It was a couple of months after 9/11. My sister, who I hadn’t seen in years had come to visit me. She’s an engineer and was exploring pursuing her doctorate degree from one of several universities that had offered her a scholarship. She loves Flamenco, and that night I had bought tickets to a restaurant in Los Angeles that offers a flamenco show. Before leaving, however, the man I was married to at the time decided to get into an argument with me. Over what? I don’t recall. But this was a practice that he was very well known for whenever my family visited me.
I remember getting into the car with my sister, driving away and breaking down in tears. My sister hugged me and later told me that she had shared what had happened that night with my mom and begged her to talk me into leaving him. In February, I walked out of that marriage after I took a self-development class. I had been married for 10 years to this man who was 9 years my senior. I had ignored the tell-tell signs that it wasn’t a good situation for me. The constant gaslighting, the times he told me that my family thought I was crazy. The fact that I didn’t want to have children with him because I just knew that I would be bringing a child into an unhealthy family dynamic. No, I didn’t want that for anyone… and I just needed the courage to realize that I didn’t want that for myself either.
A few weeks later I attended a holiday party with friends from work and brought him along. I had no freedom to have fun, joke around or be myself. I noticed how absolutely shut-down I felt that night. When we got home he told me how proud he was of me for behaving like a good, sweet wife because, he said, my behavior was usually vulgar and I always embarrassed him. The following day one of my friends who attended the party told me that he had noticed how absolutely sad I seemed and how I wasn’t behaving like myself that night. The compounded effect of many years of emotional abuse had piled up and I was ready to do something about it. That’s when one of my friends invited me to take a self-development class.
I remember sitting in that self-development class when I realized that I did want to have children. I just didn’t want to have children with him. I also realized that I had given up my joy and happiness for someone who did not do the same for me. It was a one-way street that left me unfulfilled, bitter and angry. A few days later, I talked to him and let him know that I was done with a relationship that didn’t provide me with the space to be happy. I took full responsibility for allowing myself to be placed in that situation and not putting my foot down sooner. I packed my bags and walked out. The following months were a whirlwind of abusive phone calls, voicemail messages, and emails which he’d send in an attempt to make me rethink leaving him. So I took the necessary steps to get as far away as possible from him. I had to fight for my own happiness. It was a constant battle to regain control of my life. I relied on friends who provided me with all the support I needed at the time. I went to therapy, I took more self-development classes. For a while, I had friends come over every night and have dinner at my little apartment with me. I surrounded myself with support, love, and encouragement from people who actually cared about me. When things were particularly tough, I would sit down and count my blessings, make a list of things that I was grateful for. It was a constant practice, training my brain on how to be.
When 2003 rolled around, I was finally feeling like myself again. I had reclaimed my independence. I felt happy and in control of my own life. That year, I met my current husband. We married in 2004 and have an amazing daughter. What made the difference this time, was that I wasn’t depending on someone else for my happiness. I pursued things that brought me joy. Once there was joy in my life, my soulmate came along. And yes, it took many, many years of healing from the 10 years of trauma and abuse. My husband and I have stuck with each other through thick and thin. And he continues to allow my independence. I’ve pursued a degree. I work as a Human Resources Director for a local business. I wake up every day with a sense of hope and gratitude for the lessons learned.
We are capable of causing absolute bliss and joy in our lives when we give up beliefs that we don’t deserve those things. Whatever your situation is, take a look at what takes your breath away, is it nature? Is it a hobby? Is it hanging out with friends? What’s getting in the way of you pursuing those things? What beliefs are you hanging on to? And what will it take for you to start living the life that you want? If you are in a situation like mine, talk to friends, meditate, journal, take self-development classes, surround yourself with people who TRULY love you and have your best interest in mind.