Leaving An Abusive Relationship Can Be An Act Of Love

Sometimes Loving Means Leaving

Woman walking into rectangular opening in coloured wall
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Trigger warning: abuse

I always knew our relationship was toxic, but my desire to one day be married and have a family was more important than listening to my gut. The toxicity of our relationship was so obvious that the week prior to my wedding, my dad sat with me at lunch and offered me money not to get married — not to be mean, but because he was genuinely scared for me.

My ex-husband had always been aggressive, but he became very mean and abusive with the help of his friend, alcohol. The physical abuse was minimal, but the verbal and emotional abuse was an almost nightly occurrence. The word “slut” or phrases like “you are nothing without me” and “no one likes you or would ever believe you” were his go-tos when he wanted to hurt me. It even got so bad that one night my dad had to put me up in a hotel room after he tried to grab the steering wheel from my hands and drive us into a ditch. I truly believe he didn’t want me to be alive, but he did not want to look like the bad guy. However, I stayed with him, and because I was so brainwashed I thought having a baby would make him change and make him a better person.

Our daughter, born in 2016, made it worse. It’s not my sweet girl’s fault at all, but when a narcissist has one more thing they can use against you and that thing is the most important thing in your life, situations can get especially nasty. He used our daughter as leverage and to gaslight.

The fights, the screaming, and the slinging of insults ended up getting so bad that my then-toddler would sleep on top of me, as if her little 18-month-old body could protect me from all the sticks and stones that were being cast onto me. He even kicked me out of our home at 2:00 a.m. with a suitcase that he packed for me because he was drunk. I had to drive 45 minutes to my parents’ home and knock on the door at 3:00 a.m. just so that my mom could look at me with her knowing eyes and an expression that said, “I already know what he did to you.”

No apologies ever came, not even the slightest sliver of remorse for what he had done the night before. That’s when I knew that I was no longer married to a person, but a monster. I knew that man didn’t love me. Calling me a bitch and a whore is not love. Pushing me into doors and pinning me up against the wall in a choke hold is not love. Punching holes through doors trying to get to me is not love. Acting like a loving husband in front of family and friends, only to get in the car and start yelling at me, is not love.

So we left, my daughter and I, with just one suitcase full of her things. He may have not known what love was, but I did — and it was in the face of my daughter. We left so that she would never have to live without me one day because of her dad. We left so that she could grow up in a loving home without screaming matches. We left so that when she got older she knew what love was supposed to feel like. We left so she never had to question her worth because her own mother didn’t know hers.

Nearly five years later, we are happy and safe. My almost-five-year-old lives in a loving home with me, her step dad and brothers. To this day I have never gotten an apology or acknowledgement of his transgressions, yet I rest easy knowing he will have to answer to that one day — but not from me. We are free from the pain and hurt.