This post is rather personal, but it may help those who lurk, so if you will all please bear with me?
Not long ago, I visited the town where I grew up, got baptized and married, gave birth to both my daughters. It’s a smallish town and among the Witness population, everyone knows everyone. Although I was inactive when I went back to visit, I knew the rumor mill had been working overtime about my divorce. My ex-husband had called most of our former friends in the area to put his spin on what a bad person I had become. After much thought, I decided to make contact with one person, a sister whose daughters had been my daughters’ best friends, and who had been my friend as well. I was not certain how my call would be received under the circumstances. As it turned out, she was glad to hear from me, and even though her husband had received “the phone call” from my ex, she did not believe any of it. We talked on the phone for almost an hour, during which time she described a marital situation even worse than my own (although I might not have believed that to be possible). Her children, like mine, were grown and gone, but still she was afraid to leave him. She had never worked, other than house cleaning jobs, and did not believe she had any options. Her husband was an elder, as were all the males in his family, and she knew she’d be vilified if she filed for divorce. I listened and was as supportive as I could be without shouting to her: “leave the sick bastard,” which was what I wanted to say. Even though the police had been called to her house to protect her from her husband, the elders took no action against him. The details of her ordeal are terrible, but not to be discussed here.
In case she is reading this board – doubtful, since she does not even have an answering machine, let alone a computer – I would like to tell her how things are with me. I want women to know that survival and happiness are possible after ending a bad marriage.
When I first made the decision to divorce my husband, I was almost in a panic. How would I earn a living? Did I have the job skills and stamina to make a livable wage? How would I take care of my house? How could I change the oil in my car? Who would make the hard decisions? How would my children accept their parents divorced? How could I cope with being alone? Would my “mango” get me into trouble? (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.)
The panic was soon replaced by a determination, and the knowledge that the alternative was living a lie and setting a terrible example for my daughters. Did I want to teach them the lesson that when a woman is miserable, she must quietly endure because there is no life without a husband? Could I go on slowly watching myself die inside?
Yes, I survived, as many of you know. I’m not patting myself on the back; we all do what me must to live, and many have endured far worse things in life. But for Witness women, sometimes the biggest fear is the thought of living alone.
I’ll admit, I did not do this entirely on my own. My loving sister and her husband who left the Org about the same time were always there to lend a hand. My younger daughter sometimes kicked me in the butt when I was too terrified to act. With those few exceptions, I had no friends and no man to hold onto. (Contrary to gossip, there was no phantom man waiting in the wings.) At the time, I didn’t even have the community of ex-JW’s I’ve since discovered on discussion boards such as this one.
Three years later, I’m fine. I actually enjoy being single. I came to realize, I wasn’t getting any help or support when I had a husband, so what really changed when he moved out? I still do the home repairs; the difference is I am no longer resentful of a person who is sleeping on the couch while I mow the lawn. I enjoy my own company and am not afraid to eat alone in a restaurant or travel by myself. Weekends can be tough when all your co-workers are talking about plans with husbands or boyfriends, but I wouldn’t go back for anything. I’m slowly becoming financially secure and don’t intend on ever being dependent on someone else to provide for me. I’ve begun to make new friends, although it is a gradual process.
I may someday find a partner, this time an equal one. If so, great. If not, I’m still happier than I have ever been. Please, women, if you are reading this, understand it is within your power to change things. Don’t ever stay in a relationship because you feel you have no choices. If you can’t see beyond your current situation, you just need to climb higher to get a better look. Others have scaled the mountain and made it to the other side.
Disclaimer: I do not advocate ending a marriage just because things aren’t perfect. Wherever possible, work towards a resolution of problems. The foregoing is for those situations which are truly beyond all hope of redemption. My dear friend, please trust yourself. Don’t wait for the police to come unlock the closet door, you have the key.
Thanks for listening,