The relationship ended. You never imagined that you would be here. You stand in your place full of memories, looking at all the little reminders of the person with whom you thought you had a promising future. What do you do with the mementos, the gifts, the personal things that are left behind?
At Relationup, an app that provides 24/7 live relationship advice from professionals via chat, we were curious about how people handled the keepsakes they accumulated during their relationships after they had fizzled. We conducted a survey and discovered that 56% of people (70% women; 33% men) kept mementos from a past relationship(s).
Our data also revealed that there were 5 common ways people dealt with their keepsakes in the aftermath of their relationship.
They held onto a few unique gifts they loved. This group described keeping unique items (e.g. jewelry, vintage jazz shirt, sweatshirts, teddy bear) because they loved them and didn’t want to part with them—regardless of who gave it to them or the circumstances surrounding the ending of the relationship. One man commented, “I loved that t-shirt so much that there was no way that I was going to throw it out”.
They kept things about which they were sentimental. This group hung onto items (e.g. plush dog, ticket stubs, airline boarding pass, mementos from travel) because they represented meaningful and significant experiences. Some kept things that represented the relationship (“my first love,” “the first time time my heart was broken,” “the first time that I felt that someone was really paying attention to me”), while others kept things that related to an event/experience (“the first time I went to Europe,” “my first concert,” “being at Coachella”).
They kept everything and boxed it up. This group liked to avoid facing their feelings by packing up everything to deal with later. In the majority of scenarios, this was motivated by painful endings and people wanted to wait until they felt emotionally ready to do a post-mortem on the relationship. One woman commented, “I just couldn’t look at anything to do with him for months.”