From the outside, we appeared to be very content with our marriage and successful in life. He was an outgoing and quite charming self-employed management consultant with an MBA from Duke University, and I was a quiet finance manager at a large corporation with an MBA from Wharton. We had accomplished a lot together through the years. But, I finally realized that it wasn’t love, but control, and emotional and mental abuse that held our marriage together. I was physically and emotionally separated from all of my family; I had very few friends and those I had left were all from my work, so my contact was limited. Over the past two decades, I had become both physically and emotionally isolated from any meaningful relationships apart from my husband and our child.
I needed to be a better role model for my daughter, and for my own self worth, I had to get out, but from all my years with him, I knew that if he didn’t want to end the marriage that I would become his #1 enemy. I decided to just catch him red handed in a cheating situation and say I wanted a divorce for that simple reason. I suggested he would be happier with the girlfriend. He did not want a divorce. He would not allow me to move out or discuss a separation agreement. He said I had better not dare go to a lawyer or I would not like the outcome. His behaviors grew increasingly erratic as it became apparent that I was not changing my mind about splitting up. He called my cell phone constantly. At work, he would have me paged if I did not answer the phone at my desk. If I did not answer the page, he asked the department admin assistant to find me.
We went to a few counselors, whom he raged at when they showed me any support or understanding. One actually stood by and watched Lou order me to leave with him after he had reduced me to a sobbing mess crouched in the corner on the office floor, berated by his false accusations and threats to take our daughter away from me as an unfit mother.
After one of the counseling sessions, he took off his wedding ring and agreed to let me buy a bed. I slept in an otherwise empty separate bedroom and we talked daily about our issues, as I tried to get him to come to an agreement on the terms and the entire concept of divorce. He would not allow for us to tell our daughter anything was wrong in our relationship, and explained that I slept in the other room because he snored. He said that if we divorced, it would destroy her and that he would say that it was my fault because I cared more about my job than I did about her and my family. He frequently came into my bedroom sanctuary in the middle of the night to convince me to change my mind or offer me sex. During one of those late-night visits, he said he could not handle me leaving; when I said he would need to get used to the idea, he got a distant look on his face, said he couldn’t and abruptly left the room. I heard him rummage through the master bedroom closet, but soon came back empty handed and flustered. I changed my tone to be more soothing and relaxed, despite my internal panic about what he might be doing. When I checked in the morning, I found he had been through the box that stored several guns, but did not contain any bullets, which I had packed separately when we moved. I immediately hid the weapons. He never directly threatened me with anything, but I instinctively felt both my daughter and I were in danger. I found the courage to honestly reach out to one of my sisters and a couple of my friends, who gave me great support over the phone, and helped me to stay focused and strong. Despite my repeated suggestions, Lou refused to see a counselor on his own. I called his only close friend, told him what was going on with our relationship, and asked him to come. Lou almost convinced him that I was literally crazy, but he was with us long enough to witness many troubling events, and when he was leaving, he told me he felt he had just experienced Hell.