Once you and your partner decide to part ways, figuring out what to do with your relationship mementos — both physical and digital — can be quite the dilemma. Should you build a bonfire and burn everything? Go on an Instagram purge? Or perhaps just tuck them away just in case you want to reminisce? The significance of the relationship and the reason(s) you decided to end things are two of the most common factors to consider when debating whether or not to delete the photos you have with your ex.
If you both were college sweethearts who had plans to spend your lives together, but the timing or circumstances that pulled you away from each other were out of your control, the thought of digitally erasing them from your past might feel a bit too harsh. After all, the whole point of having pictures is to preserve memories. On the other hand, if things ended on bad terms due to infidelity or some other form of recklessness, holding on to photos could definitely delay your breakup recovery period.
To get a better idea of when it is and isn't OK to keep pictures of an ex, Elite Daily spoke with dating and etiquette expert April Masini of Relationship Advice Forum.
If You're The One Who Left
If you're the one who decided to end things and there is no bad blood between you two, then, according to Masini, there is nothing wrong with deciding to archive the pictures of you and an old lover. But it's still a good idea to think twice about having them displayed openly.
"You shouldn’t keep them front and center — don’t have them prominently displayed on your social media pages or in frames on your dresser or nightstand," suggests Masini.
If Your New Partner Is A Little Insecure
Assuming you've moved on to someone new, there is a chance that your new bae may not be thrilled about the fact that you still have pictures with an ex lying around. They may even find it a teensy bit threatening, especially if they're a little insecure.
"If the images you have of your ex [are] making a new partner uncomfortable, toss them. Your future is more important than your past," says Masini.
At the end of the day, though, remember, what you do with your past is up to you. If you want to be sensitive to your new partner's feelings about photos with your ex, then that's fine. But if deleting those photos makes you feel uncomfortable, then communicate that to your partner.
If You’re Trying To Play The Field
"Having images of your ex on social media and in your house signals that you’re not serious about getting involved with someone else, because your heart is still with your ex," says Masini.
If you're just looking to play the field and keep things as casual as possible, this may be the exact message you want to give off to let people know you aren't ready for another huge commitment just yet.
If You’re Having Trouble Moving On
If you've been struggling to move on from a breakup, then you're definitely going to want to keep the photo evidence as far away from you as possible.
"Having your ex around — even if just in images — makes you think of that person whenever you see those photos. And that makes moving past the pain of a breakup a lot more difficult," explains Masini. She goes on to say that while destroying or permanently deleting the photos might not be necessary, you should keep them somewhere you won't readily look at, so you're not constantly subjected to emotional pain.
Ultimately, the ball is completely in your court when it comes to dealing with pictures of you and your ex. But if having them around will negatively affect your healing process or is upsetting a current partner, then it's best to leave the past in the past for the time being.
This post was originally published on Dec. 11, 2017. It was updated on Aug. 19, 2019.