A week ago my husband and I sat down and decided to officially separate for a month, and then further with weekly check-ins. We divided custody of the kids. We alternated weekends. We both cried.
I think he cried because he thought the situation was out of his control, and he had failed. I think he cried because he thought this would hurt the kids.
I cried because after ten years of mind games it's hard to feel confident in a decision made for oneself. After ten years of questioning if you really were imagining things, if you were crazy, if you were stupid or unlikable, it's more difficult than I can say to stand firm and say no, we can't fix this like we are right now. We might not be able to fix it at all.
Each day since then, the negativity has crept into my mind like a familiar ivy, weaving into my day and covering everything in hazy shade. Each day I have wondered if I'm being stupid or rash. If I'm making this more difficult than it needs to be, like so many other decisions I've made in my life. If I am worth it, and if I could even be happy with him removed.
I've taken into consideration what my mother shared, crying, over the phone, when I told her what was going on, days after it happened. She said if I gave myself up, if I forfeited my happiness, if I let him break me down over the years, it would destroy my children.
She is not wrong.
Tonight I thought about how different my life would have been if I had been medicated during college, or even high school. If I'd had ritalin so I wasn't writing twelve full essay assignments in one night. If I'd had xanax so that when I arrived late to a class, I wouldn't stand just outside the door, crying in frustration and warring with my own mind about just WALKING. IN. The DOOR.
I thought about how my struggles with time management cost me my first college's tuition. How my struggles with anxiety and panic attacks left me crippled in ways the other normal kids were not. How hopping from school to school, feeling incapable and just inexplicably defective, could have been completely avoided by investing in myself.
By showing myself the same mindful consideration and compassion that I showed everyone else by default.
Because when I began my first year at college, I left behind a tattered and high strung mother who did not approve of the person I was growing into. I began with the conviction that I, a straight A student and a sober virgin, was a slut, a fuck up, and an idiot.
I fell quickly and willingly into the arms of a man who was looking, whether he realizes it or not, for a fuck up. He was looking for a kind, compassionate doormat who believed she was a fuck up. Someone humble. Timid. Someone with painfully low self esteem who was looking for validation.
My validation came in the form of objectification. To this day, he still cites the reason we got together as finding me very pretty and cute. A stray looking for a home.
And if that doesn't sound predatory to you, you need to get your ears checked.
I was introduced as "my girlfriend, LOOK I GOT ONE IT'S TOTALLY REAL." His friends looked at me without making eye contact and argued playfully amongst each other about who got dibs when he fucked it up. At the time, I felt so very validated. I also felt alienated and inhuman.
But maybe I wanted that back then, I'm not sure.
I soon became the appendage that trailed behind him everywhere he went. I ordered food second, and when we were poor, I sometimes didn't order food at all, if he picked steak. I stayed home while he gamed with his friends, because men aren't to be trusted, and I didn't know anyone who wouldn't rape me. At least that's what he insisted. I started wearing shirts with sleeves and high necklines. Instead of feeling attractive, I grew ashamed of my shape, detaching emotionally from this thing I walk around in and call a body.
We fought. Believe me. We fought about every wrong he did out loud. I missed so many of the silent things at the time, but we fought about every single thing that was in neon. Several times I broke up with him or kicked him out of my apartment only for him to refuse to leave. Several times I locked the door just for him to go in the back before I could get to it, or use a spare key I'd forgotten about. He would NOT LEAVE. He would NOT go away, and when we cosigned a lease together, he informed me the police would not kick him out of his own home, and I'd be in as much trouble as him if I called the cops. Simply put, I couldn't get out, and I didn't even realize how big of a deal that was.
He insists to this day that when we started dating, he was an asshole, and he sees that now. But I still order food second. I still miss the body I knew and controlled. Over time I lost every hobby I had to his clutter or his problems. His stuff took over my space like that same creeping vine, forcing into my belongings and smashing them, losing them, spilling old drinks on them. His mother still blames me for the mess.
Piece by piece my personality has been pressed on, bent, and broken. An attempt to mold me into the perfect partner has yielded a vulnerable and angry husk.
Do you wonder - if our relationship had not been so victimizing to me, would I be so vindictive toward him?
Do you wonder. If our relationship had not been so DAMAGING to me, would I have had the mental and emotional fortitude to survive the loss without suffering the panic attacks, the hypervigilance, the constant and overwhelming feeling that something big and horrible is about to happen every day, the loss of ability to connect honestly with my friends and peers, do you think I would have come out the other side with only heartbreak instead of consuming dread?
Do you fucking wonder if I had to live the last ten years of my life this way?
Don't you wonder what I'll do now?
I sure as fuck do.