Thursday, May 24, 2012

On the path to divorce

Lately, as I explain to my closest family and friends that I am planning to divorce Jake and move away from here, they tend to say something like, "It sounds like you are on the right path."

My response to that is, "Sure, I'm on the path, but I have no idea where it is going or how to take the first step." But I guess it's good that I'm on the path.

This path is really freaking steep and rocky and you wouldn't believe what they charge at the toll booth . . .

Anyhow, I'm taking this divorce idea very seriously now. I talked to my lawyer about it. (By the way, every time I say "my lawyer" I squirm a little. I still haven't got used to the fact that there is a lawyer that I have paid enough money in the past that I actually call her "my lawyer"). She thinks it will be fairly easy, given the criminal position my husband is in.

I talked to a friend of mine that recently divorced her abusive husband. She was reassuring and full of advice. She also thinks this will be easy.

Easy or not, I'm still terrified of going through with this divorce. The worst part, I think, will be breaking the news to Jake and his family. I'm nervous about how Jake will take the news. I've never seen him act out in a violent way, but I'm still scared. Even now, he has no idea that I'm planning to divorce him, but he knows I'm mad at him and he knows that I don't think he's fit to be a father . . . and that's enough to keep me awake at night, scared he's going to snap and come kill us. I try to tell myself that we're safe because he has the ankle monitor on, but the ankle monitor will just alert the sheriff that he's left the property. It doesn't physically stop him. So, in theory, he could get in a car, drive the two miles of gravel road (straight shot to our house) and do damage before the police even get in their cars ten miles away in town.

It's paranoia, I'm sure. Again, I've never seen him be violent - self-centered, greedy, insensitive, but not violent. But just in case, I had a friend of our family remove Jake's guns and ammo from our house. To be extra safe, I'm keeping this divorce hush-hush until the day I file. That same day, I'm going to say good-bye to this house and drive off in a moving van.

It get's tricky after that because a person filing for divorce can't leave the state without the permission of the court. So I'll be in limbo for a little while. I'll stay at a local hotel or a friends' house - just as long as I'm closer to the police than Jake. That's okay, though, because I want a little time to tell my friends what's happening and say good-bye. I want Elise to be able to say good-bye to her friends, too. And I really want to tell Jake's parents in person about the divorce. My own mother cringes at that idea because she knows, as I know, that they won't understand. I am pretty sure they will only tell me I'm doing the wrong thing and think the worst of me. It's going to be tough.

It's also going to be expensive. My friend who divorced her abusive husband spent $3500 on the divorce. I have $4500 in savings. That money was intended for the move and living expenses when I get there. I'm just holding my breath that the judge lets me move sooner than later so I can find a job before the lawyer's bill rolls in!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The D-word


When Jake was arrested for the first time in 2011, I felt like everyone automatically assumed that I was going to leave him. I am very sensitive to the expectations of others, so this tore me to pieces. I didn't want a divorce then. I wanted to hold my family together, solve the problems and heal the wounds. I wanted to shovel the shit into my garden to grow flowers. Apparently I'm an optimist.

Now, I'm in such a different place. I really want to leave. I look at all the damage that's been done and I'm ready to walk away. My soul feels bruised. I think about having a second chance away from here and it makes me smile.

But still, as much as I want to leave, I don't want to go through a divorce. I know in my mind and heart that this marriage is done, but I can't get myself to move forward. I've been using that d-word more often in conversation with certain people I trust, partially because I need to try the idea on and exercise it a little. For so long, I've cringed at the word that it is hard to turn around and embrace it. I even find myself trying to puzzle out a way to avoid a divorce . . . but that would be cowardly and downright dishonest to myself and my kids.

I've also realized that I'm scared of what Jake will do when he finds out. I've never seen him violent and I've never worried about it before, but suddenly I'm obsessing over whether the doors and windows are all locked at night. I reassure myself that he's wearing an ankle monitor, but then I lie awake thinking about how it would take him less than five minutes to get here while the police would likely take longer. My fears got bad enough that I called a family friend and asked that she remove the guns from my house (two pistols, a rifle, and a shotgun that all belonged to Jake, although I only ever saw him shoot the shotgun and then it was at prowling coyotes) just to limit the weapons that could be used in a moment of anger. I'm also thinking that I won't file for divorce until I'm physically out of our house and staying somewhere closer to the police than Jake.

I have lingering guilt, too, like I'm breaking my holy marriage vows. Sure, he broke them first, but I'm a "turn the other cheek" kind of girl.  I never in a million years could have imagined that I'd be contemplating divorce. But here I am. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sick Family, Sick Dog

After that phone call with Jake, I didn't talk to him for more than a week and intended that to last longer. Life went on. He called me a few times and I let it go to voicemail. I realized that I could request a "no contact" situation again, but I kinda liked that he knew that I was ignoring him. Immature? Sure, but I think I deserve to be the one in control for a while - visibly in control. Jake's parents came over a few times for supper. They brought the food. I never asked who cooked the food and they never said, but I'm sure we all know. If I didn't really need a break from cooking I would have complained.

Everything was going pretty well until Sabrina got sick. I took a day off work. Then I got sick and spent the whole weekend on the sofa plus took another day off work. Then Elise got sick and I took three days off work. Altogether I worked 25 hours in two weeks. Paying the bills is going to be tight this month

In the midst of all our own sickness, I noticed that our dog, Barkey, was not looking so good. I took him to the vet only to find out that he was suffering from complications due to cancer. The vet said there was really no treatment that would improve his situation and it was already quite advanced, so he recommended euthanasia. It was a tough week, trying to plan our dog's last moments. I had it planned so that I would take Barkey over to my in-law's house while the kids were at daycare so that Jake and I could both be with Barkey as he died. I truly believe that it's a blessing to be with someone as they die, so it was important to me to be there with Barkey. Unfortunately, that was the day Elise vomited at daycare, so I had to stay home with her. I gave Barkey a big hug and watched him ride off, never to come home again.

I let down my guard during the whole Barkey situation and talked to Jake in person a few times. We both cried and sobbed while making arrangements. He made a motion to hug me, but I snapped, "I don't want to hug you!" He really started crying then. I felt like a monster.

On Friday, I received a letter from Jake. It mostly reminisced about Barkey. He had added a drawing of a punch-tin design to replace a missing window in our china hutch. The design featured a pair of love birds. My letter back to him started with "I don't want love birds in the hutch. Do you understand how mad I am at you? There may be no coming back from this. "  I didn't rant much more in the letter - not that I didn't want to, but I didn't have the energy.

I decided to throw an odd request into the letter. I asked him to give the names of all his victims to the court. He'll think it's a crazy idea and refuse to do it, I'm sure. I just explained that I couldn't support him or have any kind of relationship with him as long as I know that there are other victims out there who have yet to press charges. If he could sacrifice his future by giving up those names I know I would sleep better at night for the sake of those victims, but also because I would finally know that Jake CAN do the right thing instead of the selfish thing. But since I doubt that he'll ever do that . . .

I'm starting to plan my move. I wanted to move to the city my parents live in, but the housing costs are ridiculous. So now I'm researching the city that my brother lives in, just two hours' drive from my parents. I'm excited to live near my own family and be in a place where no one knows my husband. But I'm already mourning this house and this community and the lifestyle we live here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What does abuse look like?

Abuse takes many forms. It doesn't always leave a bruise. Emotions and self-esteem are damaged more often than flesh. Spouses abuse each other with words way too often. Sexual abuse doesn't always equal rape. An adult may be "consenting" but not actually want to do something. Communication, awareness for each other, and empathy are all requirements to avoid abuse, but are sadly lacking in most relationships. Boundaries break down as one person takes another's love for granted. The abused slowly loses sight of what is right. The temperature in the pot is steadily rising and they don't realize it is about to boil.

I believe I was in an abusive relationship. I was taken for granted and disrespected. He gave me all of his problems and then blamed them on me and left me to clean them up. Everything he did to me was legal. I could talk about most things in public without getting more than a cringe from my loved ones. It was very hard to decipher whether things were really wrong or just stressed. I took it all lovingly, as a good spouse should do, thinking it would get better with time. It took me this long to realize the damage it caused me. If that damage had been a bruise on my face, I would have been gone a long time ago.

How do we stop perpetuating abusive relationships when they are so subtle? How do we convince ourselves or our friends that they are being abused? How do we teach our children to avoid and prevent abuse? Harder still, how do we teach them to leave it?