The Care and Keeping of Love Letters

Last week, Will made me lunch. Brown bag and everything. He’d even written a note on the napkin. Despite having used the napkin to wipe up a small spill, I flattened it back out and placed it in a drawer for safekeeping. I keep all the notes Will gives me.

I’ve always been a “keeper”. Prior to meeting Will – yes, there were boys prior to Will, don’t worry, he knows – I kept all the little notes and tokens that relationships generate. I’d revisit them to read warm words when I when I needed a boost. The notes were tangible proof of love past.

Presently, as things move to Very Serious with Will, I find I have no need for these past reminders. During a recent cleaning spree, several notes were recycled. A digital clean-up followed, and several flirty emails were deleted. Will never indicated that I had to get rid of these things; the decision was all mine. I just didn’t want them anymore – they’d lost their sparkle.

While I now have no desire to keep these past treasures, I began to wonder if one needs to get rid of reminders of relationships past. I once read once of a woman who burned all her past love letters in the fireplace the night before her wedding. That could be romantic or dramatic, depending on your spin.

Either way, is it odd to keep past love letters if you are currently in a committed relationship? Is it a trust issue (i.e., if you trust me, you know these are just fun, frothy reminders of my youth and in no way impact “us”)? Does this rule – if it exists – apply to jewelry?

Do you keep tokens from boyfriends and girlfriends of yore? Would it bother you if your significant other did?

Do share.

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About Helena

Helena lives in Chicago with her boyfriend and two cats. Her boyfriend thinks she's awesome. Her cats agree.

Posted on July 27, 2011, in Love & Relationships and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. My last serious (as serious as it could be, anyway) relationship before Matthew was in high school. I do still have a few things he gave me, including a giant stuffed dog and an earring/necklace set*, but by and large the mementos of high school don’t seem too important anymore. I do have lots of e-mails and cards (Christmas, anniversary, birthday) from Matthew … in fact I made him a binder full of our e-mails and IM conversations for our anniversary one year. Because I am a Total Dork.

    Electronic ephemera may fade, but the handwritten cards I do have I will always treasure.

    *which I never really wore in the first place — he bought me yellow gold and I only wear white and silver. It was sort of a sign 😛

  2. One of my boyfriends when I first moved to NYC was a writerly-type, and he wrote me notes, letters, and cards all the time. There are letters that mention the inflatable mattress that was my bed for three months, the nights where we were we didn’t have enough money to buy dinner beyond hummus and pita bread and a cheap bottle of wine. They mention the bookstore we worked at together and the free concerts we went to, and the long train rides out to Coney Island to see the the beach and the sun.

    I still have those, not out of any affection for the boy, but out of affection for that broke, hopeful girl that I was when he wrote me those letters. My situation has changed dramatically, but it’s nice to remember that it wasn’t instant, and it wasn’t easy.

    All that said, I haven’t told fiance about them, because I’m not sure he’d understand why I keep them, and I’m not quite ready to give them up yet. I haven’t re-read them for a while now, but it’s nice to see the notebook that they’re in and know that it’s part of who I was, and who I still am.

    And yeah, every single birthday, Christmas, Halloween, anniversary card from fiance has a place of reverence on the tack board above my desk. It’s nice to look up from work and know that out there in the world, someone loves me 🙂

  3. I dated this guy in college (yeah- that one) and during our “break” I met this other guy sitting next to me on a train back to U of I. We had a lovely time talking for the first hour or so of the ride, but then I fell asleep and woke up just when we were getting into town. Fearing that he wouldn’t get to talk to me again, “train boy” had written me a little note on the back of his train ticket stub and made sure I got it when I woke up. He wrote his name and number and something like “I think you are cute and I hope you call me sometime”. (I don’t remember the exact words.) I called him, we dated a bit, and today I am married to Mike #2! (train boy was Mike #1…didn’t quite work out with him) 🙂

    Well, when loser college boyfriend and I got back together, I told him about the train boy. I’m of the mindset that you should be able to tell your significant other anything! He got mad and made me throw away the ticket. Stupid college me listened and threw it away. I would love to have that ticket now as a little reminder of those carefree days!

    Mike #2 is much more understanding and open-minded about those things. I have pictures and love notes and jewelry from past relationships and he knows that they mean absolutely nothing to me except for nostalgia. Who I was back then has helped shape who I am today, so why would I want to get rid of all of those little pieces from my past?

    • I so agree that people who know you love them shouldn’t be “threatened” by you keeping things. I have this little heart shaped dish by the front door that we use to place our keys in when we come in (so we don’t lose them) and that was, at one time, a gift from Scott. I liked it, so I still have it.

  4. I’ve kept a few things from past boyfriends – pieces of jewelery, mostly. Maybe a photo or two so I can remember what that guy looked like when I’m 80 and telling my grand kids about my life. I don’t attach a lot of feeling to objects though (there’s nothing wrong with doing so, I just don’t), so if I like something I keep it and if I don’t it gets tossed.

    • It’s good not to attach meaning to things! I wish I was more like that! I’ve gotten better (I used to think that throwing away something someone had given me was akin to telling them I hated them).

  5. My friend and I had a “fireplace party” one New Year’s Eve and got rid of any old momentos that we felt were holding us back. We got the champagne, the box of old photos or letters that didn’t bring us joy and lit up the new year!

    Some things I keep, others that are tied to more bad memories than good get disposed of!

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