I write this to you the night before what would have been my eighth wedding anniversary.
A little more than four years ago I made the courageous decision to leave my former husband two days after my 29th birthday. At this point, we were married just short of 4 years. I didn’t make this decision lightly, as I was married in the church, was raised by two loving parents who are married to this day, and I have grandparents in my life that are also still married, or would still be married, had death not separated them.
But, I had enough. I had been living in a verbally, mentally, sexually and borderline physically abusive marriage. And, on the surface, we had it all. We looked good on paper and in pictures. We attended regular church services, were the first in each of our friend circles to get married, had the dream house, etc. It never dawned on me that our entire marriage I had been making excuses for him and the way he treated me. It was always “ once we move out of our tiny apartment and have our house he will be happy”, or “once he passes his professional licensing exams he will be less stressed and happy”. I had fallen complacent and began to accept his treatment as my new normal. I wanted so badly for this marriage to work. He was my college sweetheart and I couldn’t imagine a life without him. I thought: if only I could be the “perfect” wife, he would be sure to see my worth, or I could soften his heart and things would be better. After all, we had since moved into our dream house and we had everything we could have ever wanted. The saying “happy wife, happy life” always infuriated me, because it was the exact opposite in my life. I usually described our relationship as “when it’s good, it’s good, but when it’s bad, it’s really bad.”
Then, the fighting intensified. Fights would be picked over the silliest things, and everything would upset him. And, it would set my world into turmoil. The biggest thing we would fight over was intimacy, and that subject would often garner the worst treatment. He would pick a fight with me during intimate moments and then throw me off of him, saying I disgusted him, slam a door and not speak to me for weeks on end. Leaving me not only naked, but extremely shaken. He would then avoid me for weeks, making me feel like a prisoner in my own home. All my communication attempts were ignored, he’d go out on the weekends, come home so drunk he could barely stand, and shred his receipts, putting so much fear and doubt in my mind. I would get physically ill over this. I lost weight, and developed many nervous habits during this time.
As I said earlier in my story, I left 2 days after my 29th birthday. It was a Saturday. I didn’t know I was leaving him when I left the house. We were to go to my birthday dinner with my parents that night and as I woke up that Saturday morning he resorted to awful name calling, while telling me to drive my car off a cliff. He refused to go to my birthday dinner and there I landed at my parents’ house alone (again, trying to keep up the “happy life”) and just completely broke down. By Sunday, I told my parents I couldn’t go back. I decided then and there that at the start of my 29th year I would not go another year like this. That was my breaking point.
And instead of staying in my 2,500 square foot dream home, I moved home to my parents’ house, an hour away from my work and stayed in my 9×13 little girl bedroom. That summer was a blur. We made a few attempts to reconcile. I realized he never apologized for the way he treated me and was more visibly upset about being alone, versus the reasons why I had left. I never wanted to be in this situation, but I also feel that he made it an option for me by the way he treated me. No one gets married to get divorced. Remember that. We all go into this with the best intentions.
By September that year, I had told him I wanted a divorce, and within a week of me doing so, everything escalated. He had changed the locks to our home, cleared our bank accounts, got rid of my things, cut off my health insurance, threatened my family and I, and attempted stealing my vehicle. He also let our home go to foreclosure, after a voided agreement that he would assume responsibility for the mortgage, since he remained in the home. So, not only did I have little money, I had awful credit because of his recklessness. I felt like I was living in a Lifetime movie.
The next few years were a dark place for me because after the initial leaving and the events that followed a few months later, my new reality set in. I was in a legal stand-still. Because he had cleared our accounts, I didn’t have much money to spend on a lawyer to fight. I should also mention that our divorce could have been an easy one, as we had no children. This was the only way he could control me. He could no longer control me at home, but he could control how and when I would become free. I started taking a deep dive into personality types on my own and through counseling and discovered that I had married a narcissist. The entire three and a half years it took me to get divorced from him were all about his control over me, my freedom, my future and my happiness.
I struggled during this time because it seemed life was passing me by. My best friends were married, bought their homes and brought babies into those homes. Here I was, now in my 30s, and I literally had to start everything over from the ground up.
But you know what? There’s beauty in that. It takes strength to rise up from the ashes and fight, rebuild, and learn to love and trust again. I didn’t always have this strength. I leaned a lot on my friends, family, and my faith, for that was my strength. I will also say that in my experience, I had no other choice but to be strong. I learned to be my own advocate.
I also learned that it’s not a race. I got so caught up in comparing my life to others, and that I wasn’t where I thought I should be. But, as trite as this may sound, no two journeys are the same. And that’s okay, too. Everyone has challenges, and I thank God that my problems were not as bad as someone else’s. I had my family, friends and my health. I had what I needed. This experience humbled me in the biggest way. I always knew what was important, but now I really know.
I would also like to remind anyone reading this that there IS light at the end of the tunnel, and you will come out of this. There was a time in my life that I never thought my divorce would come to and end, and I could never remarry, or even think about starting a family.
BUT, I am happy to say that a week ago I became engaged to the most wonderful person. And it turns out that he was in front of me all along. We were good friends for years. We just click, and he feels like home. I have never felt more loved, protected and cherished in my life. I finally know what it’s “supposed to be like”. No more harsh fights, no more egg shells. I get to be me, and he loves me for that. I love getting to be me, too. He’s loved me at my best and my absolute worst, and I know he’s here to stay. Someone told me while I was going through my divorce that when you get remarried “it’s so much better the second time”, and I believe it. You know what you want, and you know what you don’t want. You know your limits and what you won’t put up with. And you’re stronger. To anyone reading this in a spot where I was a few years ago, you aren’t alone, and you will be okay. You will live and love and be happy again.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I wish you the very best and I applaud you for using your platform to connect other women with all kinds of stories. I wish I had stumbled upon this when I was going through it, but I am happy to be on the other side supporting the women who are in the thick of it now.