As I solidified my plan to divorce, I started talking more to my family and friends about what was going on. I also alerted my pastor, who pledged to support me however I needed. X and I had a joint financial plan to pay off debt and we were about five months from paying off all of our joint debt. I wanted to have that paid off before separating because I didn’t want to be left to deal with the debt on my own in the very likely case that X decided not to cooperate in the divorce.
The waiting game was made easier by the fact that X was sleeping in our guest bedroom. Shortly before our last counseling session, I got a cold and X moved to our guest bedroom. After I recovered, he stayed in the extra room. I asked him about it and he said, “it’s just easier.” He was right. It was easier. The change brought relief to my body immediately.
About a month after we split into separate bedrooms, my Godmother planned to visit from out of town. I mentioned this to X multiple times in the week leading up to her visit, but I didn’t explicitly say that she would be staying with us because she had stayed with us before. On the day she was scheduled to arrive, he was surprised when I asked him if he would be home to greet her. Seeming irritated, he said that he would let her have the guest bedroom. I told him that she would be staying in the room with me. He blew up, accusing me of “putting our business in the street.” Although he was consistently cold to me, I suppose he wanted to try to keep up appearances. I apologized for not communicating more clearly and ended the conversation at that point. I wasn’t going to engage in harmful, unproductive dialogue with X. He did sleep in the guest bedroom that night, but the following text exchange happened the next morning. (My messages are in blue, X’s in black)
Description of images: screenshots of text message exchange
X: If you ever do this again I will move all of my things out and go to a hotel. X: If she’s not gone when I get in I’m moving to a hotel. X: Actually, I’m moving out tonight. Me: She’s staying with [redacted] tonight.
Me: Are you saying you’re moving out regardless?
X: I will be moving out.
X: After I get done with evangelism. I will move out.
Me: OK. Are you willing to talk to me with someone about the logistics of what you want to do? I can probably find some place in a couple weeks and you can stay in the apartment.
X: No I’m not
Me: OK. And why is that?
X: This is not a group decision. It’s my decision alone as a man.
Me: Right, got it. I’m not trying to stop you.
X: I realize that we are still married but we live in a dysfunctional marriage. I don’t need you to make my decisions.
X: You trying to stop me is not a consideration.
Me: I’m saying that there are logistics that impact both of us that we should work together to figure out.
Me: I’m not trying to make your decisions either.
X: You can tell [redacted] that she can stay. She doesn’t respect me or our marriage. She might as well stay since I’m leaving. She has stepped over the line. “Our” logistics are not a consideration.
X: These are not “our” legistics”
X: I will take MY money out of the bank if needed
Me: How much of it is yours?
X: Not sure, if needed I will take half from Emergency then stop my automatic draft
X: I will funnel my money to another bank
Me: That decision doesn’t just affect you. We have joint bills that come out of the account.
X: Such as?
X: We will split 50-50 down the middle.
X: Like I said, if needed I will take from the savings then work out the reallocation on the next pay period
X: Your women’s group of abused and battered women can be your support
Me: All of bills. Insurance, cell phone utilities, etc.
X: I’m smart enough to figure out how to reallocate the money. Not saying it will be quick or easy. But it can be done.
Me: I know it can be done. I’d like to talk about it so we can have a plan.
X: I will not be discussing it with you. Like I said, you can discuss it with [redacted], the battered women you talk to and whoever else you tell.
By the end of this text message exchange, I was at the ATM pulling half of the money out of our joint accounts. My godmother helped me flesh out the safety plan I had already been thinking about. The callous nature of X’s messages, along with the rapidly declining nature of already terrible interactions told me that I shouldn’t expect any type of concern or cooperation. Because abusive relationships are often most violent at the end, especially for Black women, I had to be extra careful. I planned to move out ASAP and attempt to reach a financial agreement for a simple divorce process.
A primary component of my safety plan was involving others in our communication. I immediately reached out to our pastor and an elder from the church, and they agreed to be involved. I would not allow X to communicate with me without one of them being copied. I had to keep my cards close though. I knew that X leaving simply accelerated my plan for divorce, but I couldn’t let him or those advising us know that I was done. I didn’t want X to know any of my plans, and I wasn’t sure what the pastor or elder would tell him. I knew they had a conflict of interest, but their involvement made it easier to deal with X, as they provided the audience that gave him an incentive to act like he cared.
The day after X left, he began taking us all on a roller coaster. He consistently vacillated between insisting we get divorced when I would keep my boundaries and asking for an opportunity to reconcile when I would call his bluff. Once X discovered that I had taken money out of our joint account though, he became willing to set up a financial plan where we would split our household bills and pay off joint debt.
With a financial plan in motion and others ensuring we followed through, I found a new place to live. Even though X had been saying he wanted to reconcile, he didn’t offer any steps on how to do that. I was not giving him a firm answer, but my consistent message was that he would need to accept responsibility for his actions, including his abandonment of me, and the impact of those actions. Conversations would always break down at this point. I think he just didn’t want to say that he no longer wanted to be married. He kept threatening to file for divorce, but he never followed through. Feeling safe in my new place and annoyed with his games, I decided to end them and file the divorce documents I had prepared months earlier.
X’s sense of urgency escalated with the start of legal proceedings. When he realized I actually filed, he sent a long text message with a list of things he was “repenting” for. He wanted to have a conversation. I e-mailed our pastor and told him that I would be willing to have a conversation, facilitated by him, only if it was about the things I would need X to accept responsibility for. The pastor agreed to facilitate this meeting. When I got to the meeting, the pastor had his own agenda that made no mention of my concerns. He proceeded to give us a talk on effective, “Biblical” communication and tried to get us to flesh out our mutual concerns.
In true X fashion, he took the opportunity to deflect from his own behavior and accuse me of having sex with my Godmother the night he decided to move out. I was stunned. The meeting broke down pretty quickly after that. We had discussed none of the concerns that I told the pastor about in advance. X’s tactics were no match for this pastor who was assuming that we both had pure motives. The pastor ended the meeting by giving us both assignments with the expectation that we would continue to meet.
I debriefed this meeting with an amazing coach I had recently begun working with. She helped me shift my mindset to see that these types of meetings, even if someone else was involved, were still harmful. She also helped me see that I should feel free to not participate in these types of meetings moving forward. I resolved that my goal moving forward would be to minimize the harmful interactions I was involved in.
During the mandatory 60-day waiting period between divorce filing and finalization, I enjoyed getting set up in my new home. Our pastor went on sabbatical, and I decided that I would attend no more meetings with X. Eventually, I blocked him when he threatened to sue me for telling people that he was abusive.
After I blocked him, he obtained an attorney for the divorce. I thought he was going to try to create a fight but to my surprise, he didn’t. Since we had already settled the financial details, there were only minor issues to include in the final order. I signed it digitally and unceremoniously. I didn’t even have to go to court. His attorney presented our agreement to the judge and sent me a copy of the certified final divorce decree. Just like that, the whirlwind was over and I was free.
Excited about the opportunity for a fresh start, I looked forward to exploring life as a newly single woman with a wealth of relationship and life experience under my belt. I also looked forward to continuing my involvement with the worship team and other ministries at church. I should have known it wouldn’t be that simple.