This is a hard topic to talk about, but I think it’s true. Hold on to old ticket stubs, newspapers with killer headlines, and your senior yearbook. Don’t hold on to relationship memorabilia.
We accrue lots of stuff over the course of a relationship. Love letters, stuffed animals, blankets, t-shirts, playlists, hoodies, used underwear. These things can be tough to let go of, but I believe the psychological impact of keeping them around is too much. Not worth it. Discard.
Keeping the leftovers reminds you, depending on how the breakup went, of a painful narrative and bars you from seeing the person anew. My hope for all former partners is that they can become friends again — I’m friends with all my exes. To get to that point, you need to separate. Clean break. Halt communication. And throw shit away.
Then, in time, you can begin to see them as new people. You can forgive them, let them forgive you, and start to see them as entities that traveled with you for a little bit, who now travel solo or with someone else. You need to reach that point, if you can.
Let’s start with when it’s fresh. It’s over, you’ve broken up, you’re not talking, you’re not friends on Facebook, and you’re depressed as fuck.
Here’s what you need to do. Get rid of the ticket stubs to movies you saw together, the plush toy you got for Valentine’s Day. Put the framed picture of you two away somewhere in a drawer.
That’s the inevitable trade-off with relationships. You enter into them with the understanding that, unless you die with this person as your partner, this arrangement is temporary and set to end at some point. The time spent cultivating it and growing close will almost certainly end in a breakup.
Breakups are very important. They teach us valuable lessons about ourselves and others. But they’re also hard, and holding on to them too long can be unhealthy. Living in their pain for years after your ex has moved on can make you sick.
Don’t keep the relics. They don’t help the healing process. I think objects hold a greater emotional weight than a memory, because they keep the memory right in front of you. Without daily reminders of the relationship, you can move on. When I am allowed to heal without the constant bombardment of collected junk to regurgitate old pain, I find that I tend to keep the kinder memories and forget the darker ones.
Try to remember the real things, the ones that matter. The good conversations, the kisses, the trips. I don’t think we are naturally inclined to remember fights, but when you’re faced with the napkin from your first date, right there in front of you, that last fight comes rushing back like a blow. So lose the napkin.
I have fought with all my exes, and some of those fights were terrible and justified a breakup in themselves. But today, when my old boyfriends return to me now, bowing in and out of my nostalgia, I only see the men I loved and never hated. I remember them at their best, and am grateful for our time. We are all friends in stories of hurt and healing.
Getting rid of the love letters leaves space in my treasure chest for new ones. And on we go.