exorcise those suckers or suffer the horrifying consequences. Rebuilding a relationship after trust has been broken is a long, often unsuccessful process, but it starts with both people telling the truth about what happened and how they feel.