I’m sitting here in the waiting area, not sure what exactly to expect. It’s not like I’ve been in this situation before. I’m waiting here by myself. He isn’t going to attend and I’m not surprised. He never really was invested in the relationship, so why start now? My lawyer isn’t here because it’s a straight-forward divorce and I’d rather him work on finalising the asset split that there hasn’t been an agreement on yet. That will be the next big chapter to close – the splitting of the assets so that I have no more ties with my husband.
I can’t tell you how long I’ve waited for this day. In some ways, it feels like forever, but in the bigger scheme of things, when I think about the fact that I’ve been married for over 20 years, then today came exactly when it needed to come. I wish I could say that I’ve been ready for this day for years, but in reality, I haven’t been. It’s taken this last year and a bit, of being separated and on my own, to go through all the healing and growth that I’ve needed to go through, to get me here. I’m not the same person that I was when I walked out that door. I’m so much stronger and I’m no longer broken.
Yes, you read that right. I was broken when I walked out that door. Despite all appearances, I was probably at one of the lowest points of my life when I had made the decision to allow my feet to walk me away from that marriage; When I decided that it was time to take myself and the children away, and to start working on a life on our own. In short, my self esteem was at an all time low. I was in a loveless marriage that was toxic on many levels. I was scared for my sanity and safety, and that of my children. Yes, it was abusive and I knew that it wasn’t going to get any better. I knew the behaviour patterns by this time. I knew what to expect and when to expect them. I knew the severity. I could see all the red flags because they were flashing in big bright neon lights. I knew that the only way out was to just walk out. I couldn’t keep walking on eggshells and I didn’t want to keep living in fear. But walking out the door isn’t as easy as that. There’s a lot more to it.
Never would I have thought that I would ever find myself in a situation like that. Never would I have thought that things would get to the point where I saw no alternative but to leave. Never would I have envisioned myself as single at this age, with three children. Never did I think that I would have to rebuild my life from the ground up, after 20 years of marriage.
Let me go back to the relationship though and explain why my self esteem was at an all time low. When you’re in a relationship with someone and you’re continually told something, whether that be good or bad and whether or not it’s true, you start to believe it. This can happen anywhere, the workplace included; This isn’t something reserved for romantic partnerships. This can be a parent-child relationship or even a friendship. It just feels ten times worse when it comes from someone you love or you thought loved you. I’m not talking about the occasional joke or anything said in jest. I’m talking about the heaviness that comes with a continual reminder of how useless you are. The passing comment of “how can you be so stupid?”, or “I can’t believe that you did this again”, that turns into every other sentence (or every sentence) that comes out of that other person’s mouth, aimed at you. When everything you say or do, or don’t say or do, is criticised and you’re made to feel dumb, incompetent or just plain stupid. I don’t care what other people might say or think about that. I don’t care about being judged for feeling the way I felt. It was hurtful. It was constant. It was unacceptable. But for some reason, I put up with it. It was only when those comments were also directed at the children, that I really started to sit up and take notice. And then it moved to more psychological. Nasty mind games that made you think you were going nuts.
The problem is that you can’t really “see” the impact of emotional and psychological abuse on a person, because that person will hide and suppress it. In my case, it felt silly to say that I was in an abusive relationship, because there was nothing physical and it felt weak of me to say it, yet I was still hurt, bruised and damaged. I still had wounds but you just couldn’t see them on the surface. So yes, my self-esteem got a good beating. It was a regular beating, but you’d never tell if you looked at me.
On the outside, I was a happy mother of three children, with a great career and marriage. Someone who had her whole life together. On the outside, it looked like there was nothing that would shake me. No one knew about the inside, and really, how are you supposed to open up to even close friends, and admit that you were in an abusive relationship? That everything changed behind closed doors? I still had my pride and ego too, and it really did seem silly to say “abusive”, when there were no physical scars. So I kept going. I stayed in that relationship and let the days pass. And the days turned into months and then years. All until the day it started to become physical.
Until the day when it was like the “game” went up a few levels and I started to really fear what would happen next. Until the day when he started letting it out on the children and their possessions. Until the day when he did a physical act of violence in front of my children, under the guise of discipline. That’s the day when it all changed and I knew that my pride and ego had to just take a back seat, and no matter how useless I felt on the inside or how scared, I knew that I had to take a stand and make the change.
Police were involved. Statements were taken. Affidavits were written. Judgement was passed. Counselling was undertaken. And my mind was made up after it was all said and done because nothing changed no matter how much I tried. The situation was clear. The way “out” was evident. I needed a divorce.
Things didn’t get any better after the day I told him that I wanted a divorce. The days and weeks that went by between when I told him that I wanted a divorce and actually walking out the door, were probably some of the toughest days ever. (I could probably write a whole blog post on it, and maybe I will later.) But somehow I got through it and felt a small breath of fresh air and relief, when I finally moved into a place for myself and my children, where he wasn’t. Where I could do everyday things and not have to walk on eggshells. Where I could start to be me again and start to really live again.
So well over a year has now passed, and in that time I’ve grown and changed so much. I’ve healed from the hurt. I can admit to what the marriage really was. I can let go of my pride and ego and say that the red flags were always there but I was just too blind to see them at the time. I now know where my boundaries are, for all my relationships. I know what I’ll put up with and what is a hard no. I know when to call it quits and when to keep trying. I know who I am and what makes me, me. I know what my strengths and weaknesses really are and I know how to face my fears. I know what my bare minimum standards are, and damn, are they high now.
Am I sad today? No. I’ve moved past that. I’ve accepted that my marriage was over a long time ago and that today is just a formality. Am I angry? No. What’s done is done. I can’t change the past and it’s a waste of my energy to hold on to any anger, so I’ve let that go.
What I do have, is forgiveness. I forgive myself for letting things happen the way they did and for so long – for not walking away sooner. I forgive myself for involving children in all of this. I even have forgiveness for him and what he did, because you’d have to be terribly lost and broken on the inside, to need to lash out at the very people who loved you.
Every relationship has to run its course and my marriage has. It’s taught me so much about myself, my children and about people in general. It’s taught me about relationships and boundaries. It’s taught me how to stand up for what I believe in and to know when it’s time to just walk away. I’m actually quite grateful for the lessons I’ve learned through this relationship and I’m ready to take what I’ve learnt and move on. I’m ready to close this chapter of my life. I’m ready to start a new chapter. I’m just ready.