Things We Steal From Those We Love: The Real Reason Why I Took Your Sweatshirt

I steal stuff. And I don’t mean in the conventional sense where my sticky fingers walk into a chic boutique to swipe expensive wares, nor do I steal from most people, meaning you don’t have to hide your valuables when I come to your house, or think twice when you ask me to hold your purse.

Those are not opportunities where I find it beneficial to take what’s not mine, or lift what I can’t afford. The type of stealing I do is emotionally charged, electrically panicked, and only occurs under extreme distress when either HE or I has decided that we will no longer be. When I say HE, I mean whomever was currently in my life at the current moment. Picture the final stage of a doomed relationship, where two people find themselves in that terrible place where they’re no longer together, but not “NOT” either. We all react differently and while I can’t say that every HIM in my life has had the same reaction at that particular moment, I can say that I have. In short, first I’ll cry and then I’ll ask the same questions repeatedly until finally arriving at the mutual place of regret and forgiveness. We’ll hug, we’ll kiss, and then I’ll gracefully exit, but not without leaving with something that was not originally mine. It won’t be something big, expensive or something that HE’S deeply attached to, because as much as I would “maybe” like to cause him a little pain, the real reason I steal is because I have a heart and not due to my lack of one.

For example, at the end of one relationship, I took a pair of socks. Why? This particular person wore really, heavy socks with Converse high-tops that I always found endearing, because we went to school in the sticks, where despite the winters dropping to temperatures that thermometers could no longer calculate, this person felt that investing in a pair of decent boots somehow undermined his punk rock pedigree. So away he’d go tromping in the snow with big socks and Chucks! Only later, before going out separate ways, I stole a pair of his socks and would end up keeping them for years. In fact, I’m positive they’re still in my childhood chest of drawers, as if that person is going to reappear someday asking for his socks.

Yet somehow, having something of his, a piece of him in the shape of an item he owned, or an item he wore made up for the fact that I didn’t have HIM. A link, a connection, an ownership in the shape of of object that I somehow found comfort in.

But I wasn’t always a sock bandit, sometimes I transform myself into a hooded robber. For instance, after a somewhat more recent relationship, I took an old, tattered hoodie with a broken zipper and a hole in the arm. It was the saddest sweatshirt that I ever saw, but this person loved wearing it around the house.

At the time we were living together you can imagine how deeply surrounded by temptation I was when it was time to move out. What can I take from here? All these options! All this stuff!  But I allowed myself to take one thing of his to make me feel better as I disassembled our life together. To some it was just a sweatshirt, but to me it was a piece of this person that comforted me in the weeks ahead, as if I were a lost child being comforted by their favorite stuffed animal.

I’ve taken CDs of their favorite bands that we listened to on road trips…copies of their favorite books that we read late at night… and candle holders that we used for romantic dinners at home. They were things, stuff, objects that really shouldn’t have meant anything, but somehow their memories and ties still brought me comfort. If I have this, I have something that belongs to them. If I have this, I am somehow linked to them in the way that I am no longer.

So yes, I steal. I steal because I can’t walk away. I steal because I need a reminder that I existed with him and him with me. A reminder of what once was.


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J is a happily single 30-something currently documenting her stories of love and loss. Her blog, “I Quit Dating” features excerpts of her journey as she reflects on the lessons learned from the men she loved. A complete collection of essays detailing her walk away from finding Mr. Right in order to pursue a more fulfilled life will be self-published next year. She recently moved from Los Angeles to New York. Contact: iquitdating (@)

19 thoughts on “Things We Steal From Those We Love: The Real Reason Why I Took Your Sweatshirt”

  1. I have a closet full of this stuff. It makes me feel a little like someone trying to prove Big Foot’s existence except the elusive, mythical creature is love. I have found that the problem for me is that the people become the one dimensional objects, forever defined by a ticket stub from a concert.
    Any who, I’m a big fan of the way you write.


    1. That is a great way of putting. It’s a type of validation in a way. They existed and WE existed. Thanks so much for your kind words and for commenting!


  2. I never throw anything away. Never actually took anything from them but I mean: gifts, things I’ve ended up having from them… Most people can’t understand me, they simply throw everything away in an attempt of throwing away their feelings too.


  3. I completely understand. While I’ve never stolen anything from an ex, I’ve held onto things that remind me of them. I had a pair of surgical scrubs that C gave me because he said they were the comfiest pajamas in the world. I wore them while I cried in the weeks following our parting of ways. The items are somehow comforting when everything else feels like it’s been uprooted.


  4. I am sentimental. I find it difficult to rid of photographs or letters. Stupid and irrelevant ticket stubs, passes. It proves that once the item was relevant, it was symbolic. I feel what we struggle with internally is the loss of our self. The disappointment in our judgement, our aspirations, our imagined plan. To keep an article, a realistic figment, keeps the dream alive. It gives us clarity and soothes our own pride 🙂


  5. Wow. I have to admit that I have a completely different attitude. I mean, I think I got used to burning bridges. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, I don’t really have much influence over it, I just do it, sort of, automatically.


    1. Thanks for coming by and sharing that. I think it’s the circumstances…Despite my heartfelt sentiment….bridges were still burned….just more sadly I suppose…


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