Dear Ex-Whatever We Were

Okay, so this post isn’t exactly directed at guys I’ve dated in the past, and for good reason, since I doubt any of them are reading this.

But, over the last couple years, I’ve developed a somewhat unusual habit with guys I’ve dated.  I’ve had a few friends question my reasoning, but it’s something I feel strongly about, and it encompasses far more than just dating.  

Now, before I go on, I do have a disclaimer.  I once was explaining this behavior to a stranger I met on a plane to Virginia.  He had some great feedback for me, and then he said, “You know…you may not want to mention this to any guys who are considering dating you..”  So.  If you are a single male who is reading this, and you’ve considered dating me, just stop reading now.  And maybe consider asking me out.  Just kidding.  Only kind of.    

Anyways, for the rest of you.  So what is this strange behavior?  Well, after one or both of us decides that things aren’t going to work out, I write them a card.  Sometimes it’s an email, but usually it comes as a handwritten note.  In this card, I tell them positive qualities I noticed about them that impressed me.  I try to make it as personal as possible, and focus on the time we spent together, and why I think they are a good person.  

So why do I do it?  I’ve thought a lot about this the last couple years as this has become more of a habit in my life, and I think it comes down to two reasons.  One is for me, and one is for them.   

First, I write this card as part of my healing process in moving on from the relationship.  Anytime a relationship doesn’t work out, no matter the circumstances, it’s sad.  And there can be a lot of associated emotions.  Hurt, anger, sadness, confusion, etc.  Those emotions have their place for a time, but they aren’t constructive long term.  So for me, I know that if I can get to a point of writing that person a kind note, expressing gratitude for the things they taught me and the qualities I appreciate, I know that I’m in a much better place to move forward and close the door in a productive way.  

But more importantly, I write the card for them.  One day I was talking to a friend in college, and he said something really simple that has stuck with me.  “You know, Rachel, at the end of the day, everyone likes to be told that they are a great person and that someone appreciates them for who they are.”  Rocket science, right?  

Since that conversation I’ve tried to do a better job of expressing that to friends and family, but a few years ago I heard a BYU devotional that has greatly deepened how I view the topic.  You can find the full talk here.  Take a few minutes and read the whole thing, I promise you won’t be disappointed.  I re-read it every couple months just to make sure I’m still on track.  

The talk basically talks about the idea of how different our lives would be if our motivation for everything was pure, Christlike love. Every interaction, every word, every thought, motivated by Christlike love.  He references the Tahitian greeting, ia ora na, which means “life to you” or “that you might live.” He talks about how we are all on our way to somewhere, and that, “We are either giving life or taking life from each other as we move forward on our way.”  

So that, is the real reason I write these notes.  I want to give life through every interaction I have.  So often in dating, we let the other person see a side of us that we don’t normally show our casual circle of friends.  We are more vulnerable, and we feel more exposed when things don’t work out.  So what a great opportunity to lift that person, and let them know how great they really are, how much they are appreciated and respected.  

Is it weird?  Probably.  Does it ever send the wrong impression?  I hope not, but maybe.  But I don’t really care anymore.  If I can make someone feel good about themselves for even a few minutes as they are reading that card, I’ll take my chances.  

Now, obviously writing cards to exes is not the only way to give life, and it’s certainly not the only way I try to incorporate this principle in my own life.  So that being said, here’s my challenge for you.  Read the talk, and then figure out some ways you can give life to those around you.  Wouldn’t it be cool if that overall concept became a normal thing?  People going around uplifting one another?  That’s the kind of thing I want to be a part of.  It’s what I want to be remembered for.  So for now, please excuse me while I go buy some more blank cards.  

P.S.  If we did date, and you didn’t get a card, I’m sorry.  Feel free to send me a message and I’ll be happy to send you one in the mail. I promise I have good things to say. 🙂