I never imagined that I would be divorced one day. (It’s hard to believe it was final 5 years ago this week.) In fact, growing up, I probably would have said that divorce was bad and wrong. Period.
My world of black and white quickly turned shades of grey when I found myself in an abusive marriage. I deeply struggled with whether it was a valid reason for divorce. Because of those beliefs – mixed with a healthy dose of judgment from those who didn’t know the whole story – I was left carrying a certain degree of guilt. Thankfully – after a few recent conversations with jaw-dropping revelations – I’ve let it all go…
Puzzle Piece #1 – It all started with a conversation in my counselor’s office about boundaries. “Sometimes the most healthy thing we can do for someone is NOT be in a relationship with them,” she said. “You loved your husband well by leaving him.” *insert Serena picking up her jaw from the floor. I doubt my ex-husband would say the same. And yet, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. By remaining in a relationship with him, I was enabling him. In essence, I was condoning his abusive behavior. My leaving made a statement – in a large way – that I wouldn’t stand for it.
Puzzle Piece #2 – I happened to drop in on my old counselor, the one who walked me through my divorce. His comment went something like this, “Serena, if you were still married to him, I have no doubt that you would be dead right now. The way his anger and abuse was escalating, you would have either killed yourself, or he would have killed you.” *insert Serena picking up her jaw from the floor.
I often forget how bad my abuse was. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not in denial. I know it happened. Yet, part of my healing process has been God’s grace in allowing me to forget. And so when I go back to read old journals from that time or talk to those who walked me through it, I’m often re-awakened to the horror I survived.
Puzzle Piece #3 – The final piece of the puzzle fell into place in the midst of a conversation I had with a pastor at our church. He quickly picked up on the proverbial scarlet letter “D” I see as plastered on my forehead. “Serena, you are not going to be held accountable for his actions.” *insert Serena picking up her jaw from the floor.
All three pieces contain fairly simple truths – that I loved him well by leaving, that I likely would be dead if I stayed, that I’m not going to be held accountable for his actions. Having all three conversations within a week was like finishing a puzzle for me, which resulted in me finally laying down the guilt and replacing it with a bold confidence that I absolutely, 100% made the right decision by divorcing my husband. And in so doing, I saved a life. My own.