You’ve got to choose

“You’ve got to choose between me and the dog?” my husband yelled, his face too close to mine.

I looked away at the tiny little ball of fur playing at my feet.   I was so shocked that my mind went blank. There was none of the usual worrying about  the consequences of whatever I said or did.  I just heard a disembodied voice say,

“It’s got to be the dog.”

“You’ve got to choose between me and the dog?” my husband yelled, his face too close to mine.

“It’s got to be the dog.”

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My voice!

How had it ever come to this? Married twenty years and my husband couldn’t share me with a Shih Tzu puppy? Over the years, he had made me choose so many times – between him and friends, him and my family, him and my work, him and our child. I had spent my whole married life attempting an impossible balancing act. But nothing that I did, not one of the sacrifices that I made to make him happy was ever enough.

My husband stormed out, slamming the door behind him.

I gazed into my puppy’s big, velvety-brown eyes. In the few months that we had had her, she had given so much love and joy to my daughter and me.  She had brought so much joy and laughter into our home. Sure, she wasn’t perfect.  She had destroyed more pairs of shoes than I cared to think about. However, she brought such a sweet, loving energy to our home.

My husband, on the other hand, brought a black cloud home with him from work every night.  I only had to hear his key in the lock, for my anxiety levels to rise sky-high. What would it be this time?

Now, my husband had forced me to make a terrible, absurd choice.   Holding onto this little creature that mattered so much to my daughter and me was non-negotiable. But how would we ever cope without  this man in our lives?

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How do you rebuild a life when you feel broken, worthless, empty and unlovable? When you feel devastated and deeply humiliated by the failure of a relationship into which you had poured everything you had?

First off, it felt like I was playing a game of real-life blind man’s buff, wandering blindfolded through an alien environment, crashing into one difficulty after another. Trying to find my way through the nightmare of divorcing a narcissistic, abusive husband - even with lawyers involved – was terrifying and exhausting.

I quickly realized that this was my life and I couldn’t afford to get it wrong – either for myself or my daughter. Trying to muddle through just wasn’t good enough. I needed all the information and help I could possibly get.

So, I started finding out all I could about abusive relationships and narcissistic partners both in books and on the Internet. I did counselling and therapy. Plus, I got myself a coach. At first, I was constantly worried sick about whether I could afford it and whether or not I was worth it.

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Then, as the fog of abuse started to lift, I began to see myself for the very first time as the adult woman I truly was. To my amazement, I found that I had gifts and talents I had never even known about. I started to see how blessed I was. Admittedly, I had not had a loving marriage or a supportive family of origin but I had my beloved daughter, my wonderful dog and a future that I was free to create.

It wasn’t always easy. But it has been incredibly worthwhile. When you come through the hell of an abusive relationship, you discover that you have a second chance at life.

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We second lifers go on to discover talents and joys that we would never have thought possible. From being labelled a “waste of space” by abusive loved ones, I have become a leading abuse recovery coach, written books and found a lovely partner who makes me happier than I ever imagined possible. That experience of having to choose between my horrible husband and my delightful dog became the inspiration for my multi-award winning book, “Do You Choose Your Dog More Carefully Than Your Husband”.

Others have gone on to have careers as coaches, singers, creatives, successful business-owners, academics and scientists. They have changed the way they do personal and professional relationships and now live abuse-free lives.

What will you achieve once you reclaim your voice? How will you amaze yourself?

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