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  • Writer's pictureLarry Larson, LCSW

This bed ain’t big enough for the three of us

A friend had a powerful dream one night.

In the dream she was laying next to her husband in bed. She felt something greasy on her hand. When she turned on the light she saw she was covered with thick sooty black oil. Worse than that, she noticed another woman in the bed between her and her husband, who was also covered with this nasty oil! She frantically tried to wash this goop off herself, but was unable to.

We don’t need Dr. Freud to help us interpret this one! The message is that something unwelcome had come between my friend and her husband. The oily dark ghost of a previous partner.

The fact that my friend could not wash off the oil represents her many failed attempts to cleanse the marriage of the effects a previous lover had left on her husband.

Occasionally I encounter couples who were high school sweethearts and have been together many years, and even some who married the first person they dated or fell in love with. But most people are in a relationship with someone who had previous ones, as we ourselves did.

At some point, most of us are faced with the challenge of dealing with the ghosts of previous relationships, and ugly residue they leave behind. Those old loves have a way of exerting influence on current relationships in a way that can threaten the very foundation of the relational connection. The effect can be big or small, but it must be acknowledged in order to establish and maintain a strong bond of freedom and trust.

In some cases, like in the dream, the residue is obvious. We can’t stop thinking about the previous partner, or we find ourselves competing with our wife’s previous husband or our wife’s previous boyfriend. My grandfather had a nasty habit of telling my grandmother that she did not cook as well as his previous wife. As you can imagine, that didn’t go over too well with Grandma!

How can we exorcize our relationships of these unwanted guests? Two is company, and three’s a crowd, especially when the visitor insists on making messes wherever they go. Stay tuned for Part 2!

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