|Image: Nathan O'Nions|
As I walked toward my soon to be husband, smiling the biggest fake grin I could muster, my knees felt weak, my palms that were gripping my bouquet, sweaty, and my head was swimming with all sorts of thoughts. Mainly those that were telling me to go. To run. To leave the room. That I didn't have to go through with this. Except, I was convinced I did. We made it this far, and who walks out on their wedding as they are walking down the aisle. My pride was far too large to handle the humble idea that I was making a foolish choice.
I should have listened. Of course, I didn't.
What followed was some of the most horrific months of my life.
Let's forget that we weren't compatible in anyway. Or the fact that his family was gunning for our failure long before we even said "I do". Let's ignore the fact that I had just relinquished my first born son in a forced adoption four months prior, and had all but forced my soon to be husband's hand in proposing to me, because I was sure that marriage was the only way to get what I wanted: more children, maybe one that would fill the loss I felt. We can just avoid the information that shows that I barely knew this man, or the very fact that I had been given a couple glimpses into the temper that would soon be my enemy in the months to come.
The truth was, I was a walking disaster, desperate for love. I had spent the last year basically being told in one form or another that I was unlovable. That I was a whore, and that no one would ever possibly want a woman who had gotten pregnant out of wedlock, and then relinquished her rights. I felt broken, ugly, and discarded. When he walked into my life, I hopped on board, assuming there would never be anything better to come along. I was certain he was it for me, and I had to accept any of the flaws that came along with this package.
Three days into our marriage, he began to abuse me. Three months into our marriage, I could no longer count how many times he'd lost his temper, or forced me into some sort of sexual act that I was not comfortable with. But I stayed. I stayed out of fear. I stayed because I had been brainwashed to believe that in order to have children, I had to be married to a returned missionary, a man who would help me take care of our children, because being a single mother was an evil that should be avoided.
I stayed because I was not sure how one makes it out of situation like this alive.
I walked the line for him. I did the things he wanted; became the goodly Mormon housewife. I ignored the abuse, and cried myself to sleep at night. I isolated myself from friends and family; particularly ones that knew what was happening behind closed doors. I became a shell of myself, and just walked through each day hoping that it wouldn't be another day where I would find yet another bruise on my body that I needed to cover up. I accepted that this might be my life until the day I died. I lost all hope.
Then, one day, miraculously, there was a door that opened, and instead of hesitating I ran through it. He had cheated on me. I knew there would be naysayers who would tell me I should have stayed and made it work - those would be the ones who didn't know about the abuse. I knew that I would have to face the humiliation of not being able to make this shotgun marriage work. Either way, I didn't care. With him, wherever he was, as he confessed his sins to me through MSN Messenger, I told him confidently, through my tears, that we were finished. I no longer wished to be a pawn in his life, one that he used a punching bag when he was suffering through his bouts of self-doubt and anger. It was, in my mind, bad enough that he abused me in every which way he possibly could, but to go out and cheat on me as well? I was ready to take on the big D word.
Divorce is a big scary word. It gets thrown around far too often. People are shamed into staying in marriages because of the stigma surrounding divorce especially in religious factions like the Mormon church. There is nothing noble or good about staying in a marriage that is broken, and dysfunctional. The idea that I should be tied to a monster for the remainder of my life because the church and even strangers looked down on divorce was silly and juvenile.
It took us two whole years to finally get the papers signed, to officially be divorced. Two whole years, in a supposed uncontested divorce. Every promise he made, he went back on. Every time I countered for fairness, or asked that he accept responsibility for his actions, he fought back, determined to walk away with no accountability whatsoever. It was like living in the marriage all over again, but from a distance. He wanted to do what he wanted, and when the swift hand of judgment moved in on him, he found away to avoid it. Finally, after two long years of back and forth, a lot of tears, and feeling as though my life couldn't move forward, I gave up, and let him win. What he didn't realize is that while he left me with some of his bills, and took a car that my parents had repaired for us with their money, I actually won.
I was free. I was free to move on and live my life. Suddenly, I didn't have to scan my body for bruises in the shower, or come up with outfits that appropriately covered each one. I didn't have to admit to my friends that my partner was hurting me, or tell them I was scared that I wouldn't wake up one morning. I didn't have to fear rape, or religious abuse. I was free to be myself. Better, I went on to find a partner who was everything I needed. With him I never had to worry about any harm coming upon me because he lost his temper, or didn't like the way I worded a sentence.
Divorce freed me from the abusive life that I thought I was sentenced to live. It was a blessing, and I learned in the years that have passed since that there was absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. I am divorced. I am better now.