134 days after I got married, I lost my job. 134 days is a very short amount of time before being forced to deal with the harsh realities of the real world. That line in your vows – “for richer or poorer” – was quickly put to the test.
Spoiler alert: we failed. However, losing my job wasn’t the main reason why my marriage failed. I will say, that although it may seem as though this is not a happy ending, this event changed the course of my life in ways that I never imagined it would.
March 1, 2011. After working at my employer for exactly 1 year, I was let go. While I obviously experienced some shock to this news, I can’t honestly say I stayed in this state for very long. I had slowly begun to dislike my job, the horrible commute, and eventually the company itself. It was a community in which I never truly felt as if I belonged there, and that feeling only grew as time passed. It did not take me long to accept my new reality, and having the support of my new husband made things a bit easier to go through. This comfort period did not last long.
Two weeks before I lost my job, my husband had decided that for my birthday, he was going to buy me a puppy. He brought home my golden retriever, Doug, which was by far the greatest gift I have ever received. One of the first thoughts I had when I was out of work was that now I would be able to spend all my time with my new puppy and try and teach him some new commands and tricks. I could create a very strong bond with him during this time that I’m still grateful I was able to experience to this day. While I was excited at this prospect, the fact that not only did he need all his shots, he needed to be spayed, as well as the dozen or so foods we tried to get him to eat, and the toys he destroyed along with some of our shoes and furniture – I was not happy to watch my savings account be depleted so rapidly while trying to find a new job.
For the first time in my life, I was out of a job. I didn’t really know what to do at first. At first, it felt like a mini-vacation. I got to sleep in, lounge around, play with my new puppy, but after a few days of this, I got bored…and then the anxiety started to creep in. What if I can’t find a job? What are we going to do for money? How are we going to pay our bills? I should also explain that my new husband hadn’t had a job in months and couldn’t seem to keep one for more than a few weeks if his life depended on it. At this point, I needed him to step up and help me deal with this situation together. I felt that since I had always supported him with no questions asked, he’d do the same for me. It was hard to believe the events that followed.
He became abusive – emotionally, mentally, and eventually physically. When I started stretching my unemployment check to the very last cent, I would log onto my bank account or my credit card statements and see multiple ATM withdrawals which would create a negative bank balance creating fees I couldn’t afford, or maxing out my credit cards making them worthless. When I would confront him, he would lie and say that it wasn’t him, yet a new pack of cigarettes would magically be in his pocket.
At one point during this stint of unemployment, he went to jail for over 30 days due to violating a probation related to drugs I didn’t even know existed. While I was constantly networking, applying to jobs, going on interviews, and getting rejected again and again, my husband was always there to remind me that he needed my car, food, new sneakers, and spending money for himself. I would be made to feel bad if I told him we can’t afford that – the dog needs to be fed, for example – and then a fight would ensue that sometimes ended when the cops knocked on our door.
My life got to the point where I would have to choose who was going to be able to eat that day – my husband and I, or the puppy. I always made sure Doug didn’t go without anything and I was the one who paid the price. It came down to eating one meal a day. I always saved mine for dinnertime so that I wouldn’t go to bed hungry. There were nights when I had been looking forward to my measly leftovers all day only to open the refrigerator and find them gone. Another fight would ensure and the cycle would repeat itself the next day and usually the day after that.
Once the three-month mark hit, I was feeling desperate. I started using my library every day. If nothing else, it provided me with an escape from a life I just could not bear to live. I would send out hundreds of resumes a day, and I would spend hours either searching for new opportunities or following up on ones I had already applied to. It even got to the point where I had printed out a stack of resumes, and I gave them to my mom. She, in turn, started handing them out to clients while driving limos. I remember her giving my resume to an upper management employee from Philips, and while they didn’t have anything open at the time, it always put a smile on my face knowing that my resume was getting out there in a very unique way. At one point, I went to my city’s career services center, where you had access to more jobs that weren’t necessarily made available online. I kept finding new ways to just get out of the house and remind myself that this, too, shall pass.
Finally, in September of 2011, I found a job that was within walking distance to my home, and I ended up working at this company for almost five years. A month after I started my new job, I found out my husband had been cheating on me for over a month, and I was officially done. I started putting my affairs in order, and by the end of the year, we were separated and on our way to a divorce. The day after my 27th birthday, we signed our divorce papers in my new company’s cafeteria, and I never looked back. Even though Doug was the greatest birthday gift I’ve ever received, this was a very close second.
Looking back, I know that I should have used different coping mechanisms than I did at the time. I avoided all my friends and I never told anyone in my family or his family what was going on for a very long time. I thought that I could turn things around, that I would be able to help him work through his and our issues, and I tried really hard to make things work. I was determined not to throw in the towel without trying my very best. If I had reached out to someone, I could have talked about my issues and they could have helped me cope with the situation. I thought that I couldn’t afford that, but there are options out there. The library turned into my sanctuary as I checked out more self-help books than I could carry, but they were there for me when I needed them the most. There are resources and people who do care who can help you if you make the effort to reach out. I was too blinded by my pride to think I should do that, but looking back, I think they could have made things a bit easier for me if nothing else.
If I hadn’t had this time to really see him for who he was day in and day out, I think he would have continued to pull the wool over my eyes and it would have taken me years to figure out that he was truly a monster. Instead, I was hit in the face with all of these awful truths during a painful and embarrassing time in my life. It was a viscous cycle of never feeling good enough, being rejected and abused, and not able to truly believe that things would get better and that I would get through this. I was determined to make it through, and I did.
Over the years, I look back on this situation and I am immensely proud that not only did I make it, I did it with my head held high, my principles intact, and I even managed to keep all of my financial accounts current and never missed a single payment, which for me, was a huge personal accomplishment. I refused to let him bring me down financially, and I’m so grateful that through my hard work, he never did. It’s a time in my life that continues to ground me when times are tough. It reminds me that I went through hell and back and I’m OK. I’m still growing as a person, I’m still learning new things about myself and the world around me, and had I not gone through this, I never would have gotten my master’s degree, traveled the world, be a part of my friends’ lives through marriages and babies, and not be truly happy like I am today. If I can get through it, trust that you can, too.