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Reader: What are your thoughts about giving back items after a breakup or keeping them for memories sake?
Ogonna: It depends.
You’ve broken up. You have his or her stuff. What do you do with it?
Your first instinct might be to throw it all out. Retaliate. Why not, right? I mean, if he or she isn’t going to be a major part of your life anymore, you might as well get rid of everything that reminds you of him or her and your once-upon-a-time relationship.
But on the other hand, you might want to keep it as retaliation. When he asks for his old T-shirt back, you make up an excuse to keep it because it’s yours now, anyway. Or maybe she gave you a ring or a book or a flannel shirt. What is your obligation to give it back in one piece? They took something of yours — your respect, patience, tolerance, time, energy — it’s only right to take something of theirs in return, right?
As easy as it may seem to hold a grudge in the form of holding on to something, whether that be bitterness or an actual object, it’s so much better for your own health if you let it go — not necessarily by returning the the object but by letting go of the deeper meaning behind it.
The longer you hold onto that object, the harder it will be to let go of all the feelings associated with it. Yes, it’s a lot easier said than done, but like I said, it depends on the situation.
If you and your ex — or old partner, or whatever you choose to call yourselves — find that you could become friends again, perhaps it’s OK to hold onto these objects. If you think you can be in a place where wearing his or her old T-shirt would leave you just with memories that bring a smile to your face, then — if it’s OK with the original owner— keep the item. But if looking at his or her old necklace or keychain causes you to disintegrate into a puddle of tears and regret, then perhaps it’s not beneficial to hold onto such items.
In any case, I think it should be communicated between the two of you what should come of these swapped items. Communication could consist of the stereotypical music video breakup where you pay tribute to Icona Pop and throw his or her stuff into a bag and push it down the stairs (but please, don’t crash your car into a bridge and not care). Or communication could simply be asking if he or she wants his stuff back and respecting whatever decision that leaves you with.
Clothing, accessories, posters, books — gifts like these from our significant others hold so much sentimental value to us. They remind us of inside jokes or goofy moments or emotional times with that person. It’s hard to let go of that during a breakup because we wish we could always remain in that happy moment. But at the end of the day, it is up to you to decide whether that T-shirt is symbolic of your relationship or if it’s really just a T-shirt that you could do without.