In another life, this birthday was excruciatingly hard. After sipping some not-so-normal coffee my ex-husband tried to give me on an unusually warm December morning, I knew it was finally between him killing me or me saving my life.
I had no doubt in my mind that his end goal was to make sure I never woke up again. As dramatic as that sounds, it is the truth. Just a few days before, the tires just fell off of my car as I was going from our parking ramp into traffic.
The mechanics said that someone had to loosen the lug nuts for it to happen the way it did. This went beyond physical or verbal abuse.
I hope you never have to come to the decision between your life or your marriage. An intern from my office helped me pack up the apartment within six hours, get everything to a storage unit, and then had me stay in his old room at his parents’ house so I was safe. I never slept so well as I did that night. As sad and scared as I was, I felt safe— and I savored that feeling.
Christmas suddenly became hiring a lawyer, filling out a ton of paperwork, finding out just how much he lied to me about his debt and jobs via divorce papers. My job paid me to move to their location in Wisconsin, and had security guards briefed on who my ex-husband was— just in case he decided to show up and try another time to kill me.
Two days before I left him, I posted the following photo:
This photo popped up in the lovely Facebook memories we all love seeing, and I could not believe I posted something so prophetic just a couple of days before I made the hardest decision of my life. Yes, I was so physically and emotionally abused that I had thoughts that I might not be able to survive without him. Was is it better to die with him? Or without him?
Now married to an incredible man, with (hopefully) an IVF-surrogate baby on the way, moving into our dream house we built together— the quote stopped me in my tracks. I remember shaking, throwing up so much from fear that I lost ten pounds, posting that quote as a cry for help— a plea for someone to step in and just save me from this devastating situation.
So I re-shared the quote with the following message:
And just a few days after posting this— I did! Knowing I literally was going to be killed if I stayed. My coffee that my ex made for me tasted too funky for me that morning so I refused to drink it, and my ex tried to force me to drink it. This followed a wheel randomly falling off my car as I went into traffic, due to lug nuts being loosened by someone AND after the tendons were torn to shreds in my right arm and hand.
When I continued not to drink the coffee he made that December morning, he angrily left the apartment.
Something in my gut, aka God, gave me the strength to pack everything up in six hours and stay at a friend’s house until I could drive to my parents the next day. I was so lucky to have many people help me make this happen, and even luckier I did not go back— abused women go back an average of SEVEN times before they actually leave for good.
I hope if someone being abused reads this, that you have the strength to leave ASAP. You will be okay on the other side— in fact, you’ll be way more than okay. I’ve never slept as well as I did that first night away from him.
And today, I finally got to reading my Facebook messages and found one from a dear friend who read that post and is currently going through a divorce.
Her husband was not only abusive towards her— but also her children. WTF. This is a strong, beautiful, intelligent woman who I admire and look up to as a role model. I still feel like I am dreaming— this cannot be real.
She said that my post was inspiring and is helping her as she is navigating the domestic abusive storm in her life. Not only were the types of abuse against her, but also went into child abuse against her children.
I had no idea. Revisiting those moments in my life opens a wound that is just too painful to touch. But they have resurfaced as my husband and I work to bring our child into this world after I had months of chemo and, finally, a mandatory hysterectomy.
My therapist said it’s normal for these types of memories to pop up before having a baby. Our minds want everything in order and understood and perfect before we bring a child into the world. Not working through things that come up while trying to have a baby leads to postpartum depression, even in mothers who use a surrogate— who knew!
So to revisit the moments of abusive behavior where my life was quite literally at stake and I STILL felt like I should stay, like I should protect him— those make no sense to me at this point in my life. As my torn tendons swelled so much that an ugly green balloon appeared on my right wrist (right-handed, btw,) I still wouldn’t call the police.
I remember vividly locking myself in my car and calling my parents. They begged me to call the police, to come home. But I couldn’t do that to him.
I knew it would end his medical career. It would steal all of his dreams right from underneath him.
Just a mere day later, as we sat in the waiting room of a surgeon who was going to look at my tendons, he tried to take the spotlight off of him and put it on me. He decided he was leaving me— because I questioned why he spent $500 on a new leather jacket when we owed my parents $500 for the wheels that fell off of my car (ironic, isn’t it?).
So he stood up, and I grabbed his arm with my numb right arm that had multiple tendons torn in it. He immediately said I was abusing him and stormed out of the waiting room.
A few minutes later he came back with scratches that were bleeding on his arm and said I abused him and I would pay the price for it.
I could not believe what was happening, nor could the other people in the waiting room who also knew that my limp arm could not cause those scratches through the heavy winter sweater he was wearing. He said he was turning me in, and not to bother coming home. I was in shock.
I was in so much shock that I told the surgeon that my husband said I did it to myself— and did he believe it? He chuckled, and then felt bad, pointing to the bruises that perfectly formed my husband’s fingers around my wrist.
I was terrified to go home from that appointment. He was parked in my parking spot when I went home, and I knew that was a sign. I went and parked a few streets over from our apartment, where he wouldn’t see me, and looked at my Facebook feed while he got ready for his shift at the hospital.
That’s when I saw he posted some clip of the Godfather on Facebook. I had never seen it before but heard from a few people that the clip indicated he was ready to do something pretty violent to me. I could not believe that I was there, in my car, unable to go home until he left for his shift.
And I still stayed a month and a half more.
I was also a strong, independent, intelligent woman. I had only posted positive photos of us on social media, and he even joined Twitter to keep an eye on me and join conversations where people asked about my love life. No one had a clue.
In fact, the intern who moved me out was sitting right next to my ex-husband at our work Christmas dinner the night before I called him to move me out. He was so dumbfounded. He asked if I was sure and said it was probably just some fight that would blow over because we seemed so happy and in sync the night before. HA.
Kindly, I was able to see this intern as he grew into a blossoming career when he visited NYC a few years later. He was so upset and regretful about asking if I was sure, especially after he found out the whole story.
It wasn’t his fault. People who are abused (I refuse to say victims because we are not) are not the openly bruised, sad, misfit personas that you see on TV and in movies. We also are the woman that works in the cubicle next to you, the perfectly put-together woman who is on time to every Zoom call and somehow, miraculously, never has any tech problems.
We are the woman whose president in an all-hands meeting notices her additional band to her engagement ring and asks everyone in the office to celebrate her elopement. We are the woman that followed him to his city where his dream could come true. We are your coworker, your sister, your mother, your cousin, your niece, your brother, your father, your nephew. We are right here, in front of you, breaking to pieces.
The morning after I left my ex-husband, I thanked my very kind hosts who were strangers just hours before and drove to my office. I walked into my boss’s offices, my right hand still enveloped in its custom cast, and told them everything. They had no idea— even after I gave every person in the office a different reason for my arm injury (yoga, moving a box, rearranging our apartment).
Soon they were offering to pay for anything that I needed, they even wanted to hand me a wad of cash, just so I could leave.
I gracefully refused, leaving to meet my mom halfway between where I lived and her house. When I saw her car on the bridge at our meeting spot, tears filled my eyes. It was the first time I ever cried happy tears.
I knew I was safe. I knew that he could never touch me again. He could never hurt me again.
I am lucky. I give thanks to God that I left once, and that’s all it took. It takes the average abused woman to leave seven times before they finally leave for good.
I had(have) good friends, an incredibly supportive family, my faith in God — would only listen to the Christian radio station until I left him. People can say I was brave and strong, but I also had the support that carried me right out of that situation in the most fortunate way.
Even though I had to spend that birthday filling out divorce paperwork. I remember filling out gifts that he had given me since we got married— and it was literally nothing. Even the wedding band was a gift from my family.
But today, today I get to go to sleep next to my husband of two and a half years, with our dogs taking up all the space on the bed. I get to wake up to my dream job in NYC and answer some final questions that our contractors have about our house. I get to text our surrogate and order her some essential oils and spa gifts.
This birthday is far from the one where I filled out divorce papers in a supper club in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin. So far, that I almost forget that I went through the pain and trauma of having someone treat me like trash. So far, that I almost forget that someone I trusted, I loved, I married tried to kill me multiple times.
And I want my friend who is going through a terrible divorce right now to know that. I want YOU to know that. I want you to know that my greatest fear of getting a divorce is that no one would love me as a divorcee. I would forever be alone with everyone else who chose to leave their husbands.
But a random new coworker, an angel in disguise, noticed just a week before I left that I was upset as all of my coworkers and I went into a restaurant for a work dinner. He asked me about it, and I started crying in front of everyone.
I admitted that my husband had texted me when we were in the car and said I was not allowed to go to dinner with my coworkers if males would be there, whilst he was at the casino playing poker in a room with girls barely dressed.
I opened up to him that I wanted to divorce, but couldn’t. This was a choice I made and no one would understand if I got a divorce. After all, my dad’s family was Catholic. But so was this coworker who started asking me questions, and he said he had just gone through a divorce and had thought the exact same thoughts, but they weren’t true.
No one judged him. Dates went on as normal. He could be happy now. A huge weight was lifted.
And now I am him. I am here to say that leaving my ex-husband was the best decision I have ever made, even though it was the hardest decision I ever made.
I am alive. I have a husband who supports me and has never abused me in any way. We (hopefully) have a baby on the way who will never know the hands of abuse.
I not only survived, but I also thrived.
And anyone who needs to read this tonight, you will too. I promise you. You can even contact me personally if you want. I will help you. I promise.
And as hard as it is to revisit this part of my past, especially as we are waiting for Baby Dupuis, it is necessary. It is necessary for me to remember how strong, brave, resilient I was as someone tried to beat me to death. It is critical that I instill in Baby Dupuis that she/he can leave at any moment, they have that strength, they have that intuition to know when it’s time to rip the cord.
I get why I had to revisit this part of my life before I brought a baby into this world. It is the bravest, toughest, strongest I have ever been in my life. Leaving a physically and emotionally abusive marriage made me even braver, tougher, and stronger than I was. And that’s a gift I can give Baby Dupuis as they venture into their own life.
I can always let them, and anyone else, know that there is, indeed, beauty after the rain.
There is beauty in the ashes. Life is waiting for you on the other side. I promise. I am living proof.
So as you embark on your own journey, and I celebrate my birthday this week. I hope that you accept the gift of healing, strength, resolution.
I could list 34 lessons I’ve learned in this life, as I usually do, but this is, by far, the biggest lesson. This is the lesson that, I hope, will save you. This is the one thing in my life where I hope others can learn from the desperate, tragic pain I felt, and understand that life really does go on.
Only if you leave the physical abuse and emotional abuse. I hope you know how to leave an abusive relationship.
And if you aren’t being abused, but suspect abuse in a relationship >> start the conversation. You have the power to save someone. Don’t waste it.
<3 Marji J. Sherman
**If you are in an abusive situation, please visit https://www.thehotline.org/. I also am completely real about you contacting me.
You are loved. You deserve to be safe. Please also visit the link above to find abuse shelters/domestic violence shelters in your area.
They will also be able to help you create a safety plan, decide on the right time to leave, and find out how to get a restraining order against your ex. Intimate partner violence, including physical violence and verbal violence, is not okay.
Please also find a family member that you can confide in. Friends and family may not understand the form of abuse, but they are helpful phone numbers to have on hand when you are going through an abusive situation.