The Hook Up: The hardest part of breaking up is getting back your stuff

You know how when you’re falling in love with a girl and she sleeps in the T-shirt you got after your college lacrosse team won the national championship, it looks so cute on her because, well, because it’s got your name and number on the back and your endorphins are going haywire because of all the early-days sex? So of course you let her wear it home the next day, right? Because you’re going to be together forever. Then, eight months later, after your horrible breakup, you realize she’s got several of your most sentimental T-shirts and books and vinyl albums.

I’m just wondering if there’s some kind of timeframe in which it’s OK to ask for that stuff back. I’m afraid I might have exceeded the statute of limitations. I didn’t want to ask for it back at first because she was very, very upset at me for our break-up and I felt like it would have been kicking her when she was down, and I couldn’t bear to do that to her. After a couple of months, I heard from some friends that she was dating someone new and my first thought was, “She’s happy again; I can ask for my s–t back!” But I didn’t want to do it then because I’d made her so unhappy and she was finally happy and I didn’t want to show back up in her life acting like a jackass. Now it’s been almost a year. How wrong would it be to email her out of nowhere and ask if she’s still got my things, and if yes, can I get them back? — Never Sharing Again

Anna says: Girl, you can’t put a statute of limitations on your heart! And by heart I mean your precious lacrosse jersey and Joan Jett vinyls. You’re not wrong for wanting your belongings back. In fact, I’m surprised your ex hasn’t even tried to offer them back to you. What a douchecopter! I can see why you dumped her.

This is precisely why I befriend all my exes once they’ve stopped hating me for always writing about them in this column. It’s not due to our shared history or mutual love of Buffy sing-alongs. It’s so I can still have bartering power a few months down the road when the custody battle fallout has simmered down. I’ve lost too many copies of Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin over breakups. NEVER AGAIN.

Reclaiming your possessions after a relationship ends isn’t “kicking someone when they’re down.” If anything, it’s helping them move on. Out of sight, out of mind, you know? Plus, it’s healthy to have total separation when getting out of a relationship, at least for a while. It’s sweet that you’re trying to lessen the great maw of loneliness you left in her heart and all, but seriously, it’s been a year. You’re debt free! Send her an email. Fluff out a few pleasantries, tell her you’ve been really missing your shirts and autographed Michelle Tea books, then ask her when is a good time for you to come by and pick them up. Be really accommodating to her if she seems overly sensitive or awkward. It is a little awkward, after all. You haven’t seen each other in a long time. If she’s still really pissed at you, you might have to email more than once, but it’s not at all unreasonable for you to politely request your stuff back. Even if you did something truly horrible, (did you? This all seems to be a very garden-variety dumping to me, but you also seem like you’re somewhat attached to feeling guilty over this break up), a few months is a perfectly adequate amount of time to let the dust settle enough for you to reclaim your worldly goods.

An exception to this: If your ex is some kind of softball bat-wielding psycho, who would very likely light your things on fire should you confront her, then perhaps it’s better to kiss your shirts goodbye. It’s better to not risk your personal safety or sanity over a T-shirt.

But really, you’re probably fine. Go forth and conquer, my friend. I hope she didn’t send your s–t to Goodwill.

My girlfriend and I have been together for almost two years and we’ve lived together on and off, but currently I’m living at college and she lives a half hour away. She has been extremely depressed lately because I’m gone during the week and all she has to do is work. She has friends from school but no car to visit them. How does she enrich her life more so she doesn’t miss me so much? We’ve talked about working out and she’s capable of that, but pretty much too depressed to start. I want to help her but her finances don’t really allow for anti-depressants and counseling. Any temporary fixes to this funk? I want to help in any way I can but I’m out of ideas. — Hopelessly in love, but helpless

Anna says: Oh girl. (I don’t know why I keep calling everyone “girl,” though I’m pretty sure Tyra Banks is behind it somehow. Get a new catchphrase, girl!) OK. Your girlfriend is depressed because she’s isolated, broke, and dependent on you as her sole source of happiness. This sounds pretty bleak, but nothing in your letter indicates that these circumstances are insurmountable.

Advice columnist PSA: Also, is your girlfriend really depressed, or is she just in a funk? If what she’s feeling is big and scary and awful and long-lasting, then she really needs to talk to a professional. Only ⅓ of people with depression actually seek help for it, even though 80-90% of those that do see results. So, if she really needs help, then urge her to get some. But if she’s merely having a rough time at the moment, then we can work with that.

It seems like she’s lacking the motivation needed to make the necessary changes to get her life back on track. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can personally do to facilitate these changes. You know the expression, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it take just one yoga class for chrissake, it’s for your health!” Or however it goes. What you can do is be supportive and compassionate. You can research sliding-scale therapists for her. You can download a jazzercise video for you both to do together. You can suggest she offer to have her friends come to her, if the car issue is really a concern. (By the way, are you in Amish country or something? Does public transit not exist?) You can do any number of things to try to encourage her to unfunkify herself, but at the end of the day, it’s on her to actually do it.

I’d also like to caution you against being “too helpful,” if you know what I mean. If she’s as dependent on you as she seems, your constant presence and attention might only further enable her Eeyore tendencies. I’m not saying you have to cold-shoulder her or anything, but have your own life too, separate from her.

And, of course, you probably know this, but there aren’t any quick fixes to depression (quick healthy fixes, that is. “Get that girl some Franzia boxed wine and don’t let her come out till she’s finished! That’ll do ‘er good.”) I could also tell you about the true, yet tiresome prescription of moderate exercise, green, leafy vegetables, and sunlight, but well, zzzzzz. I would seriously look into some cheap therapists though. You’d be surprised at how many services exist to help the broke people of the world. And it sounds like it would be really beneficial for your girlfriend to have a support system that’s not just you.

Also, really, do some yoga. Activities that raise your heartrate are scientifically proven to trigger those warm fuzzy chemical feelings in your brain. It helps your self-esteem too. And makes you hotter. Win-win-win.

And don’t forget to take care of yourself and your needs. I’ve said this a bunch of times, but you can’t support a partner in need if you’re neglecting your own health and well-being. Make sure you make time to treat yourself right, eat well, get plenty of sleep, drink water, etc. OK?

Go girl!

Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at askthehookup@gmail.com.

Tags: , , ,