I remember the day so vividly, the day when I finally said enough was enough. Enough of his drinking, enough of his nasty comments about my weight—he liked to tell people I looked like a whale in the water. I had enough of the random women bringing him home at 4 AM. But I really was at my limit of the abuse and rape.
So before you judge and throw out the usual lines of "why didn't you leave?" or "you knew what he was like when you married him," you first need to understand that it really is easier said than done. It's not that I didn't want to leave years before nor try to leave, it was that he made it incredibly hard. You see, I had no friends and my family was 2+ hours away. And when I did try and leave, I paid for it... I was totally scared and mentally beat down.
Plan for survival.
When I decided that April afternoon that I needed to leave once and for all, I made sure that I had a plan. Trust me I felt so incredibly bad for having to devise a plan to leave but I have since learned that it is so very important to have your ducks in a row if you are planning to leave. And it's so important to be clear with why you are doing it, where you are going, and how you will survive during the divorce process. You have to have a plan. My only focus was to finally be safe and have my kids in a safe environment.
Yes, it's a game.
I had no idea what I was in for and what lengths my ex-husband & his immediate family would go to keep his secret and "win." Let me be VERY clear, there are no winners in the game of divorce. A big ol' game of who can destroy the other first and make them pay... well, unless you have a civil relationship with your soon to be ex-spouse. The best thing you can do if you are in a heated divorce is to figure out a middle ground to find a solution that works for all involved. Or you could be going to court every six months for over seven years like I did. Umm, I seriously saw my ex more during our long divorce proceedings than I did when we were married.
It's a money suck!
Yep, the divorce industry is a big ass money suck. I had three lawyers and over $100k in lawyer fees! WTF?! Money which I didn't have and my poor parents tapped into their retirement to help me. In the end, when I had no more money and was left to defend or act as my own counsel, that's when things started going better and getting resolved. Tip: If you can use a mediator or free resources and represent yourself, take that route first. It will save you headaches and a crap ton of money. Now I do realize that if it's ugly from the get-go, you need to lawyer up to help you not get screwed. Just protect yourself first and foremost.
Be ready to have that thick skin.
You need to be ready to have your life out on display and open for criticism by those who really have no idea who you are or what went on behind your front door. And it's gonna hurt, hurt like hell to hear terrible things said about you by someone, or someones, you once called family but remember your truth and always take the high road. Tip: have one good/nice thing you can say about your ex-spouse, so when things start getting ugly—and they will—you are able to keep yourself centered and not look like the ragging nut bag the other is making you out to be.
Have a lifeline.
From the very beginning it is so important to have a couple lifelines... a friend you can call or text at 1 AM when you are feeling like you just can't go on and most important is to get a good therapist. I am a firm believer that everyone should have therapy. It took me a bit to find the right therapist who I felt I could trust and ended up helping me in so many ways. My therapist was badass, she was an ex-roadie for a rock band, and used the F-word more than I did! She was amazing and I really do owe her my life.
Speaking of therapy...
So if you have kids, they need therapy too. Divorce is a hard time on them, no matter the age. Our kids need an unbiased and safe outlet to voice their feelings and work out their anger. No matter what you do, our kids still suffer during the process. Good therapy not only helps them during the process but can also help them with ways to deal with issues as they grow up. I've seen this first hand with my kids, as they have been able to understand their PTSD triggers and have been able to manage & navigate not only their feeling in the divorce but also the issues that arise as teens. But make no mistake, kids are resilient but it helps if they have the right tools to do so.
In part 2, we'll dig a bit deeper into the "C's"... court & custody.