One week before Christmas, my husband of 37 years was about to fly in from a business trip when I opened his email expecting details on when to pick him up at the airport, Instead I read a cold, hostile demand for divorce–just like that! He didn’t love me, hadn’t for a long time and wanted a chance to find someone who would better appreciate him. He told me how to dispose of our house, which assets he was willing to share and that he would give me a year to find a good job before he stopped paying the bills. I was 60 years old, had been a stay-at-home mother for the past 32 years.
Panic hit first–pure, heart-thumping panic–then disbelief. Hadn’t I stuck with him throughout multiple affairs, business failures, moved our family for his work opportunities, and well, hadn’t I loved him unconditionally? I didn’t understand. It must be a mistake. Maybe he was drinking when he wrote the email. Maybe something had happened with his business.
Maybe I had been a fool.
No, not a fool, but definitely emotionally damaged when I entered the marriage. How smoothly we slid into our roles of abuser and enabler. How good I became at “not seeing.” It’s all clear to me now but on that day almost five years ago, after reading that email, I was drowning in fear. What was going to happen to me? What could/would/should I do?
My family and friends rallied around me–including my dear mother-in-law! They advised me not to meet him at a local restaurant to sign the settlement agreement he’d drawn up–to save on lawyer fees, he wrote. Another angry email arrived accusing me of wasting his time and his money. More ultimatums and cruel words. Even today I sometimes wonder, “What did I do to be treated that way?”
In the New Year, I found a lawyer. My husband refused to cooperate towards any settlement other than what he had dictated, and so I was the one to file for divorce in order to begin the process. He was shocked and furious at my nerve. (I think his word was “disgusted.”)
I was terrified, didn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, starting looking for a job. (At 60 years old, no “paid” work experience for more than 30 years…you can imagine my prospects) But from somewhere deep inside, I found a personal strength I didn’t know I had. This time I wouldn’t give in to him or to my chronic low self-esteem. This time I would stand up for that naïve young woman who thought the power of love and sacrifice would overcome anger and pain. This time I would fight.
It took almost four years to be free, although when it began, freedom was not something I anticipated in a positive way. I learned a lot along the way and hope that by sharing some of my experiences, I can give comfort and hope to another “older” someone who is suffering in humiliation and fear. I am here to tell you that it will be okay. You will be okay.