In honor of International Woman’s Day (which I’m embarrassed to say, never knew existed until now), I thought I would share the story of my previous marriage. It is not an easy story to tell. I spent a lot of time, after leaving my ex-husband, worrying and wondering what people would think of me. I was married for a little more than four months before I left. A lot of people have opinions about divorce, especially if you were only married for that short amount of time. However, I have come to find that those opinions do not matter. What matters is: I survived and I moved on. So, here is my story.
I met my ex, B, at a picnic with some friends, at a mutual friend’s home. I do not remember a lot about that picnic. I remember playing Guitar Hero with him and then he invited me to come see his friend’s band play the next night at Green Turtle. My friends and I went to Green Turtle the next night and watched the band play. We had a great time dancing the night away.
My friends and I became somewhat groupies to his friend’s band. We went to several bars to watch them play over the next couple of months. B and I started dating the summer of 2009. The first 6 months were great. However, he would do things like say “let’s go out on Friday for dinner and a movie”. Friday would come and he would say, “let’s just stay in and watch a movie at one of our parents’ house.” I didn’t really catch on then but realize now that he was consistently running out of money.
My first birthday with him was when I was turning 22. We went to a bar and got a hotel room with some friends. We all had a great time dancing and drinking. When the night came to an end, we were going to walk back to the hotel room. Something happened that night, I never found out really what, that caused him to leave me at the bar alone. He apparently walked back to the hotel room alone. Abandoned, I was forced to walk back to the hotel room alone, Because I had several drinks, I wasn’t in the best shape. So I walked on Dual Highway (a main road going through our town) to the hotel, praying the police would not see me. When I made it to the hotel, he was walking out of the hotel with his car keys. He was going to leave. I had no idea why; everything that night had been great, I didn’t understand why he would want to leave me. He got into his car while I begged him not to leave. I remember him punching his steering wheel over and over again. I had no idea what was going on. Eventually he came into the hotel again. Later, he told me he had found out a friend had died and he was very upset. Funny thing was, I never heard about that friend again. I remember feeling bad for him because I thought his friend really had died. Looking back, I don’t think that was really the case.
I didn’t know at the time but this was just the beginning of these episodes.
Things stayed pretty calm for a while. We got engaged in 2010 at the beach. I was a very excited new bride to be. We had some great times together. They were often followed by times of extreme heartbreak for me. Something would change in him. He would yell and scream at me and I was always left confused as to why. He would always have an excuse afterwards about a friend dying, his aunt being sick, thinking about the car accident and his friend, etc. I always felt bad.
He got me to feel bad for him so he was able to do whatever he wanted to me, until the time I finally left.
From what I was told (by him) his family didn’t care about him. He also said he was a mess because of a car accident he had been in with friends, when he was just a young teen. He had been severely injured and spent a lot of time recovering. That same accident left his friend a completely different person. I had no other sources to tell me anything different, so I thought I could help him.
There was my biggest mistake. I thought I could help.
After we were engaged, he would often start a fight with me. Those who know me, know that I do not yell and scream and I never did to him either. I just sat back and took it. It usually resulted in me crying and trying to make things right even though I didn’t really understand what I was doing wrong.
One time we went on a family vacation with my family. My sister and I were engaged and we thought it would be nice to take some pictures of us and our fiancée’s on the beach. I remember B being unbearably upset with me because the shorts he wanted to wear were still damp even though they had been in the dryer. No other shorts would do. I took my hair dryer and dried the shorts he insisted upon having. When we went to take pictures on the beach, he refused to smile in any pictures. I begged him to just smile. Instead, he left. He went back to the house and packed all of his bags. He sat in front of the house (in OBX) waiting for someone to pick him up. I remember my sister trying to figure out what was going on. He yelled at her and it broke my heart but I wasn’t strong enough to deal with it. I felt like a horrible person, how could I be with someone who would be yelling at my sister? Needless to say, he calmed down, came up with excuses. We moved on like nothing happened. But, I still felt bad.
The next layer.
“You’re better off without me; the world is better off without me.” The threats to kill himself started. He would often start a fight with me and then leave just make it hurt me a little more . He called and told me he was going to drive his car into a tree as fast as he could. I was terrified. I begged and begged for him to stop. I said whatever I thought I needed to say to make him stop. I threatened to call the police and his Mom. I didn’t know what to do. Eventually he calmed down, came up with excuses, and we moved on like nothing happened. I still felt bad.
We continued on our path through good and bad times. On June 30, 2012, we got married. The night before and during our wedding, we were happy and excited. That feeling didn’t last. I was left embarrassed during most of the reception because any time we needed him for something he was outside. I remember standing in the middle of the dance floor alone while people went to look for him for our first dance. I wanted to run and hide, but I couldn’t. I let it go because saying anything to him would have ruined the night for everyone. Much later, I found out that he had taken gift cards and actual gifts from the wedding and sold them, most likely for drugs.
After our wedding, we went home to the house I bought a month before. We had a great week together before we left on our honeymoon.
Our honeymoon was in the Smokey Mountains. It was awful. It appeared to be the last place in the world he wanted to be. I had to make all the meals, clean all the dishes, all with a smile on face to keep the peace. One day, I sent him to the grocery store for dyer sheets because we forgot them. When he got back, I checked the credit card balance for the week and saw a purchase of $46.00 at the grocery store. He only came back with dryer sheets so that should not cost that much! I asked if he bought something else or got cash back. He said no, but then said the cashier hit the buttons on the credit card machine so he didn’t know what happened. I called my credit card company and they recommended that I go to the grocery store to ask. So the both of us drove to the grocery store and explained the situation. They pulled up the video and it showed him hitting the buttons on the credit card machine and getting $40.00 cash back. He said that he must have forgotten he got that. Then he proceed to walk around the parking lot, looking for the money he thought he dropped. I said nothing because I knew what would happen if I questioned him and I was stuck 10 hours away from home. I was so embarrassed at the store, I wanted to disappear.
On our last day there, we found a puppy that we really wanted ,so we got her. We named her Dixie. After we purchased her, we went to Walmart so I could get some things for her. He stayed in the car with her. I later found out through an old friend, that several time he bragged to, that he walked around the parking lot begging for money, pot, and drugs, while I was in Walmart. I had no idea. When I came out of Walmart, he was sitting in the car with Dixie. However, something was very wrong when I got in the car, he said he wanted to go home. We were going home the next day and I really didn’t want to leave early. I wanted to enjoy our last night there, in the cabin. He screamed at me as we drove back to the cabin saying that I was horrible person because he wanted to go home and I didn’t. I just cried and held Dixie and tried to protect her ears from the screaming the whole way back to the cabin. He drove recklessly to scare me even more. When we got back to the cabin I packed everything. We left and drove the 10 hours home starting at 4PM. It was exhausting. We couldn’t stop at a hotel, because he wanted to go home, so we drove through the night.
We came home and lived the “married” life for a while. From the time we got married, to the time I left, I can remember probably 6 times that he packed his bags to leave. Sometimes, it was just over me wanting to go to a friend’s birthday party; other times, it was when I confronted him about missing money. Then there were the times, that to this day I still have no idea why he packed his bags and left. He hated when I did anything with my friends. I was often accused of cheating on him. When I was out with my friends, I always kept my phone close. If I noticed he called and I missed it, it was instant panic. I knew I would be accused of something and I didn’t want to feel like a bad person when I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong. The craziest part of it all was, I started believing that I was a bad person. In my heart I knew I wasn’t doing the things I was accused of but the mind games were in full play. If someone looked at me for a second, I was terrified that they would get decked in the face by him. I got in between many arguments he had with others. It was terrifying and humiliating all at the same time. I eventually stopped wanting to go anywhere or do anything. It was just easier that way.
One time my parents came over to confront him because money had been going missing from their bedroom. Even worse, in my parents’ view, he went into my parents’ 80 year old neighbors’ house and when he left money was missing from them too. I was humiliated. Not only was he obviously stealing from my parents, he was stealing from an 80 year old woman who was basically my 2nd Grandmother growing up. It was this thief that drove my parents to confront him. When my parents told him why they were there, he packed his bags and left. He said he was going to live in his car or maybe not live at all. I begged and begged for him to come work it out. Eventually he came home but he was angry with me for days. I started avoiding going to my parents house because I was mortified. I didn’t know what to do. I knew I didn’t want not be with someone who would do these things but I married him; what do I do?
I never understood why, but I could tell he hated me. When he was angry, he was nowhere near the person I thought I fell in love with. The time between our happy times and bad times were becoming closer and closer until there appeared to be very little things to be happy about. He would often fall asleep on the couch. I would try to wake him up and ask him to come to bed but he would never wake up. I would talk to him, shake him, and nothing. I always thought he was faking because he didn’t want to be near me. I started to get scared. It seemed like everything I did was bothering him and causing him tremendous anger. If he did wake up on the couch, he would be a completely different person, a scary person. I remember often laying in bed facing the door and trying to stay awake because I was afraid he would come in the room, see me sleeping and breathing, and want to end my life, since my presence made his life difficult. I was terrified that would wake up with a pillow over my face and that would be it. I was exhausted. My doctor had put me on a high dose of anxiety medication; my blood pressure was up, and I had stomach ulcers. It was taking its toll.
I remember thinking I was insane. HE NEVER HIT ME, why would I think he would kill me? I remember just wishing he would punch me in the face, push me down the stairs, anything to tell me that I was right to leave. I thought I wasn’t justified to leave. I didn’t understand emotional abuse, I didn’t have bruises, so I must be okay. I wasn’t okay, my body was physically falling apart, I was losing myself.
The big bang.
The house I had purchased before I got married was built in the 1950’s. I don’t think it had been updated since then. His Dad helped us do a lot of updates around the house. One night, we were at his parents garage painting the cabinet doors. Everything was fine, we were listening to music and working. He was sanding and I was painting. Randomly, he decided that the doors did not need sanded and we could just paint them instead. I spoke up and said that I thought we should still sand them so that we did not have to repaint these for a long time. I offered to do both jobs if he needed break.
Hell broke loose.
The screaming started. I was belittled into nothing because I wanted to do the job the correct way. He threw some of the stuff in the garage and then he got in his car and drove away, again. I called him probably 100 times. He wouldn’t answer. I remember running into his parents house and cutting off his credit card because I had a very bad feeling about what he was going to do. Several times, he wrote checks out of my personal bank account, foraging my name. These checks were for hundreds of dollars that we could not afford, He would take out cash advances on our credit cards, which made it harder than ever to stay afloat.
I went back to the garage to sand and paint the rest of the cabinets. I figured he would be back; he’d have an excuse, and we would pretend that nothing happened. Hours went by before I ever heard from him again. I went back to the house and asked his brother to take me home. His brother contacted him and he answered. He came back and I was stupid enough to get in the car again. I thought it would be like any other time; he would have his excuse and we would pretend it never happened. This time he stayed even angrier, even longer.
When we got home, he said he was going to stay up. I was exhausted; so I went to bed. I got up in the middle of the night and I tried to wake him up to get him to come to bed. He wouldn’t get up. So I went back to bed, alone. That morning when I woke up I was going to help one of my best friends with her daughter’s birthday. I got up and got ready to go. He was supposed to go pick a refrigerator for our house. I asked if he was still going to pick up the fridge. He wouldn’t answer me. I was trying not to ask him several times but I needed to know because someone was supposed to meet him there to get it. Finally, he stood up off the couch, screamed at me and said he wasn’t going to do anything. I walked away for a minute. I came back with the money for the fridge and he continued yelling that he wouldn’t do anything for me, etc. I put the money by the couch. The yelling got louder, the insults were stronger, and I got tired of it.
I yelled back.
I don’t yell! I do not participate in arguments like this. This was not me. His yelling increase and he went to our room to pack his bags. I told him, “come talk to me like human or I am leaving.” He refused to come down and talk to me. Instead he continued packing his bags and screaming at me.
On Saturday November 10, 2012, I left.
I grabbed Dixie and I got in my car. I had absolutely nothing with me other than Dixie. I knew I needed to go home to my parents, I was terrified. I didn’t want them to worry about me. I also knew if I was going to admit what was going on that I wouldn’t be able to go back to him. It was over if I left.
I drove to my parents. I grabbed Dixie out of the car and ran into my parents house. I had assumed he would be following me. I will never forget the look on my parents face when they saw my face. I remember simply stating, “I cannot do this anymore” and then I broke down. My heart broke even more knowing that I was breaking theirs. I told my parents some of what was happening, but not everything, I wasn’t ready for that yet.
I needed to be at my friend’s house to help her get ready for her daughter’s birthday party. I got myself together as much as I could and I went to her house. I told her what was going on but I wasn’t admitting that it was over. I still wanted to give him a chance, you know the chance to apologize, give me an excuse, and move on like nothing happened. My phone rang all day that day. He left voicemail after voicemail threatening and screaming at me. I refused to talk to him until he stopped talking to me like that. I sent him a message that I would talk to him when he calmed down but not any sooner.
After I helped my friend get things ready for the party, I went back to my parents house. B was still leaving voicemails of him screaming at me. I decided it would be best to stay at my parents house. I stayed with my sister in her room. It was rough. At some point I must have fallen asleep because I remember waking up very early in morning to my phone ringing. As my phone was ringing I heard a car flying down my parents road. then it stopped and pointed its headlights directly into my sisters bedroom (you’d have to position your car just right for this to even happen). That was probably one of the most terrifying moments in my life. I knew he knew what room I was in and my sister was with me. Did I just put my family at risk by being there? He drove away after screaming new voicemails for me.
Another night went by and he continued with the awful messages. On Monday I went to work. I had to tell my boss what had happened because I was afraid he was going to show up there. I had to give a picture of him so they knew if it was him. Talk about humiliating…
One night he came to my parents house and told me to come outside and get in the car to talk to him. I told him I would talk to him but it had to be on my parents front porch. He refused. I’ll never forget it. I was sitting on my sister’s bed trying to decide if I wanted to give in. My family was doing a great job a letting me make my own decisions about whether to go back to him or not. I sat there on my hands begging myself in my head to not go back to him. I begged myself over and over. But my stupid heart, it was broken and it wanted to give him a chance again. However, something held me down. It would not even let me stand up. I just sat there in the worst possible pain you could imagine. But I stayed in the bed, I didn’t go outside, I didn’t give in.
The next day I started sharing more and more with my best friends and family. By the time I left work that day I determined that I did not want to back to him, I wanted a divorce. I told him it was over, he needed to pack his bags and leave the house. Again, I was told what a horrible person was but I stood my ground. The things he had done to me were brought to light and I had a new-found strength.
I stayed at my parents house for about 2 weeks. Every morning I got up for work by saying in my head, 1,2,3, go. I had to literally make myself get up on the 3. Otherwise, I knew I would stop functioning. I still had a job to do and I needed to rebuild my life.
B continued to call at times, send Facebook messages, etc. He even sent me flowers to work one time, which he had never done before. I was so angry at him for that. Work was my safe haven at the time and tried to take that from me by making me break down at work. His messages were sometimes begging me to come back to him. Sometimes the messages were him asking for money, pillows, and all kinds of crazy things. I continued with my motto of 1,2,3 go. It got me through a lot.
After 2 weeks I went home. My family helped me redo my house so it felt more like a fresh start. My now brother-in-law moved in with me so I felt somewhat safe. I slept with a knife under my bed for a long time. I was always worried that he would come back. My door had the hotel latch on it to help me feel a little more safe. He took that from me. I did not get to feel safe anymore. It took very long time to feel any sort of safety again.
November 19th, my birthday, I met with a lawyer to discuss my rights and filing for divorce.
Since I had not had the crap beat out of me to the point of being near death I had to wait a year until I could file for divorce. I was told that even women who were beaten to the point of death sometimes still have to wait a full year in Maryland. This did not help me feel any better since I was already struggling with the title of emotionally abused, I still wasn’t sure if I was considered “abused”. I called CASA to get some information about lawyers. They were very friendly and helpful. They offered free lawyer services after my one year wait was up. I decided to hire my own lawyer since I had the means to do so and save the money for someone else who needed it. I highly recommend calling them whether dealing with physical or emotional abuse. I remember dialing their number and thinking, ” I cannot believe this is my life” but I am thankful I did. I started seeing a counselor who helped work through everything and determine that I was emotionally abused and that it was in no way my fault.
As time went by I found out more and more about him. I could not believe I was married to someone who was living a completely different life behind the scenes. He has been with other woman and some of them asked me to make him leave them alone now. I didn’t get those messages until after I left him because they were in a different folder.
I was stuck for a year with his last name and dealing with him. He would randomly contact me with some sad story but I never answered. I only contacted him through e-mail or text messages so everything was in writing and it was always related to the divorce. He refused to sign separation papers for several months. Our divorce was put off by almost 8 months because he refused to sign those too. I could not find him to serve papers to him because he was constantly moving all over the place. It took 1 year and 8 months to get divorced. I was forced to be married to a man who caused me extreme distress for 1 year and 8 months more than I should have been. It was emotionally draining.
I was finally divorced and I immediately changed my name. I was finally free. I should have never married him, I know that. I wish I wouldn’t have. I don’t think I would be where I am now without going through difficult times. I’m happy to share my story with people to give them hope that you can recover from the most difficult and heart-breaking situations. It gives me a reason for going through everything that I have. I hope no one ever thinks they are alone in these fights. I know without my support system I probably would have ended up back with him. If you ever find yourself in similar situations reach out to CASA, your friends, and family. They will help you find the strength you never knew you had.Never worry about what other people might think about you. Those people should be more concerned with judging the person causing the abuse.
If you ever are left with the option of losing someone you love or losing yourself, never choose to lose yourself! Whenever you find yourself struggling remember to 1,2,3 go. Don’t ever give in.
Songs that helped me find some strength:
The Last Time – Taylor Swift
Almost Do – Taylor Swift
Roar – Katy Perry