Theresa Byrne asks how long you’re going to date the person they used to be.
Everyone has a past. As far as I’ve been able to figure out, that’s the way the world works in that whole linear plane. Past. Present. Future. But if we are holding the people we date as responsible for their actions in the past, aren’t we sort of putting their past into the present? And the future?
Hear me out, I believe that each action has a consequence. That can go many ways; either good or not-so-good. You do the crime, you get the time. But how long exactly do we hold people accountable for those actions that were dumb, silly, stupid, unconscious, ego-based, instant gratification, attention seeking, or just plain idiotic? What’s the statute of limitations on mishaps?
As with most of my articles, I don’t profess to have all the answers. But I like asking the questions that open up dialog and conversation, and hopefully gives something to think about.
A few friends have recently begun new dating relationships with people who have “questionable” pasts, and shared their concerns with me. While I understand we are supposed to be intelligent and use their past or story to inform us of who someone is, was, or could be; at what point do they stop being that drunken kid that got DUI’s? Or that dramatic lady with the crazy exes who became stalkers in her 20’s? Or that shallow materialistic person who didn’t care as much about people as they did about stuff? Or the one that climbed over others to “get to the top” at work?
At what point does someone stop being their past? When do we let them out of the perpetual prison of judgement? Does it depend on the severity of what they did? Or how much they’ve changed?
I believe in the power of change; the power of transformation. I’ve seen people understand the error of their ways on such a deep and powerful soul level they were never that person again. I’ve seen people let go of their stories of themselves as screwups or not worth of having a great life, and gone on to live happily. Letting go of the pain of the past by using it to inform who they wanted to be, was the catalyst for lasting change. They understood who they’d been, so they could choose who they wanted to be.
But don’t get me wrong: I have moonwalked backwards out of dating someone when the past seeped into the present and it was just more than I could handle.
“I wear an ankle bracelet,” said the cute guy I met for a third date several years ago.
“Oh, I had one in college but you know you’re only supposed to wear them until they fall off.” I said naively.
“Uhhhhh yeah. No. My ankle bracelet beeps if I get too far away from this backpack. I’m on limited release from prison. Haven’t you ever wondered why I carry this backpack?” He raised his eyebrow at me.
Not knowing quite how to answer I came out with, “I thought you liked books and carried them with you.” Also not wanting to seem judgmental I tried causally to ask about the jail time, “So what were you in for?” It was the best I could come up with on the fly.
“Ten years for B&E without a weapon.” He explained the story in a world weary way about breaking and entering as I listened intently and tried NOT to look like the horse that wanted to bolt.
We never spoke again.
So when can we stop holding someone accountable for the mistakes that have littered their path?
These are not questions we ever talk about, but you KNOW your friends want to know the dirty details on the new person you’re dating. They’ll ask what the status of the relationship is, and when you really start caring for someone: they want to know the very worst about that person: what are their crimes?
As I was asked for my opinion it seemed a bit unfair. I had a difficult time judging these new folks, because I know I wouldn’t want judged based on who I used to be.
Let’s say you meet someone that was an idiot when they were younger and got in quite a bit of trouble with either drinking, drugs, or the law. You meet them now, and they’re in their 30’s or 40’s: are they still that checkered past, or do they get a “bye” on the statute of limitations? Or a man that’s been married multiple times because he continually looks for a feeling of security or family that the never had as a kid? Or you meet a woman that was formerly promiscuous because she suffered from the illusions of worthlessness, does she get a mulligan due to the fact that she finally figured out she has incredible value?
I’m thinking more about those that have carried baggage like a nasty divorce, a turbulent bankruptcy, past issues with alcohol, anger, mental illness, drama, stalkers or “psycho” exes, party boy or girl ways, or risky behaviors. If those are things that have been mistakes made in the past, and lessons were learned: are we responsible for judging that person now? Do we get to be judge and jury of someone who messed up, even if it was eons ago? What’s the ruling on this?
I guess it all depends on what changes they’ve made to turn themselves into someone that has good character. If the lady with the stalker ex’s is still showing drama, then that’s a flag. If the guy with a few DUI’s still drinks, then that could be a flag. Or the guy that parties like a rock star in his 20’s when he’s actually closer to fifty? The guy or gal with the brushes with the law is still participating in questionable behavior, then I guess that would be a waving red flag no matter what. If the guy or gal with risky promiscuous behavior is still playing a playah, then that’s something to take note.
What IS the statute of limitations on the past?
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–Photo courtesy of David Lytle/Flikr