10/03/2006 04:08 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Doubt: An offshoot of Fear

Doubt: An offshoot of Fear

Because there was no physical proof of abuse, I wondered if I might be overreacting to the routine intimidations that shrunk me down to someone I knew I wasn't. I wondered, too, if maybe every couple had the kind of fights my then-husband and I had, fights where there was no reasoning with him; fights that occurred in an instant without an obvious explanation of what triggered the eruption. But once the rumbling began, I had to try to help our children escape to their rooms, then stand by to watch his fists break through doors and listen to his unrelenting bombastic screams shred my bit of self-esteem. Then the following day, he'd explain his outburst away with a shrug and hangdog grin while he went about mending what he'd damaged. However, I couldn't forget the threats he always implemented during his tirades: "Go ahead, leave! You can't afford to make it on your own." For years, I believed him and let him devalue me. Still, there were no black eyes or bruised arms to corroborate the harm and I began to doubt myself in justifying ending the marriage. The demeaning message conveyed to my children should have been reason enough, but my declaration to their father of wanting a divorce would quite likely escalate the rage to something more than just busting walls. Therefore, doubt, fear, and my hope that things would change kept me in the marriage for years.

While my children were growing up, I didn't consciously lay the groundwork for getting out of a less than ideal relationship, but I did go into survival mode while unconvinced that I would really be brave enough eventually to take that leap. Why would I give up a roomy Colonial house, one that provided me a writer's room? Why would I put myself in a risky financial position? These were questions I asked myself when I began the process, first mentally, then physically, of ending the constant feeling of unpredictability in my life.

It was an arduous, stressful journey. There was the inability to explain to those on the outside that abuse doesn't necessarily come from fists against flesh. It was almost impossible to explain my need to exchange what appeared to be a stable marriage for tranquility, even though the road ahead of me was frightening. Besides, I wanted my children to know that certain behaviors should not be accepted, even though prior to my decision, erratic behavior was the norm in our home. My oldest, who is my birth son, was already away at college, which is not to say divorce is ever easy at any age, but he could separate himself from its reality. It was my two daughters' possible reactions, however, that had me worried. Jr. High and high school brings pressure and I wanted "home" for them to be a place to feel safe and to let their guard down. I wanted them to feel it was where peace existed. This was particularly important to me since they were adopted from Korea and the only communication received from their birth mothers via the agency was the hope for the babies to grow up in a home with peace. Because it was a similar message for both my daughters, maybe it was a wish imparted to all adoptive families. It didn't matter, though. I took that charge seriously.

When I finally made my intentions clear, he huffed and puffed, trying to wear me down, but I refused to let his inflated hot air deflate my confidence, as shaky as it was. I knew what I had to do, for both my family and myself, and I couldn't turn back. He never expected that I would take him up on his threatening suggestion and divorce him. Nor did he think I would be able to make it on my own.

I have been divorced now for several years. I've traded a roomy Colonial house for a small Cape Cod, while still managing to have a writer's room. More importantly, I've traded a house filled with unpredictable rage for a peaceful home for my daughters, my son on his occasional visits, and myself. As for doubt, that insidious offshoot of fear, no longer is it allowed to abide where I live.

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