People Showed Us Stuff from Old Relationships They Couldn't Throw Away
It's important to cherish the memories, even if it means holding on to a record with the words "FUCK YOU" carved into it.
Like all good things – at least, all things that start out good but finish in a toxic pit of misery – most relationships come to an end. When they do, you're usually left with some memories, some lessons learned and a box of junk – stuff your ex gave you, or stuff they just couldn't be bothered to pick up after it all ended in tears. Depending on how painful the breakup was, you might want to chuck that box at some point, or douse it in gasoline and set it ablaze. But chances are that, before you finally do, you'll snatch out that one little thing you can't bear to part with. A card, a book or a shirt that looked great on you.
We asked people from cities around Europe to show us the stuff they've held onto long after a relationship ended.
Bugsy, 26, Musician, London, United Kingdom
I've kept a rare Gaslight Anthem record on vinyl that's not available online, on CD or on Spotify. It's coloured red and it's got the words "fuck you" scratched into it.
My ex-girlfriend originally bought it as a gift before we broke up, but decided to give it to me as a parting gift. At first I was like, "Oh, fantastic, thank you very much," and then she apologised and said, "Sorry, I've carved 'fuck you' into it." I felt extremely emotional when she gave it to me, knowing the soreness she was feeling was because of me. But also, strangely, it made me smile, because it reminded me of how well she knew me.
I've never thought of throwing it away. The good times we had were good times regardless, and although carving "fuck you" into a record seems quite spiteful, it reminds me of the nature of relationships, the nature of humans and how emotional we can be. It's also a symbol of forgiveness – I totally forgive her for what she put me through, and I hope she does the same.
– As told to Chris Bethell
Emma, 29, Artist, London, United Kingdom
I wear this watch every day. It was a present from a girl I was dating – the first girl I ever dated. I was living a very heteronormative life before her, but then suddenly I met her and she became my girlfriend. We’re still friends now. This was the last gift I got from her and it was the first time I got something from a lover I really liked.
We broke up over Christmas in 2013. There wasn't one reason, really – but it was partly that I lived in London while she lived in the Netherlands. It was complicated – I'm a complicated person to be with. I don't associate the watch with her on a daily basis, it's really mine now. But I do sometimes realise it was from when we were together.
– As told to Chris Bethell
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Maria, 28, Journalist, Athens, Greece
My ex bought this router for me two years ago so I'd have a faster internet connection. Actually, he bought it because he played online games every time he came over, so the upgrade was more a gift for himself than for me. It's the only thing I've kept from him, because it's very useful. All the other things he left at mine – underwear, shoes – I threw out about a year after we broke up. Don't ask me why it's over, ask him. I still don't know.
I never considered throwing it away, because it's a good router. I do want to change the password, though, because it consists of a combination of letters from his name and numbers from his date of birth. Whenever someone visits me and asks for the wifi password I think of my ex – which is especially uncomfortable when I have a new boyfriend over.
– As told to Pavlos Toubekis
Konstantinos, 30, Musician, Athens, Greece
This is my acoustic bass – I rarely use it, but I love it. My first real girlfriend gave it to me for my 19th birthday.
I remember that day well – she called and asked if she could come over. When she arrived she hid it behind her back, and I acted very surprised. I didn't want to ruin the moment for her. That gift meant I could play along with my band's acoustic sets, and it meant I had a girl who loved me enough to spend all that money on me. I think it was one of the happiest days of my life. We broke up four or five months later, because we both wanted to have some new experiences.
I will always think of her when I see this guitar. My current girlfriend knows this was a gift from an ex, but she's not bothered by it at all. She plays the bass too and thinks it's cool. What can I say? I'm very lucky.
– As told to Pavlos Toubekis
Fritz, 23, Photographer, Berlin, Germany
My ex gave me this for my birthday a while ago. It's a dark brown, wooden box with a latch and a holder for long rolling paper. It's a box for pot smokers, if you couldn't tell.
Smoking pot is a big part of my everyday life, so I love using high-quality items for it. This box is hand carved, and it's a thing of beauty – I use it every day. The gift was very special to me, because a lot of thought and care went into it. We split up a year ago and we're no longer in touch, but it's never crossed my mind to throw it out. To be honest, I barely ever think of my ex when I take some weed from the box. It's just my little stash box now.
– As told to Hanko Ye
Lars, 22, Student, Berlin, Germany
This jacket is from a flea market in the Prenzlauer Berg area of Berlin. My ex was broke, but he wanted this jacket so badly that I paid for half of it. That whole day was amazing – we sat in the grass and drank beer, and later we bought another two jackets. I really love jackets.
He only wore it a few times after that. I never really understood why he wanted it so badly – his entire wardrobe is black. Even grey is too flamboyant of a colour for him. I'm the exact opposite, and I thought it looked better on me anyway. So I started wearing it a lot, and gradually just made it mine.
We split up in January – we had a lot of unnecessary drama over New Year's. I kept the jacket after the breakup and he never asked for it back. Of course I think about him when I'm wearing it – but more about the lovely day we spent together than about how everything went to shit in the end. The guy I'm seeing now commented on the jacket – I just said I got it at a flea market. It's the truth, after all.
– As told to Marvin Ku
Nikolaj, 24, Student, Copenhagen, Denmark
These are a pair of silk cuffs you can use to tie up your partner during sex. My ex gave them to me on my birthday, but we never tested them out – we broke up two days later, in August of 2015.
She said that I could go back to the shop and get a refund, but I didn’t feel like doing that. I think they're pretty nice and fun to have, so I kept them. I've never used them, though – I do still associate these cuffs with my ex, and it would be too weird to think of her while using them in bed with someone else.
– As told to Clara Krohn
Cecilie, 24, Student, Copenhagen, Denmark
My ex bought a star for me in 2010. The gift contains a certificate, a star map, the coordinates of the star and a guide on how to find it. He named the star "Unique", I guess because I was unique to him. We broke up two years later, and these days the certificate sits in a box in my attic. As shitty as the gift might be, I don’t have the heart to throw it away.
I remember that, right before our first Christmas together, we were hanging out when he suddenly said, "Now I know what to buy you for Christmas!" He sat down behind his computer and began to type away. When he asked me stuff about my star sign I got really excited and wondered what he had come up with. And then on Christmas Eve he handed over a bunch of papers from some company that said a star was named after me. I remember feeling so embarrassed.
I mean, the thought itself is sweet, but it's so impersonal. And it's not like there's actually a star officially named after me now – he just paid for a company to send me that certificate. I probably wouldn't give it another thought if I accidentally threw it away.
– As told to Clara Krohn
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Andreea, 30, Digital Marketer, Bucharest, Romania
I kept almost everything my former boyfriends ever gave me, but this huge fluffy Eeyore is my favourite. I noticed it in a shop where I was buying gifts to donate to children for Christmas, and I couldn’t stop hugging it.
Nine months later, on my birthday, we were in my ex's car driving through the pouring rain on our way to meet our friends in the pub. At one point, he pulled over and gave me a gift bag, with a night light in it and a birthday card with the message, "So you won't be afraid to sleep alone in the dark". Then he asked me to get an umbrella from the boot of the car. I flat-out refused, considering the weather. He insisted, but finally we both got out and opened the boot. And there it was. I was ecstatic.
We broke up almost five years ago, and were together for seven. I don't think about him when I see it – it's this huggable donkey in my living room, which does very well with my friends when they're drunk at my house and in the mood to take some random selfies.
– As told to Iulia Roșu
Dimitrije, 26, Airline Customer Service Agent, Belgrade, Serbia
I've had many opportunities to throw this sock away, but I don't want to. My ex left it at mine, and I found it later on my bed, after she had left. We were in a long-distance relationship, and she told me to keep the sock safe until she came back with the other one. It felt deeply romantic at the time.
We broke up over four years ago – she told me she was cheating on me with two other guys. But I won't throw it away – I got over her, but holding the sock and knowing I still have it makes me feel good. I don't have anyone special in my life right now – I suppose a new girlfriend wouldn't like this sock as much.
– As told to Ana Jaksic
Nada, 19, Student, Kragujevac, Serbia
My first love gave me this Easter egg last year – an actual egg, which has the words "Faculty of Medical Science Kragujevac" painted on them. That's where he studied at the time. I liked it so much that I didn't eat it, but kept it. We broke up about six months ago because I started uni in another city. We just drifted apart.
I haven't met anyone new after we broke up. The egg is still on my shelf – it's not broken or cracked yet, so it doesn't smell. I'lI keep it until that happens. You know, eggs have an expiration date, but memories don't.
– As told to Ana Jaksic