*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.
It took a friend's kind comment to show me I wasn’t the one who had failed.
I was in an abusive relationship for nearly seven years. For five years, we were husband and wife.
It should have been easy to exit that relationship while we were still dating.
It would have been easier to disengage before we signed that slip of paper that made our relationship official in the eyes of the law.
It should have been… but it wasn’t.
I didn’t leave him even though he pushed me against a chain-link fence during a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood while we were dating.
I didn’t leave him even though he kicked me in the shin with his steel-toed boot while we were dating.
I didn’t leave him even though he beat me over the back with a green glass beer bottle while we were dating.
After the wedding, I found it even harder to leave.
As the years passed, I became more isolated and miserable. I also became more convinced that I had to stay in my abusive marriage because staying in my abusive marriage was preferable to admitting failure.
I was looking at it all wrong.
Yet, I remained convinced that filing for divorce was equivalent to failing, and I didn’t want to be a failure. I especially didn’t want my parents to see me as a failure.
What I failed to realize was that nothing could make my parents happier than watching me leave my abuser for good.
After nearly five years of marriage, I finally found the strength to leave. It was only after I moved out of the home my husband and I had both shared that I found out how my friends and family really felt about my relationship.
I wish they had told me sooner.
One day, I was speaking with a friend about the dissolution of my marriage.
“What took you so long to leave?” he asked.
“I didn’t want to admit I had failed,” I admitted.
“You didn’t fail,” he replied, emphasizing the word you. “He failed.”
My friend was right. I hadn’t failed just because my marriage had failed. That distinction belonged wholly to my husband, who was also my abuser.
After all, I hadn’t asked to be abused. I was the victim. By leaving him, I was the survivor. There’s no failure in being a survivor. I deserved to be celebrated; I deserved to celebrate myself.
I had simply never looked at it that way. Leaving my abusive husband wasn’t a failure. The true failure was the man who would abuse me until the day I left him.
I left with nothing but my secondhand car and the clothes on my back.
When I left him, I left behind the house I helped purchase; the clothes hanging in the bedroom closet, my high school yearbook, and even my dog.
When I went back to retrieve my belongings, I learned my husband had changed the locks. I bought secondhand clothes at the Salvation Army and considered it a win.
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