The eX-Files: Keeping memorabilia from past relationships.

Today I’m wondering… “Do you keep memorabilia from past relationships?” I think it’s a good question and I’m sure the answer varies from person to person. I honestly don’t. At least not on purpose. After a failed relationship, I purge anything and everything attached to an ex — especially if it was a bad relationship. It’s got nothing to do with being hurt or upset, but more for me to start with a clean slate. I’m quite cut-throat anyway so once I’m done with someone, I really couldn’t care less. Oh and also… I don’t like clutter!

I’m going to throw it out there and say that keeping old photos and gifts from a past love generally won’t be appreciated by a current partner, whether they like to admit it or not. What am I basing this on you ask? A lot of reading, secondary research and speaking to numerous people. I’d say the first thought people have when items like these come to light is “are they still holding on to old feelings?” The action of keeping memorabilia from past relationships is apparently called “Soul Ties” and causes one to be “locked in” to that person on an emotional and mental level. This is likely to be true if your partner is actually still clutching on to the past and hasn’t fully moved on emotionally from their last relationship.

However on the flip side, many choose to keep sentimental items from the past for different reasons. And after speaking to various friends, I think there are some good takeaways from these overall discussions. A couple of my girlfriends admitted to keeping memorabilia but have boxed the things up and stored it somewhere out of the way. They said that their current partners are obviously aware that they had a life before them; adding that everyone has a past and should have a right to keep what they want to keep. In one of their words: It’s not that I still have feelings for my ex or I’m looking for a reconciliation. I just find it hard to let go of memories of someone I once held dear. It feels like denying they ever were important to me.

I know some people have chosen to keep little objects like old cinema tickets or key chains from a date because in the future they want to have small reminders of what their teenage years were like (which is fair enough, I actually think that’s quite cute) Then I have guy friends who have kept items only if they serve a functional purpose, ie. NutriBullets, Cameras, Clothing.

Flipping the script

So how would I feel if I was dating someone and they kept old gifts or left photos of their ex on social media? Well… I reckon a few years back when I really struggled with my insecurities and paranoia — any of the above would have bugged the shit out of me. Today, if I saw old cards or love letters… I’m not going to lie, I’d probably have an issue with it so would raise my concerns. But with regards to old photos on social media, I might have a look at them (because it’s right there in my face) but I wouldn’t focus my energy on it. There are a few reasons (that aren’t linked to harbouring old romantic feelings) why people still have pictures of their exes. Firstly, your partner might not be that active on social media/hasn’t gotten around to deleting them. Secondly, they may still value his/her friendship; they don’t even have to be friends, perhaps they just broke up amicably. Thirdly, as my girlfriends mentioned, it’s just a memory of a life before you, there doesn’t have to be any meaning behind it.

I try my best not to jump to conclusions too much. If I find myself jealous or insecure about old photos then I’d say that’s my problem to deal with. At the same time, your partner should make you feel secure and not put you in a position where you have to question them. I’m a big believer in actions, so if your other half is clearly showing that you are their present and priority, then there’s absolutely no need to worry. Just concentrate on building happy memories with them!

If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve discovered items/photos from the past but it makes you feel uncomfortable, then I believe you have a right to express your feelings… in a calm manner! When you build up the courage to have the conversation, understandably it can feel awkward. You might even feel bad for bringing it up! Nevertheless, with all relationships, communication is very important. If something doesn’t sit right with you then it’s okay to be direct and have an open dialogue about it, but equally it’s important to refrain from sounding accusatory to avoid anything blowing up into a fight!

Do you still keep photos or items from past relationships? Does your current partner know? What is your feeling towards a significant other keeping sentimental memorabilia? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

When the past becomes our present.

Old emotional wounds have many ways of inserting themselves into existing and new relationships. When this occurs, they can prevent a connection from blossoming or slowly pull at a relationship until one or both parties suffocate. Some of our deepest wounds often come from childhood, and others will make an appearance at a later point in life.

Dealing with heartbreak, betrayal, having our ideas about love questioned and our spirits bruised are distressing experiences to go through. Mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually — these past traumas have the power to greatly impact our overall character; it can affect the way we think, the way we see ourselves, and the way we see others. When emotional pain cuts us deep, it can cause repeat unhealthy behaviours and offer a recipe for toxic relationships. Sometimes without even realising, few of us will continue living our lives holding onto negative, distorted thoughts in our unconscious mind. But one thing is for sure… none of this has to be permanent.

Cute but psycho

I’d be lying if I said freeing yourself from the past was an easy process. It really isn’t. Speaking from personal experience, I spent years convinced that I was healed from my first relationship. Unfortunately, feelings of resentment and bad memories can linger long after a previous split. The reality was that I had simply swept everything under the carpet and put in place a few coping mechanisms which involved: always having my guard up, purposely starting conflicts to make myself feel better and feel more in control, never communicating or addressing the root problem, and playing the blame game. After going through a couple superficial relationships in my emotionally unavailable state, it became clear that my issues were just adding this growing ball of toxic energy. The longer I left it to manifest, the worse I became.

I was cheated on in my first relationship but didn’t find out until a year later… and it was only by chance I had discovered the secret. Around the same time, the manipulative and controlling behaviour became more apparent (dictating what I could/couldn’t wear, where I could go, who I could talk to/hang out with, etc.), our heated arguments were pretty intense, we hurled things at each other then got into physical altercations. The atmosphere was always tense and disruptive, and not just between us but for others as well. When things were good, they were amazing; when things were bad, it was hideous. Being 16 at the time, in my first relationship; I was naive and “blinded by love”. I can’t even comprehend what was going through my mind back then. All I knew was that no matter what shit we had gone through, he was never wrong in my eyes. Eventually three and a half years later, I found the courage to leave. And by no means was it an easy exit.

I swiftly got into my next relationship about 5 months after but I was just a ticking time-bomb for my next partner… and the next one after that. When I look back, I feel awful for the way I treated some of my exes. Even thinking about it now makes me cringe and feel a lot of shame. I found myself creating worst-case scenarios in my head, getting easily triggered over certain things they’d say or do. I was always feeling hypersensitive, insecure and on-edge when they wanted to have a guys night out or attend a work do. I dealt with it all by self-sabotaging. I would go down their phones to check their call logs, messages, photos, social media. I looked through their draws, cupboards — I don’t exactly know what I was looking for but I needed anything to use as ammo so I could pull them up on it and accuse them of cheating on me. I honestly think I put more effort in my search for “evidence” than I did with the actual relationship. Messed up huh?

Road to recovery

When we’re stuck in trauma, our limbic system (basically an important part of the brain) can become impaired in its ability to regulate our emotions. As a result, our mood, sleep and thought patterns can be impacted and lead to symptoms such as anxiety, fatigue, loss of appetite, low sex drive and even depression. It’s essential to understand how past issues are affecting your love life so that you can address them.

No one likes feeling vulnerable, disappointed or hurt, but how we deal with past issues determines the quality of our lives, our next relationship and ultimately helps to shape ourselves. As mentioned, it’s not a straightforward or quick practice, nonetheless I guarantee that taking an opportunity for self-reflection and learning can be the gateway to experiencing real joy and happiness. If you’re seeking some guidance on how to release those burdens, I’ve compiled some mindful tips to help loosen that grip on previous situations and move forward in a much healthier way.

IT IS WHAT IT IS
For some of us, “letting it be” or “letting it go” alludes to the idea that we’re wrong or it feels like we’re allowing someone else to be right. It also means letting go of your expectations of how things should have been. The fact is, what happened was all in the past and there’s nothing you can do about it. The drama, holding on… it’s all in your own mind. As you continue feeding the memories, you make what someone said or did even bigger and more powerful in your head than it might have been in reality. Accepting what happened gives you the ability to create empowering stories and discover valuable lessons to carry with you in the future.

DO NOT PUT EVERYONE IN THE SAME CATEGORY
Your new partner should not be punished for the pain you felt from previous relationship, just because someone did you wrong in the past, it doesn’t mean that your new partner will do the same. It’s an unfair position to put them in. It’s important to communicate, be open and honest, and explain why you might have certain hangups or sore spots. And if it’s a situation where you’re clinging onto hurt and anger but struggling or refusing to let it go, then perhaps you’re not in the right frame of mind for a new relationship.

TAKE YOUR TIME TO HEAL
There’s no timeline for healing from trauma, it can take months or even years. However, it’s vital to release the sadness and let yourself process all the emotions. Use the opportunity to self-discover and work on getting your mind back in a better place.

LET IT OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM
Some will feel better after verbal communication with a friend, family member or therapist, others might prefer writing down their thoughts in a journal. Either way, the cathartic release can do wonders for your mental health. You’ll find that self-expression helps to clarify your thoughts, feelings, reduce stress and even solve problems more effectively.

DO THINGS THAT YOU ENJOY
On your road to recovery, I reccomend channeling your energy into things you enjoy. Perhaps you let go of a hobby you used to love? Maybe you want to take up something new? Just go for it. Even if it’s a bit of therapeutic shopping, brunching with friends, binging on awful reality TV shows or treating yourself to a pamper session — stick to positive environments, surround yourself with good people and focus on finding happiness and inner peace.

I always encourage learning and growing from all our experiences in life. When we’re dealing with past trauma, concentrate on becoming stronger in the process, rather than carrying the baggage around like an anchor. Don’t let it weigh you down from living and enjoying your life. The past should be used as a reference to serve and support you for the present and future. Always keep in mind:

“Scars remind us of where we have been, not where we are headed.”