“Oh, I’m so sorry,” the nurse said at my baby’s 18-month checkup. I put my hands over my going-on-3-year-old’s ears, a little too late.
I didn’t know what to say.
I had tried to hint at the change of circumstances. “We’re living at Grandma’s house. We just moved in. No, we won’t be going back to our other house. No, it is not being renovated. It’s just Daddy’s house now.”
I knew this was a necessary topic for discussion, but just how does one sum it all up in a politically correct elevator speech, suitable for all audiences?
It had taken me more than a year to arrive at the decision to leave my husband. During that year, I mourned the loss of my dreams. Occasionally I felt a ray of hope that things could be the way they used to be, that I wanted them to be, that my husband had told me they’d be. But those moments were fleeting.
My husband told me I was a bad Christian. After all, according to 1 Corinthians 1-7, “Love is patient, love is kind . . . it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs . . . It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” So how could I give up?
Well, I could no longer handle the fact that my husband couldn’t hold a job or stop drinking.
If I tried to talk to him about that, or any topic he didn’t want to discuss, I endured criticism, sarcasm, or name calling—or he’d “punish” me by giving me the cold shoulder.
He went to counseling reluctantly where he gaslighted me (psychologically manipulated, e.g., “You’re insane! That never happened!”), and the therapist believed him. My husband found ways to isolate me from my support group as well.
I couldn’t hide from the fact that I wrote the same things over and over and over in my journal for the better part of that year.
“I think I made a terrible mistake.”
“I’m so disappointed.”
“I can’t live like this.”
The day I knew I had to plan an exit strategy was one when my older son, then aged two-and-a-half, looked at me and said, “Mommy sad.”
I clearly wasn’t fooling anyone and I couldn’t deny it. To do so would set the stage for another generation of dysfunction. I was fed up with being bullied, belittled, shamed, and undermined. I didn’t want my kids to witness me being treated that way nor did I want them to experience it for themselves.
So, finally, I left.
When people told me, “You look great—did you so something different with your hair?” they were surprised to find out what it was that had changed. Because what person in her right mind would leave with two toddlers?
“I’m so sorry!” they said.
“Please, don’t be. I’m better off.”
But at the pediatrician’s office that day, a choked out “Thanks” was all I could manage for the nurse, and really all that was necessary. I just wanted to end the conversation and not predispose my sons to thinking there’s something bad about the situation.
Plenty of kids have parents in two households. “My boys are so young; how will they ever know any different?”
“Down the line, they might,” the nurse suggested and handed me a pamphlet about counseling.
Pangs of guilt washed over me anew, as they had during the previous year of indecision and from time to time since the separation, as I detoxed myself from my toxic marriage.
However, today we are more than a decade and a half “down the line” and while it has certainly not always been easy, it was the right decision.
I wasn’t a bad Christian. I chose to “love” my ex-husband from a distance, meaning that I remained cordial and neutral to him and would only engage with him on topics related to the children. Like I always told my kids, “You don’t have to be friends with everyone, but you do have to be polite.”
I learned that gossip is the devil’s telephone as every smear campaign my ex-husband tried to launch backfired.
The boys saw their dad fairly regularly until he moved out-of-state. The distance coupled by the fact that the boys had their own agendas kept them closer to home during their high school years.
Ultimately, I saw firsthand that kids handle a divorce just about as well as their parents. And like I said, I was better off divorced.
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