When Memories Pose a Problem
Dear Margo: My fiancee, whom I’ve been seeing for five wonderful years, is moving into my house in a few weeks. Our wedding (first for both) will be in December, and I couldn’t be happier. I have four oil paintings that an ex made for me nearly a decade ago, and I think they are quite good. They’re all abstract, but they do represent places and memories specific to that relationship, which was formative for me: first love. The relationship ended years before meeting my current partner, and I’ve had these paintings for so long that I no longer ascribe any special emotional meaning to them; they are just part of my “stuff.”
Before discovering their connection with my past relationship, my fiancee always commented favorably on the paintings, but now that she knows their origin, she doesn’t want them displayed. I understand and respect her feelings, and I actually share her opinion. They are, after all, love letters of a sort from the past. Do you have any ideas as to what I could do with them? None of my acquaintances wants them. I can’t bring myself to just put them in the trash, and while I think they’re amazing, they aren’t exactly gallery quality. I don’t mind parting with them; I just don’t want them to be destroyed. — Looking for a Solution
Dear Look: What a nice person you are. Some people would not see it your way. My own view about “stuff” is that things with memories need not be disposed of. (If that were the case, I would have far less jewelry, but that is another story.) Possessions are just things, after all. Your situation strikes me as being about maturity. In a perfect world, your intended would not have jealous or competitive feelings — but she does, so I will answer the question you asked. Offer the paintings to a not-for-profit in your town or a women’s shelter, or put them on Craigslist. — Margo, pragmatically
A Little Bit Stuck
Dear Margo: I was in a terrible relationship with a man for seven years. (No abuse, he just was not a good or nice guy.) That ended five years ago with our engagement and the birth of our child. In the time since, I have accepted that I made many willfully ignorant/naive decisions and have absolutely no desire to be with him ever again. I am very happy with the life I have built for myself after spending some time being utterly adrift.
My reason for writing is that I feel stunted by this past experience. It is the only one I have ever had, but I find myself sabotaging new relationships. I am a bit standoffish in general, but I’m taking things to extremes with a perfectly nice, decent guy by finding flaws in him that just aren’t there. I sometimes feel that expressing my hurt and disappointment to the old boyfriend might help me move past this, because I was never able to do that. Is it something you would recommend, or could you suggest another means through which I could acknowledge my past feelings and hurt and hopefully move on to a new, fulfilling relationship? — Road Blocked
Dear Road: I doubt that confronting the old boyfriend who was neither good nor nice would be cathartic, or that you would even be “heard.” I don’t think exorcising that damaging experience would come from railing at the source of the damage.
The positive part of where you are now is that you seem able to examine, if not analyze, your patterns of behavior, and a therapist would be a better bet to talk to than the bad boyfriend. I think you’ll be surprised at how successful you will be, with professional guidance, at putting the past behind you, understanding it and not letting it color a current relationship. — Margo, progressively
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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dear-margo.html. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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COPYRIGHT 2012 MARGO HOWARD
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