My boyfriend wants me to destroy the scrapbook, but I just can’t. I don’t know what to do. I can’t tell if I’m being a hopeless romantic for not wanting to forget all the memories my ex and I developed over the course of a six-year love story. To me, love deserves a better ending than that.
Every person enters a romantic relationship with a history. This history generally includes former partners, a circle of friends, family relationships, and various experiences and life events. Our histories shape who we are; nobody enters a relationship as a blank slate, uninformed by their past.
This means that just as you come into your current relationship with a history, so does your boyfriend—and there’s something about his past that is making your past (in the form of a scrapbook) feel threatening to him.
Of course, feeling some jealousy when seeing photos of a partner’s ex is common. But the context is important. You’re not paging through the scrapbook every night; you’re storing it in the attic. Nor does it sound like you’ve given your boyfriend reason to believe that you wish you were still married to your ex.
Developing trust is an important part of the process of forming a new relationship, but nobody develops trust by trying to control the narrative of his partner’s life. Acknowledging that you had a full life before you met your boyfriend and that your ex-husband was an important part of it is staying true to your life’s story.
Your boyfriend, on the other hand, would like to create a narrative that’s a fiction, a pretend version of you, edited for his comfort. In his story line, if you have positive feelings about that time in your life, you can’t have positive feelings about this new chapter in your life—so he wants to cut the part of the story that happened before he entered the scene. By asking you to get rid of something you hold dear—and that your daughter might find very meaningful one day—he’s operating under the illusion that by discarding an object, he can discard your feelings associated with it. But even if you were to get rid of the scrapbook, your feelings about that period in your life wouldn’t go away.
Often when people tell us that something is wrong with our story, we start to doubt ourselves and make edits that don’t really work. I see you doing that in your letter. On the one hand, you say that you “just can’t” destroy the scrapbook (the protagonist is clear about what to do), and on the other, you say that you “don’t know what to do” (yet the protagonist just said that she has to keep the scrapbook).
You need to reclaim your story by sharing it with your boyfriend, in a way that he might be more receptive to during this early, more tentative stage of your relationship. You can start with a spoiler alert: that in order to be true to yourself and your daughter, you’re going to keep the scrapbook. Then, instead of focusing on the hopeless-romanticism angle, which triggers his insecurity, let this be a story of your own becoming—becoming the person your boyfriend is falling in love with.