Now What?

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December 28th – (After my lightbulb moment) Happy Anniversary

Once I made the conscious to decision to leave Scott, letting the hotel screen door slam as I walked out, I wiped my tears and pulled myself together.

I was eerily calm riding in the back of the beat up old Uber van. The driver barely spoke English and couldn’t find the hotel I booked last minute. I had called my brother, who has a place in Marco Island. He said I could stay with him for a few days while I figure out next steps. So I picked a hotel midway between Sanibel Island and Marco, near the airport in Naples where my brother graciously offered to pick me up in the morning.

After Scott left me in full panic mode in that small hotel room to go have dinner with his mother and kids, his last words echoed over and over. “Suit yourself. You’re being selfish. You’re overreacting. You’re a horrible wife and mother. How dare you abandon your family. You’re a fucking psycho bitch.” Plus much, much more. Happy Anniversary.

Then the messages started rolling in from Scott. Most would think your partner of 30 years would be worried. Show concern. Ask if I was ok. Beg me to come back. Or, even give me space to breath. Nope. Instead I was inundated with hateful, spiteful, messages. Even lists. List of all the times he ‘claims’ I left the family. Lists of times he claimed I overreacted. Lists upon lists of mean, hurtful, hateful words.

It was abuse – verbal and mental abuse at its finest. I’d already come to recognize the signs having read Patricia Evans “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” that really started it all on my path to understanding and breaking free. (If you haven’t read it, you should.) More on that to follow.

Both Scott and the kids had the following week off for “winter break.” So, I knew I wouldn’t be putting a burden on anyone with my absence. I just couldn’t fathom getting on that plane tomorrow. It’s difficult to explain how strong the feeling was — like a lightening bolt hitting me with complete clarity. Call it sick sense, panic attack, divine intervention, who knows. I had no doubt whatsoever I was doing the right thing. I knew I had to make a change and now. My life depended on it.

It didn’t really hit me until the kids called after their dinner. They wanted to know where I went. All I could think to say was that I wasn’t feeling well and decided to stay with my brother and family in Florida for a few more days while they headed back to the arctic tundra where we now reside in Michigan.

Now in the airport hotel room, the tears began to flow. This time in great waves. I cried for my children. I had stayed in this marriage thinking that by keeping the family unit intact, I was helping them.  Instead, I was doing the opposite.  I had hoped this vacation would bring us all closer together.  But it only verified what I knew to be true but couldn’t accept; our family was dysfunctional.  That’s not the message I want our children growing up with any longer.

I cried that my marriage had come to an end. The very foundation of my marriage was broken and couldn’t be fixed.  That became abundantly clear when my knight in shining armor wouldn’t go to battle for me.  He didn’t want to put a mark on that glossy veneer.  Scott’s threats over the years haunted me. He said he would destroy me if I ever found the courage to leave. And I believed him.  I cried because I was scared as hell. Now what?

My Lightbulb Moment

It was the last day of our Florida vacation.  I was running late.  All five of us, Scott, our children, and I, were crammed into a small hotel room with two double beds and a blow-up mattress. Our kids varied in age from twelve to twenty-one, and we were all ready for some space. The kids were in the hotel room and everyone was fighting and arguing. Our two oldest children were speaking to me like Scott always does — with complete disrespect. They learned it from him.  Or maybe I should say they never learned respect from him.  Then, I snapped.

I couldn’t breathe.  I was in tears and trying to keep my temper intact.  

Maybe it’s a panic attack?  

I don’t know.  I’ve never had one before.  

 “I‘m not feeling well,” I told Scott when he entered the room with his drink in hand, stepping over luggage and strewn clothes everywhere. “Something’s wrong.”

It was Scott’s responsibility to plan our anniversary dinner that evening, which turned out to be dinner with our kids and his mother and her husband. Our marriage counselor had suggested we take turns planning a date night, and it was Scott’s turn that night on our anniversary. I wasn’t expecting any grand gestures, but I was hanging on to hope by a thread.  I hoped that Scott would make an effort, knowing I already had one foot out the door.  I had met with the YWCA Domestic Abuse Advocate a few months earlier after Scott had beaten me — again.  I had also met with someone at the Personal Protection Order (PPO) office and had also considered filing assault and battery charges at that time.  But Scott professed his love, actually admitting he was wrong for the first time in our nearly 30 years together. I believed him.  

Earlier that day, our family had decided to take a trip up to Captiva Island to enjoy our last day of vacation at the beach.  I was exhausted having tried all week to make our family vacation a happy and memorable one.  It wasn’t easy.  I was hoping to end our last day of vacation on a positive note.  

On our way back to the hotel after the beach, Scott and Lindsey, our daughter, were arguing.  I tried time-outs, but tempers continued to flare. Cooper, our youngest son, was in tears in the backseat of the car as Scott and Lindsey got louder and louder.  In an attempt to divert or stop the argument, I suggested that Scott pull over at a nearby beach. I said that I wanted to search for driftwood, hoping we could all just breathe. Scott agreed, and our daughter, grateful for the reprieve, joined me.  

After we got out, Scott decided that he didn’t want to stay. He sped off with a sting of gravel spraying in our faces.  It was a blistering hot afternoon, so we waved the cloud of gravel dust from our eyes and headed down a narrow path to the beach, with the understanding Scott would be back in an hour to pick us up.  I was hoping that would give everyone enough time to calm down.  It was a small beach, just under and around a small bridge.  There was parking for a handful of cars.  You couldn’t walk far and there wasn’t much to see as we ventured out, but I thought there may be a few pieces of driftwood, as it was an outlet to the ocean.  There were a few other people hanging out, fishing or taking in the sunshine.  Lindsey and I wandered awhile, then took a few pictures — she wanted a couple good photos of herself from our vacation.

Hot, tired, and thirsty we were disappointed that Scott never returned as promised, as it was now well-past an hour. I repeatedly called him and got no answer. Two hours later, needing a bathroom desperately, I called his mother. I asked her to tell Scott we were ready to be picked up.  Scott was not happy. Not only had I called his mother, but he was going to miss happy hour at sunset on the last day of our vacation.

 Okay.  

Now back in the hotel room the five of us were getting ready in a mad dash. We wanted to be on time for our anniversary dinner with his mother.  I was last in the shower with only a few minutes to throw myself together, thanks to our teenage daughter. The kids were being disrespectful and argumentative with me.  Instead of defending me and correcting their behavior, Scott jumped on the bandwagon with them. 

That’s when the light bulb came on.  That one defining moment was like the final drop of water into a billion drops collected over time that creates a flood.  The gates opened and there was no stopping it.   For the first time I dialed in and listened — listened to my inner spirit who was screaming with fire, fury and frustration.  Moved by such an extreme feeling of discontent I knew I had to do something.  Fueled by powers of prayer, I had a moment of clarity.  It was crystal clear.

To an outsider, it may have seemed like nothing.  So what?  A crappy day; dinner with the mother-in-law; no roses.  Big deal.  But inside, it was the culmination of years of abuse.  My heart and soul were screaming.  It was time to protect what little I had left of myself.  It was fight or flight — the physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. 

The very foundation of our marriage was broken.Living in my comfort zone was easy.  But as I sat there on the creaky, old hotel bed, I felt like I was buried in a pile of rubble, unable to breath.  The walls were crumbling around me.  No longer able to detach and deny, I accepted the truth.  My reality.  With this discontent rising up like a kettle about to blow, I knew that something had to change.  I had to change.  No more brokenness.  No more abuse. I needed to rebuild my life, not just for me, but for our children.

Not wanting the kids to see my distress, I told them to go ahead to dinner with Grandma and her husband without me.  I wasn’t feeling well and went into the bathroom and wept.  Scott knew I wasn’t ok, but it was apparent that I didn’t matter to him.  

“Suit yourself,” he said, leaving to take the kids to dinner. 

Now, I know that Scott is a narcissistic psychopath.  The universe is all about him and how things affect him.  But I didn’t know that then.  That night I gave Scott many opportunities to help me keep US together – a last-ditch effort to show me he could be different. That he could still change my mind and save the marriage.  Was I overreacting?  I didn’t think so.

A short while later, Scott texted me, “There’s a wait for the table.  I can come get you if you’re finally ready?” 

Again, I explained, “I’mnot ok.” I really wasn’t.  I couldn’t catch my breath and felt like I was going to faint, breaking into a cold sweat.   I knew what I had to do.  Scott only got angrier.  How dare I stand him up on our anniversary; in front of his mother, no less!

“I can’t believe you’re acting like a child.  What am I supposed to tell my mother?” he said angrily. He wasn’t worried about me.  It was all about him.  

That’s when I knew I needed some space. I couldn’t fathom getting back on the plane the next day with Scott and kids bound for home. 

So, I told Scott, “I’m leaving.”  

 “What do you mean?  You’re over-reacting, being selfish.  You’re making a big deal out of nothing,”  he texted. Something I’ve heard all too often.

 “I need some space, time to think,” I replied.  He didn’t respond like some might, begging me to stay or making any effort to be reasonable.  

Instead he said, “You’re a terrible wife and mother.  How dare you abandon us. You need help, you’re a crazy bi**h.”  That was it.  My proverbial last straw.I collected myself as best Icould, packed my bags, and called an Uber driver, letting the hotel room door close behind me.  quote 8