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Healthy Relationships: Why I Left – I Was Always Losing
As told to Veronica Wells-Puoane of NoSugarNoCreamMag.com
I met him at the Velvet Room in Atlanta—at the club. I was 25-26. We’re always taught that’s not a good place to meet people. However, I’ve known quite a few people, in my family actually, who met their spouses in the club. So that didn’t discourage me from meeting him. I was not interested to be honest with you. He wasn’t really looking for that either. We kind of got hooked up by friends. We were with a group and we met and had a good time. Great guy. He came across that way in the beginning. But I was ready to go.
My friend was like, ‘So you aren’t going to get his number?’
I said, ‘No, I’m good.’
She got his number and assured him I would call. I called him a few days later. And we would talk every day from that point on.
I admit we moved pretty fast. He had a son prior to me. I met his son pretty early. I met his family.
But after talking to him I was really intrigued that he was already in therapy. I thought, ‘Wow, he’s doing the work.’ He knows he’s broken, he knows he’s hurting and he’s taking the steps that are needed in order to fix those things. I was attracted to that because that’s rare. We don’t often hear that. A lot of people stay in their brokenness without seeking help. I was intrigued with his strength in that moment. He was very vulnerable about the things that he was going through and he shared a lot of that with me. And I was in support of it. I really liked that about him.
NSNC: Is he a Black man?
It was honestly a turn on. You don’t hear about a man of color doing that. I was impressed, I was happy. I thought ‘Good that’s less work that I have to do.’
And we were on and poppin’ from there.
NSNC: What was your first challenge or first inkling that something wasn’t all the way right?
I remember very vividly. One of my best friends is a guy and he was having a birthday dinner and there was an issue with me going. I let him know that he’s my best friend. I’ve known him literally since first grade. I have this group of friends, all of us have known each other the same amount of time and we were celebrating him and he had a problem with it. He asked 50 million questions–Who is he? What is you guys’ relationship? Mind you, in the four months we’d been dating, he’d heard me talk about him before. But I guess now, it was too close for comfort.
I feel like he literally started an argument with me so I wouldn’t be in the mood to go. That’s the vibe I got. And I didn’t go because I was in a bad mood at that point.
That was the start of it. It continued throughout the years after that.
I thought ‘Good that’s less work that I have to do.’
NSNC: At what point in your relationship did you get married and what made you feel like marriage was a good idea?
About three years in, we moved in together. I’m a Southern girl. I was raised in the church so moving in with a guy without being married was as lot for my mom. I didn’t care so much to be honest with you. I was going with the flow and being open, which was something I struggled with previously. And I told myself that I’m going to give it my all. I’m going to try my hardest. I’m going to be committed to this.
Four or five months after we moved in, he proposed to me.
I had a public proposal. You would imagine that when you get proposed to, you would feel like, ‘Oh my God, I’m so excited. I’m so happy.’ That wasn’t me. And people ask me often. Why I said yes, why I married him. And the answer I can come up with is because he asked me. It was the natural progression of things. We were in an exclusive relationship for three years. We were living together. It’s kind of the next step. You get married, you have kids, you live happily ever after. And that’s just how I felt. I wasn’t deeply in love. I just thought this is what you do.
NSNC: Do you think if he had asked you in private, you maybe would have answered differently?
I don’t think so. And I’ve thought about. I think I was in that same place of this is next. He invited my whole family up. They were there, they were happy so I felt like yeah, this is what I’m going to do.
NSNC: How did things start off in the marriage?
I regretted it immediately.
He had custody of his son and his mother wasn’t very present in his life, so I took on that role. We had a little family. Things were going well. But as soon as we got engaged, he said, ‘I don’t want your friends throwing you a bachelorette party.’ We were fighting on the honeymoon. And it was a really bad one. He wanted to get tattoos of names and I was totally against that. We fought that whole weekend in the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. And I remember thinking, ‘Is this how my marriage is going to be?’
It progressively got worse. I was embarrassed which is why I probably didn’t leave sooner before it got really, really bad.
NSNC: What would you have been embarrassed about?
I had a big 200 guest wedding. So I felt like a failure. My entire family is here witnessing what is supposed to be one of the biggest moments in my life. I truly felt embarrassed, which is why I couldn’t share with anybody what I was going through. I was ashamed of judgment.
I regretted it immediately.
NSNC: When you say things got bad, what does that mean?
Things really took a turn when I enrolled in school to get my master’s degree. In hindsight, I can see a lot more now. I didn’t realize we were in competition. Everything I’m doing is for us. This is a win for us. I’m trying to better myself for us. But to him it was you’re becoming better than me or you’re trying to do more than me. I think he felt you’re setting yourself up to be without me.
Eventually after we had been married for two years, he started having an affair. I didn’t find out about it until later but it started when I was going to school. We had a study abroad trip that was two weeks. And me being gone two weeks, I guess, drove him crazy and he had to find someone else.
I could tell something was different. I didn’t want to accuse him of cheating initially but I could tell something was wrong because he became the most mean and hateful person I’d ever met. And I’m trying to piece together in my mind, what did I do? What changed? I’m thinking I’m spending too much time in school. And it was crazy because I was commuting to school to go to class and then I would be home in time to do dinner.
In my eyes, I was doing everything to be the picture perfect wife. I was praying like crazy. I was reading The Power of the Praying Wife. This is what I signed up for. I’m trying to play the role. And I can honestly say I played the role. In my eyes, I don’t feel like I did anything wrong to him.
Now, was my purpose probably faulty, yes in hindsight. But I decided to play that role because I took it on. We were going to win and be successful.
NSNC: Did you ever confront him about the affair?
I will admit this: I went through his emails. Now, I’m a very smart woman, I’m a bright woman. I knew what I was looking for, I just needed to find it. I was so deep in the idea of proof. I wanted to find it. That’s what I wanted to happen so I could feel like I had a reason to leave. Not saying that I didn’t have one before. I had plenty. But for me, I just needed that and I said, ‘Then God, I will leave.’ And God gave it to me.
I went through the emails and it was right in my face. I didn’t have to search hard.
I wasn’t looking at his email at first. I was looking at my credit card statement. And I saw a purchase that had just happened for $100+ at dinner. And I’m sitting here on the couch. Why is my card being swiped at TWO urban licks?
So I immediately called, interrupted dinner. Because now I have to act out. I really don’t remember the conversation. It was a blur. All I remember saying was I want to be reimbursed for that dinner you just paid for. Make sure you give me my money back.
He came home that night, he denied, denied, denied until I harassed him enough to where he finally admitted it. I had met the woman before. She had actually come to a pre-wedding dinner that we had. I was very aware of her. She was someone he met in school because he decided to enroll in school after I did.
And again, I’m not stupid. I knew the type of woman she was. And it just so happened to be true.
Now I have to act out.
I didn’t leave immediately. I was actually in shock that it happened. I knew what I was looking for but I was like, ‘Wow, he actually had the guts to do that.’ I found out around October. And Christmas was when things got physical.
This was the first time that had ever happened. The first, last, and ever. I don’t even know what we were arguing about. Of course after I found out [about his affair], I was very cold and standoffish. I wasn’t mean but I didn’t want to communicate with him. I was moreso trying to figure out what I was going to do, my plan.
I did tell him I was leaving. But he didn’t believe me because I was still there.
I don’t know what started the fight but I can remember being in the laundry room. This was Christmas night. We’re in the laundry room and he’s on top of me, hands on my throat. I remember him yelling at me, ‘You fucking bitch, look at what you made me do.’
That’s all I remember him saying, repeatedly.
Initially, I was fighting back. I remember seeing some scissors. I had all kind of thoughts in my head. Then I just stopped. It was like something just snapped in me. I just stopped and laid there. And when I stopped, it’s like something snapped in him and he stopped.
We did not speak any words to each other, period. He got up, he left. I went to bed and we acted like it didn’t happen.
I didn’t call the police mainly because he had been arrested before and I still wanted to protect him.
We were living in Atlanta, I’m born and raised in Macon, and after that incident, I remember calling my mom. I never told her what happened [with the abuse]. She knows that he had an affair. But I said, ‘Mom, I’m moving back.’ And every weekend I would take stuff, little by little, out of the house until the final day when I left.
It was very anti-climactic my leaving. I think he thought I was coming back. And after about a month, he realized I wasn’t coming back he then decided he wanted to fix his life.
NSNC: To get you back?
Yeah. But I’m done. And when I’m done, I’m done. I’ve always been that way. There’s no looking back, there’s no looking back. I’m done.
He’s tried to get back together as recently as last year. It’s been three years since I left.
He was in therapy by himself but he refused to go with me while we were together. But once I left, he wanted to go with me. With my personality type, it’s too late. You should go for yourself and I went for myself but not together as a couple.
Look at what you made me do.
NSNC: How did you feel leaving? Did you feel relief? Did you still feel some guilt or regret about having to leave?
I was scared. I can tell you now, I understand why women stay. I used to be one those women who’d say, ‘Just leave. I don’t know why women continue to stay.’ But it was very hard for me to leave. And it wasn’t so much him so to speak, it was more of a security thing. And it wasn’t like he took good care of me. He really didn’t. But it was the idea that there’s strength in numbers and two is better than one. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t know what I was going to do.
I knew my mom would always welcome me back. But I was 31-32 at the time and I have to move back home and start over? All those things went through my head. But it was worth it.
We had one final argument in front of his friend and the way he talked to me—the disrespect. I just…it was like, ‘Brittny, what are you doing? Just leave.’
That same friend watched me pack. I had been taking stuff home every weekend and I said, ‘This time I’m not coming back. Whatever’s left is left. ‘And I left so many things because I could only get what I could physically carry.
His friend was watching me with tears welling up in his eyes because he was hurt but he understood. Eventually, he helped me with some of the big boxes. I left and I didn’t look back.
I advise any woman, don’t be afraid. That parachute opened for me so quickly. It’s like the blessing started pouring in. I was like ‘I see you, God. I know. This is what you’ve been waiting for me to do. I needed something drastic and I got something drastic. I got what I asked for.’
It’s hard to explain but I tell people, if I had to tell people why I left in one statement, I felt like I was always losing. It’s hard to explain but I wasn’t getting the jobs I wanted, nothing would ever happen for me. I was having a hard time with my friends. I was having a hard time emotionally. Everything was a struggle and it shouldn’t be that way. I know marriage is hard but it’s supposed to be a good thing. We’re supposed to be blessed together. And the fact that we weren’t, there was always an issue. He was losing a job one week, I’m trying to take care of everybody the next. Everything felt like I was losing. And I didn’t start to win until the day I left.
It was right before my birth day. I won’t forget it because I said, ‘I’m not spending another year here.’ I said, ‘I don’t care what I’ve left.’ And I left so much stuff. But I realize though that sacrifice was so worth it. I had to start over but it’s okay.
I understand why women stay.
NSNC: Were you scared that he would follow you or try to retaliate against you for leaving?
Yes. When I moved back home, I stayed at my mom’s house four months and then I was able to get my own place. Because, like I said, the blessings opened. I never let him know about any of that. I was afraid that he would find where I was, he would come to my door and I could be dead.
He thought I was crazy for feeling that way. But I have seen enough things and heard enough stories of people snapping. He snapped on me a couple of times. I don’t know what’s he’s capable of. I never let him know where I was.
NSNC: He didn’t remember choking you?
He acted like it didn’t happen. He did eventually apologize to me, for everything. And I felt like it was genuine. And that made me feel good for him. That’s not going to change my mind but I’m happy that you have come to the conclusion that you were wrong, that you ruined your family. You’re going to have to live with that for the rest of your life.
NSNC: What would you say you learned about relationships as a result of that marriage? And what did you learn about yourself finding the strength to leave?
The relationship taught me that everything isn’t linear. There’s not a storybook that fits everybody. And I say that because had I not been in that vision of ‘this is how it’s supposed to go,’ we probably wouldn’t have even dated that long. I really did learn to live by my own rules and own standards instead of what society thinks and how my mom feels. I know she loves me regardless of what I choose to do. But I had this stigma in my head. We’re living together, we’re having sex. I feel bad. We have to get married. And that was the worst mistake I’ve ever made. I can say that wholeheartedly.
What I learned about me? I don’t communicate as well as I thought I did. I really kept a lot of things inside. And because of that, I can’t even say I gave him a fair shot because I wasn’t honest about how I felt. I’ll take responsibility for that part. I was going with the flow and I wasn’t 100 percent sincere. I wasn’t 100 percent committed in my heart. I was committed to being what a wife was supposed to be. But he was not the man for me and I kept trying to force myself into that.
I also realized I wanted to be chosen and he chose me. That’s something I never would have admitted before but I did. Every woman wants to at least feel accepted and desired. I wanted to be chosen. That’s why the cheating thing hurt so bad. I thought you chose me. Why are you out here still looking?
I didn’t start to win until the day I left.
NSNC: What would you say to other women who may have been in your situation? They know the relationship is not right, they know they should leave but they haven’t taken the steps to do so.
It’s kind of like that meme that goes around Instagram. “Do it scared.” It’s okay. If you’re screaming, crying, it’s okay. I can assure them that the parachute will open. It’s almost like God is waiting for you to take that step. You’re blocking your blessings when you keep hurting yourself because you know you’re better than that. And if you know you’re better, you have to do better. You have to.
You have to leave however you can leave.
One other thing for me, I thought about my little cousins. I thought about the women in my family. They’re looking at me. They look up to me. I cannot show them that this is okay. I can’t be that woman. That’s not how I was raised to be, that’s not who I am at my core.
If anybody woulda told me I’d be 35, single with no kids, I would have been like, ‘You lyin.’ But this is the happiest I’ve ever felt in my life. I won’t take it back for anything. I am totally pleased.
One final thing to women, don’t let it make you bitter. I am open to love again. It can and it will happen again with the right man. But you got to move the wrong one out of the way first.
Veronica Wells-Puoane is the creator of the website NoSugarNoCreamMag. She is the author of “Bettah Days” and You’ll Be All Write, a question and answer journal for Black women. She is also the culture editor at MadameNoire.com.
Find more of her articles by Veronica on Curlynikki.com, HERE!