I recently read a post on my Facebook feed from someone about their survival of Domestic Violence and getting out. They talked of the sadness of losing their marriage but gratefulness to be out of it. I often wonder how many women and men feel this way, besides myself and my Facebook friend, about the ending of a toxic relationship. Especially one where there is such mental, emotional, psychological, and sometimes physical torment going on.
I was my ex-husbands high school sweetheart. We married in our 30’s because I had chosen to stay in the toxic domestic violence I was in with my biological family. They told me it was him or them and I chose them at that point. I was his second wife and that first marriage took a toll on him as well as bringing two children into my life. I often wonder if things would have been different if I had chosen to stay with him in those early years; he was not such a cold hearted person at the time but a dedicated, loving man that loved me. But I digress…
I watched this behaviour growing up and always vowed my children would never watch me be abused nor be subject to abuse.
When we married, I knew it was for the wrong reasons. I saw red flags weeks, and the night before the wedding. I see it now clear as day-then I wonder what exactly I was thinking. Following through with the wedding, and eventual marriage, has taught me some hard-won lessons. When the psychological abuse did not work on me it became physical.
Unfortunately for myself, but lucky for him, in the state I live in women are men’s property in marriage and just short of murder they can get away with anything. At the time of my then initial divorce proceedings it had become law where a husband could be charged with assault, but that was it. No charges were brought against him because I was perceived as “the vindictive wife” in the divorce. Almost 15 years later women still have very little protection from their abusive husbands in this state.
After years of counseling and domestic violence support help, I have learned that he did what he knew. I do not blame him for his actions to the point where he knew where help was and refused it. That is where it fell to me to get out and for a long time I did not. I kept repeating the vicious cycle of abuse. When I realized I was retaliating I knew it was time to end our marriage. The two kids he had brought into the marriage and one we had were witnessing all of this.
I watched this behaviour growing up and always vowed my children would never watch me be abused nor be subject to abuse. I fell into the trap of repeating what I knew. I also vowed that the abuse cycle would end with me. That meant letting him go, no matter how much I loved him. I will always love him on some level; but I will not accept being treated so shabbily nor allowing myself to turn into such a terrible person that I am retaliating in front of our kids. Those kids are adults today and only one speaks to me. It is completely understandable that the other one does not. We had a good relationship, but I was not so innocent in the end and she saw things she never should have.
All this history has come full circle for me because I now have a young daughter that I do not want to see go through what I did. Learning boundaries as an adult and thinking it is acceptable to be treated with disrespect by men. I knew when I let go of my marriage that I could no longer do anything for my ex-husband. All I could do was apologize for my part and not repeat the same mistakes I made with him.
Having a daughter to raise has given me the insight into how I should be treated. I will not allow my daughter to be disrespected or mistreated and it has taken me her entire lifetime so far to put those standards to myself. Baby steps is what I have been told…because I am hard on myself for what I allow into my life.
This past custody fight for my daughter is teaching me that it does not matter what others think; only my children and myself. Other people are going to think what they want regardless of what the truth really is, so I need to just focus on being mentally, psychologically, emotionally, and physically healthy. This allows me to see the red flags, act (or lack thereof) on them, and not stay in unhealthy situations.
Letting go of a dream of what life is supposed to be like with that person, because staying means being abused and perhaps becoming someone that I do not respect, is hard to do. I do not blame my ex-husband for his actions, nor really his parents for being that sort of example. I know what his grandparent’s relationship was like and it was similarly toxic. I know myself at that time I was not a mentally, emotionally, or physically healthy person to be involved with.
I grew up in Domestic Violence and codependency and they no longer work for me, whereas it does for others. Today when I think of my ex-husband, I hope he is doing well and living a happy life. He was my best friend for many years and I still have fond memories of us together.