What to do with Big Box of Ex-boyfriend Bad
October 5, 2012 12:47 PM   Subscribe

My ex-boyfriend and I broke up in May. We started off as friends, and he really wanted to remain friends after the break up. This week he did something so beyond the pale that he is absolutely no longer a part of my life. I have items-gifts from him as well as a few pieces of his clothes. I'm not sure what to do with them.

In May, my ex-boyfriend dumped me after beginning to get sober after months of intense alcoholism. At the time, he was very clear that he wanted to remain friends as our relationship began in friendship and only progressed romantically later. However, for the next two months, his behavior was seriously erratic, and the friendship became completely one sided. I won't bog this down with details (unless you all feel they are nec. in which case I will supply them) but in August I made it clear he needed to work on his issues on his own BEFORE we considered trying to re-establish a friendship. He seemed to accept this, but later texted me insults and threats while denying he was drinking. I told him not to contact me again. This weekend was our anniversary, and he reached out to me confessing that he was drunk when he texted me last time. He again wanted to be friends. I made it clear that there would be a lot of work on his part to re-establish trust. He texted me for the next two days re-affirming time and again he cared for me and wanted to repair our friendship. That evening he called me 3 times in 15 minutes. It was around 11:30 at night. I was about to go to bed. I called him back to see what he wanted so urgently and a woman answered the phone, identified me by name and informed me that he didn't want to talk to me ever again. I thanked her politely for the message, wished her a good night and hung up the phone. I should add he's 51 years old so this isn't some teenager who doesn't know better. Honestly, I don't know what that was about, and I don't care. Whatever was going on, that incident, to me, is just so beyond what I would do to an enemy, and as a result I want nothing to do with him ever again. Honestly, at this point if he was on fire in front of me I wouldn't piss on him to put it out.

I have a few items. Most are gifts, but I do have a few pieces of clothes. I don't want them anymore. I don't know if I should donate what I don't want and throw the rest away, if I should mail all the items to him or just his things, or if I should just pack it all away and see how I feel in a month.
posted by miss-lapin to Human Relations (37 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
'Oy'-friend is pretty accurate, actually.

Just throw them away.
posted by chara at 12:50 PM on October 5, 2012 [7 favorites]

Can you find some obscure place and quietly bury them? I have done this, and it feels like it was the right thing to do.
posted by Danf at 12:50 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had an ex pack up a bunch of my things and leave them in a backpack (mine, of course) at a local public library. He sent me an e-mail telling me where I could find my things and never to contact him again, and let me tell you that's a great big FUCK YOU that I never forgot.
posted by jabes at 12:51 PM on October 5, 2012 [37 favorites]

Do whatever is easiest and makes you feel good. Do it soon so this isn't weighing on your mind. Do the kinder thing, so that it isn't weighing on your mind afterwards.

In other words....

Donate all of it.

You don't want it. Mailing it to him will stir up more drama.

posted by jbenben at 12:52 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Throw it all in the trash and move on.
posted by elizardbits at 12:54 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Put it all in a box in storage and wait and see. Always the best solution.
More seriously: if someone does something completely crazy and out of character, that's probably because they are crazy and out of character. If your ex was overstepping your boundaries all the time, take everything to the dump and get therapy.
posted by mumimor at 12:55 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whatever you do, don't do it from the angle of punishing him. In the long run you're going to feel badly about actions taken from a position of anger.

If it were me, I'd box everything up, mail it to him, and never talk to him again.
posted by something something at 12:56 PM on October 5, 2012 [8 favorites]

Stuff that is actually his: Box them up, mail them to him, consider the postage a Boyfriend Disposal Fee, and be done with it. No need to wait on it, but also no need to be in a tearing hurry and forget things.

Stuff that is actually yours that you can't deal with looking at right now: Box it all up and shove the box somewhere where you won't see it for a while. Let this stuff cool down for a while. If in a month, or three, or whenever you stumble over the box again, you still don't want to keep any of it, donate it or trash it or whatever. But you may find that after a while you think "Oh, yeah, that shirt that the asshole gave me, that's a cute shirt, I should wear it" and you totally can and should.

And yeah, block his email, his phone, and otherwise drop contact. He sounds like he is in a bad place substance-wise and there is no benefit nor virtue in staying stuck in that disaster area.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:57 PM on October 5, 2012 [22 favorites]

He doesn't deserve the time and energy it would take for you to send them back to him. Also, don't poke the bear with a stick.

Donate the things and shake the dust from your feet.
posted by Specklet at 12:58 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I should stipulate courtesy of mumimor, I'm already in therapy. I live in NYC and apparently it's a residential requirement. (I'm kidding...sort of.)
posted by miss-lapin at 12:58 PM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'd pack 'em away and wall off the box from my conscious mind; if he contacts you about wanting his things in a few months, you can send them with a minimum of communication, and avoid the drama-filled recriminations of "YOU THREW IT AWAY????"

If you don't hear from him by three months from now, you can just throw 'em away.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:58 PM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

Put in the nearest dumpster.
posted by unSane at 1:01 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want drama, return his stuff and make a big deal about it. While this might make you feel good for a "yeah, and fuck YOU" moment, it will just stir the pot more.

If you just want to be done and over with him in your life (which I recommend), pack it up and just put it away in a closet for now. Deal with it later. I learned early on not to trash or throw things away in anger. Let the dust settle and decide later - months or even years later - if you still want to keep the stuff. You don't need to make this decision now.
posted by NoraCharles at 1:03 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Whatever you do, don't do it from the angle of punishing him. In the long run you're going to feel badly about actions taken from a position of anger.

You probably won't feel that bad. But if you're looking to feel good, mail it back to him but do not contact him whatsoever. Do not call to see if it got there. Do not listen to voicemails where he whines about getting his stuff back. Over.

If you can't wrap your head around doing this forever, then promise yourself to do it for 30 days. This person is fucking with you. And go to an Al-Anon meeting.
posted by phaedon at 1:08 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wait a month because waiting a month is a matter of best practices even when you don't feel like it.
posted by kellybird at 1:09 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

My ex treated me horribly, and the one thing he gave me of value was a claddagh ring. I kept it in a drawer for a very long time until one day, when I thought it was time to let it go.

I went shopping that day at a big place that had lots of stores clustered around a common area. I wrote a short note explaining that I hadn't lost this ring, that it had some value (it was gold) and anyone who wanted it could keep it.

It was a little bit of a ritual for me, and I felt like I'd closed some loop by doing it. Maybe something like that would help you find some closure, too. When you're ready for it.
posted by xingcat at 1:10 PM on October 5, 2012 [11 favorites]

Mail him the stuff that's his.

Pack up the stuff he gave you if you don't want to see it for now but might want it later. Donate it if you'll never have good feelings about it again.

Sorry you were treated so poorly, glad you are able to take care of yourself and walk away from this train wreck.
posted by batmonkey at 1:14 PM on October 5, 2012

If it's any consolation, those last three calls were from the crazy girl who got a hold of his phone, not from him.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:20 PM on October 5, 2012 [19 favorites]

When I broke up with a guy, and he kept trying to inch his way back into my life, I got a shopping bag and put everything in it. I knew where his boss lived and I stapled the top of it shut and put a note on it to please deliver it to my ex.

For some reason this sent him into some kind of tizzy, but I never answered his calls, and it was before email (BOY that was a long time ago) and I never thought much about it since.

Certainly give him back anything that's of value to him, but if all you have is an old toothbrush or a couple of cds or something, better just to donate the lot of it and be done.

Space is at too much of a premium in NY to have crap you don't want in your apartment.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:21 PM on October 5, 2012

It seems likely that he did not call you at all, and that this woman called you three times, potentially without his knowledge or consent.

It's still probably a good idea to extract yourself from further involvement or drama here.
posted by grouse at 1:30 PM on October 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'd return the things that are actually his to him, via mail or a mutual friend or something that doesn't involve contact. The gifts, well, it's up to you, but I always found gifts lose their emotional component over time, as I grow to care less about the guy, and become just things that I could enjoy again. If you like and value these items, maybe you could just tuck them away out of sight for awhile.

If you definitely don't want the items, then give them to a thrift shop or to someone who will use and enjoy them. Don't destroy anything unless it's truly useless or garbage. It's wasteful and childish.
posted by orange swan at 1:41 PM on October 5, 2012

Living where you live, I imagine you don't have space to keep his crap. Put it all out with the trash and somebody who wants it will take it.
posted by nowonmai at 1:56 PM on October 5, 2012

Just to clarify-when I say a few items, I mean it. I only have 4 or 5 gifts from him the largest is a bottle of perfume, which I stopped wearing when we broke up thinking later I could go back to wearing it once the association was gone. I could easily put them in a small box and store them in my closet without imposition. It's part of the reason I put that option in the question.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:24 PM on October 5, 2012

When I lived in Manhattan that was still a lot of space! In any case, throw that shit out; you don't need it. If he remains unwelcome in your life forever, you won't want it. If, some years from now, you become friends with him again, it will be a new start on different terms and you won't want that stuff from the bad old days. There's no imaginable future in which you will be glad you kept this stuff.
posted by nowonmai at 2:48 PM on October 5, 2012

Gifts - do whatever you want with them. They're yours. Toss 'em, donate them, give them to someone else, box 'em up, whatever you want, except send them back, unless they were, say, heirlooms from his family. Sending gifts back to the giver, otherwise, is both unnecessary and unkind.

Also, he's probably nuts from either alcohol or lack of it right now, so you're going to be the one setting healthy boundaries. Be kind to yourself and act from that.
posted by zippy at 2:59 PM on October 5, 2012

If it's a personal item, or could possibly have sentimental value, don't throw it out. Send it to him by mail.

An ex girlfriend of mine had a box full of every baby picture of me. Mom gave it to her as a Christmas gift because we thought we were going to get married.

She threw it out when she dumped me.

If I'm ever lucky enough to have kids, they won't get to see their dad as a baby, all because he mistakenly dated a horrible horrible person. I've forgiven her in the sense that I know no matter how angry I get, those pictures will never come back, but I'll never forget & I'll never trust her.
posted by AMSBoethius at 3:06 PM on October 5, 2012

When my ex moved out she left almost all the gifts I gave her. I didn't know what to do with them so I put them in a box. Nothing big very many items. The box is in basement storage. I haven't thought about that stuff for years until now. Except for the one time I found the box looking for something else. It reminded me of some good times. A little bittersweet. I just put them back. She was a nice lady.
posted by Che boludo! at 3:16 PM on October 5, 2012

of all things, get rid of the perfume. scent is strongly linked to memory. I doubt the association will ever go away.
posted by changeling at 4:01 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

At the time, he was very clear that he wanted to remain friends as our relationship began in friendship and only progressed romantically later.

This is not a rule of some kind. It doesn't matter if he was your accountant before your romantic association, you're not obligated to let him do your taxes now.

He doesn't get to tell you what kind of friendship you're going to have now. He doesn't get to control you or dictate your feelings. Conversely, he can feel just as terrible as he wants about you dumping his crap in the nearest port-a-potty - his feelings are not your business or your problem. Alcoholics manipulate to survive. You don't have to cooperate.

You do what you want. If you really want it taking up space in hour house and your life, keep it. If you don't, don't.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:26 PM on October 5, 2012

I don't think it was him who called or that he even knew it happened. Maybe the girl is trying to fuck with you? I vote for the keep the stuff until more info.
posted by eq21 at 4:28 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Keep what you still enjoy, bonfire the rest.
posted by thatone at 4:40 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Gifts from him to you: throw out the perfume and any other gift that reminds you strongly of him.
His property left at your place: pack it all up, and get a friend to drop it off at ex's doorstep --- do NOT go over and drop it over yourself.

Do not accept ANY further contact from him, whether emails, texts or phone calls. If he tries to contact you, just delete the message, and DO NOT REPLY: every time you do respond, it just tells him that no matter how many times you tell him to leave you alone, you don't really mean it. Cut him off, right now, cold turkey. Sure, it's possible that you could be friends a couple years down the road, but not now and not in his present condition.
posted by easily confused at 4:48 PM on October 5, 2012

I was with a guy for six years who was, if I am being charitable, 'had issues'. Someone looking at the situation from the outside would use much stronger and negative language. I had a small box of gifts at the end of that time, much of it shitty costume jewelry. After it was all over and I'd found out the extent of his activities and lies and all that awesome stuff, I hid the box of gifts where I wouldn't see it for a year. After that year I revisited the whole nasty business, sort of immersed myself in the memories and thoughts on it for a few hours, recognized that I was still furious and hurt and had never really gotten anything remotely close to finality on it. I found the box and a sledgehammer, took them to the backyard, and spent some quality time destroying all of it. I scared the shit out of my neighbors doing so, but nothing else I could have done would have matched the catharsis I got after I surveyed the destruction. Unfortunately I still see him around - he moved a few blocks away from me after all of this - but every time I'm tempted to spit in his face or throw a rock through his car window or something juvenile, I just remember the feeling of destroying those things. Private destructive rituals have their own value, especially if it means you can close the door on those negative emotions forever because of them.
posted by par court at 5:07 PM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

You should really do exactly what you want with this stuff. Don't think about what he might want you to do. He left you, he left the stuff. It's just stuff. Donate it, combust it, dig a hole in the yard, chuck it in a lake, or whatever. He's a drunk, and he doesn't give a shit about it.

Personally if i was in the same situation, I would just get rid of everything ASAP (thrift store, trash, dump). It would feel like a huge and satisfying emotional bowel movement.
posted by carter at 5:49 PM on October 5, 2012

They were gifts to you, not his things? Then do not contact him about them. Just do whatever is going to make you comfortable.

Returning the items is drama. If you don't want them anymore, just put in a box and donate. You never have to think about them again.

Then go buy yourself a new bottle of perfume. Whatever you want.
posted by Vaike at 7:47 PM on October 5, 2012

Sell them on eBay, then buy yourself a treat with the proceeds.
posted by Soliloquy at 12:19 AM on October 6, 2012

He doesn't need these things. You don't need these things.

You're attempting to be a rational normal human. He's a dramatic, chronically relapsing alcoholic, who's really gotten into fucking with you.

This is a non-issue. It's just loaded trash, a useful object for his emotional tug-of-war bullshit. It doesn't matter what you do with this crap... unless you use it to engage with him. And that is what you don't need to do. He worked overtime to be hurtful and mean. Dealing with him is volunteering for more of that.

Oh, guess what! Expect a manipulative, ill-considered, fake-ass amends from him in the near future. Don't bother with it or him; it'll be a good while before he actually gets what he's done and who he's been, and by then, you won't care.

Now is the time to turn the focus on yourself. All that matters is what you want. Enjoy!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:52 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

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