Eboni Rafus: I’ve kept the folded, handwritten note that my high school boyfriend wrote to ask me to be his girlfriend. His handwriting was small and the pencil marks are faded and smudged, so it’s hard to even read these days. But that’s not the point. I keep it for the same reason I keep my high school yearbook and my varsity cheerleading pin: to remind myself of who I was back then although I’ve changed so much.
I plan to keep my sapphire engagement ring for the opposite reason.
Years ago, my ex-wife and I decided that when we got engaged we would exchange sapphire rings instead of diamond ones. Sapphires are the second most popular engagement ring stones because sapphires represent loyalty, devotion and sacredness. According to the internets, it’s where the saying “true blue” comes from. And to us, or at least to me, that is what marriage is all about.
Out of the blue, after only a year of marriage, my wife asked for a divorce. She said that when we met, she was broken. She needed me. But then, suddenly, she didn’t. She said that she had simply fallen out of love with me and had fallen in love with someone else.
My faith in love and marriage was shattered and soon those cracks spread to everything I believed about my life and myself. It took a lot of time and effort to come back to the surface and put all my broken pieces together but now, a year and a half later, it’s hard to believe I was ever in that dark place.
Although I learned a lot from my divorce, the core of who I am and what I believe hasn’t changed. I still believe that love is an action and a choice. I still believe that marriage is about loyalty, devotion, family and commitment. I won’t allow my circumstances to harden me. It’s cheesy to say out loud, but that doesn’t make it any less true: I can’t control what my ex believes. I can’t control what she did. But I can control whether or not I allow myself to be changed by it, and I refuse to let that happen. I like who I am.
I’m the same person I was when we picked out those sapphire rings. So although she once hurt me by saying she was going to pawn her ring, I’m keeping mine. That ring is a promise to be loyal and devoted to the people I love, including myself. That ring is reminder to remain true blue to who I am. I’m keeping my ring to remind myself that even though I’ve been through hell and back, I’m still here and I’m still the same.
Anna Pulley: I kept my engagement ring too, and I am still not sure why&mdashI even wear it still sometimes, even though I never keep anything from past relationships. There’s something really powerful about that symbolism.
Erika Star: Oh, woof. In the process of moving I just came across a photo of my ex and I kissing. Now I am the first to admit to hanging on to everything from old relationships- sappy poems, cutesy letters, mix CDs, degrading emails-no matter how bad the relationship, because I have a innate need to re-visit all of the feelings, all of the time. But this picture? It feeds into the specific temptation to look at something completely heinous and test my gag reflex, even knowing better. I just can’t resist keeping it around.
Jenna Lykes: I didn’t really have any relationships before I began dating my fiancee (I was a late bloomer— just get off my back, OK?), but I did have about a billion unrequited crushes. The one thing I saved from all those fake-lationships (aka the only thing I ever actually had from them) is my complete collection of feelings journals. Whenever I think I might be cool, I just take those suckers off the shelf, revisit fifteen-year-old-Jenna, and knock myself right back down to size. (p.s. I have nothing but the utmost respect for people who participate in
Ali Davis: I used to think I’d picked up at least one beloved author from every ex, but in my careful tallying up (Nerd4Lyfe), I realized that one of them fell down on the job. And one of the posh English girls, no less. I think the one thing I’d really kept from every ex was a new way of thinking about myself, and it was embarrassingly recently that I realized I didn’t have to packrat them.
One made me feel like a grown-up, talented writer and performer, one made me feel like just part of a pattern. One showed me the terror of realizing you’re the strong one in the relationship, one made me feel cruel, and one made me feel baffled at the mysterious depths they saw that I was pretty sure weren’t there. One made me realize I was capable of a level of anger I’d never admitted to before, and I am honestly grateful to her for that, if not for the thing that led to it.
My first real ex made me feel ashamed for being the one who wanted sex more; my most recent ex made me feel more sexy and womanly than I’ve ever felt in my life. That seems like a nicely completed circle, and makes me feel very ready for the next new way of thinking.