To my Ex,
It has now been almost exactly 20 years since we first met. Young college students, happy, carefree, excited about life. We spent that first day together talking for hours and hours about everything and nothing at all. We instantly fell into a deep friendship. For years you were my best friend, closest confidant, love. We had our share of difficult times and your response to stressful situations frightened me a little. I can clearly remember the fear I felt the time you lost your first job and the neighbors called the police thinking one of us was beating the other. ….but overall times were good. We shared mutual interests, we did things together, we were both happy and life was great.
We decided to have children. Got married. Bought a house. We were living the American dream. We were blessed with two happy healthy wonderful children. You went to grad school while I supported our family working. Life became more difficult, but it was still some of the happiest years of my life.
You completed your degree just as the kids got to preschool age. You landed the job you had always wanted with the group you liked. I was so proud and happy that you had succeeded in meeting your goals. Shortly after this, something changed. I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe it was the stress of working while having kids or the job wasn’t what you hoped it would be or I did something wrong, but something happened. Activities were strained, it was suddenly a chore to do things together. You started yelling at the children. Not normal parent yelling, but furious painful-to-watch confusing yelling.
And then it happened….you hit me. Not a frustrated hit, not a one-time hit, not a momentary short-term anger hit, but repeated closed-fisted punches. To make it worse, you hit me in front of the kids. To make it unbearably worse, you told them that I deserved to be hit, that it was okay to hit me and that it was okay for them to hit someone. I was stunned. I was hurt. I was angry. Somehow, and to this day I’m not sure how, I managed not to react. I don’t know how long it went on. It felt like 30 minutes, but the episode is so mixed up with emotion that I don’t trust my senses to judge. You eventually calmed down and told the kids that it was not okay to hit anyone. I didn’t realize it then, but that was the beginning of the end of our marriage. We went back to our normal routine and the episode was mostly forgotten.
And then you lost your job. From there things went downhill fast. Suddenly you were yelling at the kids constantly. Eight year olds wrote in their school journal that you were mean, you yelled all the time, everything had to be an argument with you. You refused to read the journal. I begged you to go to therapy. I begged for us to go to therapy. You refused to go. You got and lost two more jobs. I found your bottle of valium, but was too afraid to mention it. Everything was stressful to you. You couldn’t ride in the car with the kids because any noise would make you mad. I took on more and more of the household responsibilities to try to take all the load I could off of you. We would get up for school and work, eat breakfast and do our best not to wake you up until we were ready to walk out the door.
And then you announced that you didn’t want to work anymore, you just wanted to stay home all the time. Being the sole breadwinner again and taking care of the house sounded exhausting, but I hoped the break would let you regroup and be your old self again. I was wrong. I would come home from work and nearly every day at least one of the kids would be in tears, usually in a timeout. I quietly wondered how long they had been in that timeout. The kids begged me to get you to go back to work. Their grades plummeted. One of them developed a nervous tic. I talked you into returning to work, but you wouldn’t believe me that the girls had made the request. You blamed me, said that I viewed you as nothing more than a paycheck. You gained and lost two more jobs.
I was miserable, the kids were miserable, you were miserable. I sent you a “last ditch” email telling you that I loved you and I missed my friend. We had a good heartfelt frank discussion about the topic. You told me that the old “you” was dead and that I either loved the new “you” or I didn’t. I told you that I did not like the person you had become. We were effectively over, but neither of us wanted to be away from the kids. We finally went to marriage counseling, to your credit by your suggestion. After a few sessions, the counselor asked to talk to me alone and told me, “It’s not typically in my job description to do this, but [your spouse] has a behavioral problem you need to get a divorce.” Still I resisted, I feared leaving the kids with you 50% of the time or in a nightmare scenario you somehow getting full custody.
And then you attacked one of the kids. I can still see the fear in her eyes as you screamed, yelled, grabbed, and dragged her around the room. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I recognized my opportunity and I took it. I started taking pictures of the abuse. It didn’t end and you were in such a rage that you didn’t notice me standing in the middle of the room recording you. Both kids saw what I was doing, but said nothing. I have not shown anyone the videos. I’m not certain why. She didn’t talk to you for two days. When she did, you had the nerve to tell her that she was a “bad girl” and an “evil child”. She sobbed uncontrollably as she locked herself in the bathroom.
Six days later I handed you divorce papers, you weren’t surprised, but I was instantly the devil. You told the kids that I had physically abused you. You told mutual friends that I physically abused you. You told my family that I had physically abused you. I reminded you that libel and slander were very real and very prosecutable things. Overnight you changed your tune, insisting that you had never said that I physically abused you. You then started telling people that I was a narcissist. Thankfully you started seeing a psychiatrist (two actually). One of your psychiatrists wanted me to come in and have a discussion. I apprehensively agreed. I was stunned, but they wanted to convince me that you actually had a problem. You have a chemical imbalance and need to get on some strong anti-anxiety medication. After being told for so long that I was a horrible person and the cause of all the problems in the relationship I cannot express the relief that I felt hearing that.
You continue spreading your lies about me to friends and family, there is absolutely nothing that I can do to stop you. Somewhere deep down inside is the person I knew and loved. I no longer love you, but I care about you. I pity the person you have become, but I have hope that you are receiving the care that I couldn’t provide. Every day I wonder if there is something more I could have done, something different I should have done. As the days go by I think about you less and less. I wish you well and I hope you find your way back to happiness, but with this letter I’m letting go to find my own happiness.
- Your Ex