The Moment I Decided to Leave My Abusive Husband For Good

In an instant, I knew I could change my life for the better

Michelle Jaqua
Sep 2, 2020 · 9 min read
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Photo by Jan Baborák on Unsplash

I knew I was going to die.

I figured it would be in a tragic way. I’d either run myself off the road like Thelma and Louise, or I’d drown myself, or take pills — something like that.

I was 34 years old, had a beautiful house on three acres and a nice car. I had two wonderful kids who went to private school. I was college-educated, worked full-time as a nurse, and made a generous salary.

I’d been with my abuser for 15 years. Yes, I tolerated fifteen years of mental, physical, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse. And I was done with the torture. The only way I knew how to end it, was to end my life.

We met at a college party when I was nineteen years old. I was wild and free for the first time, away from my controlling and narcissistic mother. He pulled me into his world with his charm, his gregariousness, and his sense of adventure. He was studying to be an engineer, so I knew he was also intelligent. I liked all of that.

We kept on running into each other on campus and at parties, so we started hanging out together. College wasn’t working for me, and I had to pay my own way, so I quit two semesters into the year, but we kept seeing each other. I wanted to make something of myself, and I was interested in medicine. After the end of my second semester, I decided to go into The Air Force and become an airplane medic. I went through the mandatory evaluations and passed. The next spring, I’d made a final appointment to sign my enlistment paperwork.

He was graduating college in a couple months when I told him what I was doing. He didn’t want me to leave. He told me he wanted me to be with him instead and live with him after he graduated and got an engineering job. With stars in my eyes of a brighter future, I ditched the military to start a life with him.

We got an apartment, a dog, and had a small circle of friends. I had an administrator job and decided I wanted to go to nursing school. He got his engineering job and started his career.

It wasn’t that bad at first. But, he had a terrible temper. He’d spin out of control at the slightest conflict. It was terrifying, so I tried not to make him mad and bent over backward that there were no conflicts.

Then he started manipulating me by playing on my low self-esteem. He attacked me with what he knew would get me to question myself.

Even though I was average weight and was quite athletic, I had hips and curves. I never thought much about my body, and I didn’t have body image issues. But, he normalized a body image that was similar to a Twiggy body, and according to him, I was fat.

If we were at a party and a man talked to me, he’d cut off the conversation in a friendly way, then he’d pull me aside to tell me how ugly and fat I was, and how no man would ever want me. This was browbeaten into me for fifteen years, and I still have a hard time with my body image.

He normalized his drug and alcohol abuse. All of his friends would go out into the woods and camp, do mushrooms, drink, and smoke pot. If it was a party at someone’s house, it was coke, speed, pot, and alcohol. I drank and did drugs with him, and I loved it. Drinking and drugs were a way for me to escape the fact that I was driving down my own road of misery.

After a few years, he started an engineering company with his good college friend. I rarely saw him after that. For the next ten years, I never knew if or when he was going to be home. He said he was doing “business.” He’d never answer his phone after 3pm. Sometimes he was home by 8pm, sometimes he wouldn’t come home until 4am. If I got upset about this, he wouldn’t come home at all. I never knew where he was or who he was with. But, I had my own job, I had my kids, and I had my life. Those things kept me fulfilled and busy.

He still kept me in line by terrorizing me. His temper got worse. He controlled our finances. He forced me to have sex with him when he wanted, and if I disagreed, he’d tell me that he’d find someone else to sleep with, then leave and not come back until the next day. His life got more secretive; I didn’t know him anymore. Once he slipped and said some things that made me suspect he was laundering money and filtered it through his company. I got more scared. what if I went to jail? What would happen to my kids? I tried to leave. Eleven times I tried to leave, but he brought me back each time.

Then he moved us out into the country, and I became isolated. That’s where I had my breakdown. After fifteen years, my world finally came crashing down around me.

I’d rarely ever go out with him, so I was surprised when he asked me to come. When we arrived at the bar, I met some people from his work, some old close friends, and some people I’d never seen before. We all hit the dance floor, I was nursing a drink in my hand, and I had fun dancing; it was rare that I got to be out instead of home with children.

After a while, I turned around to look for my husband, but he was gone. Nobody knew where he was. I searched the entire bar, the bathrooms, and the outside. He was nowhere to be found.

Then I looked up into a deserted loft above the dance floor. That’s where I found him. He had his secretary pushed up against the wall and was having sex with her.

We were to fly out on vacation with our kids and another couple the next morning.

I didn’t want to kill myself, but I knew if I kept going along this way in my life, I wouldn’t make it another year, or even another month. I was slowly dying inside, and I wanted to end my suffering.

After I found my husband with his secretary, I left, grabbed my kids from my mom’s, and went home. He was close behind, and when he got home, I told him I wasn’t going to Mexico with him. He threatened to take my kids down there without me and tell everyone I’d abandoned them. He threatened to leave me destitute. When I still said I wasn’t going, he punched me in the shoulder and told me to go to bed. I did what he said, I went to bed and cried myself to sleep.

I got up in the morning, and my kids were eager to go. I was sad and sore and a little hungover. It took every ounce of my being to protect my kids that one last time, to make it seem like nothing happened, put on a smile, and pack. My husband acted like nothing happened. I looked at him and told him that after that trip, I was leaving him.

But, I went on vacation with that man, that narcissistic, psychopathic abuser who knew how to play me. I didn’t talk to him for a week. I played with my children, socialized with the friends we went with, and tried to enjoy what I felt was my last vacation for a while.

In the meantime, my husband cried and begged me to stay. He told me he’d change, but I didn’t believe him. He’d never change.

He then told me that we could go to counseling because he didn’t want to lose the kids and me. He kept talking. For two weeks straight during that vacation, he talked, and he talked. I was pinned down in a foreign country with my kids and him yammering in my ear for fourteen days about how much he wanted us to stay together, and what it would take for us to recover our relationship. He said he would do anything for his family.

Maybe it was the warm coastal air or the margaritas or that my kids were having a spectacular time, and it appeared like we were a real family. I so badly wanted a normal happy family — more than anything — and I’d sacrificed so much already. I agreed for us to do counseling when we returned home. But, I told him that since he was the one who brought it up and wanted to change, he was the one who would need to find a therapist, make the appointment, and put in the effort to save our marriage.

When we returned home, life went along as it did before. I waited. A month went by without any further mention of counseling or fixing our marriage. If I broached the topic, it was brushed off.

I fell into a depression. I fell for his manipulation again. I was stuck. I’d drive home from work and think about running myself off the road. All I had to do was make a hard right on the steering wheel, and I’d be done. I didn’t know any other way to leave my life.

One day I finally brought up the counseling and the promise he made to me. He turned and looked at me with a smirk and said, “I didn’t really want to go to counseling. I just said it because you were such a bitch on our vacation.”

That was it. That was the defining moment. In the entire two weeks he begged me, he only did it to manipulate me once again into this twisted dynamic we’d had going on for fifteen years. He never meant anything he said. He never genuinely wanted to improve our relationship. He only wanted me to stay put and continue the facade he’d created.

I looked at him and realized he wanted to keep me with him, not because he cared about me or our family, but to wash his clothes, make his food, give him sexual release, keep his house clean, take care of his children, and maintain this persona of a family for him while he went out to do whatever the fuck he wanted to do.

I couldn’t unsee my life anymore. My blinders were ripped off. My life was a sham.

I wasn’t depressed anymore. I was enraged.

At that moment, I realized I could escape my prison without ending my life. I realized my mind was my prison, one he had calculatingly manipulated me to believe. My rage helped me see him for who he indeed was, not what he’d led me to believe. This rage gave me strength. No longer was I going to play this fucking game with him. I didn’t need to die to get out of this hell. I could take care of myself and my children. I was already doing it anyway. I didn’t need him. In fact, he needed me more than I needed him.

In that instant, I went from feeling depressed and hopeless to seeing I could have hope for my future.

I left for good after that. In that one moment, I clearly saw my life and wanted nothing more than to stop the cycle of abuse. It wasn’t easy, but I left my abuser without getting killed. I don’t say this lightly. The most dangerous time for an abused woman is when she decides to leave her abusive relationship. I could have become another statistic. But I didn’t. Instead, I was one of the lucky ones, because I’m here today to tell my story.

If you’ve also experienced a similar story, know that you are strong enough to take control of your life and change for the better. Get help, don’t do it on your own. Be safe.

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Michelle Jaqua

Written by

Advocate for Women / Editor of The Virago

The Virago

We are a community of strong women who share our personal stories about how we’ve survived and thrived in our lives. We share our messages to heal and help others learn from our experiences

Michelle Jaqua

Written by

Advocate for Women / Editor of The Virago

The Virago

We are a community of strong women who share our personal stories about how we’ve survived and thrived in our lives. We share our messages to heal and help others learn from our experiences

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