When I told my (now ex) husband I wanted a divorce, it shocked everyone. Even me. We got married at the age of 23 after I graduated from college.
That was what you were supposed to do: College, Marriage, Kids. I met my ex online while he was serving in Afghanistan. Once he came home, we saw each other just about every weekend while I was finishing up my last semester of school. I moved to his area, we got engaged, and married 6 months later.
It’s taken me 8 years after the fact to finally admit out loud that I probably didn’t marry for love. I mostly married for duty. We were married for 7 years and from the outside, everything looked like The Dream.
Here’s my Story of Divorce:
We got along well enough and at the time I told myself we shared the same faith and values, even though growing up Baptist, faith was never very important to me. Another checklist. Another duty.
The new friends I made were really his friends who adopted me into the circle; “friends” who would eventually side with him and have since stopped talking to me. I married a mechanic who tried desperately to get me to work on cars with him and enjoy off-roading and wanted me to get my own motorcycle. I tried, but my hobby of choice is crawling up on the couch with a good book, not crawled up under an engine with a wrench. But reading a book is ‘anti-social’ and he was ‘lonely’ out in the garage by himself. And so, I spent my evenings in the garage.
When we got married it was as if I walked into a cage and the door shut behind me.
And for 7 years I just said ‘oh well. This is life now’.
It took me a few years into my late 20s to really grow into my own. I am an introvert who hates conflict and hates being the center of attention. I would usually concede quickly in debates to avoid any argument or heated discussion, never voice an unpopular opinion, and basically just went along with whatever he wanted or said when it came to finances, religion, politics, weekend activities, dinner ideas, etc.
I learned early on in the marriage that when I did voice an opinion and it didn’t match up with his, it was wrong. He loved to debate. He lived off it. Some people can agree to disagree and go about their day after such discussions. Not him. He just had to tell you why he was right and why you should take his side and if you couldn’t whip out a PowerPoint slide show presentation from your back pocket to disprove him, there was no changing his mind.
Being a person who hated to debate and hated conflict, married to a guy who loved it is a special kind of hell. I would beg him to drop whatever topic of ‘discussion’ (it was never a debate or argument to him) we were in and try to walk away. He would follow. Many times I would lock myself in the bathroom and he would stand on the other side of the door continuing to argue himself right, all the while I’m telling him to please just go away.
Another time I decided to take a walk to try to get away from the debate. He followed me in his truck throughout the neighborhood, still arguing his position out the driver window.
In the beginning, it was mostly stupid stuff like where to go for a weekend trip. And then we would argue over how to spend money. And then toward the end, it was over politics, religion, and our values. Things that should have been discussed in more detail before getting married, but weren’t because as a 22-year-old fresh from college, I had no idea where I stood on anything.
As I figured out what I did and didn’t value, support, or believe in, I realized he and I disagreed more often than not.
I learned very quickly that it was easier to just not say anything.
It saved my emotional well-being to just go along with whatever he said. I would mentally ask myself ‘Is this worth locking myself in the bathroom for an hour’ every time a topic or situation came up where I may not have fully agreed with him on. It just wasn’t worth my emotional well-being to say anything. So I didn’t.
When I was 29, we had our daughter, “TK”. I’ve always wanted kids. He never wanted kids. To his credit, he told me upfront he didn’t want kids and I spent 6 years trying to change his mind. A few of those discussions were had with a bathroom door in between, to be sure. But we did have a daughter and she is perfectly equal parts of her dad and myself.
A friend would eventually ask what broke the camel’s back when I moved out and to be honest there wasn’t one specific thing that did it.
There was a culmination of things that I decided I didn’t want to live with or deal with anymore, specifically with how I was treated and validated (or lack thereof). But when I think of all the arguments between him and me, only two specific arguments stand out. The first was soon after TK was born, He made the suggestion of putting her in a local Christian private school when the time came. I definitely did not want to do that. Hard pass.
He insisted that private school was the best (read: only) option and no amount of discussion, debate, or yelling would convince him otherwise. The second argument I vividly remember was during the 2016 Elections. It was around this time that I had decidedly become a pro-choice feminist who was excited about Hillary’s run for President. We argued over abortion being legal. It was during this argument I realized that he was so set in a black/white right/wrong mindset that I worried if TK ever has an abortion for whatever reason, her father just might disown her.
Having TK is what broke the camel’s back when I really think about it.
I want my daughter to have a voice. Her own voice. I want my daughter to grow up knowing her opinions matter and should be heard, maybe with some discussion, but never with judgment from those who love her. I knew that would not happen by staying in a relationship with a guy who made me weary of voicing my own opinions.
No, he wasn’t physically abusive. He wasn’t an alcoholic or addict. We had all we’d ever need to live The Dream. But hear me when I say emotional abuse is real. Gaslighting is real. Narcissism is real. And I knew that in order to give my daughter the world, I first needed to get us out of the cage.
I shocked everyone. Even myself. I spoke up.
I opened the door and left the cage.