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.

“It’s nothing personal.”

Maybe it was a first date and they never followed up, maybe you’ve been seeing each other for a few months and they decided it’s not going to work, maybe you finally plucked up the courage to ask them out and they weren’t interested… While rejection is pretty much inevitable in some capacity, it still blows. Getting shut down for something you desire can be painful and our fragile little hearts can’t help but wonder “why?”

Unless you have confidence of steel, romantic rejection can be traumatic and impact our self esteem. As humans, we are inherently social beings. We long for connections, meaning and need other humans to survive. So when we’re not accepted, the mind finds a way to think negatively about our own self-worth. While we’ve all heard the old line, “it’s nothing personal” — not taking rejection personally is a skill that requires practice.

Rejection can come in various sizes. With the ever-evolving technology today, each of us is connected to thousands of people via social media or dating apps. It’s likely that a person might choose to ignore our posts, chats, texts, or dating profiles, and leave us feeling rejected as a result. Along with these minor rejections, we are still vulnerable to bigger, more devastating rejections as well.

This topic came about after conversing with one of my fellow bloggers (IG: Fantasy World Unleashed). Initially we had quite an insightful discussion on whether size mattered 🤭🍆 (refer to my last post!) We then spoke about the impact of romantic rejection and the various ways people handle it. With a ton of research available at the tips of my fingers, using my own experience combined with my interest in Psychology/Human Behaviour — I felt really inspired to turn this into a blog piece. However, the main question I was asked to address was:

Who can handle romantic rejection better? Men or Women?

On first thought, if I were to generalise (and going into the realms of stereotyping – sorry!) I would assume women would get hit by rejection harder because by nature we’re more emotionally expressive, we tend to overthink/overanalyse situations. With romantic initiatives; yes it’s men who typically have the responsibility of making the first move, therefore women are less exposed to experiencing rejection. Thus when women do receive a “No”… the aftermath can be prickly! Some get angry, others cry, anxiety increases, the ego gets bruised, we might feel like shit, etc… I’ve certainly felt it before, I’ve also witnessed many other different behaviours.

A friend of mine shared his view with me the other day. Reiterating what I had mentioned about the cultural expectation of men having to express interest first, he explained that a higher rate of rejection doesn’t necessarily mean men are any better at handling it. And from his perspective, being dismissed multiple times actually knocked his confidence down*. My other friend claimed that many men handle rejection by internalising their thoughts, compressing their feelings, but are more likely to hold onto the pain longer than women.

*He also said that it’s 2020 so he’d appreciate if women would do more of the initiating… please! 😂
Ladies, take note! Are we ready to move past these stereotypical roles? Let’s save this one for another blog post! 😁

People are people

With everything considered, I guess being “better” at handling romantic rejection is not down to gender at all. It’s more to do with the person. The degree to which we are able to handle rejection is dependent on various factors such as how much we base our self-worth, contentment in the relationship and the effort invested in the other party. To put simply, some people handle rejection well, some not so well, some downright horribly.

Romantic rejection can be particularly challenging, especially to individuals who desire a lasting romantic relationship. A breakup, or rejection can lead to feelings of grief that may be overwhelming, sometimes lasting for weeks, months, or even years! Some people eventually start isolating themselves or hold back from connecting with others because they’re too afraid of going through the process again. Being sensitive to rejection can alter the way we see our lives and our own self… this can result in loneliness and even depression.

The experience of rejection activates memories of other times in which we felt disregarded, or shunned. Many characteristically respond to rejection by blaming themselves. Others attack the source and express aggression toward the rejecting party. Everyone’s response to rejection is connected to how we have learned in the past to cope with negative feelings.

Did you know the same areas of our brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain? That’s why even the smallest things hurt more than we think they should, because they literally surface (emotional) pain. Unfortunately, when we feel hurt, the go-to response for many of us is to add fuel to the fire by being emotionally unhealthy and psychologically self-destructive, ie. criticising our self-worth or calling ourselves names.

Overcome it and refocus

To put bluntly, rejection is something that will happen in life, so we should probably try to learn to work with it. Being able to face it, deal with it and come out okay on the other side can be really empowering as well as help to build emotional resilience. So here are some tips that could make the journey a little easier.

DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE
Society insists that a “loss” or “failure” is undesirable. This is not true! Firstly, some situations are inevitable. We’re all bound to go through failure at some point in life. Secondly, how can we grow if we don’t experience difficulty? Thirdly, romantic rejection is not the end of the world. If you put things into perspective, you’ll realise there is a lot more to life.

MOVING ON…
It’s tempting to hold onto something that you think has potential… but don’t cling on for too long. It’s always better for your dignity and self esteem to let go gracefully. If you get turned down, don’t try and persuade or manipulate someone into giving you a chance. The relationship will most likely fail because it won’t be equal. We all deserve to be with someone who actually reciprocates the same feelings. Why be with someone who’s there… reluctantly.

CALL IN REINFORCEMENTS
Socialising really helps in dealing with rejection. Call up your friends, have a good time, laugh as much as you can but also, use the time to open up to them. Don’t suppress any feelings, don’t go through the process alone. Friends are there for a reason — be free to explain how you feel, cry on their shoulders and ask for advice.

APPRECIATE WHAT YOU STILL HAVE
Don’t get stuck in dwelling and dragging yourself down. Try your best to shift your focus to what you actually have in life. Sometimes we obliviously get through our days taking things for granted — family, friends, our passions and hobbies… even the simple things like food, nature and a roof over our head. Refocusing our energy and tapping into gratitude will help put what happened into perspective and allow you to not be overwhelmed.

Lastly

Lastly, I want to give a shout out to Fantasy World Unleashed for the inspiration and conjuring up this question for me. I really enjoyed the deep dive and hope it gave you and all my readers some interesting insight!

Red flags: some people aren’t looking for love, they’re looking for help.

If I were to sit down and have a conversation with myself say… 6 months into each of my relationships, I would not only advise on what characteristics I needed to work on as a person but firmly tell myself to open my goddamn eyes and take a good look at what’s waving right in front of me. Yes. We’re talking red flags.

Taking a chance on someone is necessary if you ever want to find a meaningful connection, no doubt any new relationship is full of challenges. As you get to know someone, there’s no telling whether things will go left or right. However, it’s difficult for the new romance to thrive if you cling on to resistance or fear. In a healthy relationship it’s important for both partners to trust and be trusted, to open up and be vulnerable with each other.

Generally dating and new relationships should be fun. As you transition from strangers to lovers, the most exciting part is learning all there is to know about someone on every level – emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. But sometimes when we’re filled with exhilaration we become blinded by those rose tinted glasses, thus end up overlooking the warning signs. From controlling behaviour to gaslighting to dishonesty; I’ve certainly experienced moments of tunnel vision in past and have been played the fool. While I’m no relationship expert, time and experience has helped me navigate my way through a lot of bullshit, enabling me spot that boundary-pushing behaviour early on. I’ve taken my learnings and would like to highlight some tactics that were used on me to cover up some serious flaws…

Catching someone in a web of lies
Oh jeez… this reminds me of my last relationship! You can read about that drama here. I think it’s fair to say that in life we all tell little white lies here and there, ie. “I’ll call you!”,“We must catch up soon!”, “Your haircut isn’t that bad!”, “I won’t be able to make it tonight, I’m feeling poorly.” These are not unheard of and have very low stake. However, if you’re catching someone fibbing time and time again, especially at the start of a relationship. My advice is to run. If they’re able to deceive you once, it makes it easier for them to lie more often. The more you catch them being dishonest, the more your trust will be tarnished. And what’s a relationship without trust? Sometimes you’ve really got to stop and wonder how honest this person actually is. What else could they be lying about? In fact, don’t even bother doing detective work, save your energy and just leave. Believe me, if you stick around… the pile of lies will post bigger problems down the road.

No life outside the relationship
There’s nothing wrong with valuing your time together, but if the person you’re seeing never mentions their friends, recent social gatherings, group activities, or anything to do with other people… it’s definitely an eyebrow raiser. I completely understand that some people suffer from social anxiety or are super introverted, that’s fair enough. Nevertheless, it’s usually a tell tale sign that the person is codependent and/or very possessive. I’ve been with a couple of guys who wanted my full attention, day in, day out. Apart from feeling like they’re draining the life and soul out of you, this behaviour displays unhealthy clinginess, a lack of self-sufficiency and insecurity. In a relationship, you shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to do your own thing nor should you feel the need to comply with their “rules” to appease them.

They don’t introduce you to their friends, family or anyone in their life
It takes time to meet the important people in your partner’s life. But if you’ve been dating for a while and you’ve been kept at a distance from everyone in their life, then that’s an issue. Unless you’re someone’s mistress or side piece, introducing each other to friends and family is a positive step. If you’re wondering why you haven’t reached that stage yet, it could be a sign that the person doesn’t take you or the relationship seriously… or there’s something shady going on. I suggest you call them out or call it quits!

You’re beginning to justify their behaviour
Toxic people are great at creating a false positive impression to worm their way into your heart. When they’ve done something that you deem unacceptable, somehow they’ll twist your mind to make you rationalise their wrongdoings. If you find yourself thinking or saying stuff like: “Oh he’s only like that because…” then perhaps it’s time to take a step back and really listen to what your gut is telling you.

You start to question your sanity
This is what happens when you’re being gaslighted. Briefly explained, it’s when your partner challenges your perception of situations, of yourself, of your thoughts, of your feelings, of their behaviour. The worst part is when you don’t even realise you’re being manipulated! It’s a gradual build up, these people normally appear very charming at first but soon enough you’ll recognise they’re all talk and no action. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse so it’s best to shut it down as soon as possible. If you feel like you’re starting to second guess yourself more than usual, I would recommend you go in for reality check by talking to your friends or family. Get them to be brutally honest.

Be observant of their behaviour from day one

These are just some of the key red flags I wanted to draw attention to. It’s always difficult to think logically when you find yourself in the situation and in your feelings, at times we even refuse to acknowledge these actions and behaviours. If you’re beginning to wonder how you even wound up in the mess you’re in now, think about the early warning signs. I want to end this post with a quote which rings true when thinking about this topic:

“The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

– Maya Angelou