**This is written from my own perspective (cisgender, heteronormative). Domestic violence happens in all forms of intimate relationships and pronouns can be interchanged to reflect that.**
Dear Beautiful Being,
You may not know me, so I’ll introduce myself. My name is Jennifer Rollins and I was in an abusive relationship for 14 years.
I’ve been where you are right now and I want you to know that I see you. I hear you. I believe you. It took me many years to actually voice out loud that I was in an abusive marriage so if you’re at the point of saying “I think I should be treated better than this”, I’m writing to you as well.
Many people have asked me when I finally made the decision to end my marriage and the truth is, I made it at least 300 times. Each time I told myself that I was done, I’d had enough and this was the breaking point. Then fear took over and I could hear him saying “You can’t do this on your own. You won’t have support. You’re a stupid c@*t that no one will ever want. No one likes you, even your best friends are lying about liking you. You’re the abusive one.” Over and over these things played in my head like a broken record. Each one making me feel smaller, weaker, and more deserving of the life I had. Instead of leaving, I decided to keep my mouth shut, stay on the other side of his anger, and become invisible. If I was invisible, maybe I could walk on the eggshells and not cause them to explode. I’m willing to bet you know how this feels and that your own broken record plays over and over in your head.
I stayed because I was scared of what my life would be like as a single parent. I stayed because I didn’t believe I could look after myself and my kids financially. I stayed because I was scared of being alone. I stayed because I could see slivers of the person I loved from time to time and it gave me hope. I stayed because I was in my late 30’s and didn’t want to start over. I stayed because I didn’t want my kids to grow up in a broken home. I stayed because I believed in marriage being forever and I didn’t want to fail at it. I stayed because this is what I thought love looked like. I stayed because I was scared I would struggle and bring my kids down with me. I stayed because it wasn’t that bad…at least he didn’t hit me. I stayed because no one would believe me. I stayed because I couldn’t wrap my head around dating and marrying someone who ended up this way. I stayed because it was my fault I ignored the red flags. I don’t know the reasons why you’re still in your relationship but I know that making excuses gets easier as time goes and the relief that comes with that. I also know that there’s a lot of judgement from others placed on us for staying and how awful that feels. It’s ridiculous to think that people spend time judging us for staying instead of asking why he abuses, but that’s a blog post for another time. I’m sharing this with you because I feel you. I’m holding space for you in my heart and I know how hard this is. You’re not alone.
I left because I wanted a better life for me and my kids. I left because it kept getting worse. I left because I started wearing sweaters so I could cover up my middle fingers each time he spoke to me. I left because the slivers of hope faded. I left because I’d done enough research to see and truly know what was happening in my marriage. I left because he had an out of control shopping addiction that scared me. I left because I was tired of walking on eggshells. I left because I started feeling so numb, I didn’t feel good or bad anymore, I just existed. I left because I needed to heal myself. I left because I didn’t want my daughters to think this is how men treated women and emulate my marriage as I emulated my mother’s relationships. I left because I was more scared of staying than I was about judgement. I left because I made a plan and on paper, I could totally look after myself and my kids financially. I left because I kept track of the things he was saying to me in my phone and read it every night for courage. I left because I finally realized I deserved happiness. We all did.
I ended my marriage suddenly and although I had thought about leaving so many times, I only had a partial plan. Thankfully, I didn’t need restraining orders or interventions but I did make a safety plan. I woke up one morning, opened my own bank account, put my paycheque into it, and went directly to my lawyer. I knew that if I didn’t move quickly, I would find another excuse to stay. I went home after my meeting, showed the paperwork to my husband, and let him know the plan going forward. I was terrified but stood my ground.
I want to tell you that I had a giant party and my life turned around almost immediately, but that would be a lie. I want to tell you that I didn’t think about asking him to come back when things got overwhelming and hard, but that would be a lie. I want to tell you that I bounced right back after moving through the grief cycle quickly, but that would be a lie.I want to tell you that I found the real love of my life right away and we’re together now, but that would be a lie. I want to tell you that I never attracted another abusive person into my life after this, but that would be a lie.
What I can tell you is that it will get easier. I can tell you that being solo has bonus points. I can tell you that there are amazing counsellors and groups that will help you realize your own patterns and break them. I can tell you that you’ll laugh and feel again. I can tell you about many supper dance parties with loud music. I can tell you how good it feels to celebrate your milestones. I can tell you how fantastic it is to reconnect with people who you became isolated from. I can tell you that in 4.5 years, you may have a whole new set of friends that haven’t met your ex or know this part of your story without being told. I can tell you that eating popcorn for supper or spend money on things your ex would have frowned upon is pretty fun. I can tell you that you’ll get stronger and braver every day. I can tell you that sharing your story and hearing, witnessing, and believing another woman can change their life. I can tell you that your kids will thrive in a home where voices aren’t raised, feet aren’t stomped, doors aren’t slammed, and they feel safe. I can tell you that, at some point, you will feel safe again as well.
I’m unsure where you are in your journey or if you’re even thinking of leaving, but I want you to know how loved and supported you are. I want to remind you that you’re stronger than you think and that there are always people willing to help you, if you’re willing to reach out – government agencies, individual counsellors and groups, shelters and respite services, and even a random girl on the internets named Jen Rollins ( firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text 2506501828)More importantly, if you are in immediate danger and need help, please call 911.
Bravely Believing in You Forward