Memories or Evidence? Photos and Divorce

Wiping Memories - Ex Pics

Over Christmas vacation, Hubs and I started to sort through some of the stuff in the basement.  When we moved into our house, we’d weeded through a lot of our stuff and probably sent a truckful to the dump (or charity).  But there were still things that we’d put into boxes to sort through later.

While sorting through a box, Hubs pulled out a black and white photo…asking who was in it.  It was an engagement photo of me…with my ex.  Obviously, I was a (cough, cough) few pounds lighter…as was my ex…and Hubs must have thought I didn’t have any pics any more.  In that same box though is a pic of my family prior to my own parent’s divorce.

Obviously, I don’t display either of those pics in my home.  I’m not particularly attached to the pic of my ex, and would happily cut him out of the picture – but, quite frankly, I look fantastic and I’m reluctant to get rid of it.  My wedding album is down there in a box somewhere too.

I haven’t kept them because I’m “stuck” in the past.  I’m well over my ex, and happy about my divorce – and if I hadn’t stumbled across them, wouldn’t have thought about them at all.

See…the thing is…while I’m not that woman any more – either physically or mentally – I’m not willing to let her go.  Although I was with my ex for over ten years and he was very emotionally abusive – I don’t want to erase all of those memories.  Despite the bad memories – there were some good times.  I got to see parts of the world I hadn’t experienced before.  I met new people.   I had two amazing children. I built on what I was and I grew into the woman that I am today.   Some of those pictures make me smile.

When I was about fifteen, after my parents split, my father’s storage locker was broken into.  He didn’t have anything of actual value in there, but for some reason, the thief made away with hundreds of slides – photos that represented a good chunk of my childhood.  (For my younger readers…a slide was a transparent photo which you had to put into a machine in order to display it on the wall using a projector – like an old school PowerPoint presentation).  The slides were never recovered.  And I have since grieved the loss of the evidence of those memories.

As a result, I’m moved to keep the photos as a record of my history as much as I’m using this blog as a record of my life.  I want to be able to look back at what I was – and be proud of what I’ve become.  I also want my children to be able to look through the pictures and see what their mother was like when she was younger.  Whether my ex is in the photo or not – I want them to have visual evidence that they are loved by both of your parents.

I could, if I wanted, go through the pictures and remove the ones of my ex only.  We were together in the age before selfies. I think our honeymoon photos contain only two of us together. In truth, I’m not particularly inclined to look at them so thoroughly.  I’m comfortable knowing that they’re there if I want to look at them.

I also haven’t taken the time to go through them with my children.  The thing about photos – they’re just moments in time.  A picture of someone smiling in that moment could have been crying or angry or shouting shortly after.  They’re distorted.  And my children are young enough that they’re still asking the question “why?” – I don’t want happy photos to feed into their confusion about why their parents aren’t together.

I’m lucky that when the pictures were taken “social media” was in it’s infancy.  I don’t have to worry about being confronted by the memory when I don’t want to see it.  They’re down in the boxes and that’s where they’ll stay.  For me to look at when and if I ever want to.  Or if I want to share them with my children.  Because my past is theirs too.

Tell me – what did you do with pics of your ex?  Are you keeping those memories or have you wiped them away?  Is it harder in the age of social media to escape them?  What about your kids?  And finally…did you know what a slide was?  Or am I just a dinosaur?

Image credit:  fantasista / freedigitalphotos.net

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41 thoughts on “Memories or Evidence? Photos and Divorce

  1. Great post! I actually still have all photos from my 1st marriage, including those from when we were dating, but much of that reasoning is for the child that we had together, who is 22 now. Eventually those photos and mementos will go to him, because they are really his pics now. I have been with my hubby #2 for 19 years and am happy to say that my 1st hubby and I have seriously moved on…he has a wonderful wife and we can all maintain a positive relationship now. This, his 3rd wife, has been an amazing 2nd mom to our son and that thrills me beyond belief. Good luck!

  2. Hi Liv,
    Great post! I also have family albums of the girls and the reason i keep them around is because they like seeing pics of their babyhood and their father is part of that. As for the wedding album, that’s in a box somewhere too…not because the pictures of us as a couple, but because they have my friends and family in there too. Yes, our marriage ended, yes the divorce was horrible, but the moments in the photos are there, too. There’s actually one album that commemorated one of my daughter’s birthday…family flew in from out of town…and the night before the ex just went ballistic, a thunderstorm I will never forget, me bawling, begging him to forgive me for not showing him the seating chart until that night (ironically, I had been trying to show him plans for two months prior, but he would get ornery with me and say not now, and I always obliged) only to have him explode at me and then refuse to talk to me for four hours…and the next day we had a 100 people coming and I had no idea if he was going to help. He did, of course, because that’s what he does, show a good face to the rest of the world. At any rate, the pictures from that day are beautiful, everyone smiling, laughing, having a good time. And with all my family with me and friends from across the sea, i was kind of shocked into understanding the sharp contrast…I remember that was the slow coming out and confiding into my loved ones what was happening in my home with his temper outbursts….
    But I digress…I keep the album from this day, because of the girls…the photos are of them, and their whole family. <3

  3. tamaralikecamera says:

    It’s probably different for me because taking photos of exes was probably a photography thing too. I’ve kept thing. I don’t have slides but I have negatives and prints. I used to have a negative scanner but I have no idea if it would work at all anymore, and what to do with all the photos. We have boxes of them because it was my entire start to my photography career! Before digital!

  4. Jessica Claire Haney says:

    I think keeping time capsules of the different stages in our lives is important and much more mature than just chucking stuff because it doesn’t fit the current version of reality! If you can pause and reflect without going down some rabbit hole, then keep it. We are complex people and throwing stuff out doesn’t mean we’re magically “over” whatever we hold in our head. Many boxes and displayed photos of nostalgia might be evidence of “stuck,” but this sounds like reverence! 🙂

    • It’s stuck in a box and the only reason it came up was we came across it in the basement…and that’s where they’ll stay until I’m ready to go through them with the kids. That won’t be for a while.

  5. Liv,

    Our lives are so eerily parallel… :O

    Those slides? My parents let one of their schoolmates stay at our house when I was in elementary school, I think… Anyway, he stole their camera AND all of my family’s slides! WHO DOES THAT?! Those family images of my early childhood were never recovered, either… {sigh}

    I haven’t experienced a divorce, so I can’t relate to seeing pictures of an ex who still brings me angst. I can, however, relate to those feelings regarding an ex friend and to those considerations of the children.

    On the occasion I am going through our family albums and stumble across photos of The Adulteress and her family alongside my family on our combined vacations, I get a little lump in pit of my stomach… Like she and I, two of our sons were best friends, which meant there were even more photos…

    I think that when we can look at an unpleasant past and be okay looking at it (that is, not be feel negative emotions) then we can say we have reconciled our grief. I think I haven’t been able to do that regarding my ex-BFF because she, like your ex, never acknowledged wrong doing and never gave me any indication that she understood how hurtful her actions were.

    I will have to do that on my own, some day… But for now, I haven’t been able to erase that part of my life or my children’s lives from sight. As you say, it is a part of our history, one that includes happy and painful memories… Besides, eradicating the evidence won’t do the same for the truth. It happened. And we survived!! <3 Hell ya…

    So glad your RSS feed is fixed on my site so I can see all the fabulous stuff you post!

    Have a great week, Journeyer! Can't wait to see where our paths intersect next time! 🙂

    Yours in hope, healing, and happiness,
    ~AE

    • What an odd thing to do. That’s so sad.

      I’m sure looking at those pictures is incredibly difficult. And truthfully – I don’t think it’s my past I have a problem with – it’s my present dealings with my ex that make my stomach churn. If he were easier to deal with, I probably wouldn’t have such mixed feelings.

      Glad you can see it too Annah! Always happy to have you hear! Happy 2016!

  6. I debated this too. I decided on keeping the ones that had the kids in it for them to have when they get old. It was a part of their history. They should get to decide what they want to do with that. I definitely deleted the onea without them though. I have no need for that.

  7. Well, first yes, I know what a slide is, LOL. Great post, Liv. I think you’re right to keep some of the pics. It is a part of your history. I have a few but did get rid of our wedding album because it seemed false. I’m happy I kept some photos though. It’s been over 10 years and I’m finally at the point where I can say, ‘ya, that was a chapter in my life and had some really good part to it’. Why not have the photos to show for it?

  8. I have not been through divorce, but I certainly have photos from past serious relationships and there are photos in my albums of family members who are no longer with us because of divorce. I never purged anything mostly because I just don’t go through the albums much. Seems to me like it’s a personal call. If the pics have value to you or to children, then as part of your history, they belong there. If you want them. That said, I suppose it’s probably time for old boyfriends who did not become my husband to leave the fold! 😀

  9. I know what a slide is.

    I ditched everything. Even the CD of our wedding pics (the album is…somewhere don’t know where, but we’ll keep it cos whatever). And then I ransacked further back, into my singledom and teenage years and childhood, and purged the memories there which reminded me of all the awfulness.

    If I can have pre-7, and a blank until…well, last September, say, I’ll be perfectly happy.

  10. Mary Paige Hagen says:

    I have trays of old slides, many of which feature my ex and our daughter. Old photos are tough. I don’t display them but keep them stored away since they are images of my daughter when she was young. I just pretend that my daughter has a different father though my ex was always very involved with her life. She looks like my ex and has many of his attributes and interests. In truth, my ex has influenced my other children since our daughter is the oldest and they mimic her. I worry about our daughter’s upcoming wedding. What do we do about pictures then??

    • I can’t speak for your family – but I had a difficult relationship with my father – and he wasn’t invited to my wedding…so I never had to make that decision. I had a friend who just took separate pictures with her mom and stepfather and her dad, and then for the big pic with both families put them on opposite sides.

      I’m not sure what will happen with my children, but I have to admit, it’s not something I’m looking forward to finding out.

  11. My husband’s BFF had a divorce and all of his pictures with his ex are all on my FB — we were all friends. They were in our family photos like our family moments like our son’s baptism….so they come up in those “Facebook Memories” posts ;you get every morning. It’s strange. But they were memories of fonder times and friendships.
    You brought up a really good point of the digital era. Never even thought of that.

    • Yes. I think I was lucky in a way that I didn’t have to deal with that. Not that there are really that many pictures of us together mind you. I was usually behind the camera…

      Thanks for popping in Kim!

  12. I knew what a slide was! We had some of my family way back when! I still have photos of ex’s. It’s not because I look at them, or want to go back, sometimes it’s a reminder of what what I have accomplished and what I was able to overcome. My husband of almost 17 years has pictures of his ex’s. In albums, tucked away and rarely, if ever, thought about. It’s a story of what made us who we are.

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