Divorce Leaves a Residue

My ex husband’s parents were smokers. Entering their house always felt like walking into a parking garage on a warm and still day, the smoke forming clouds along the ceiling and tendriled wisps climbing the walls. The rooms felt dark as the haze filtered the sunlight and the once-white ceilings felt oppressive with their tar-stained varnish.

My ex used to seal his room from the smoke, employing towels and blankets in an effort to barricade his belongings against the nicotine attack. And, while he was there, we thought it was a successful endeavor. After all, compared to the rest of the house, his room smelled clean and his furniture looked unadulterated.

Until it came time to move. We pulled his sofa, that we had intended to use in our first apartment, into the garage. Hopeful, we peeled off the sheet that had been covering the fabric. We were horrified. Not only did the couch smell like the upholstery in a pool hall, the exposed surfaces were stained brown in contrast with the untanned underbellies of the cushions.

And no matter how hard we scrubbed, the stains and the smell would not fully release. There was a residue left behind.

We left that tarnished sofa behind that day and spent money we didn’t have on an unsullied replica from Montgomery Ward, determined to start our lives together fresh unburdened from the remains of the past.

In a moment of unedited honesty the other day, Brock turned to me and said, “Sometimes I wish you would give up writing about all of this and it wouldn’t be a part of your life anymore.”

And sometimes I wish that too.

That I could have escaped from the past with no residue, as clean and unspoiled as that new sofa. Because the truth is that divorce leaves a residue. A film that no matter how hard you scrub, you can never fully remove. It’s not something that disappears just because you take yourself out of the environment. It resists fading and clings tenaciously to every roughed-over surface.

You can try to cover the damage, hiding it beneath a slipcover of smiling perfection. You can scrub at it until your hands are raw and your the very fabric of your being becomes worn and thin. You can perceive the disfigurement as terminal, and live your life as an abandoned piece of furniture cast off in an unheated garage.

Or, you can see the stains as battle scars. Signs of a life once lived and a love once loved. You can learn how to find peace with the residue, viewing it as the reminder of your past while weaving into the fabric of your future.

Divorce leaves a residue.

And what you do with it is up to you.

Thank you for sharing!

19 thoughts on “Divorce Leaves a Residue

  1. I like Brock’s honesty. I have made a conscious effort with my blog to no longer focus on the past (and the negativity that engulfed me back then). I know for some it can be therapeutic. For me though, I need to focus on the current. The now. I can control this part of my life. But you are right. Divorce leaves a residue. No doubt.

    1. I like his honesty too:)

      I, too, focus much more on the current (or the past’s effect on the current) than on past for past’s sake. And when I do reference it, it’s more to make my posts accessible for people earlier on in the process.

      Yet, for me at least, all of this writing was born from that time, as I never wrote before then. Interestingly, he doesn’t even really know what I write about since he rarely reads my posts (unless I send one to him). I think he assumes they are all about divorce and/or my ex, taking the same tone and focus of the book (which he did read).

      At this point, I’m compelled to write to help others and to release my creative energy (which has hopped from outlet to outlet over the years). And that damned residue of the divorce would be there even if I never spoke of it again. Blech. 🙂

      1. I know you are writing to educate your audience, and I have benefited from your posts immensely. I started blogging to help me get through the process of moving on and divorcing. Now that I am divorced (and have love in my life), my need for writing has dissipated.

        We all write for different reasons and at different times, I guess.

  2. Wow…really good. It does leave a residue, but then again every moment of our lives are leaving their mark on our lives in one way or another…and I think we just have to “smudge” them all together and blend out the corners.

  3. All of our experiences leave a residue, and as you said, it is up to us to determine what we want to do with it.

    A while back I read about something called the responsibility principle, and I thought it was fascinating. The basic ideas was that the human brain has a number of default modes in response to things. First we deny, then we blame, then rationalize. The next step is partially accepting things, but in this level we are operating more out of guilt or a sense of obligation. The top level is personal responsibility, where we are owning things and accepting our role in them. We are doing things because they are the “right thing to do”, and not due to any external sense of obligation.

    When relationships fail – even in tsunami divorces, it’s easy to get caught up in how taken off guard we are. We are hurt, and we want to deny, blame or rationalize. Yet even when the fault is largely on the shoulders of the other person, we played a role too. Maybe we enabled, maybe we turned a blind eye to things “out of love”. No matter how small our role was, we had one.

    In order to fully let go and move on to a better future, we need to make our peace with what happened. And hopefully that process allows us to learn and to grow.

    1. Responsibility is so important. And after a sudden or malignant divorce, it can be difficult to find that balance between accepting your role and assuming full blame. It’s scary to take that responsibility. Yet also empowering. Because once you own it, you can change it.

      1. Assuming full blame is terrible, as no one is entirely ever at fault. The more common thing I have seen is when people lay all the blame on the other person without accepting their own role.

        One thing I have seen a rise of is “divorce parties” (usually women), where they go out and celebrate finalizing a divorce. I don’t know, regardless of how things end, if a couple gets married I would guess it’s because they once had something positive. Accepting that the marriage has failed and moving one is one thing, but to me celebrating it seems somewhat crass.

  4. livebysurprise – Liv is the pseudonym reformed divorcee and single mom - now married, coparenting and working mother of three. She's been featured on ScaryMommy, HuffPost Divorce, The Mid and DivorcedMoms.com. More at http://www.livebysurprise.com.
    Liv says:

    I understand Brock’s sentiment as well…but I also appreciate your need to make that big pile of…that was your marriage into something meaningful. You ARE helping people. And inspiring them.

  5. The Woman Invisible – United States – This is my journey. I am seeking a life full of passion, honesty, adventure and happiness. I know one thing that is terribly missing in my life, and that is to truly feel valued as a woman. I am attempting to find my way, maybe not in methods you would agree with, but somehow, I want to feel like the woman I know I was meant to be. Along the way, you may realize you don't like me much, or my morals. But, then, maybe you do. I'm just here to share my journey. Come along for the ride.
    The Woman Invisible says:

    I remember moving from my smoking parents home into our first home and having my clothes stink for weeks….it was vile.

    I for one am thrilled you write and I look forward to every post! You always get me thinking and I feel you actually put a thoughtful spin on our situation rather than a negative one!

  6. EDITED – I’m with Brock on this one. I say that reluctantly as I think it will be sad for the many people who find solace in your writing if you ever stopped. Maybe writing is your ongoing therapy by scrubbing away at the “nicotine” that has stained your heart (or made you the wonderful woman you are today)

  7. Anne-Marie Wiesman – USA – I am a wife, mother, EFT Practitioner, Hypnotherapist and Founder of Follow Your Song a website and Facebook Community which was started to bring Inspiration, Encouragement and Hope to survivors of all forms of abuse including, Childhood Sexual abuse, Domestic Violence and Narcissistic abuse. My hope is that you will utilize the information, tools and resources to help you in your recovery. My goal is to create a community of survivors who can support, learn and heal together. Wishing you well on your healing journey! Anne-Marie Wiesman
    Anne-Marie Wiesman says:

    I have to admit it is kind of funny reading all of these comments about ” Brock” I thankfully am in a place after nearly 10 yrs of divorce that the ” residue” from the marriage and abuse is finally lifted.

    1. 🙂

      I’m there with my ex’s name too. My husband has friends with the same name and every time I would hear them, I would cringe as I thought of my ex. Now, I just have to figure out which of the two men in his life he’s referring too.

  8. Mama Crossroads – Virginia, USA – I'm a mother, and a FIGHTER. We all have our battles and I've had my fair share. But if I can make it through this madness (addiction, divorce, abuse, single parenting, co-parenting, molestation, infertility, autoimmune disease, connective tissue disorders ... you name it, I've been there), then you can too. You are stronger than you think! Slowly but surely, we can convert these experiences into FUEL for better things ahead. We can teach our kids. We can inspire those around us for good. And we can change the world.
    Mama Crossroads says:

    You’re so great, Lisa. Thank you for helping me feel not-so-alone today. I feel it. I feel the residue. But guess what … everyone around me can just suck it up, because I’m still here and I’m kickin’ and that’s saying something. At least I didn’t kill myself somewhere along the way … I let my life experiences (abuse, divorce, etc.) make me stronger instead. How are we supposed to come through hellfire like that unscathed? Even plastic surgery leaves scars.

    And as usual, your imagery is to-die-for! I read that first paragraph over and over … Geesh. Love you, girl.

  9. SassaFrassTheFeisty – Indianapolis, IN – I'm a mother of two-mostly amazing-kids. This is my journey towards healing from the ruin of my marriage and 10 year relationship to my kid's "dad", my stories of dealing with really good and really bad days, learning to cope and move on. I have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 1 with mania and ADHD-look! Something shiny!!-and Postpartum Depression. I love completely and passionately. Just don't piss me off, because I'll burn that bridge-and I'll stand on it and watch the flames consume everything. Sass 101 First-As my name suggests I am a Feisty Lil Thang. I tell it like it is. It is no holds barred on my blog. If you expect fluffy puppies, rainbows and sunshine, exit Stage Right because it ain't gonna be here. If you expect no cussing and positivity, and that I pray to a God or deity, exit Stage Left. That's not here either. What's here is real, honest, raw and truthful. This is my journey through the last 18 months from the separation of my husband and the JOYOUS roller coaster my family has been on. Oh yes, I did forget to mention-I am a sarcastic quick witted one. Sasscasm is trademarked by the ever Butch Blah. Don't mess with her Dragon, he eats assholes for breakfast. We have a tribe here that is very exclusive-seriously. If you're lucky enough to enter, you are worthy enough to partake in our Femme Speak. If not, just nod your head yes, and move on. I have Bipolar 1 with mania and I cycle into depression 2 times a year. This year has been an exception to the rule considering this year has just been shit. I've been to my local psych hospital twice in less than 10 months-once for depression, once for a psychotic episode resulting from over medication. YAY! Piss on that shit. If it hadn't been for Blah, I never would have gone. Thank you Blah. I lurve you! I have 2 kids-a boy I call NSLM-Not So Little Man-because Anxious Mom has her LM. Didn't want to steal her LM's thunder :) And I have a daughter referred to as Monkey-it's self explanatory. They are also referred to as my Heathens-yes I can call them that because I gave birth to them, I know them and they act like Heathens at times-just thank the Good Lord they aren't Hellians or I'd be in jail. I have an almost 5 year old purebred Red and Black German Shepherd named May-she's momma's baby, and Monkey is on her THRID guinea pig in about a year-thank her dad for that one. This one is S'mores and he's a wheeker and fat and fluffy. My kids and I live with my parents, because I'm not stable or healthy enough to work and live on my own. I have FINALLY found my magic pill cocktail-for now-and I have clarity for the first time in my life. I no longer use the word "stable" I use baseline. I've been on a lot of meds over the years, and since the last med I was on and overmedicated I have become med sensitive-SUPER YAY. I'm good at recognizing side effects and can tweak a med time better than a dr. Not cocky, just fact. I'm that in tune with my body. I'm also very emotionally charged. My emotions have always ruled my decisions, and I don't see that changing, but I am now better to stop and think things through before making a decision-some of the time. I'm mouthy, but I have a huge heart of gold, and I get hurt easily. And when I talk about people on here in my life off of WordPress they get their own special nicknames. DB-Douchebag. BBFL-Best Bitch For Life-My best friend in Alaska that I HOPE I get to see soon. EG-English Gentleman-a guy that I've bee talking to for a year that lives near Scotland and is on an 8 month trip around the world, and will be stateside in January. I can't wait to meet him in person! Cute Neighbor Guy. There were two guys that were named for the states they lived in, and I think I've deleted everything about Florida but the last post-Thank you Andrew for the title, you brilliant dictionary, you. Then there are my most supportive friends here: Anxious Mom, Andi, Zoe, Diane, Morgue, Blah, Chris, Sparkly Pants ;) Victo, Tessa, Bipolarfirst, bp7o9, Vic, Kitt, Leslie, and my newest BUDDY Andrew. I know I've forgotten some people and I SERIOUSLY apologize given the state of my brain haze, I hope you don't hate me!! I know you don't, I'm just overly dramatic. No I'm not...yeah, yes I am. ;) So, if you can't handle my sarcastic tongue and my cursing that can make sailors blush, the lobby exit is in the top right corner with a little X. That being said, I hope you new arrivals aren't just looking for blogs for numbers-this isn't that kind of blog. And I rather like interactive people on my little slice of the crazy pie-well, more like peach cobbler because it's my favorite but ANYWAY. I don't follow back just because you follow me. I may not be too picky about my food, but I'm picky about my men and the blogs I follow. With that, I shall bid you Welcome to Sasstopia, and may you stay to be among my Sassafrains. Reggie my Pegacorn is tethered out back as he doesn't do well with new people. I shall be shining my spork launcher on the table, next to my melon baller and grapefruit spoon all soaked in syphilis. If you have any questions, fucking ask. I don't do vague. LOVE YOU! <3
    sassafrass20 says:

    What I don’t understand is that as I try to clean my life from the residue of my marriage and eventual divorce, why is it that I’m the one that’s letting go while my “support group” is having issues cleaning his residue from their lives? I’m happier and healthier and freer than I’ve ever been in my life. There’s no right way to clean and begin my life anew, but I’m trying, and it sure is scary! Love your posts!!

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