My ex husband abused me on a regular basis. I made up all kinds of excuses for his behavior — even convincing myself he would change. He didn't.
Nothing changed until I changed. My divorce was the best thing that ever happened to me — and not just because it freed me from a bad marriage. By leaving I became the woman I was meant to be.
Your beatings may be physical, verbal or emotional. Abuse rarely starts right away, but signals do. Perhaps, like me, you knew early on that something wasn't right with the relationship. Now you're considering divorce, but at times you waver. What's keeping you in a bad situation? How can you break free and move forward towards a better life?
You may be trapped by your own thoughts. Here's how I learned to combat the destructive thinking that keeps many of us from breaking free:
Stop Rationalizing. Are you in denial? Do you tell yourself he is only abusive when he drinks or when the dinner gets cold. Unfortunately, we often deny what is important to us, just to avoid change. I used to think my ex was making real progress whenever he stayed employed longer than two months. Or I'd take comfort in the fact that, even though he was violent, he came home instead of staying out all night!
Listen to Your Gut. We usually tune out our internal compass, because we are not trained to trust and honor it. Women are socialized to nurture, to respond to the needs of others — not our own. Take the time to be silent. Journal your thoughts each day or take long walks alone. Through mindful reflection you will slowly start to get in touch with your inner voice. You will learn to value what is important to you.
Let go of romantic fairy tales. Maybe you dreamed of being rescued by your prince and living happily ever after. But fairy tales are for kids. In the grown-up world, we save ourselves. Few of us learned how to be healthy, spiritually grounded, courageous and independent women. Ask yourself, what kind of woman do I want to be? Then seek out support and resources that will help you realize your new self-image.
I joined Co-Dependents Anonymous (CODA), which helped me distinguish myth from truth in relationships. I learned how destructive possessiveness, control, jealousy, lack of boundaries and poor self-esteem can be. Through CODA, I learned to define a healthy, realistic relationship.
Don't just sit on your faith. Instead of praying that he doesn't hit you tonight, why not pray to ask for the strength to develop a plan to get away? Add action to your faith. Staying immobile and relying on wishful thinking is delusional. Have faith in God who has faith in you to take action to create a better life for yourself.
Tell someone. I kept my abuse a secret and you probably do too. I was a successful career woman and I wanted to keep up the appearance of "having it all together." One day, I'd had enough. I told a counselor, and then a friend, and then I told my co-workers. I was surprised by their support and compassion. Once I began to acknowledge my painful reality, I slowly began to breathe freely, honor myself and live boldly!
Click the following for an interview with the Program Officer of Safe Horizons discussing The Truth Behind Domestic Violence.
Click the following to return to the Divorce Resource Directory.