“‘Well that was stupid on your part,’ was officially my last straw. I was playing with our three kids at the beach as we ran up and down the Seawall, when I fell and hit my head on the ground. My mom and sister rushed over to me to see if I was okay, but the one person that should have, didn’t. I was hurt. I’ve always been tough, I popped up and tried to play it cool, but my head was throbbing. I kept looking over at the stairs not even 200 feet away, and that’s where he stayed. No checking on me, no asking if I was okay, nothing. The next day I still had a really bad headache, so I went to get checked for a concussion. As I got dropped off at the doctor by him, all I got was, ‘Well that was stupid on your part,’ like it was somehow my fault that I got hurt playing with our kids. And that’s how I felt our entire 8-year marriage.
It all began 3 months before I left for the United States Air Force. I worked at a college in the business office to make some money and pass some time before I left for basic training. He worked in the Administration office and came to see a lady I worked with. He asked me to go get coffee. I wasn’t wanting to be in a relationship at the time, my family thought it was a bad idea in the first place, mainly because they could see the moment I started talking with this dude, I was immediately not myself anymore. I became quiet, and wasn’t my fun, goofy self… but being stubborn, I didn’t listen. I had big plans of getting based in Europe for my first assignment, but the relationship just sort of happened, and I put my dreams on hold for that. If I could kick myself, I would.
I left for basic training 3 months later on December 14, 2010, and then had no contact with anyone except for letters for 2 months… then came my graduation for my 8-week training! Of course he came, and so did my family. It was an awkward time, that’s for sure, the moment couldn’t be as happy as it should I have been. We got two hours to see family and friends that day, and then we had to head back to our barracks. That was the night he ‘proposed’ in the hotel room. I say ‘propose,’ because it honestly wasn’t even a proposal… it was a ‘here’s a ring,’ and stared at me type thing, with no words attached. I was young, 19, eager to have my own family and kids like I had always wanted, so I immediately said ‘Ok!’ without even thinking. A month later on March 12, 2011, we got married with nobody around, no wedding dress, no nothing… while I was in training for my job as a photojournalist in Maryland, because I was too afraid to even tell my family since they were wary about our relationship in the first place. So it was more of an elopement.
Fast forward a few years into the marriage. Arguments happened all the time, I was the only one working while he played basketball all day and we were struggling financially. It’s not what I had hoped it would be at all, but I’m not one to give up on anything, so I kept convincing myself to make it work saying it would get better, and I stayed put. I wanted kids more than anything. That was always my dream, to be home as a mom. I then found out I was pregnant with our first! I was BEYOND thrilled. 9 months had passed and it was time! I wish I could say it was the happiest times in the world with sunshine and rainbows, but it wasn’t. It was miserable. The only thing that made April 9, 2013, better, was the moment I held my beautiful baby girl for the first time.
We were in South Carolina at the time, that was my first duty station (even though Aviano, Italy, was supposed to be my first; but they declined me coming because I had just gotten married and it was more of a single person base due to the job demand and housing…cue dream killer moment). My parents had driven in to stay with us to see their first grandchild enter the world. What could’ve been the happiest times, wasn’t, because as my mom was cleaning the kitchen as a favor… she and myself got yelled at because the LIGHT was on, and ‘this is my house, I make the rules, and you will respect what I want.’ He stormed out the door and we didn’t see him until 3 a.m. ON THE NIGHT BEFORE OUR DAUGHTER WAS BORN. Apparently we weren’t allowed to use electricity at all, and this caused a huge scene. While I was in labor, guess what he was doing? Sleeping. SLEEPING. You know how every girl dreams of their man standing there with them, talking them through the massive pain of bringing a child into the world? Yeah, I didn’t get that. And I never will get that, because after our third child, I had to have a hysterectomy due to endometriosis. It upsets me to think about that, because I’ll never get to experience those special moments, but you know what? My beautiful children make up for it!
18 months later on October 2, 2014, I gave birth to our second child, a boy! The birthing experience was pretty similar to the first, but this time we were in Texas because I was then stationed in San Antonio. We lived on the Air Force base for a year until we decided to buy a house in San Marcos. That’s when things started to get worse. He stayed home with the kids while I was the only one who worked still… so of course money was still a struggle, especially with two more people added!.And guess what? I was pregnant with our third!!! I started a business from my phone to help make some extra money since my paycheck wasn’t cutting it. That was on December 14, 2014. I will forever be grateful for that day.
Arguments still happened, but one thing that kept happening which I honestly felt I could do nothing about, was each day I came home from work, more and more things were missing. Not just random papers, or things that had no use… I’m talking MY stuff. My home decorations (paintings on the wall, even one that I painted myself!), my picture frames that had me and the kids, my jewelry tools I used to make necklaces and bracelets as a hobby, the kids’ toys and rug, the sofa in the back room. Each day I came home, something new was gone. When questioning it, I got, ‘I’m doing what needs to be done, don’t question me, I know what I’m doing,’ and that was the end of our conversation. Nothing was ever addressed, no matter what it was. I wasn’t allowed to have anything I wanted or do anything I wanted, I was like his child, not his wife. He was literally just throwing my belongings in the trash like it meant nothing.
Anytime I expressed how I felt, it was turned around on me to make me feel horrible or that I’m a problem for feeling a certain way; that’s what happens when you are with a narcissist. Ugh, I finally said it. Yep, a full-blown narcissist, that’s what I married. I was even made to feel guilty about seeing my own family. Seeing my own family was even an argument! I slipped in and out of depression and had severe anxiety because of this, our whole marriage I did. Our whole marriage I asked myself if I was really in love, or if I was just there living with someone. Stuff continued to go missing. Although I am not a ‘stuff’ person, I couldn’t live like that anymore… we were living in a 3-bedroom home, with a bed, a sofa and a TV, plus the kids’ bed and crib. It was EMPTY. There was no sign of life in that house, no rugs, no toys were allowed, no pictures, clothes were thrown out too, it didn’t feel like a home anymore. So I left; 6 months pregnant and two small children in tow. Me and the kids went to my parents’ house after an argument and while I was there, I told him I was done. That was 5 years into the marriage, so can you guess what happened? Yep, I went back. He had begged me to come back, crying and said things would change, he would be who I needed him to be. And I believed him. That lasted for a whole two months, and then we slowly but surely drifted back into the reason I left. Around that same time in November of 2015, I officially left the Air Force so I could be home with my babies.
On June 14, 2016, I gave birth to our last child, another beautiful baby girl. Things seemed to be okay at this stage in our life, especially from the outside looking in. We tried growing closer to God together, we tried making things work, but we were still miserable in many different aspects, because some behaviors just don’t change. We decided to randomly move back home near family on a cute beautiful island outside of Houston. Maybe that would do the trick, was my thinking. New scenery, island living, calming beach every day. It was wonderful for a bit, but then those old habits and behaviors came back full force. I kept putting on a happy face for everyone, because that’s what I do, but deep down I wasn’t happy. I gave hundreds of people relationship advice on when to stay and when to go… what was worth working out and what wasn’t, but I wasn’t taking my own advice.
In January of this year, 2019, while I was at a conference for my business in Florida, something clicked within me. I felt different, I felt alive, I felt like myself again. It’s like everything I kept pushing down into the soil was brought to light. I had known all along, but I kept pushing it away and convincing myself I was wrong. I knew I finally needed to let go. I didn’t want to be known as the ‘angry mom’ to my kids. I didn’t want them growing up in a toxic environment where they saw their mom unhappy. It was the moment that I hurt myself and was told, ‘Well that was stupid on your part,’ where I officially decided to get a divorce.
It’s been 6 months since we left. I got my kids and I our own place here on the island and we are thriving! Thankfully, since I have this business I started back in 2014, I’m able to be home with the kids full time as a single mom. I’ve never felt better or happier in my life. It was as if a breath of life was put back into me. People notice. I walk different, I move different, I talk different, I love different. You can see it in my eyes, my smile. I’m happy. I’m confident in who I am and where I’m going. I’m able to discover who I am and who I’m destined to be. I’m no longer being confined in the shell that I’ve been in for so long, 8.5 years to be exact. 8.5 years too long. I can be the best mom that I can be, because my kids deserve that. I can now chase my dreams and show my kids to never give up. Something happened to me on that one day in January, and I will forever remember and be thankful for it.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ashlee Galloway of Galveston Island, Texas. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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