How long do you keep things that belonged to ex’s? I’m currently watching an episode of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and it’s an old one where Robin & Ted argue over whether you should keep stuff that belonged to ex’s. Ted himself says in the narrative that by the time you reach your late twenties, you have been in several relationships.
By the time you hit thirty, everyone has a relatively significant past behind them. And your life on this day, is a culmination of where you’ve been and who you’ve met. I’ve never really understood why people’s ex relationships become a real taboo part of anyone’s future. Whether or not you regret a relationship or regardless of if they ended amicably or less so, it’s all a part of your story. In the same way that we all have lifelong friends, and some friends in various parts of our lives who we grow apart from or fall out with or lose touch with, ex relationships are markerstones of our lives.
You also gain so much from every person you encounter in your life. Even if the lesson is learning from mistakes. My husband and I met aged 5, but of course, between then and now, we have both had many relationships and friendships and experiences. All of those have brought us to the point we are now and without those experiences, we may never have come together when we did.
So however disastrous an encounter may have been (a short-lived internet dating experience comes specifically to mind!) it was part of my growth and I therefore don’t regret it. And as for belongings, maybe I could be accused of being cold but I can’t relate objects to being emotionally powerful if you no longer have an emotional attachment to them. So for example, I have my Nan’s sewing box and it means the absolute world to me. But likewise I have a shot glass from a trip to Amsterdam that a group of friends (along with an ex partner) went on which technically my ex bought me. But when I look at it, because I no longer have feelings for my old boyfriend, I instead remember laughing with one of my best friends when I got my hand stuck in a sliding door(!), and a friend narrating our inner monologues at dinner, and many other happy memories from my experiences in Amsterdam!
Being in a relationship is not just really about two people, you meet their family, and meet new friends. And when the relationship ends, it can often be hardest to lose the associated family, especially if it’s a family you were a part of for some time. And likewise, some objects or possessions are not about the individual, but more a time of your life that was important to you. I completed degrees while in other relationships but that doesn’t mean I relate those events to the person I happened to be with at the time and that’s true of everyone. And what are you going to do, pretend whole chunks of your life didn’t exist?! I went on a weekend away to Brighton for my 21st birthday with an ex boyfriend, should I pretend I never turned 21, not mention it in case my husband gets upset that there were men in my life before him?! No don’t be ridiculous, if any one of them had meant as much to me as my husband does, I would be married to them instead! I had a great time in Brighton for my 21st and I’m not going to photoshop the photos, there’s no need to hide your past unless there’s unresolved feelings or issues which for both my husband and I, there aren’t. We both know about each other’s past, and have happened upon at least one of each other’s ex partners when out and about. Anyone who has been a part of my husbands life, past, present or future are part of who he is and they are therefore all held positively in my eyes. And would always be welcome in our home (I mean, call first, just in case we’re out, but you know what I mean..!).
Nobody has the right to take away from any relationship you’ve had in the past, the memories you have from that time, or how it affected and changed you’re life. And that counts for all relationships, not just romantic ones. I understand jealousy, and sometimes jealousy can be very healthy for a relationship, it can keep things exciting. When he’s doing a workshop, my husband often gets a lot of female attention and watching other women find my husband so attractive reminds me how I first felt when we initially got together. Someone once asked me on a weekend workshop whether I knew if he was seeing anyone, and although a mischievous side of me was tempted to tell her to go for it and watch the ensuing awkwardness as my husband a) never realises when someone is flirting with him and b) then feels very uncomfortable when he does realise. But as funny as it would have been for me, I couldn’t be that cruel and told her that I hoped he wasn’t seeing anyone as I was his wife!
The important thing to realise is that life is emotionally linear, as you grow and change, your feelings and emotions grow and change. The relationship I have with my husband is nothing to do with a relationship he had aged 17. And likewise, belongings that have accrued from other relationships in no way negatively affect your present relationship.
My parents have always been very open about their past lives (meaning life before i was around…also known as the dark ages..!) and I’ve learnt through them and learnt from their mistakes as well as my own. That openness is something I want to pass onto our daughter and any subsequent children. Both my husband and I have made plenty of mistakes in our lives, and by being honest and open with Scarlett, hopefully she won’t make the same ones (or at least she can put her own unique twist on them). But she will also learn from the relationships we’ve had. Although by the time she’s a teenager, our past relationships will be ancient history to her! But if she ever comes home in tears after someone has broken her heart, I can sit her down and tell her about when I got a phonecall at 15 to tell me my boyfriend of a year had cheated on me, and tell her how my heart sank, how I felt like it was the end of the world and I’d never feel happy again. I won’t be telling her because my heart is still broken, I don’t still lie awake upset about it! But at that point in time did go through it and so I can share the experience with her. I had my heart broken a few times, my heart has some scars from throughout the years and when I met my husband it wasn’t a perfect heart, it was misshapen and bruised and I had been using it for 28 years; and as much as we’d all like to believe that when we meet our life partner, we do so with a clean slate and perfectly new heart, that’s not the case. But that’s ok! It’s much better when two experienced hearts with a more unusual shape realise that they fit each other perfectly, the scars and individual journey have only shaped them to come together and fit. And for that, you both have your pasts to thank! So if anything, you should revere the keepsakes from the journey to find one another!
My personal view is that If you try and erase your past, you’re disrespecting your future. No-one can truly move forward without accepting/forgiving/healing and letting go of your past, and as soon as you have done so, you realise that possessions can only have emotion attached to them if you give them such.
So coming back to ‘How I Met your Mother’, I agree with Ted (at the beginning of the episode in question!) it’s crazy to expect your partner to get rid of everything they have been given from an ex. Yes, if they want to put up romantic pictures together, that’s a whole other issue and slightly more of a problem(!) but there’s certainly no reason to throw out a lamp because someone from the past has touched it!
And so to my darling daughter, when she shuts herself in her bedroom with some loud music on shouting that no-one understands her, I can tell her with experience, that everything’s going to be ok. Meeting several Mr or Miss Wrongs is absolutely necessary in finding your way and growing. We all get hurt in life and it’s full of ups and downs, but whatever the situation, you should always look back with a smile. On your own personal journey in life, there’s bound to be a few dodgy service stations, a couple of fabulous side roads, but it’s all worth it and necessary to get to your final chosen destination!