I want a Divorce.
These four words would forever change my life. I blurted them out without even hesitating as I sat in the car, traveling out of state for a wedding.
I looked out the corner of my eye to see my husband’s reaction. Literally, it was like I said “Oh it is a nice day out today, isn’t it?” I knew in my heart I didn’t regret those words, but my husband had no reaction. Was it because he told me he wanted a divorce weekly, and now the shoe was on the other foot? Did he not hear me? I didn’t understand why there was no reaction.
Over the next few months, I was overwhelmed with flowers, poems, cards, and promises by my husband. The very things I yearned for in our years of marriage, he was using to lure me back to the marriage that was a lie. There; I admitted out loud that my marriage was a lie, right from the moment I said: “I do”.
Inside, I struggled. My heart knew I no longer loved him. In some ways I hated him, and yet my mind was playing a game. I felt guilty for wanting to leave him, I felt sorry for him, and I didn’t understand why.
One day at work, my husband called and said he had scheduled an appointment for me to see someone. Clearly, something was wrong with me because I wanted a divorce. He said no woman in their right mind would want to leave behind what he had given me. He constantly reminded me how lucky I was to have a husband who wanted me because no one else ever did. I should feel honored; he could have anyone he wanted, but I was the lucky one. He reminded me daily of what a hard-working man he was and how he provided me with the finer things in life. He would hold my face, making me look around to see what he had provided me. It had nothing to do with me.
I hated him even more now. He voiced, to anyone who would listen and to those who wouldn’t, that there was something wrong with me because I wanted a divorce. As I drove myself to the appointment, I had butterflies in my stomach. I was shaking and scared when I walked into Dr. Smith’s office. As I turned the doorknob and walked inside, there was no one in the waiting room. You could have heard a pin drop. I sat there thinking to myself what am I doing? If I don’t stay, what will my husband do to me when I get home?” I heard my phone buzzing; it was my husband’s number. I sat with the phone in my hand, trying to decide whether I should answer it or let it go to voice mail. I knew I had better answer it or I would be in trouble.
My voice was shaking when I said “Hello”. He said, “I’m just making sure you made it to your appointment ok.”
“I’m here, just waiting.”
“Ok, I’ll see you when you get home.”
To the outside world, this would seem like a caring, doting husband making sure I made it to my appointment. To me, it was more than that. He always checked up on me and made sure I was where I was supposed to be. I always had to check in with him and let him know every move I made. If he didn’t like where I was or who I was with, he would make a scene. I would come home with my tail between my legs in embarrassment. Was he going to show up at my appointment?
I heard the door open behind me, and I jumped about 100 feet. Dr. Smith came out and asked, “Are you ok?”
“Yes thank you.”
He said “You can come in and have a seat. We’ll get started.”
As I sat on his couch, I looked around his office. I am not certain what I was looking for, but I was trying to find something in his office to give me some sign that I was ok.
Dr. Smith took out his note pad and began asking me questions. But he seemed to be writing a lot more than what I was answering. Was he finding something wrong with me, like my husband said? What was he writing? I kept trying to tell myself it was going to be ok. Dr. Smith then put his pen down and asked “Now, can you tell me why you are here?”
I still remember hearing those words. My mouth opened, but nothing came out. My body couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe, what was happening? I looked up at him, my eyes welling up with tears, and said “I don’t know why I’m here. My husband scheduled this appointment for me because he said there’s something wrong with me.”
Dr. Smith looked at me and said “why don’t you tell me what’s going on.” Before I could take another breath, I blurted out that I wanted a divorce. There was a pause, and then Dr. Smith asked “was there someone else?”
“Does he have someone?”
“I lost count.”
“Is there anything else?”
I tried, but couldn’t look at Dr. Smith in his eyes. I didn’t know what was going on. Dr. Smith said “Ms. Roberts, it’s ok.”
I slowly tried to gather my thoughts. I looked up, and said in a very faint voice “I’m scared. My husband hurts me, I want to leave, but I feel guilty. I cannot do this anymore.”
Dr. Smith looked at me and gave me the sign that I had been yearning for. He sat there and let me cry, and told me it would be ok. I have tried so many times to remember the rest of the meeting but I can’t. The only evidence I have of this meeting is the crumpled piece of paper from Dr. Smith with information about Domestic Violence services. I remember him telling me to keep this piece of paper in a safe place.
Dr. Smith called the next day. He told me my husband had contacted him, making sure I kept my appointment and didn’t change any appointments he had so graciously made for me. Dr. Smith advised him that he was couldn’t discuss the details with him, and would be more than happy to schedule an appointment with him. I later learned through the insurance statements that my husband scheduled two appointments for himself.
Over the next several months I met with Dr. Smith trying, to deal with the mental, emotional, and physical abuse I endured for almost twenty years. During one of the sessions, Dr. Smith promised me that a year from now I would look back and say “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” I sat there in his office and shook my head as I said “I don’t think that day will ever come.”
I never knew some of the things he had been doing to me for years were actually abuse. I never fully understood the feelings I felt were from the abuse I had endured and silenced, in fear of what he would do to me next. I felt like I was on a roller coaster, waiting for that last twist and turn so I could get off, walk away, and never have to get back on. I wouldn’t be one of those kids that wanted to get back on this roller coaster-I found no amusement in it at all. The highs of the roller coaster represented the positive steps I took; the lows represented the setbacks I would encounter in dealing with my husband’s backlash as I exposed him. The dark tunnels and valleys that I kept going through were the secrets I hid for so long inside of me.
My husband didn’t want anyone to see the mask he put on his face. He only wanted the world to perceive him as a great guy, and to see how terrible I was. This ride would haunt me for months because this is where my struggle was. I wanted to get off this ride but I did not know-how.
I finally came to the pivotal moment in my life where I felt I had some direction and was ready to move on. Most people refer to this as the “T” in the road. I finally left my abusive husband and started my new life. What most people call routine events were now new adventures for me. I started shopping at new places in order to avoid running into my husband who just happened to be there, grocery shopping, or at the bank cashing his check. This was not an easy task for me due to the fear that he had instilled in me. But I kept putting one foot in front of the other.
Over a year had passed since this nightmare became a reality and I couldn’t wait to schedule an appointment with Dr. Smith. I was not the same woman who had walked in his office on a cold snowy night over a year ago, and I wanted to be the person to say “you were right, why didn’t I leave sooner?” As I said this to Dr. Smith, he sat back in his chair and smiled. For the first time, he wasn’t writing down what I said. This meeting was different from any of our other meetings. This one finally brought closure for me. I had fought the good fight. I had won, and I now knew my course. We ended our session on that note.
It felt so different for me to be able to make decisions on my own and not to have to account to anyone. I still found myself calling my ex-husband to check in with him, telling him what I was doing, where I was going, etc. Why was I still doing this? I recognized that I still needed help in certain areas of my life, and this time I was able to choose my own counselor. I knew within my heart there was nothing wrong with me. But I still felt I needed help learning to trust people again, and more importantly, tearing down those walls I had built up so high that no one was going to get beyond them and breaking the cycle of talking to my ex-husband.
As I sat in Dr. John’s office, I was surer of myself. I was not looking around for a sign that I would be ok. I already knew that. This time, I savored not being afraid, not looking over my shoulder and jumping at every noise I heard. I actually could admire the artwork hanging in the waiting room. With each piece of art, I wondered about the story behind it. I found myself creating a story in my head for the art. For a moment, I created a happy story, a story that one day I hoped to have. Would I ever be able to find the fairytale that I had yearned for all of those years? Yes, I would, I just knew that I would, since I already came to the realization that I was none of those things my ex-husband told me I was. I needed to find a way to erase that part of my life.
Ok, here we go, it’s my turn. I sat in Dr. John’s office, looking around, thinking that these walls could tell so many stories, and now mine would be told. Dr. John got right to work and left me sitting in the chair thinking to myself “I am not feeling very well.”
Dr. John wanted me to write on a blank sheet of paper what I saw in his office. It took me just a few minutes to write down that I saw furniture, books, lamps, and a box of Kleenex.
When Dr. John read his list; green walls, white light switches, a 12 X 12 room, photos of his family, and his computer, he explained that we both are in the same room, looking at the same things but we see things differently. He explained that’s how life is, and there’s an important lesson to be learned. He said, “What you may see when you look in the mirror is not necessarily what I see when I look at you.”
I looked forward to my weekly sessions with Dr. John. I always came out of there with another revelation, another useful tool in my journey. I realized there would be bumps along the way. Those bumps would not define me, but how I choose to go over those bumps would.
After a few months, Dr. John explained that I had a lot of scars on the surface that looked like they had scabbed over and healed, but inside there was still an infection festering. In order to remove this infection, I needed to reopen those wounds. Dr. John tried to tell me this process would be very painful, but he asked me to stay in the game while we worked through this.
I tried so hard to stay in the game and see it through. I found myself exhausted, feeling as alone and confused as I had before I left my husband. I remember sitting in Dr. John’s office sobbing after a few months of this, telling him I cannot do this. I was reliving every step of the abuse all over as we opened up the scars and dug the infection out. The wounds that I believed had healed in reality never had. The surface of the abuse had only been touched; not the underlying abuse itself. As Dr. John kept working with me week after week, I found that the more he kept digging; the more puss kept coming out of my wounds.
Finally, one day I sobbed in Dr. John’s office because I was overwhelmed with what I had been through. I finally grasped the extent of the abuse I had endured, including things I had suppressed and did not even realize until that moment. That’s when Dr. John asked me to write a letter to my abuser. In this letter, he was very specific that I had to tell my abuser exactly what he did to me, how it made me feel, and why I felt about him like I did. Dr. John further assured me that it could be as nasty as possible; we wouldn’t send it. Dr. John told me to take my time in writing this letter.
I felt this would be easy, but in hindsight, this letter took almost a year to write. I struggled with trying to write how I felt and what he did to me. At every session, I felt like I had failed because I couldn’t write this letter. Dr. John assured me it was ok. This was part of my healing, even though I didn’t see it.
Finally, in late February, I sat down over the weekend, and to my amazement, I completed the letter. I was meeting with Dr. John later that week and I finally would be able to share it.
As I sat in Dr. John’s office, he asked me to read the letter. As I read, I paused and looked at Dr. John, then continued reading. Dr. John asked me to stop, and asked what was wrong? I put my letter away and cried. It was at that moment that I realized my scars were healing. He asked me why I was crying. I said I am not crying because of me, but I am crying for the woman who wrote that letter. I feel so bad for the woman in this letter, she is so scared, so alone and so hopeless.
Dr. John looked at me and said “What I see in front of me is a very strong woman who has let her scars heal.”
By Destiny Roberts