When did I know I needed to leave and when did I find the strength to go? Those are two different days.
I was raised in an abusive home. Past abuse made staying in a verbally, emotionally and financially abusive marriage that much easier. I was living with abuse every single day of my marriage and I was pushing it under the rug. I apparently hid it well.
I married my ex because my parents chose him. I could have said no. I thought I loved him. It is a long story, however if any of you have ever watched nineteen kids and counting well my family was a version of that, except a very messed up version. Anyway, we married young. I was 21, he was 23. Our parents thought neither one of us were ever going to get married, so they put us together.
Our honeymoon was not a honeymoon. He planned nothing, we drove until he was horny and we stopped at a hotel and stayed three days which was when he was ready to go home. A week after we went back home, I knew he didn’t want to be married to me. 10 days after my wedding I knew I needed to leave. However, we were good christians and good christians don’t get divorced. Ever.
His mood swings varied, though they were rarely good. A lot of things happened throughout the course of our 16 year marriage that should have been the flashing neon sign TIME TO LEAVE YOUR MARRIAGE, somehow I managed to ignore them.
“You aren’t good enough, look at you middle aged, four children, a cripple and a blind kid. Who would sign on for that? Have you ever thought this through? Who in their right mind would ever want you? You can’t do it on your own. How are you going to work and take care of MY kids? No one would ever give you MY kids? These are MY kids and you know it. IF you EVER think about leaving me I am taking MY kids and you will never see them again.”
I believed every word he said. Every sad lie he told me. For 16 years I believed him.
One day, fate intervened. Our oldest child has battled cancer and the many side effects since birth. We were at a dr. appointment and his dad told the doctor that he knew better than any doctor and he was going to do whatever he decided with our sons medical treatment. Our son was sick, his dads choices were making him even worse and yet his dad was adament that he knew better than anyone in the world.
We were seeing the best doctors in the world, undisputedly so and yet his dad felt qualified to inform them that his C and D grades in high school qualified him to tell them they knew nothing and he knew everthing. We left the appointment. I was humiliated. We fought but it was pointless. We had fought this same battle for years. He knew best and I was nothing. The kids dad had been diagnosed with adult onset bipolar disorder. This is the reason he thinks he is better than the doctors and everyone else.
The next day I received a call from the dr. I was asked to come see the dr. At that appointment, the doctor explained to me, they were giving me a choice. Due to the behavior my children’s dad had exhibited the previous day, they were legally obligated to report him for criminal neglect of my children. They would give me the chance to remove my children from him, I needed to bring proof that I had filed for divorce and that I was seeking sole custody.
I walked out sobbing. Devastated, scared and overwhelmed. Everything he had told me, all the lies were screaming in my head. There was no way I could do this on my own. I sat in my office crying, thinking. Reality set in. I wasn’t willing to lose my children. I had to figure this out.
I made a list. I was already paying the majority of the bills. I took care of everything with the house. Ran all the errands, did all the cooking and cleaning. He hadn’t worked in years yet the only help he generously gave me was picking the kids up after school and watching them until I got home from work.
The next day I saw a lawyer and filed. Three and a half years later our divorce was final.
Of course, none of it worked out the way I planned that first day I made my list.
Because our families are so religious, my family didn’t speak to me for approximately 18 months except the occasional expression of their prayers for my sin of divorce. My so called friends staged an intervention, all the friends I had were from his church. They didn’t understand.
It was the most lonely, horrible time of my life.
It has turned into the most wonderful, amazing time of my life. I have learned I can do this. I can do it on my own. I figured out how to juggle childcare, house cleaning, soccer, scouts, softball, PTA, work, writing, band, parenting, and most importantly how to hold the kids dad at arm’s length so he has no control over my life anymore. His drama, his bitterness, his discontent belong to him. I don’t apologize for his behavior anymore. I don’t feel bad when he acts out anymore. It is his life, his choice.
Finding inner strength, peace and happiness. That is the example I set for my children. Teaching them they are strong enough. Hopefully they will wait to get married. If they ever find themselves in an unhappy or abusive relationship, I hope they will recognize the signs and leave at the first sign. Not 16 years into the abuse.
When did you know it was time to leave?