I keep everything, and still have every letter that even my very first boyfriend sent me. I do put emails and the like away in folders I can’t see or even find easily, and much of the physical stuff ends up in boxes or the backs of drawers or closets, but it’s all still here, just part of the history of my own life just like everything else I have, particularly the antiques and family heirlooms. Eventually the gifts and the stuff just become other things I own and enjoy for their own inherent qualities that have their own stories behind them, but that recedes from prominence in my mind unless something happens to bring it forward again.
One of the reasons I do this is not just because I’m very sentimental, but because no matter how a relationship may have ended and how I may feel in the short term, I prefer in the long run to be sure I remember what was good – because there was always at least some good, at least at the beginning, or I would never have been with that person to start with.
I also find that oftentimes reading through the whole history is both cathartic and instructive on many levels. Sometimes it’s easy to start missing someone and seeing them through rose-colored glasses indeed, and it’s equally important to remember the bad so that I don’t get caught in the same traps again, and so that I can better learn whatever I need to learn. Yes, it can be very painful – but no one ever said that growth was fun.
But when I start missing someone, and thinking that maybe things weren’t so bad after all, and gee, why did we break up and maybe we could get back together or wow, in comparison to others before or since maybe he wasn’t so bad after all, or any of a number of other fairy tales my brain has been known to create over the decades I’ve been on the planet, there’s nothing like reading old communications, various posts, etc. to remind myself of just exactly what happened to bring me screaming back into the present and reality, out of fantasyland and moving forward again, fully regrounded in reality. Eventually most of the pain fades and I can enjoy the good memories without getting destroyed again by the bad.
The old correspondence and writings can also serve as reminders of how far I’ve come in my own life and growth. I’ve had times when I’ve looked at these things and remembered who I was then, and can see how much I’ve grown and learned since that time.
It helps that I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to remain friends with almost all of my most significant others, and am at least on speaking terms with all but one even if we’ve lost touch. With some, it took a few years to get there; with others, it was automatic. I’m friendly with their wives and girlfriends, have been invited to weddings, and more. A couple of them are still among my closest friends. They all still have the same good qualities that drew me to them in the first place, and I do not easily give people up out of my life, so why would I destroy or get rid of the things that were part of our lives together?
Exes are indeed always exes for a reason – and it’s important that we remember that – but it’s equally important to remember what good they did bring to our lives for a lot of reasons.