When I first met “Rayna” she was scared to ask her husband for a divorce. He pays all the bills, he knows how to fix everything in the house. He doesn’t like surprises.
They had discussed divorce from time to time over the years, and he had made it clear that he was worried for her and the children. He had explained that he would be so “heartbroken” if they ever got a divorce that he would have to stop working. His anxiety at being single would outweigh his ability to make a living. Then he would not be able to pay for her car, there would be no money for food, phones, or college tuition. She and the kids would be homeless and penniless. No, he had advised her, divorce was definitely not a smart option. Better to stay married and just live by his rules.
But as the years went by, the marriage became more difficult for Rayna. She and the kids would try to do everything exactly as her husband demanded, but they were human and would make mistakes. If the house wasn’t cleaned right, or grades were not high enough, or clothing was in any way viewed as inappropriate the repercussions were too severe.
Fighting, yelling, hitting, broken promises, and constant threats became more and more prevalent. Rayna and the kids had to go stay with her sister to get away from the worst of the tirades.
We decided that Rayna needed to start making a little space for herself. She started working increased hours at her part time job, and saving more of her money. She opened her own bank account without telling her husband. She took out a credit card in her own name. She surrounded herself with people she trusted at work and in her life. So that when the time eventually came that she could take no more, she was ready.
She called and asked me to file divorce papers. I knew that the mud was about to hit the fan, and asked if she was ready.
“Today I am a much stronger person than I was a year ago.” That’s what she told me. It was music to my ears.
After we filed for divorce, her husband pulled all of the nasty tricks he had threatened. Rayna stopped for gas on her way home from work one day and used the same gas card she had always used. It had been cut off. She paid with cash from her wallet. When she asked her husband what happened, he got angry with her; so she stopped asking.
A week later, she took her son to a large box store to buy back to school items with the usual credit card. Now, this card was cut off. Again, Rayna reached into her own wallet, pulled out her own credit card and completed the transaction without her husband’s support.
When the husband’s attempts to make her stop the divorce failed, he started getting angrier. One night he got so bad that she tried to call the police, but he broke every phone in the house. She calmed him down by saying there would be no divorce.
“We just have to live through this night, and in the morning things will be different,” she told her frightened teenage daughter. The next morning they each packed a bag and went to stay with friends. They lived on couches for two weeks until she found an apartment that she could afford to rent on her own. She found the place through a friend at work; the landlord was able to give her a break on the rent; and she does not have to live with her husband any more.
One day at work, she received a call from the dealership where they had leased their vehicles. The lease on her car was in the husband’s name and he had canceled the lease, the registration and the insurance. They were on the way over to pick up the car from her place of work. She was sure she would have to walk home. But, again, a friend gave her a ride, a less expensive lease was available, and she was able to get to work the next morning uninterrupted.
This divorce is not complete, and he will be found in contempt for the rules he broke by cutting her off like that. The money she has had to pay from her own pocket will likely be reimbursed to her when they sell the marital residence; and the whole thing should eventually balance out through the court system. But, Rayna does not have to wait for the wheels of justice to turn slowly in her favor. She made them turn by her own strength.
She got good advice a year before she filed for divorce; she followed that advice, and bided her time. So that when she was ready to leave; she was really ready to leave. Now, thankfully for Rayna and for her kids, there is no looking back and there is no control that her husband can exert over her.
What we Love: “Today I am a much stronger person than I was a year ago.” And a year from now she’ll be able to say it again.