At this point, we’d totally merged our finances, and since Conor had the steady paycheck and his job covered health insurance for both of us, I felt dependent on him. I had spent my own savings supporting us, so I didn’t have any money left, nor did I have the courage to approach my parents or friends for financial help.
This was also compounded by the ongoing physical abuse. Conor first hit me five days before our wedding. I was working at home that day, and I yelled out in frustration because I was having trouble with the computer. He grabbed me by the throat, told me never to yell like that again because it reminded him of his mother (whom he both loved and detested for marrying his abusive stepfather)—and then threw me to the floor.
I figured it was a one-time thing—an accident—until it started happening once a week, twice a week … and then several times a month for the next two years. I should have left him then and there, but I had lost my sense of reality—I didn’t want anyone in my life to know what was happening.
The Day I Finally Decided to Leave
Two years into our marriage, Conor suggested that we go to business school together. Since he had terrible credit, he wouldn’t have been able to get a loan, so it fell to me to pay for both of us. Ultimately, he wanted an MBA to prove his self-worth, and I was too willing to oblige. I was freelancing at the time, so I had to borrow another $30,000 from my father and take out $35,000 in government loans to cover Conor’s tuition and our living expenses for the two years that we were in school.
I thought the court would side with me—the victim. Unfortunately, the system doesn’t work in this way.
Despite the loans, going to business school was actually the best thing that could have happened to me because it broke my isolation. We left New England—renting out our house because we couldn’t sell it for a good price—to attend business school in a thriving city. I loved my classmates and teachers, and I felt like I had worth outside of our marriage for the first time in a long time.
By the second year of school, I got the courage to tell Conor that if he hit me again, I would leave. He didn’t strike me for six months after that, and I began to think that we were going to make it.
I was wrong, of course.
One night, Conor beat me so badly that our neighbors called the cops. I filed a restraining order—and finally told my friends and family what had been happening. It took over a year to get divorced, and it was financially draining.
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At first, I didn’t want to give Conor anything. His lawyer had asked for alimony, since I was working and he wasn’t, but I thought the court would side with me—the victim. Unfortunately, the system doesn’t work in this way. They’re only concerned with dividing the assets, and my lawyer told me that the best way to be done with the whole thing was to pay Conor a lump sum of money to get him to sign the papers and go away. Fighting in court could take five years, he said, and it might end up costing five to ten times as much money in legal fees. At the time, we were almost done with business school, and I didn’t want to drag it out any longer. It was time to move on with my life.