Fast-forward to November 2018. Our son got married and of course we attended the wedding. I had not seen my ex in over a year; he quit talking to our daughter when our son went into the Air Force in 2015. We arrived in Missouri a couple of days before the wedding. At the rehearsal, my ex gave me a hug. It was awkward and uncomfortable, but I didn’t want to cause a scene, so I allowed it. When we were getting ready to practice the ceremony entrance, he wanted me to link arms with him so he wouldn’t “look like he was by himself.” David said, “Well that would just be weird” and I said that I was not linking arms with my ex. We went to the rehearsal dinner, where David was asked by my son to give the “father of the groom” speech. Even though my ex had already told our son that he did not want to give a speech, he was angry that David gave a speech, and complained to everyone who would listen (people he’d never even met by the way).
That wedding was a turning point for me in terms of making me realize that I needed to finalize the divorce. I’ve been with David for over 8 years; it’s ridiculous that I’m still legally married to someone else. Even though I claimed that I didn’t care about getting married to David, that was not true. I did want to be married to him, and I needed to get over my fear of my ex so that David and I could have our own chance at “happily ever after.”
I met with a paralegal in March 2019. I didn’t need legal advice; I just needed someone to figure out what needed to happen to finalize the divorce. We had gotten so far in the proceedings, but the court website wasn’t any help because their advice/instructions are geared toward starting the process. Before she could help me, she needed me to bring her copies of court orders already issued so that she could determine where we left off. Let me tell you, I was not ready for the emotions that would be stirred up by going through old paperwork. The fear, anxiety, and turmoil that I went through were brought back to the surface, and David started to notice that I was always irritable. He thought that maybe I didn’t want to get married after all (I will talk about our engagement and upcoming wedding in a different post).
I couldn’t figure out exactly why I was so irritable, why I suddenly didn’t want to go to work, why all I wanted to do was sit on the recliner and read books. It wasn’t until May 2019, when I had jury duty, that I made the connection. I was selected for a jury. In the deliberation room, one of the male jurors had a habit of calling us names when we didn’t agree with him (silly, illogical, lacking common sense, etc.). This was exactly what my ex-husband used to do to me when we were together. I started feeling like I was going to cry and thought I might even start hyperventilating. Later that day, another male jurist started yelling over a female jurist because he didn’t agree with her. This was another thing that my ex would do to me. I wasn’t even the one being yelled at, but my eyes filled up with tears and I had to go into the jury room bathroom. I was hyperventilating to the point where I thought I was going to pass out. My reaction was totally out of line with the situation in the deliberation room.
At the end of the day, I made the connection. I had been able to push my ex out of my conscious thoughts because I avoided finalizing the divorce. I never dealt with everything I went through in my marriage; I simply escaped the situation. Now that I was going through with it, everything about my ex-husband was at the forefront of my mind. I thought I was “over” the emotional, verbal, and mental abuse that he inflicted on me, but I was obviously still affected by it. How could this man still have power over me? I left him over 9 years ago! Yet here it was. I’m still afraid of him, even after all this time.
I think the reason I reacted the way I did in that room was because I couldn’t leave the room. When David and I disagree about something, my first reaction is to flee. I leave the room we are in, and I go outside the house. Sometimes, I even get in my car and drive away from the house. David has never been able to understand why my first impulse is to run away. I didn’t understand it myself until my experience in the jury room.
I am certain that this is the reason why I feel like I’m going to be sick when I go to work. He works in the same building, and I’m terrified that I will see him, or that he will come into my office to browbeat me for finalizing our divorce.
I decided that I need to regain control of myself, to break the hold he has over me. I told my doctor about everything because the extreme mental stress has also made my fibromyalgia pain worse, my blood sugar is through the roof, I’ve gained weight, etc. She made me take a couple of weeks off work so that I could start some therapy, work on managing my diabetes, and get through the court appearance for the divorce.
We had court on June 18, 2019. David couldn’t come with me because he had to work, so my older daughter went with me because I was so incredibly anxious about being in the same room as him. As soon as I saw him in the courtroom, I felt like I was going to vomit. When our names were called, and we sat at the table, my heart was racing so fast and I felt like I was going to pass out. The judge asked him why he never tried to finalize the divorce after our last child turned 18, and he gave some bullshit reason that made no sense at all. The judge then asked him for a form that he was required to complete as part of the process of finalizing the divorce. He didn’t bring it, even though the instructions were very clear. Once again, he made the decision that this divorce would not be easily granted. Once again, I was at his mercy. She gave him 10 more days to turn in the form. In other words, I left the courtroom still legally married to him.
When we left the room, he kept trying to talk to me. I told him that I had nothing to say to him. He was making up reasons why we still weren’t divorced, when I know deep down that it’s because he knows that I want this, and he won’t let me have anything I want unless it’s on HIS terms. I finally turned around, faced him, and said, “If I have my way, I will never speak another word to you as long as I live.” He looked stunned, like he didn’t know why I’d feel this way.
My daughter and I left the courthouse. My heart rate finally started to slow down to a normal rhythm. Even though my divorce was not finalized that day, I do know it’s closer than it was when I arrived that morning. I was finally able to tell my ex that I never want to speak to him again, something I never had the courage to say before that moment in time.
I don’t look at the 16 years I spent with my ex as a waste of time. I have 2 of my kids because of him, and I can’t fathom not having them in my life. The road I have traveled in my life led me to David and my "bonus daughter," which is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I don’t think I’d be with him if I’d chosen another path in life. Also, I did learn something from the relationship. I learned to listen to my inner voice. If something feels wrong, I will speak up.
I saw the therapist for the first time, the day after court. I’ve talked to therapists in the past, but never about my first marriage. This was the first time that I told anyone (other than David) the true nature of the relationship with my ex-husband. She and I came up with a plan to help me take control away from my ex and give it back to me, where it belongs. It won’t be easy, but I know I can do it. I’m going to learn how to not be anxious when I come to work. I’m going to learn how to no longer be afraid of a small-minded, cruel man. I’m going to learn that I don’t need to flee when David and I disagree about something, because I am safe with him. He won’t emotionally abuse me, or call me names, or do anything to make me think that I’m not worthy of love and care.
I will be okay.