Last year at this time, I was confused and emotionally upset. I’d just filed for divorce. My husband did not want to separate, he didn’t want a divorce. Well, wait a minute… he’d actually been threatening to divorce me for years… since the first year of marriage he’d been holding it over my head. But here he was, saying he didn’t want this, he wanted to stay together. And then he would turn around the next week and tell me how he was glad to be getting rid of me, how peaceful his life was without me. But with the holidays approaching, we both wished for that sense of family and wanted to be able to create it for our sons, too. The last year had been so fractured and broken. But recently we had spent some time together and it felt okay. I was doubting my decision, again.
It took me many years to come to the point that I was ready to file for divorce. It was not a decision that I took lightly or could choose without measuring the cost to everyone involved. And when I finally left for good, I had to focus on all the crap I’d been living with, the abuse, the double standards, the moving target, the gaslighting, the verbal and emotional poisoning he’d tormented me with, and I had to push any positive, happy, close and wonderful memories from my mind. If I reminisced about the good us, the happy family, I would be tempted to go back. I had to steel myself against that. It took a monumental effort to finally leave. To leave with the intention of never going back. To say “no more.” So I had to constantly hold the abuse and dysfunction in the front of my mind to keep me away from my home, my family, everything comfortable and familiar. And, of course, to someone who has been controlled or manipulated for so long, even the unhealthy, destructive behavior is comfortably familiar.
When I left, I still didn’t really comprehend what had happened all those years. It took me months to untangle it all. And my husband kept asking when I was planning to come home. He was concerned that the longer I stayed away, the more I would be accustomed to being on my own. He really said that. He wasn’t concerned about what was best for me. I’d asked for years for a therapeutic separation and he wouldn’t cooperate. He was more concerned with preserving our marriage, or the appearance of one, than he was with my welfare. But I didn’t exactly see it that way at the time, it still seemed like it was his affection for me, desire to reconcile, that kept him pursuing. So I agreed to “date” him through the holidays so that we could see how things went.
It is a bittersweet achievement to have escaped the abuse, come through the divorce, begun to heal, but still feel so empty inside.
He was going to come down for the weekend. I felt physically ill before he arrived Friday evening. I managed through dinner and going out. But Saturday we went hiking and in the midst of our day, I wanted to vomit. I could barely stand to look at him. I couldn’t tell him that, that would have been hurtful, so I just endured the rest of the outing and then I think I made up some excuse about not feeling well to put an end to the day. I felt awful. I knew I could hardly stand to be around him. What was I going to do? I’d committed to Thanksgiving and Christmas with him and the boys. He went to a lot of effort to make all the trimmings for Thanksgiving at the house. Our oldest came home from Southern California and brought a friend, our youngest came with me, it was supposed to be a wonderful holiday. It was miserable for me. Everything was horrible and awkward and my husband seemed to be trying too hard. Yet he still managed to be difficult. At some point we had a conversation that he was able to twist around and accuse me of getting everything my way. It was utterly confirming for me that I couldn’t go back.
This year I won’t be seeing him for any of the holidays. I am wistful. I regret the loss of family and belonging. I feel that I have failed my sons. My youngest son and I will have Thanksgiving alone because our holidays always involved my husband’s family, and now we don’t want to see him. And some of them don’t seem to want to see us. That’s okay. I understand. It’s hard. And my oldest isn’t coming up to visit this year. It’s okay, he’s growing up. We’ll see him for Christmas. I’m trying to look forward, to tell myself things change and this is all a process. Different years will bring different circumstances and it’s all fine. It is a bittersweet achievement to have escaped the abuse, come through the divorce, begun to heal, but still feel so empty inside. I have to remind myself to keep going, it will get better.
“There is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”