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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Leaving is a process

I’ve read that over 75% of women eventually leave their abuser.  This is the good news.  I’ve read that it typically takes 7 or 8 times for a woman to truly leave an abusive relationship.   This is the bad news.   Why is it so hard to leave?  A lot of good reasons, most of which applied to me, are outlined here.  When I read about how many times it typically takes to leave, at first I scoffed.

“ I left the first time, and stayed gone, I thought.  I’m better than that.  I’m stronger than that,” I said to myself.
Then as I was going through my journals and writing this blog, I realized that it wasn't true.  It's true that after I had him forcibly removed from the house and filed for divorce, I didn't go back.  Before that, though, I called the police on him and even saw a lawyer, but I let him come back.  Two other times, I had been scared enough to leave and go to a hotel with the kids. The first time, I was afraid and I was hoping he would take me seriously now that I had made a bold gesture and start to change.  The second time, I was ready to file for divorce.   Both times I went back.  

The amazing part is that all three times he was somewhat apologetic, but still blaming me, and not nearly as contrite as he should have been when we talked. He thought I had overreacted; he thought the abuse was not that bad.  He was even verbally abusive in the negotiations for my return.  Hearing the conversation, most people would have thought I was crazy to go back.  In hindsight, I can hardly believe I agreed to come home with the way he was talking to me, but I did.  You never really know what you will do in a situation until faced with it.  It took a long time for the pain of living with him to overcome the perceived pain of leaving him.   But it finally did, as it does for most women, since most do leave.   

When you leave, you are trading this:

For this:

For me, it was a good trade. I only wish I had been able to do it sooner. Luckily, I was financially able to leave. Luckily, I had the support of my friends and family. Luckily, he did not try to hurt me physically after I left. The process that you have to go through to leave is emotional as well as logistical. Emotionally I had to admit defeat. Emotionally, I had to accept that he was never going to change, and that the chaos of our lives was damaging our kids and our kids’ future. Emotionally, I had to be ready to tell my family and friends what was going on. All of these are huge barriers. Logistically, I had to prepare my finances. Logistically, I had to prepare from a legal perspective. Logistically, I had to prepare for the safety of the kids and myself, which is by far the most important. For me this process took about a year and a half and a couple of tries, but it was worth it.

As I sit eating dinner on the back porch with Luke and Cassie, enjoying the nice evening now that the heat of summer is over, I am happy. I have lots of ups and downs with Brad.  Being divorced from him is stressful, and I feel bad the kids will have to deal with him as a father, but I know I made the right decision to leave. After living under the veil of impending doom for years, I finally have some peace.

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