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Thread: what do you do with your past?

  1. #1
    gnothiseauton is offline Member
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    what do you do with your past?

    Does anyone who is the older person in the relationship ever experience difficulty letting go of the past? Things are really great with my 25 y.o. man; we have been together 10 months, and keep making plans for the short term future though we have no long term commitment-- which still feels appropriate to me for the amount of time we've spent. The closer we get, the more I trust that I can tell him anything. He is a wonderful listener, genuine and sympathetic, and the only problem with that is, inevitably I end up talking a lot-- often, about my past, including whatever's unresolved in it. On one hand, it's the simple truth that because I'm older I have so many more memories than he does, and I just feel weird about only me being the one with so many memories, though I feel normal to be me. On the other, I worry that he will get bored of me, and I wonder why I find it so important that he knows everything, and I wonder if I'm stuck in my past. I do tend to dwell on my past sometimes, especially with certain triggers-- for example, tomorrow happens to be the wedding anniversary of me and my exhusband-- divorced 14 years ago-- and right now a different exboyfriend of mine happens to be in town. I have discussed both events, and wonder if they make it hard for me to be fully present, and I imagine he would not have this problem with a young woman. I worry that someday he'll wish to be with someone with less baggage. And I am also simply stumped re: my memories. I don't know what to do with my own past. Oddly, I have a number of boxes of writing and memorabilia (photos, etc) in the hall closet that I can't bear to go through or let go of, and more in my mom's garage. I resent not having enough space in my small, poor apartment to keep everything from my past, and feel that by being poor, somehow I'm unjustly denied the "right" to a past. How interesting, that with such a belief, I attracted a partner who doesn't even have a past.

    What have other older women, or men, experienced in regard to this issue? What worked? what didn't?

    thanks.

  2. #2
    Faith's Avatar
    Faith is offline Some assembly required
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    The longer I live, the more past I accumulate and the more I find myself in agreement with that famous quote of William Faulkner:

    "The past is never dead. It's not even past."


    If the past shapes our present... and if the present shapes our future... then our past shapes our future. Like it or not.
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  3. #3
    fiorinda's Avatar
    fiorinda is offline Senior Member
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    gnothiseauton, have you always found it difficult to let go of the past? It sounds to me like maybe you have, in which case you were probably the same (but with less past) at 25. Possibly even worse? Young people do (I'm making a generalisation, I do know that) tend to find it less easy to differentiate between what is important and what isn't in their pasts (presents, futures). I think that's a skill we learn as we get older.

    I can't speak for your partner obviously. Lee (who is 24 years younger than me, and also 25) hasn't got bored of hearing stories from my past even after over 3 years and even though I sometimes (often?) tell him the same things twice or even more! He realises that a large amount of my past is very important to me (I have 2 children, I'm not going to stop reminiscing about their childhoods). I'd say, ask him if your stories bore him, and let him know it is OK to give you a completely honest answer!

    However, I do think it a little odd that you would consider the anniversary of a 14 year-ended marriage an event. The visiting ex less so, depending on whether you have seen him in a long time or not and whether you're going to meet up, catch up, whatever, I can understand that being more interesting. Coincidentally today would have been my wedding anniversary if I were still married to my ex-husband. Which I'm not and therefore it's not my/our wedding anniversary any more and is insignificant (except it is also a friends' birthday). I only realised whilst replying to your thread here!

    I think maybe something (not these events, something in your own self) is making it hard for you to be present. Keeping the odd memento from times past is nice, if the memories attached to it are nice, but most stuff is just unnecessary clutter and I personally think it is a weight that holds you back. Why can't you face going through it? I think it would be useful for you to do this, to throw most of it away and only keep the bits that are genuinely worth keeping. Then you would have more space, both in your apartment, and in your head and heart. After all, if it's just sitting in boxes and you never look at it, it might as well not be there!

    I'm quite ruthless, I have to admit, it's a family trait. I'm by no means a minimalist and I have loads of unnecessary crap in my home that we could definitely live without but that's more because I'm also lazy and untidy. I'm not very sentimental at all. I keep things my kids got me (not everything though - sometimes some of those ugly things little kids choose for you 'get broken' and have to be thrown out!!) and will no doubt keep everything my grandsons get me - and sometimes I look at those things and get dewy eyed. I still have the card in my purse that Lee wrote for me on a bunch of flowers he bought me 3 years ago. Everything my ex-boyfriend ever gave me went in the bin ages ago because he caused trouble for Lee and me, and Lee hates to have reminders around of him - even the really cool fox skull that I so wanted to keep and the Lego Hagrid keyring!! The only 'reminders' I have of my ex-husband are some of our wedding photos, which are just in another album, it would seem petty to take them all out. I don't know (or really care) where the actual wedding album is. I can barely even remember being married to him - even though we've only been seperated 4.5 years - and I don't want to be reminded.

    Obviously, your home is your home. You don't live with your partner so it's none of his business what you keep around. But I'd say talk to him. See what he thinks about your tight hold on your past. How does he feel that you still consider your long-gone wedding anniversary an event? The visit of a long-ago ex an event? I think if that were me, I'd be a little hurt by this maybe. No-one expects a new partner to totally forget their past. But if the relationship is going to be THE relationship in your life, you'd want to know that you were 'enough'. And from what you've written (which is all I know about you so I apologise if I'm way off the mark!) it sounds like you could really do to work on letting go of your past, for your own sake, not just for his. I don't have any suggestions about how to do this, sorry, but perhaps it's something you could look into. The internet is a brilliant resource! Sometimes even just talking/writing about things like this can open a bit of a door to let some of the stuff get out and go away!! Good luck!
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  4. #4
    gnothiseauton is offline Member
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    aha, I see there is a great thread about clutter!! thanks for starting that, Faith!

    http://www.agelesslove.com/boards/ho...-you-have.html

    still, when it comes to older partners having memories... still curious about more people's thoughts on that.

  5. #5
    SheLikesKitties's Avatar
    SheLikesKitties is offline OW/YM 21YR GAP
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    I never had any problem letting go of the past. I remember on the last day of class in my Catholic school, all the girls crying about graduating, and not seeing each other again, some of us had been in the same class since we were 6 yrs old. I was not crying, I was happy I was moving on. Life is actually not one life, but a series of lives that we move through, like changing from caterpillar to butterfly, from leaves to flowers.

    I was once single, then married, then a mother, a respectable life, then I threw all that away to become a cougar, then again married, back to being respectable. I am now a working professional woman, and I am looking forward to becoming a retired woman, in the future a grandma. All these are different lives, with different me's, you see?

    I had a mountain cabin that was full of things from the past. My grandma's china cabinet, my great aunt's dresser, stuff from my youth, stuff from other people's lives, a few pieces of furniture that I had when I was married to my ex. Then the cabin burned down a couple weeks ago. Everything gone. I used to be a weekend-cabin-owner, now I am cabin-less.

    Please don't talk about your past. Make a conscious effort to put that topic off limits. It can be interesting for a bit, but at the end it is indeed boring. Free yourself from the past, the past belongs to someone that is not you anymore, you are the present and one day you will be the future.
    You know it's love when the pain of being apart is greater than the pain of being together.

  6. #6
    degausser is offline Senior Member
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    I don't think this is really an older/younger thing - I think it's just you personally. I agree that you should examine why you're holding on to the past so tightly. Everyone has a past, and as Faith mentioned, the past helps shape who you are. But there is surely a difference between being changed by your experiences, and dwelling on the past. On that note, of course your partner has a past! Even if you're his first relationship (don't know if you mentioned whether you are or not), he's been alive for 25 years, hasn't he? That's 25 years of living - so don't make the mistake of thinking you're the only one with a past. But you do seem to be having trouble letting go of it, and that's something to think about.

    My fiancé and I have talked about our past in the sense that after almost 5 years together, we're familiar with the other's major relationships and major events in those relationships (or not so major relationships that come with funny stories ). But that's the extent of it. I personally would be very put off if I got the feeling that he was dwelling on the past in a "still upset/emotional about it" way. I might try to limit how much you talk about your past to your boyfriend, since it seems to still upset you quite a bit. Why do you feel triggered by your wedding anniversary and an ex being in town? What do these things make you feel and why?

    When you say you have boxes of memorabilia from the past - do you mean from past relationships? If so, why do you feel the need to keep those things?

    It does seem that you're dwelling, so I would take the time to ask yourself why.

  7. #7
    gnothiseauton is offline Member
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    So great to get everyone's kind feedback. Thank you for taking the time. I can see thanks to your comments that this isn't a younger/ older issue after all. True, degausser, even youth has a past-- I do ask my boyfriend about his past and find it interesting when he talks about his childhood or school years, so we do share somewhat both ways. I do think I've had trouble letting go of my past throughout my life-- I am after all a Cancer the Crab, astrologically... yet I think I'm mulling over the past in a new way, actually, lol, and I just figured out why. I'm trying to come up with meaning in my life so that I understand who I am and how this new relationship is important in the context of everything I've gone through so far. In fact I've already told (and often repeat to) my partner in effusive terms how he's the most attractive, wonderful, brilliant man I've EVER known, which is totally true so I don't think he is worried about my mentioning the men from my past. I don't think I talk too long about the past usually, it just came up a lot in the past few days, and we are still after all getting to know each other, so no he hasn't heard all my stories yet. I've gone several years without even noticing or remembering my wedding anniversary, too. But I really crave long-term continuity and meaning in my life, so I guess it shouldn't have surprised me that I still do occasionally grieve that my first marriage didn't work out. Moreover, right now at 43 I'm also coming to terms with the approaching end of my fertile days, and trying to figure out if my new partner and I have a long-term future. I guess I'm trying to weigh the value of it all.
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  8. #8
    Air
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    Oh, Gnothiseauton, I understand your situation and suppose you are doing the only right thing just now, figuring out if he has the right personality for you. Make sure this is a person that has personal qualifications to be there for you during hard times and not only good times. I'll keep my thumbs that everything works out fine. Keep us updated and take care!
    Navigare necesse est!

  9. #9
    Stiletto's Avatar
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    I still have old notes and Valentine's cards from my ex, the father of my children. I suppose I keep them so that some day, my sons will have them and know that their parents did love each other very much, once upon a time. It may be a consolation when their father and I are both gone.

    It doesn't bother Chris. He expects that children create a bond that doesn't really break.. his parents divorced when he was a toddler but still have dinner together regularly.
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  10. #10
    Air
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    Stiletto, I agree, children create a bond between parents that no new partner either could or should interfere with. You aren't a part of that close bond and just have to let parents keep developing a closeness that is of so much important for a child's development. You have to put children first of all.

    But I don't think that gnothiseauton had any children with her ex, is that so? As I understood it her concern is more about the feasibility of creating a "new start" and maybe a new family with this young man?
    Last edited by Air; 08-17-2014 at 04:43 PM.
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  11. #11
    gnothiseauton is offline Member
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    Good observation, Air, no, I thankfully have had no children... What I actually want is: continuity and meaning in my life. Both the past and the future give me that-- both the idea of having children, and the sentimentality for my old relationships. It's hard for me that my boyfriend doesn't at this time see a clear future for us. I do keep my old photo albums from my wedding. I feel like a bit of a historian, I always have and always will. A librarian of my own life. I just like understanding the present in terms of the past; I like knowing how things have evolved over time and I crave a certain conscious understanding that comes with the reflection albums and journals can offer. I am a writer. I have kept a journal since i was 9 and I may write an autobiography someday. It just feels good to me and makes sense to keep certain things from the past-- only writings and photos which would mean little to anyone else. So, I love these items-- but I don't dwell on them! in fact, they languish in boxes in the closet because i'm far more involved with the present. But every time I am forced to take them out by moving, or a need for more space... I can't cope with throwing anything away.

    My new love is the first man I've truly wanted to have children with. But since he doesn't want them, I've reexamined that desire, and found it's not a must. I'm a dancer, and I really love my independence. Children would change those things. I just hope he's not going to change his mind later. He's said "never" and "would rather adopt than add to the population" - more reasons why I love him. But you never know.

  12. #12
    christina923 is offline Senior Member
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    a partner doesn't need to know an ex is in town...or it was your wedding anniversary to someone 20+ years ago...BUT woodstock is fair game to share memories over and over again!

  13. #13
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    It sounds like you and I are a little alike. I am a story person. And I like to keep all the bits of my story. And I like to share my story with new boyfriends (if they can stand it) because that's how I feel close to them, that they know me. I think there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this. Just if it is creating an obstacle in the present relationship, then something might need to 'give' in your approach. One of my ex-boyfriends who is still a good friend always is in awe about my ability to write and speak at length and 'tell the story'--whether it is my past or what happened today. He always said he hated reading BUT . . . he always read every single word I wrote (long distance relationship email). And he loved it. So from what you say, your guy seems pretty balanced about it. But it sounds like you personally would like to be a little free of some things, such as the ex hubby anniversary. I sometimes do a 'blessing ceremony' for things I am emotionally attached to but otherwise want to be free from. I keep it simple, but just kind of chant, "Thankyou! and Good bye!"
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  14. #14
    gnothiseauton is offline Member
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    Thanks, Xhenli! Yeah, I agree, we sound alike! and my past has only been sort of a barrier between my love and me that one time back when I started this thread, when it felt like my past was "ganging up on me" so to speak!! In fact this morning my YM was asking me all about one of my past relationships! I got the feeling he enjoys my stories too... especially since they all wrap up with "he just didn't seem like the right guy for me, and I'm so glad I'm with you". (Sounds cheesy, but it's so blindingly true.)
    Last edited by gnothiseauton; 09-13-2014 at 02:32 AM.

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