‘Saving myself’ didn’t feel like a natural act for me. I was more attuned to the language of sacrifice, of putting others first. But applying this to an emotionally abusive relationship – or any abusive relationship – means that the knife twists deeper. The person supposed to love you the most treats you the worst. Whatever you do or don’t do, it is never good enough.
My sense of identity was in pieces. One minute my husband would tell me how essential I was to his survival; treated as the only one he could ever be with. The next, I would find myself undercut by his cruelty. Perhaps I never knew who I was, but rather than helping me find my identity, the ‘partnership’ that was my marriage reduced me to a shadow of what I was made to be.
After many years of sticking with it, something rose up inside me. This is not acceptable. In trying to save a drowning man, I myself was pulled under until my lungs were full of water. I knew that if I stayed, my very being would be slowly diminished, if I left, I might just have a chance of staying alive.
I chose to lose my marriage in order to survive. Even now the words sound selfish. Everyone I share with, both at a personal and professional level, believes I have done the right thing – that I needed to get out while I still could. However, the old narratives of loyalty and promises have been hard to shake off.
I tried, God knows I tried. And God knew I needed to leave. The strange threads that led to my eventual departure are treasures, in a way. “Your whole experience has been one of answered prayers and words from God on a level I rarely see,” said one friend of mine, in a message. I clung to that, when self-doubt rose up, when I wondered to myself, “Was it really that bad?” It wasn’t all the time. My husband had plenty of good qualities. There are rarely clear-cut heroes and villains, only complicated humans.
But it was too many times.
When Jesus was on his way to heal a little girl, a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years crept through the crowd and touched the hem of his cloak. In that act of faith, she was healed. Her years of suffering were over.
When I walked out with only my phone and my keys, shaking with the trauma of leaving my marriage behind, that was my act of faith. I realised I had done all that I could do. Time to start learning how to live again.
If you are struggling in a relationship please reach out to someone and get help. Premier Lifeline is a confidential telephone helpline offering a listening ear, emotional and spiritual support from a Christian perspective, prayer and signposting. If you would like someone to talk to and pray for you call 0300 111 0101. Open from 9am to midnight every day of the year.