With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, many of us might find ourselves reflecting on past loves.
The reflecting may include reminiscing on happy (or even not-so-happy) memories together, looking at old photographs — or even uncovering items from past relationships that we’ve never let go of.
We were curious about those items, so we started asking — how many people still have relationship relics that belonged to an ex? What items are they still holding onto? Why aren’t they able to let them go? Some of the answers were surprising — and, in the spirit of the season, some were even a little bit romantic. Here’s what we learned:
- 65% of survey respondents said they still have an item from a past relationship.
- The most common reason people say they hold onto these items is because of the memories attached to them. The second most common reason is because they’re functional.
- The most commonly kept items are love letters and cards (50%), printed photographs and photo albums (46%), and jewelry (43%).
- The least commonly kept items are sports, workout, or athletic equipment (16%); pets (18%); and furniture (20%).
- Most people only have an item from one ex, but 42% of people have items from several past relationships.
- Nearly half of people who have held onto an item from an ex have had it for more than five years.
- Even though these items hold sentiment or are functional, most people (54%) say they want to get rid of the items they still have from past relationships. Many haven’t done so yet because they say they plan to return items to their ex.
- Men are more likely to still have an item from an ex, but women tend to keep those items for longer.
65% of U.S. Adults Are Holding Onto Souvenirs of the Past
Our survey found that a whopping 65% — nearly 2 out of every 3 U.S. adults — have an item from a past relationship.
The most commonly kept items are love letters and cards (50%), printed photographs and photo albums (46%), and jewelry (43%). The least commonly kept items are sports, workout, or athletic equipment (16%); pets (18%); and furniture (20%).
Surprisingly, 25% of respondents said they still have an old engagement ring from an ex. Clothes, Valentine’s Day gifts, stuffed animals, and household items were also common. Some of the stranger responses we received? Tattoos, sex toys, shot glasses, and even a fingernail or a piece of their hair.
58% of survey respondents reported keeping an item or items from just one ex, while 42% of people said they have belongings that came from several exes.
What was really surprising was that it seems that once someone decides to hold onto an item from an ex, it’s something they keep for a long time. When asked how long they’ve kept an item or items from a past relationship, most respondents (43%) said longer than five years.
Most People Who Still Have an Ex’s Items Are in a New Relationship Now
Of the respondents who said they’ve held onto an ex’s things, more than half said they’re now in a new relationship: 33% are married, 19% are in a committed relationship, and 10% are engaged.
Of those who are now in a new relationship, most say they don’t keep items from a past secret — 66% said their current partner knows that they have an item from an ex. In fact, 63% said that while their partner may or may not know, they aren’t purposefully keeping it a secret while a surprising 37% of respondents who have an item from a past relationship say that they intentionally keep it hidden from their current partner.
We Hold Onto Exes’ Things Because of the Memories
When we asked our survey respondents why they still have mementos from old relationships or belongings from exes, nearly half (44%) said it’s because the item(s) hold fond memories, even if they don’t miss their ex. Some other reasons:
- 38% said the items they’ve kept are functional.
- 30% said the old belongings were part of a defining chapter in their lives.
- 25% said the item or items were expensive, and they’d feel silly getting rid of them.
- Another 25% admitted that they keep these things because they miss their ex.
- Nearly 1 in 5 (19%) said that despite keeping an item from a past relationship, they just don’t care enough to throw it away or get rid of it.
- 17% said they actually plan on giving the item back to their ex… but no word on whenthey plan to do so.
Most People Want to Get Rid of Relationship Relics… “Someday”
When asked whether they want to get rid of their old items from past relationships, 54% of people said yes. But when? They’re less sure about that. 78% of respondents just said “Someday,” while the other 22% would be willing to get rid of those belongings right away.
Of the respondents who said they’d like to get rid of their relationship relics, 48% said it’s because the item creates extra clutter in their space. The next reason, 40%, was because the item reminds them of their ex in a painful way.
Then there are the 46% of respondents who said they don’t want to get rid of those items at all. It’s clear that for many people, belongings from past relationships are in their lives to stay.
Men Are More Likely to Keep Every Kind of Relationship Relic
One of the most surprising findings from this survey is that men seem to be more sentimental about belongings than women. 68% of men reported that they still have an item that used to belong to an ex, compared to only 62% of women.
The most common item for men to keep was love letters and cards (54% reported having those), followed by printed photos and photo albums (45% said they’d kept those). Men were also more likely to still have an engagement ring that once belonged to an ex — 28% reported still having a ring, compared to 25% of respondents overall and just 21% of women.
In fact, men reported keeping old items from relationships at a higher rate than women for every item listed on the survey:
However, women appear to hold onto these items longer — 50% of women say they still have an item from a relationship that was more than 5 years ago, compared to just 36% of men.
As for the sentiment attached to these relics, men are more likely to keep old items because they miss their ex, but also more likely to have painful memories triggered by seeing those items. Men are also more likely to hide their relationship relics from their current partner.
The Bedroom is the Most Common Place to Store Relationship Relics
Out of sight, out of mind? Not the case for most of the items people keep from their past relationships. 24% of survey respondents reported that the most common place they keep their relationship relics is in the bedroom. The next most popular spots were in a closet (22%) and in the basement (14%). Hey, we’re a storage platform — we had to ask.
We surveyed 1,000 Americans on Jan. 13, 2022, using Pollfish.com. To qualify for the survey, respondents had to have been in a past romantic relationship that has ended.
Survey respondents were 51% female and 49% male. They ranged in age from 16 to 55+, with the highest number of respondents being aged 25-45.