We took the bus to his family home the day after Thanksgiving. I was still hurting from the previous evening. Thinking about my little Charlie Brown Christmas tree and the tragedy that had become our marriage. He was excited to be headed home. Who could blame him? No one nagged him at home. No one questioned his whereabouts. No one held him accountable for his actions against his wife. Home was a safety zone. Fair enough.
We didn’t speak much on the bus ride. In happier times, we would have shared earbuds and listened to music. He would have fallen asleep and snored. I would have snuggled into him to keep warm on the drafty bus. We had taken this trip together so often in the course of our relationship. This would be the last time.
When the Greyhound pulled into the station, we disembarked and took the all too familiar escalator to a wall of windows. We stayed inside to keep warm, like we had so many times before, while we waited for his parents to pick us up. Suddenly, I turned to him and said, “I’m leaving you.” I hadn’t really thought it through. I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know why, at that particular moment, I had decided to declare my exit from our home. The reality of my situation became clear to me. I knew I couldn’t live like this any longer.
I could tell this piece of news surprised him. Frankly, I surprised myself. I wasn’t trying to be dramatic. It was as if an articulate robot had taken over my words. I told him I would tell his family this weekend. They deserved to hear it from me in person. After all, I considered them my family too. They had known me for more than seven years. I told my husband I didn’t want a divorce, we just needed to separate for awhile. I told him I loved him and wanted out marriage to work, but he caused me to live in pain and fear every day. I was slowly dying inside and I couldn’t go on like that any longer. Then, my in-laws showed up and we headed to their home.
The weekend was sad. I was sad. Broken hearted. I kept thinking about all our previous Thanksgivings together in this home. Somehow, I knew it would be my last. We had our Thanksgiving dinner with his family on Friday. We all went to the movies on Saturday. Everyone pretended we were one big happy family. Maybe they all wanted it as bad as I did. Maybe they were fooling themselves into thinking everything would be ok in the end. Maybe that’s why they never asked how I was coping. Maybe that’s why we never had the difficult conversations. Maybe that’s why we were all together, but I still felt alone.
Sunday morning I woke up and shuffled into the kitchen to find my in-laws. I remember my pajamas. I remember the knot in my stomach. I remember my pathetic little prayer to God before I approached them. I sat them down. I tried to convey how much I loved their son. I wanted to be clear about my feelings. I told them we were separating. My decision. Whether they wanted to believe it or not, he wasn’t getting any better. My life was a nightmare. He found his actions acceptable and no one was telling him otherwise. Of course, all along, I had been hoping they would step in and demand responsibility from their son. Or maybe, at least, show compassion for my suffering. She cried. He told me he understood my decision. And just like that, they let me go.
A few hours later we were back on the bus headed home. A home that wouldn’t be mine for much longer. I still didn’t have it all figured out, but I knew I had to leave him to save myself. I had to leave him and hope he could find his way back to me. Back in our apartment, I stood staring at the tiny Christmas tree I had put up only three days earlier and prayed for the faith needed to save this marriage.
Philippians 3:13-14 “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”