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I always believed that marriage should be ‘til death do us part. I never thought of it as a commitment to take lightly or break easily. It wasn’t until leaving my marriage became a life or death situation that I began to understand that some situations require us to leave.

I am speaking out today for others who might find this story familiar. I met my husband when I moved into the apartment next to his. We became friends and started dating soon after. I saw signs of aggression pretty early in our relationship. Still, since it was never aimed at me I figured there was no need to make a big deal of it. I guess I had forgotten that how a man treats others is a good indication of how he will treat me.

I was ecstatic when he asked me to marry him after five months of dating. It did not occur to me that I did not yet know his goals for marriage and the future and whether these were aligned with my own thoughts and goals. All I could think of was how I had longed to be married and have children. I wanted to hear wedding bells.

A month after the proposal he started using derogatory names, swore at me, shouted, slammed his fist into the door, and threw tantrums. Although it made me uneasy, I thought that this was normal behavior for people planning a wedding and a future together. It was only later that I realized that I was making excuses. These behaviors are not OK. They are clear signs of abuse.

I decided to leave him, but as soon as I made the decision, I learned I was pregnant. He was excited when I told him about the baby—so excited he promised that things would be different. They really were for a time. Our relationship took a 360-degree turn. It was the happiest I had been in a long while.

Like everything else good about us, the joy was short-lived. I found out he was cheating. I learned he had been taking money from my bank account to support the other woman and her child. I was furious. When I saw him, rather than confront him about what he’d done, I simply told him it was over. He got mad and attacked me. My neighbor heard my screams and came to my rescue. It was an ugly scene. I swore I would never again be with this man.

I thought there was no way I would ever go back to him—but then I lost the baby. I was so devastated that I convinced myself that I needed him to get over the pain. We not only got back together, we also moved in together.

Things went sour pretty quickly. A couple of months after moving in together I found out that he was still having an affair. I came close to a nervous breakdown when I learned she was not the only other woman. When I found out he brought someone into our home, I packed my bags, changed my number, and disappeared.

It was two years before we spoke again. He called to say he was about to start a new job, had plans to go back to school, had become a man of faith, and was now a different man. I was happy for him, mostly because I too had changed. I too was now a woman of faith.

We spent quite a bit of time together and before long I was convinced that he had changed. I felt I could trust him and a month later we were married. The honeymoon month was amazing, but two months into our marriage we started arguing. By month four I was walking on eggshells. Then everything fell apart.

Neither of us had steady jobs and the bills were piling up. We both felt overwhelmed. As the days crept on, it became more and more difficult to find joy in the Lord. It was so much easier to revert to our old selves. We argued constantly. I felt drained and too ashamed to tell anyone what was going on. I was trapped.

One day he lost his temper and threatened to kill me. He told me I was lucky he married me because nobody else wanted me. He told me that I was the worst kind of wife a man could have. He ranted for close to an hour, then walked out and vanished for days.

The first night he left I stared at the ceiling for hours. All the memories from two years before came flooding back. Memories of not wanting to fall asleep because I was afraid he would try to kill me, of feeling ashamed because of the lies he told people about me, of the name calling and fights. And though I knew it was time to end my marriage, I could not help but think: How will it look? What will people say? How do I explain being married for less than the time it took to plan my wedding?

When he finally came home we talked and agreed to go back to counseling. As we sat with the counselor and I listened to my husband, I came to the conclusion that we should never have been married. It became clear that he believed that submission meant subservience and in his mind his needs superseded mine. I knew this meant that things would never change. The next day I told my husband I wanted a divorce.

It has now been a year and a half since our separation. To get to where I am now involved making deliberate and strategic moves.

First, I had to make a clean break from my husband. I threw away everything that tied me to him, ended all communication with him, limited my conversations about him, and deleted any discussions we had since I had no need for them where the courts were concerned.

Second, I filled the void left by our separation by creating my own routines. I started volunteering and hung out with friends every Friday evening. Without this routine, too much free time would lead to me missing him.

All this redirected energy led me to grow in my faith. During prayer time one day I realized that I needed to forgive my husband, forgive myself, and just let go of the past. I decided to let go of every bit of negativity he spoke into my life. I refused to accept his negativity any longer. I determined that for days I would speak positively about myself and my future.

I’m so thankful. I have recovered from what could have been the death of me. Now I use my experience to help others. I conduct talks and seminars on partner abuse. I am on a radio show with a fantastic group of women. Our show gives women practical solutions for relationships and life in general. I have even written a book about my story, describing my ordeal and also outlining the strategies I used to heal. In addition, I have recently started Women Inspiring Prosperity, a faith-based organization that helps women with their total development via training, life coaching, scholarships, and events.

The fact is, I have been given a second chance—the chance to live again. I am committed to taking that gift to help other women in whatever way I can.

Tricia-Anne Y. Morris is a contributor from Jamaica. This piece was originally published on World Pulse. Sign up to get international stories of women leading social change delivered to your inbox every month here.

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