At 32, I entered one of the worst relationships I have ever been in. The man was manipulative and yet a smooth-talking charmer. He was younger than me by four years, which is not much but still enough to boost my ego. His blue eyes and sweet boy-next-door looks swept me off my feet.
I was a late bloomer, having recently finished my bachelor’s degree and was about to embark on getting my master’s. I had dreams of returning to Hollywood and getting my big break. But then along came this gentlemanly Army officer, and soon we were married. It was only after our vows that I learned he was actually an immature, sheltered boy who was under the control of his overbearing father and jealous older sisters.
I took him away from them.
Their contempt for me was palpable. All the while my husband was unable to speak up and support me. He would rather die than tell his family to leave us alone.
Despite years of therapy to help me adjust to their family, the multiple deployments and moves across the country from one Army base to the next took their toll. I grew increasingly depressed, and I found myself suffering with the worst bout of clinical major depression in my life. I became a shell of my former independent self, unable to keep full-time employment. My creative video production and writing skills were meant for metropolises like Los Angeles or New York City, not the rural outposts where I was forced to make a home, only to learn six or nine months later that we’d have to pick up and move again.
We sojourned from state to state, town to town. My husband, meanwhile, went back and forth between the States and Iraq or Afghanistan. I stayed home, of course, but thousands of miles away from the support of family and friends. I grew more depressed to the point I began taking medication to help me stabilize.
I pushed on and even wrote a novel based on my personal experience as the wife of an Army officer, who was away from me more than we were together. I painfully took steps to depict the trauma and hardship of being married to the military. The story is not at all cute, humorous or romantic. Instead it is painful, heavy, and dark.
Most of all, it is honest.
I completed multiple revisions only to stop after the novel became too unbearable for me to read and read again. “Scars of Valor” was birthed from the very real pain that I experienced while being not only married to my ex-husband but to his controlling parents and his jealous sisters. It was cathartic.
Just as I finally started taking steps toward regaining a little bit more of me, and obtaining a master’s degree at one of the top communication schools in the country, the other shoe dropped. During finals week, I came home one day to an empty house followed by a knock on the door. I was served divorce papers. As if that was not shock enough, I discovered my husband’s cell phone on the table with his email inbox on display, as if he were tempting me to discover the reason why he was leaving me. He had always been passive-aggressive, but this was a new side of him.
I found dozens of e-mails from his father coaching my husband over the past year on obtaining a divorce. Each message was evidence of what I had suspected all along; his father wanted him to leave me almost from day one. He went so far as to pick out a lawyer and pay the bill in full. I also soon learned that one of my husband’s sisters had set him up with her best friend—a woman almost 10 years his senior—before our divorce was even final.
Five years have passed since then, and I survived divorce despite thinking at the time that I was not strong enough. However, at 36 years old, I had completed my master’s degree in only one year while enduring the most tumultuous time of my life. I picked myself up off the floor, literally, and looked at my aging body. Despite being alone, I desperately wanted to be a mother. I also wanted to finally land a great job, one that would allow me to use my skills in digital content production.
Today, at 40, I am remarried to my best friend and have an amazing little 2-year-old girl. I have the job I’ve always wanted. Then, out of nowhere, my ex-husband called a couple of weeks ago and then started texting. I learned he was just a year into his marriage to the woman he essentially left me for but had already become bored with her. He admitted to having fantasies of being with me once again. I was honest with my new husband and told him everything about my ex contacting me. My husband agreed with me that this man’s attempt to get back into my life was nothing more than the scared schemes of a frightened and immature boy who was facing his next deployment abroad.
Painful experiences and awful relationships make us stronger. I believe the pain and trauma I endured during my last marriage made me a stronger, more driven and even successful person. Yes, I succeeded. When in the midst of suffering set backs, it seems like we will never truly heal. When we are forced to walk through the fire of life, the burns we suffer feel like failure. Yet only through failing can we succeed, as the steps we commit to taking each day force loose the shackles of tragedy and make us better people. We literally rise from the ashes a stronger more resilient soul because of the pain that we conquered rather than letting it conquer us.
Victories are sweeter the more pain and struggle we experience. And years after my divorce, I picked up my novel again, dusted it off and just completed it with the help of a professional editor with agent contacts. He said my novel isn’t just okay… it’s damn good. I might eventually get turned down by agents or maybe I might just land one. Either way, I intend to finally publish the novel that came to me through agonizing trauma and hardship. In our darkest hours, we can take our pain and use it to create something beautiful and everlasting. If nothing else, we can take steps toward our future and, hopefully, ascend to the summit victorious at last.
Final Note To My Ex-Husband: You didn’t break me, and sorry, but you’re too late. You lost me for good years ago, and I now find myself better off without you in my life.
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