I have a beautiful chunky amber ring I wear everyday – I feel naked without it! I look at it and it just feels so me! It was also a gift from my ex-boyfriend.
“I can’t believe you still wear that” a friend said in disbelief.
Like my friend, I have always been a firm believer ex’s are in the past for a reason, we learn from them and move on leaving them in the past, along with mementos of the relationship. Things that were once adored and sacred but are now a reminder of a past love. The teddy bears, the love notes, the ticket stubs from your first date.
So what’s changed?
I feel secure. I feel safe in my relationship, content and fulfilled. In the past I have made ex’s throw away photos, trinkets and once even a board game that were given to them by their ex. I know, sign me up for the dr! Now I know why I behaved like that. I felt threated that these possessions marked a hidden love my partner had for his ex. I didn’t like that someone had ‘been there before me’. I wanted to be the one and only. That’s fine if I was 16 but in my mid 20’s it was unlikely to find a guy who had never been on a date before. More importantly would I want to meet a guy who had never been on a date?!
Our past experiences, and most importantly the way we deal with them, are what shape us to who we are today. For most of us, we have been in relationships in the past. We have a history.
What does holding onto a gift from an ex mean?
It doesn’t mean they still love their ex nor does it mean you are second best.
Think back to any significant period in your life – university, the holiday of a lifetime, a big birthday. Have you held onto something that reminds you of that time? Perhaps it’s a photo, a vase that caught your eye in the Moroccan markets or in the case of my friend Emma, a garden gnome presented to her at an awards ceremony! Unless you take the ‘no clutter’ approach, you’ve probably amassed a random selection of bits and bobs throughout your life journey.
Why then, if it’s ok to hold onto mementoes of those occasions, should we not hold onto anything from a past relationship that was a huge part of our life for x amount of years. Rather than seeing your partners ex as a threat, see them as the person who ironed out the creases The person you adore and who adores you back. They are a part of your partners past, you are their present and future.
I have a confession
After my ‘heartbreak in Hong Kong’ (I moved to HK with an ex, who cheated on and dumped me shortly after moving my life there, leaving me in the City alone) I jumped into a relationship. I was still hurting and in a crazy jealous place. My new guy had a painting on the wall. One day I took it down and on the back there was a love message. I was livid. I went berserk, accusing him of still loving her and generally being an all-round crazy woman. At the time it didn’t feel crazy, I felt insecure, angry, jealous and hurt. Looking back, I’m embarrassed by my behaviour. Do you know why he had the painting on the wall? Because he liked it, as did I till that point. That was it. Did he pine for her? No? But my stroppy teenage girl behaviour wasn’t making him a big fan of me either.
“I’m upset my boyfriend has photos and presents from his ex girlfriend”
If there is something your partner has that you’re not comfortable with, talk to him. Open communication will help resolve the issue without coming to blows. Talk to him before your mind starts forming assumptions. Our minds like to do that
Encourage him to have a memory box – or rename it something less cliché and manly! Any bits and pieces from his ex go in there and the box goes away. Memories are in our mind and hearts but it’s completely acceptable to want to hold onto a few physical memories. I have a box which has cards and gifts from my childhood sweethearts – I had a few! Every now and again when back home I dig it out and I love sifting through the plastic rose and a personal favourite - the forever friend’s earrings!
Be respectful with past relationship mementoes and encourage your boyfriend to be the same. If he respects you, he will. Know where your line is.
Here are a few conversation starters to bring up the issue before it becomes a big deal:
- I’ve noticed you have lots of photos of (ex). It makes me feel uncomfortable; lets have a chat about it.
- I’ve been thinking about that lamp (ex) brought you. I think it’s looking a bit tired now, let’s get a new one this weekend when we go shopping.
- I’ve got a box with things from my ex in, how do you feel about doing the same?
Don’t forget – your partner has chosen to be with you. He wants to send his life with YOU, nobody else. Think of the bigger picture, this huge issue for you right now will be a teeny tiny blip 20 years down the line when you’re still happily in love
Want relationship and dating advice straight to your inbox from the UKs Best Matchmaker? Sign up for my FREE newsletter at www.carolinebrealey.co.uk to get the juicy stuff every Friday!