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Love Letters

I found photos and letters from my wife’s ex. I feel sick.

July 23, 2009
Eve Eschner Hogan, M.A.

Am I wrong? Some of these photos are not so innocent. I personally do not want to think of her like that with others. I feel sick to my stomach.

Please help.

I’m sorry you are feeling pain over this and will do my best to help you gain a new, more powerful, perspective.

To a huge extent, the issue really does not lie with the pictures or letters, nor with the fact that she has kept them, but with the question of whether you trust your wife or not, whether you think she still has desires for these other people or not and, even more importantly, how the two of you communicate your feelings to each other in an effort to resolve the true issues.

Here is the deal, when you think something outside of you (the pictures or how your wife has lived in the past) is capable of making you feel bad, you are rendered a victim. The truth is that it is not these external things making your stomach hurt; it is the meaning you make from them. In other words, it is what you are thinking, saying and imagining that is making you feel sick, not the photos.

You say you “don’t want to think of her like that with others,” but getting rid of the pictures won’t change the truth of your wife’s past or whom your wife has been with. Consequently, the resolution to this is either to a) not look at the pictures, b) not think about it, or c) come to a full place of acceptance about who your wife is or all three. I’m assuming this isn’t the first time you found out she has been with others, and that you decided that you loved her regardless of (or because of) her past, thus marrying her. I hope that you can be so accepting of your whole wife and her whole life that you completely disempower the photos’ ability to impact your emotions.

My husband has a box of old photos and letters from previous girlfriends, and so do I. Neither of us is threatened by the other’s past nor have any desire to resurrect these old loves. However, these people were a part of our lives, however long or fleeting, and in essence, helped shape us into the people we are now. Getting rid of the pictures or letters does not get rid of the people or the past or the experience. With that said, we rarely, if ever, even look at them. Clearly, these photos aren’t sitting out on your wife’s nightstand for daily viewing, these were in a box somewhere that you came across while packing.

My biggest concern with your letter is the communication and respect between you, not the pictures or letters. I imagine your wife laughed thinking you weren’t serious and then got mad thinking that you were either trying to control her, make her wrong, that you distrusted her or that you were judging her for her past. Simultaneously, your feelings were real (although not thought through and I’m guessing poorly expressed) and it sounds like neither of you really took the time to think about what yourself or your spouse were truly feeling. My hope would be that you would both take a step back, do some self-observation so that when you do communicate it can be more truthful and productive, rather than reactionary and hurtful.

My advice: Apologize, let your wife know you trust and accept her and let this one go. Hopefully, she will do the same.

With aloha,

Intellectual Foreplay Question of the Week:
Do old letters and photos from your past pose a threat to your love life now?

Love Tip of the Week:
Fear, hurt, anger and distrust are flags signaling a treasure that you want to protect—love, safety, harmony. When you communicate, honor what you want to protect rather than what you fear.



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