I didn’t see it when we were married. I was in love, or in mom mode, or in massive denial the majority of the decade we spent together. For years we checked the boxes, beat the odds. I never worried that my husband was abusive, and he never once laid a finger on me. I was so lucky to have found such an amazing man who took care of the mess that was me, so I was lead to believe.
When we first got married my ex-husband asked to be in control of the finances because he was worried I would mess them up. He was worried that I wouldn’t be capable of filling the wife mold, and I desperately wanted to be everything he felt I needed to be. So he took on the finances. I never had access to any of our financial accounts. I didn’t have the log in information or any clue how much money we had at any given time. I had a general understanding that we “didn’t have any money” and this was why I wasn’t allowed to carry a debit or credit card. I was a stay a home parent at this point so it seemed only fair. If I had a need to spend money I would ask my husband and he would give me the card for the day if we had money. I remember taking the kids to Taco Bell one afternoon when I had been given the credit card, and before we had left the drive-through I got a playful text from my husband about our unplanned Taco purchase.
While in hindsight (and during marriage therapy) the financial aspect was a blazing red flag I didn’t pick up on, there were other things that went on that were not okay. After having our baby my libido took a huge dive. My husband let me know that if I didn’t start having more sex with him he would have to sleep with other women and that he did. Years later as I laid naked in bed my husband told me that he couldn’t have sex with me because of my weight and sleeping with me “grossed him out”. He would come home from work and sweep the floors, only to send a picture of the dirt pile to his mother noting what an unfit wife and homemaker I was.
Marriage is hard I told myself. Everyone struggles. This is normal. We took vows and we needed to ride them out. No one is perfect. I am a wreck and he puts up with me. Until one winter weekend while I was away for my grandfather’s funeral and my husband called me from another woman’s bed to tell me he never loved me and wanted a divorce. I held onto the toxic relationship for dear life. Sobbing big broken-heart tears feeling like a shameful failure at every turn. But despite my resistance, that divorce happened.
Eventually, I could see the light. When the anxiety let up I was able to see the poison for what it was. I was glad our marriage ended and our kids didn’t see this as something to aspire to. But years later, the control and emotional abuse continue. It took years to rebuild my credit that my ex-husband had run into the ground while I blindly let him. And once I got on my feet he told me that if I didn’t agree to him paying less child support, we would go to court, and I should just agree to it because I would lose in court and he would “hate to see me lose all of my money”. For all the promises he didn’t keep when we were married, this one he has. We have spent tens of thousands of dollars in a legal blood bath that has no end in sight. When we were married our children were young, and I took care of them 365. Now they are older and as divorced parents, they are with their father sometimes. Every time they are with him he uses them as pawns to try and hurt me. Refusing to take them to sports games and recitals and school graduations when they fall on his time. Refusing to get the kids on his weekends when he finds out I have plans. Berating me for taking the kids to the food pantry as he neglects his child support obligations. All while telling me how unstable I am, how I am damaging our children, and am an unfit mother.
The abuse didn’t stop, but I woke up to it, which took much of its power away. When he attacks it still hurts because he hurts the children. But they are smart and resilient and I take faith in their ability to see the light too. Despite relentless attempts at control, I see the truth, rose-colored glasses no more. I know that I am flawed, but I am a good mother. Be it a higher power or the collective mom energy carrying me though, I take solstice in knowing that somehow, someway, the kids and I have managed to hold it together, and still lead as normal of a life as possible. There are days when I feel I failed as a mother by choosing their father, but I cannot control the past, and I am glad my kids no longer see emotional manipulation as acceptable while they are in our home. I cannot change that this is our reality, but we are living and thriving despite his attempts to tear us down, and that feels amazing.