My boyfriend of nearly 4 years asked me to go through his file cabinet to find papers he needed for work. Upon doing so, I noticed two folders behind the one he wanted me to look for that had his ex-girlfriends’ name on them. They were filled with love letters, pictures and other things. Mostly love letters. When I confronted him about these folders he told me that he wanted a record of his history and that he probably had a folder of his other ex-girlfriend and one for me. Well, there aren’t folders for either of us. More importantly me. He says that he isn’t interested in her more than friendship, so why would he still need to hold on to love letters from her, pictures of the two of them, mementos and – oh by the way, did I forget to mention he said he wished he’d kept more mementos (which he makes fun of me for keeping from us)? Thanks,

Marina

Some people collect snowglobes, some people collect ex-girlfriends. And the longer we live, the more stuff we’re saddled with.

Dear Marina,

The older you get, the more stuff you accumulate.

Some of this stuff is comprised of possessions: Ex. My wife has over 75 pairs of shoes.

Some of this stuff is comprised of emotional baggage: Ex. My wife has an ex-husband.

Some of this stuff is comprised of cumulative life experience: Ex. I have dated over 300 women.

For many of us – yourself included, I suspect – we ARE our life experience. Some people collect snowglobes, some people collect ex-girlfriends. And the longer we live, the more stuff we’re saddled with. George Carlin did a great routine on this, you may recall.

So who’s to say when is a good time to throw out your memories? Apparently, you are. After all you want your 4-year boyfriend to throw out his memories right now, because you feel threatened.

But it’s not the love letters themselves that bother you – it’s the fact that he doesn’t have a folder for you. Has it occurred to you that this may be because he’s happy with you? That perhaps someone gets a folder when their 8 months together goes kaput, and he consolidates and consigns their entire relationship to a manila envelope? All I know is that you’re the one dating him; not the women whose yellowed love letters are stuffed into a drawer.

On a more personal note, I’m about the most sentimental guy in the world. I save everything: certificates from sixth grade spelling bees, well-written college term papers, birthday cards from summer camp, and, needless to say, every email and photograph I’ve ever received from women I was dating for a time.

What’s the pathology behind this? Beats the hell out of me. Probably started with my mom, who also saved everything, and now lives with her husband in a 5 bedroom house filled with “stuff”. All I know is that it’s hard for me – and my wife – if you must know – to part with anything that had meaning at one time or another.

It doesn’t mean he’s not satisfied. It doesn’t mean the feelings linger. It doesn’t mean, well, ANYTHING.

All I know is that if he throws out those photos and letters, he’s effectively ERASING that chapter of his life – like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And most of us, presuming things aren’t too painful, don’t WANT to erase those chapters and rely solely on faulty memory. We like digging into the archives once in a blue moon to jar our consciousness, to stir up a story. My dad had a photo in a drawer under his nightstand – which I found when being a disrespectful teenager. It was some high school crush. Next to it was an old packaged, long-expired condom. This was probably all he had left from his life in 1963, and who could begrudge him that. Certainly not my mom, who nicknamed the high school girl “Elvira”, after her big brunette hairdo.

That’s the thing about trusting relationships: the past is there, but it is no threat to your present.

And that’s the thing about trusting relationships: the past is there, but it is no threat to your present.

My wife can probably rattle off 20 women that I’ve been with – and tell you the funny stories of how we broke up. I would highly suggest that if you want to be this man’s wife, you get with the program – instead of getting jealous of his fading memories.

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