Updated: Jul 1, 2019
Warning: I use occasional crude/vulgar language in this article.
He bought me an engagement ring in 2001 and we chose a wedding date in February 2002. I threw myself into wedding planning. He didn’t take part in any way, but I was used to doing everything solo. I told myself that it didn’t matter if he wasn’t involved because at least he was marrying me. I told myself that the wedding is for the woman, so it was totally normal that he didn’t care about a single detail, that he didn’t ask the groomsmen to be part of the wedding until a month beforehand, etc.
We got married in 2002 and settled into that phase of our lives. I thought that our relationship would improve; or, would at least stabilize. I didn’t think it could get worse because it was already not great. Again, I was wrong. He expected that since we were married, I would have sex with him every single day. If we went more than 3 days without sex, he told me our marriage was a sham and that something was wrong with me because I didn’t desire sex multiple times a week. Even when I had a major surgery and was told by the doctor that I could not have sex for 6 weeks, he expected “other things” from me.
Within the first year or so, I knew I’d made a horrible mistake by getting married. However, I didn’t want to get a divorce. I decided that I’d do everything possible to make it work, even though I knew I wasn’t in love with him. I planned vacations, getaways, romantic dinners – you name it, I tried it. I begged him to go to couple counseling with me, but he laughed in my face and said that counseling was for “crazy” people and “mental midgets” and flat-out refused to go with me.
As bad as things were, I really thought that they could not get worse. I was so naïve. In late 2005, I applied for a promotion at work. The job was with the same agency my ex and I worked for, but at a different location. I was offered the job, and I took it. This promotion brought me to the same “grade level” as my ex-husband. I thought he’d be happy for me, but no. If anything, he was angry that I reached his same grade level, even thought he was with the government for twice the amount of time I worked there. He told me that “at least he had integrity” and that he knew I’d hate the facility where I’d be working.
Looking back, I think that my promotion was the beginning of the end. He was so angry that I “caught up” to where he was, even though he’d been there twice as long. I was so depressed in my marriage that I started individual counseling to help with depression issues. I didn’t tell him when the therapist prescribed anti-depressants. I waited until several months had passed before I told him about the counseling and medication. His reaction? He laughed in my face and told me that I was “psycho.” I was crushed. But as usual, I ignored the voice in my head, SCREAMING AT ME to leave him.
A few years after the promotion that caused me to “reach” his level, I was offered another promotion. This time, I passed him up in terms of grade level. Again, he was furious. He basically accused me of “sleeping my way up” at work, which was blatantly false. Beyond being false, it was so hurtful. How could my own husband be so jealous of my success that he would accuse me of something so awful?
I stuck it out with him for almost 2 years after the promotion, but I knew it was over. About a year before I finally left him, I told him I was not in love with him anymore and that I thought we should split up. I told him that our relationship was causing emotional harm to our children, who had already begged me to leave their father on more than one occasion. He didn’t care. He said I was a selfish bitch if I left him, and that I needed to start thinking about our children “for once.” I told him that the only way I’d stay with him was if we went to couple’s counseling. He refused, so I started planning my exit from the marriage.
The “final straw” was something that seems so insignificant, looking back on it. This event took place about 6 weeks before I moved out of our house. Our son needed a haircut and asked me if I could take him (he was 12 years old, so not in a position to take himself). I had injured my back and was on a strong painkiller, so I didn’t think I should drive a car, especially since one of my kids would be with me. When my ex got home from work, I asked him to take our son to get a haircut. It was several hours before the place closed, so plenty of notice. He didn’t respond, but that was usual for him, even when he ended up doing what I asked. I brought it up again after dinner, and still no response. About an hour before the place closed, I brought it up a third time. He blew up at me and said it was “too late” to go because the place was about to close. I told him that they were still open for another hour, and he started yelling at me about how I was “lazy” and there was no reason I couldn’t take him. So, even though I was on strong painkillers, I took him for the haircut.
The next day, I went to work and removed my ex as the beneficiary for my work-related things (retirement, life insurance, etc.). I went to the bank and applied to refinance my car without his name on the loan. I made appointments to look at apartments and duplexes that would be in a location to allow my kids to remain in their current schools. Within 2 weeks of the haircut incident, I gave my 30-day notice to our property management company and secured a new place for me and the kids to live.
When my ex found out, that’s when he decided that we should go to marriage counseling. For me, it was too little, too late. I was leaving, and nothing would stop me. However, I agreed to go to counseling with him. Not because I thought our marriage could be saved; I went so that I could learn how to communicate and co-parent with him for the sake of our children.
Additionally, I was trying to make my exit as “smooth” as possible. My dad advised me to give him some “glimmer of hope” in the short-term that we might be able to salvage our marriage, just so that I’d be able to safely leave the house. For most of the time I was with my ex, I wasn’t physically scared of him. However, he made a comment about a month or so before I told him I was leaving. We were going to bed, and he made the most random, chilling comment. He told me that he could understand how a man could kill his wife and kids and then turn the gun on himself. At this point, I really started to wonder if he could be capable of something this horrible.
We went to our first counseling session, and it confirmed for me that I was making the right decision. He was delusional about our relationship. He told the therapist that he thought we had a basically strong marriage and that my decision to leave the marriage came out of left field. When we were done, she instructed us to not talk about our session, or our problems, outside of the sessions. We didn’t even make it home without him launching into our problems. He talked incessantly for hours; during the evening, as we were going to bed. He even woke me up in the middle of the night to talk about our problems.
The place I was moving to would not be ready for me and the kids until March 1, 2010. My plan was to stay where we were until that date and then move into my new place, which was only a couple of miles down the road. However, the universe had other plans for me. About a week before the moving date, I met up with a friend who had recently moved. He and his wife had a bunch of leftover boxes that he was giving to me so that I could save some money. On my way back home, my dad called me to ask me why my ex was coming to his house. I didn’t know what my dad was talking about, so he told me that my ex had just called him and asked to come talk to him. My dad told me that he’d listen to him, but all he cared about was my happiness. I got home, and my 12-year-old son and my nephew were on the couch.
Within a minute or two, my oldest son came bursting through the sliding glass door. I should mention that my oldest son moved out and was living with a friend’s mom because of the volatile relationship between him and my ex. Thus, I was not expecting him to come to the house. I looked at the couch, and I could tell that my middle son had been crying. I asked what was going on, and my oldest told me that his brother had just called him, saying that when my ex left the house to go to my dad’s house, he told our son that if he died, he wanted our son to know that he loved him. Our son was terrified that his dad was going to commit suicide or otherwise harm himself, so he called his brother. I realized that we couldn’t stay in the house another night. It seemed that my ex was really losing it and I felt like the kids and I needed to escape.
My oldest called a couple of his friends to come help us. We hurriedly put stuff in boxes, knowing that we only had an hour or two before my ex would be back from my dad’s house. We packed essentials, and I packed things that I’d be upset to have damaged or destroyed (e.g., my kids’ scrapbooks). I took my middle son and my nephew to my sister’s house, with instructions that if my ex called or came over, she was not to let my 12-year-old go with his dad. I called my mom (our daughter was spending the night), instructing her to not let my daughter go with her dad.
I transferred some money from my husband’s checking account into my account (not very much; just enough to pay for a couple of nights at a hotel and to carry me over until I got paid in a few days). I changed my account password so that he couldn’t take the money back, which would have potentially forced me to return home. I refused to stay at a family member’s house because I didn’t want to bring trouble to anyone.
I forced my oldest son to stay at the hotel with me. He was enraged and was talking about wanting to kill my ex. My son was leaving for USMC boot camp in a few months, and I didn't want him doing anything that would jeopardize his future. As we were driving up to the hotel, my ex called my cell phone. He was “frantic” and demanded to know where I was. I told him I was safe, the kids were safe, and that’s all he needed to know at that moment. I told him that I was exhausted and that I didn’t have the energy to talk to him. He told me that he knew I'd changed my bank account password and wanted to know why. I told him that I knew he'd try to deplete my account so that I'd have no choice but to come back home. He told me that he just wanted to make sure I had enough money (yeah, right!!). He kept going on, so finally I told him that I would call him at 9:00 a.m. the next morning. I told him he was NOT to contact me, but that he needed to wait for me to call him.
Needless to say, he didn’t wait for me to call him. He called me at 7:00 a.m., but I didn’t answer the phone. He called me again and again, so I finally turned off the ringer. I called him at 9:00 a.m. to tell him that what he said to our son was inexcusable and sick. He said that we all misunderstood him, that he just meant if he got in a car accident or something. I told him that was total bullshit because he’d NEVER said something like that before that occurrence. I told him that I knew everything he’d been telling our son about me, because he told my oldest son.
I found out about a week later that he told our son that it was HIS fault that I left the marriage. In my ex-husband’s mind, if our son hadn’t “betrayed his confidence” by telling his brother what he’d said about me, then I wouldn’t have left. That’s sick. First, why was a grown man in his 50s confiding in a 12-year-old, especially about the child’s mother? Second, why would anyone put that level of guilt on a child?
When I moved into my new place, he went to each of my parents, trying to convince them that I was mentally unbalanced; how could a sane woman leave him? He went to co-workers in our building to talk about me. He disparaged me to anyone who would listen to him. When our kids would visit him, he would grill them on what was going on at my house. Did I have anyone over? Did they hear me talking to anyone on the phone? He even instructed our son to attempt to read my emails and text messages.
I hired an attorney to handle the divorce. I didn’t need one for the paperwork because it was straightforward. I hired an attorney because my ex was threatening to report me for kidnapping our kids (they didn’t want to spend much time with him because he moved in with his parents and my ex made them sleep in the same bed as him). I figured the attorney could help with all of this.
I filed for divorce in April 2010. After I filed, he started coming to my desk at work to yell at me, browbeat me, etc. He parked across from my residence and stared at the house for an hour at a time. It got so bad that I finally had to tell his attorney that I would file a restraining order if he came to my desk one more time.
We went to private mediation to figure out custody of our children. He wanted 50/50 custody, even though our kids did not want to spend that much time with him. He couldn’t accept it; he told the mediator that it was my fault because I was turning the kids against him. I found that comical, considering that he was the one telling our kids that I left him for another man, I was crazy, etc. We did mediation for a few months, including the mediator spending considerable time talking to our children. The kids told her they were okay with spending some time with him, but not 50/50. They wanted to live with me and spend some time visiting him.
We went to court in September 2010, after we had the mediator’s report. In a nutshell, she recommended that I have 2/3 custody and he have 1/3 custody. This was not good enough for him. My “punishment” was that he refused to sign the divorce papers. We should have been divorced in January 2011, but since he wouldn’t agree with the mediator’s recommendation, the proceedings came to a standstill.
Let me say this: He was not a very involved father when we were together. He rarely took the kids to their activities, he skipped a lot of family celebrations, he got angry when I traveled for work because it meant he had to “deal” with the kids, etc. He couldn’t control my daily life anymore since I left him, so this was something he could control. He knew that it would hurt me to fight over our children, so this was a way for him to get back at me for having the nerve to leave him. He had talked several times about hoping for a reconciliation, but I’d made it clear to him early on that there was no chance of me coming back to him.
In December 2010, I started a relationship with the man I’m currently with, AKA the love of my life. I thought that once my ex realized that there was NO chance of us getting back together, that he would want to finalize the divorce. Why would anyone want to be married to someone who is sleeping with someone else?
Again, I was so wrong. The years went by, the kids grew up, my relationship with David grew closer, but I was still legally married to my ex. I was so anxious about the thought of facing him again in court that I decided to take the path of least resistance. I just left things alone. I truly did think that as soon as our daughter turned 18 (September 2016), my ex would insist on finalizing the divorce (he was paying child support through a wage garnishment).
David really wanted us to get married, but I was so terrified of dealing with my ex that I changed the subject whenever marriage came up. I used excuses like, “Well, as long as we stay legally married, he has to cover me on his health insurance,” and, “I don’t believe that marriage is important.” I am usually such a strong person that I didn’t want to admit that the thought of finalizing the divorce terrified me emotionally.