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How I Found The Clarity To Leave My Unhappy Marriage

Nanci Besser
October 11, 2014
Nanci Besser
Written by
October 11, 2014

For most of my marriage, I struggled with one decision: stay or leave. To outsiders, my husband and I appeared to be the perfect couple. We were young and healthy, and he had a successful real estate career. For our honeymoon, we traveled around South America for six weeks, staying only in luxury hotels.

But what wasn’t so evident was that we had a very unhealthy dynamic: he was addicted to power and I was addicted to giving mine away. He had opinions about everything I said or did, and insisted upon having the final say in our household. Once, for example, I disagreed with his decision to purchase an income property, and he told me that, until he made a bad choice financially, I had no say in how our money was spent.

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Back then I was afraid to take responsibility for my decisions; I couldn’t even order lunch without getting everyone else's opinion. In retrospect, I think it was easier to let others make choices for me than to face my fears of making mistakes.

Still, if there had been signs that he was controlling while we dated, I missed them. We married when I was in my 20s, and he was only my second serious boyfriend. He was six years older than I was, and his tales of traveling the world captivated my naive heart.

Early on in our marriage, it was clear that our dynamic wasn't working. I begged my husband to attend counseling with me, but he always said that if I was unhappy, I should see a therapist alone since he was fine with the status quo.

I poured my energies into caring for our adorable dog and into journaling. I was deeply unhappy, but I stayed because my parents had divorced and I vowed to not give up on my marriage no matter what.

But over time, I couldn’t ignore that things felt off. Once, in tears, I asked my husband why he'd chosen me, since I was constantly disappointing him. He said that he wanted to see what it was like to taint that which was pure — he liked that I hadn't had many romantic experiences before him.

Another time he grew his hair out in “protest” of my “stubborn” decision not to move to South America with him. Whenever others asked him why his hair was long, he’d blame me. I felt betrayed and embarrassed and worried that people were judging me for disagreeing with my spouse.

Standing my ground always led to arguments no matter what the specific issue. He seemed to receive enormous pleasure from making me wrong. If I was hungry and invited him to join me for a meal, he usually rebuffed my offer only later to reprimand me for not fixing him food. To this day it baffles me that I always defended myself. I can't believe how much energy I spent explaining choices that never should have required any justification in the first place.

For two years, I felt helpless, lost, and most of all I felt trapped.

All of this changed in one moment that is forever imprinted onto my mind.

I awoke one crisp morning in March of 2007 and heard no noise within my mind except my own inner voice, telling me I had to leave. I told my husband I wanted a divorce. He laughed and said I was being childish. But I knew what I wanted, and amazingly, I hadn't consulted anyone — I'd only checked in with myself.

I'd been journaling for weeks leading up to that morning. This, combined with meditation, helped me see the ways that I had been holding myself back. I had spent a lifetime abdicating my power to others because I was afraid of making mistakes.

The outcome and aftermath of declaring that I wanted a divorce was anything but easy. After almost two years of gut-wrenching paperwork and messy mediation, our barely three-year marriage ceased to be.

My husband followed through with his threat that if I pursued this “childish” divorce he would ensure we were both financially destitute. In the years after our divorce, my credit sank, but with each passing day, my heart began to lift. In the end, I gave up all monetary gain in order to receive the only thing of value: my power to choose.

Listening to your inner voice is simple, but not easy. But what I’ve learned from this ordeal is that it’s never too late to crank up the volume on your inner voice and to listen.

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Nanci Besser author page.
Nanci Besser

Nanci Besser, MA, is an Emotional Intelligence Specialist, Author, Speaker and Mindfulness Teacher, with a passion for aligning who you are with what you want to accomplish. Her mission is to lead business and personal transformations with kindness and compassion. Visit her website at Follow her on Twitter @nancibesser. Connect with her on LinkedIn.