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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce


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I was enjoying a bath the other day. The hot water filling the tub to the brim, my body submerged except for my hands holding a book and my face peeking out from the suds. I was relaxed. Content.

I heard Tiger begin to dance on the wood floors below as the garage door rumbled open.

That was soon followed by Brock’s voice, “Where’s mama?” he asked Tiger as both man and dog bounded up the steps.

“That looks good,” he said, slipping off his clothes and sliding behind me in the tub. For the next few minutes, we talked about our days Β with the sound of the water draining through the overflow in the background. Eventually, the sound of the escaping water stopped as equilibrium was reached once again. The volume of the water replaced with an equal volume of Brock.

We stayed that way for some time, enjoying the company and the warm water.

He exited the tub before me, stepping out while simultaneously grabbing a towel.

The change in the bath was shocking. The water that had once covered my entire body now didn’t even make it around my hips. The once-full bath had been reduced to a few inches of tepid water. Unwilling to end my soak on that note, I turned the faucet on once again, allowing the hot water to fill the void left by Brock’s absence.

We are all aware of the effects of physical displacement in our lives. We are careful not to fill a pot to the brim before adding the potatoes. We know that a full tub will overflow when splashing kids are added. We ask for room in our coffee so that the cream can added without creating a mess. We are not surprised when water levels appear to plummet when objects are removed.

Yet we are often not as aware of the effects of emotional displacement. Of what happens when people are added to or subtracted from our lives.

In the beginning of a relationship, it is like being joined in the tub by another. Other relationships and commitments shift out of the way to allow room for the new company. It can be an uncomfortable change, friendships and activities and habits all vying for attention. Trying to decide what stays and what goes. Figuring out just how much to let the new presence in and how much will have to go to allow it to settle in.

And then, you get comfortable. Your life is full and has reached equilibrium. There may be less of the metaphorical water, but the volume of the relationship makes up the difference.

As long as your partner is there with you, the water level is fine. But as soon as he or she stands up to leave, the loss is shocking. Your body, once buoyant in the support of the water, feels heavy and collapsed on the cold surface beneath. You can stay there, cold and heavy, nerves raw to the whispers of the incoming air.

Or you can turn on the tap, filling your life again with warmth and support. Finding ways to replace the removed volume with new friends and old. Revisiting former passions and finding new ones. Enjoying the buoyancy that comes from a full life.

The tub may still feel empty, but at least you’re not needlessly suffering. Bonus points if you add a rubber ducky:)

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34 thoughts on “Displacement

  1. Interesting. In you analyses, for yourself and your readers, you could add to this piece the dynamic of personal loss in the event of the death of a spouse or partner. People tend to get displaced too quickly with the absence of a partner, spouse as with those people who are not whole without their significance and/or those people who are “incomplete” without their significant others. There is a dynamic associated with death and permanent displacement that would make this piece complete.

    1. I think the reason I cam to this analogy was that my divorce was as sudden as an unexpected death. As for the incomplete part, there is certainly a temptation to replace one body with another. way too soon. It replaces the volume yet does not heal the loss. Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Yesterday my house was eerily quiet and unnerving. I purposefully left it that way for a greater portion of it. I challenged myself to be okay with the absence of others, as well as music or television. Tools I tend to use to fill the void. Often times I am not even actively watching it, but knitting or facebooking etc…..
    All tools to distract from the loneliness.
    I let myself feel, and cry and mourn once again.
    This visual you gave, took me back to a place that has been hard for me. I didn’t take a bath in my tub for maybe 6 months, afraid to face the memories there.
    I have recently challenged myself there too.
    It gets easier…..
    But the void is still there.
    The memories bubbling up and fading.
    Feeling the need to share the space in my heart.
    But when it’s quiet I know that I am not ready.
    The ghosts linger.
    When I can be still and happy, and okay with that.
    Then maybe……just maybe, I’ll take a chance.
    But I need to be whole with myself first.

    As always,
    Thank you!

    1. Oh boy, do I relate. I used to intentionally distract myself to avoid feeling the void. I would occasionally challenge myself with solitude and silence. Yeah, those were rough times at first. Sounds like you’re doing the right stuff. Just keep going and healing. And maybe add a rubber ducky to that tub of yours:)

  3. I just read this post. This is so interesting. I’m 4 months into being separated from my husband and one of the things that has been getting me through is quiet, reflective time in the tub each night. It’s been very comforting.

  4. Me and my boyfriend have been together for almost 2 years we’ve done everything together with like Velcro he went out of town to get space from some issues he was dealing with and had nothing to do with us I immediately started getting very sick I didn’t know what was going on with me I knew then that I was missing him and I was lovesick I didn’t know how to react I can wait till you get back so he can feel this empty void that I have in my stomach i love u bae this special man name is Tim

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