It has been really…something…for me to document my process of therapy and divorce on my blog. The entire thing is out there for the world to see. I did it, in part, for myself. I process through writing. I also did it so that other people could see what it looks like. How do you get from Point A to Point K? It’s brutal. Is there anything we can do to help ourselves when we’re at rock bottom? How do you leave an abusive marriage? What does it feel like? What does it look like? It’s all here.
Some people do their emotional processing during the separation. I did mine before. I suffered terribly for three years prior to my realization that it was over. This was most likely why my health deteriorated. Toxic stress and abuse. I knew that it was falling apart. I knew that it was him or me. I chose him for too long.
There are many opinions out there defining marriage. I looked at a lot of them. I grew up around the Evangelical conservative definition of it. I read many Jewish resources that described marriage. I read books about healthy relationships. I asked friends. In the end, you have to decide for yourself. The Church, the synagogue, your neighbor, your Mommy and Me group, your parents and in-laws, and the people gathered around the water cooler are not living your life. You are. You get to determine what is good for you and what is not.
What stunned me almost more than anything is something that a friend said in passing to me over a year ago. She said that her mother told her over coffee one day that her husband (my friend’s father) hugged her and said, “You are the best thing that has ever happened to me.” My friend’s mother sighed and said, “I wish I could say the same for him. He is not the best thing to happen to me.” She sipped her coffee and looked out the window. My friend shook her head and said, “We all know it’s true. He has such a bad temper. My mom hasn’t had an easy time of it.” Then she changed her tone and said, “But, we do what we have to do, don’t we?”
We do? What is it that we have to do? Commit to mistreatment? Stay for the kids? What do the kids learn then? It’s okay for Dad to emotionally beat up Mom when he’s angry because anger justifies anything? Sons learn that it’s acceptable to carve up people when you feel angry and justify it later, and daughters learn that angry, abusive men are normal and to be expected–nay, tolerated–in life.
I heard what she said, and it haunted me. I imagined myself being this older woman so wishing I had done what I should have–chosen for myself and my well-being. I imagined myself trying to tell one of my daughters to believe in herself and fight for her happiness and feeling like a hypocrite because I had not done the same thing. I could not do it. I could not be the woman who chose mediocrity simply because I was afraid. I was already afraid. I was afraid every day. Of him. Why not be afraid of something else then? Something better? Like starting over?
So, I did it. It’s been painful but not that painful. I have had unexpected moments of extreme self-doubt in which I have had to fight to stay strong. He has, however, done me the favor of behaving so badly as only to confirm time and time again that I made the right decision. That is how I have reframed his antics. Ah yes, another validation!
I don’t say this easily, but I say it with vehemence. We create our lives. Fight for the life you want. Choose the people whom you want in your life. If you are being abused, then take steps to stop it. If you are not happy, then do something to address that. It is not an easy road to be sure, but it is the most worthwhile adventure that you could possibly choose. Aim. Set your trajectory. And go.
It is within your reach even if it feels like an impossible dream. It isn’t. It really isn’t.