Outgrowing Your Ex's Clothes
I have plenty of my ex-boyfriends’ clothes. A navy reversible Lacoste coat, a vintage striped red knit Ralph Lauren sweater, a big gray T-shirt with the words “PEACE TAKES COURAGE” sprawled across the chest. I wear them all the time.
These articles of clothing don't have much emotional significance to me and besides, my exes had good taste; they did date me after all. There isn’t a right answer for what one is supposed to do with the clothing left behind by an ex. Some may keep them, even wear them like I do, or return them, even trash them.
“So, um, this was sort of a complicated relationship,” begins theatre and performance major Jack Miller ‘22. “The reason why the scarf was left in my car is [because the relationship] ended very abruptly. One day he just decided, ‘I need to stop sinning. I need to be a better person in God’s eyes, so I can’t keep on seeing you.’”
This scarf is olive green with ornate, floral embroidery. Miller’s ex was religious, and he had girlfriends throughout high school before and after their relationship. Miller's relationship lasted about six months, carried out in complete secrecy. When asked if he still wears the scarf, Miller replies, laughing, “Um…when it’s cold?”
It’s essential to get rid of clothing from dysfunctional relationships, according to marriage author and divorce mediator Debra Macleod. Media psychologist and passion coach Dr. Cheryl Foster advises that getting rid of articles of clothing associated with bad memories will prevent psychologically clinging to the past.
“At the end of the summer, my friend and I broke up—both at the same time—with our now ex-boyfriends,” says visual and media arts major Alyssa Lara ‘22. She was left with a box full of her ex-boyfriend’s clothes, which her friend returned to the ex on Lara’s behalf. Lara gave her friend her ex’s socks and her friend gave Lara her ex’s sweatpants.
“Personally, I knew that I was done with that relationship. I didn’t want to wear them anymore. Plus, I was moving out of my home and going to college,” Lara says. She didn’t want to be reminded of him, of the stories behind any of his clothes. Now she wears the swapped sweatpants all the time.
“Because they’re not my ex’s clothes, I don’t have an emotional reaction to them,” Lara continues. “It’s funny though, because her ex-boyfriend was actually my ex-boyfriend, too, but like, I dated him when I was in 9th grade, so technically, these are my ex’s sweatpants.”
Egyptian psychologist and author M. Farouk Radwan notes that keeping an ex’s things may show a failure to recover fully from that relationship. However, it’s also possible to recover fully, but want to respect the ex and those memories.
“I worked at a summer camp and it was my first year,” says marketing major Andrew Willoughby ‘22. “So she was there and she was obsessed with me, I had no clue. I gave her one of my shirts and it was this Playstation shirt that was fire hipster material.” In exchange, Willoughby was given one of her bras.
“I don’t really have a need for a bra, surprisingly enough,” Willoughby laughed. “Now it’s just something that I have.”
Journalism major Miles Schuman ‘22 was given a baseball hat from his ex as a gift. “I genuinely forget that she gave it to me because I just like it as a hat. It’s in my rotation of my regular hats now,” Schuman says.
His ex-girlfriend has some of his clothing as well. “Some stuff that I’d like back, too, but if you give it to someone it’s not really cool to ask for it back. Just be cautious of what you give up because you never know, you might be wanting it someday,” Schuman says.
We grow immensely from the relationships we create with others. In caring for another person, you learn to care for yourself, and how to be cared for. We shouldn’t dwell on the past, or get choked up every time we wear their old jacket, but we shouldn’t forget.
I asked Miller if the scarf his ex-boyfriend left behind brings back painful memories. He thought for a minute and said, “It makes me think of that time in my life, which brings back certain emotions that I felt during that time, but I don’t think about him. I don’t think about what he’s doing or where he is. I know so much more now. I’ve grown so much as a person and I’m a different person now than I was during that time. Really, I think about myself.”