I’m a sort of a last-minute kind of person. I’ve never been much of a person for looking at the long-term picture. I tend to hyper-focus on the issue that I’m dealing with right at the moment.
When I was pregnant with my first child, all I could think about was the birth. I never even bothered going to the breastfeeding part of my prenatal classes. So there I was, in my hospital bed, trying desperately to attach my screaming newborn to the breast (which he refused while I balanced on my knee a book on breastfeeding borrowed from someone at the last minute). This picture might just give you a good idea of what kind of person I am. I’m also not known for taking a long time for making decisions, and once I make a decision, I dive in head first.
That’s how I left my husband.
It took me the last few months of my marriage to wake up to his gaslighting and stand up to him, and deal with his very strong reactions. The more I stood up to him, the more he reacted. Then I started reading up about control, abuse and people with narcissistic personality disorder. The picture was becoming clearer. The momentum was picking up – I’d started telling people about some of the issues I was dealing with and got responses like, “He’s abusing you”, and “If even a quarter of what you’re telling me is true, you need to make an escape plan.” Now I was galloping towards the finish line of my marriage.
I made the decision to leave him on a Tuesday. I was at the end of my rope and I couldn’t bear to stay with him for even one more day, but I stayed till the Friday. I spent the next two days planning my escape. On Friday morning, I drove him to work, like I normally did. Then I turned the car round and drove back home, and broke the news to the kids. It was heartbreaking, but we packed up our stuff and moved in with another friend of mine who had offered to put us up until I found my own place.
Leaving my husband was like giving birth to a baby without considering how I was going to feed it. I’d read the book Stop Walking on Eggshells by Randi Krueger and I had a pretty good idea that my husband had some kind of personality disorder. I also knew that he could be pretty vindictive. I had no idea what his vindictiveness would drive him to over the next two years.
Now I know that it’s a normal pattern for personality disordered people to take all kinds of revenge when their partner leaves, but then I thought that once I left, his abuse would end.
I wish I had known that he would ramp up the abuse any way he could, that he would use everything he could against me.
I wish I'd known that he would use the intimate pictures he had taken of me during our marriage and post them on his profile on an adult website. They were up there for over two years before I found them. I wish I'd taken not only his laptop (which was actually a laptop he’d given me for a birthday present) and the desktop computer when I left him and not given them back to him until I made sure that every last intimate picture of me was cleared from their disks.
I wish I'd known about smear campaigns and that he would take every little thing I'd done wrong (and make up a few more) to make me look like the bully and paint himself as the victim. I wish I'd protected my email account better so that he couldn't hack into it and send out a slanderous email about me to all my contacts, with false accusations against me. I had the smarts to take all the print photos that were in our possession and I gave him the negatives on the agreement that he would give me our digital family photos – the ones that were on that desktop computer I wish I’d taken with me. I’ll probably never see any of the photos or videos of my daughter’s figure skating again, or of my eldest son’s soccer and rugby, or of my two youngest sons’ toddler, preschool and preteen years, because they were all in digital format and he still hasn’t given them to me. I’ve learned my lesson now – always wait till he does what he’s supposed to before I fulfill my side of any bargain.
I wish I'd known that I was entitled to stay in the house and that if I got evidence of him abusing me, I could have gotten him to leave our home. I always get a shocked reaction when people realized that he is still living in our five bedroom, three bathroom house with a swimming pool while the kids and I are crowded into a crummy little flat. I wish I knew that he would contradict himself in court and crumble in front of a judge like he did when we finally got to see one.
I wish I'd known that every agreement had to be airtight because he would use any loophole he could find to shaft me financially. Actually, I wish that I’d realized earlier (and convinced my lawyer) that there was no point in making any agreement with him. It took about three wasted negotiation sessions in the courthouse before my lawyer woke up.
Speaking of that, I wish I’d gone to see a lawyer before I left him, instead of making my first appointment a week later. Finally, I wish I’d known that he’d drag out the divorce as long as he possibly could, by refusing to sign the affidavit my lawyer had typed up after our settlement conference. Because of this, our divorce dragged on for another eight months and a thousand dollars’ worth of lawyers’ fees.
Yes, I wish I’d done a lot of things differently.
But I don’t wish that I could go back in time. The end of my marriage was scary enough and even though it might have been more sensible to make a better escape plan and have all my ducks in a row, I was suffocating and dying bit by bit in the bottomless well of his sexual needs. I did what I had to do.
There’s no way I’d go back and redo the last three years. My bad decisions, my mistakes, my lack of foresight will just have to be. I can reach out and touch the light at the end of the tunnel now. My divorce was finalized last month, the family home is being sold next month and I’m moving on from my crummy little apartment too, into a house of my own with my children and my beautiful, sweet boyfriend of two years. I have a case pending against my ex-husband for the pictures he posted online and he’s also facing possible extortion charges.
It’s time to make peace with my imperfect past.