Over 9-1/2 years, I left numerous times, and ended up going back for one reason or another each time. Each time I left, I thought I was done. I really, truly did. But this time was... different.
The porn had something to do with it. The confirmation of his cheating had something to do with it. The sexually-based, completely inappropriate 750+ pictures on his computer, that he'd taken with his camera phone, of unsuspecting female co-workers (on company time) were part of it. The lies, the money-mismanagement, the manipulation, the isolation, the gas-lighting, all these things were a part of it. A PP mentioned her man told her that "men were smarter than women"; mine told me he "owned" me by virtue of that ring on my finger. I could not cut my hair, buy a new shirt or think of a tattoo without his knowledge or approval, because it was not MY body... it was HIS.
None of this, though, over nearly a decade of my life and 3 kids, was enough to finally break the cycle. Believing he probably molested my then 2-year old daughter... I felt I had no choice in 2008, backed into a corner, I went back even then. The cycle is so ridiculously hard to break, no one gets that unless you have been there... but there was finally a moment.
Last May, after I found those pictures of his co-worker, I sat on the information until I could bear it no longer. I confronted him and threatened to expose what he'd been doing at work. He attacked me. Not the first time, certainly, but the worst time. He choked me nearly to unconsciousness. When he let go, I realized my youngest child was watching. The older two, ages 7 and 4, were in the bedroom, also watching from down the hall, screaming and crying for Daddy to stop, but the baby, not quite 2, was silent. He was about two feet away, simply staring with wide, calm eyes.
Because, to him, this wasn't anything abnormal. Violence upon women was being engraved into his soul, just as it had been engraved into his father's.
I didn't leave then, it took another 2 months and another violent attack, but I never stopped seeing those dark, solemn baby eyes watching what I had believed at that moment would turn into a murder. My murder. And I knew if I stayed that eventually it would become that. Also that my son would internalize that behavior as expected, normal. The cycle would repeat.
Now I am out. I knew it would be hard and being familiar with my own weaknesses, I ensured I was in a place where returning would be even harder. I've surrounded myself with supportive, loving family nearly 1000 miles away, in another state, and I made sure that the STBX lost his job over those photos he took, as well as making sure the vehicle came with me.
Not every bad relationship will have that kind of epiphany moment - I certainly never had one in all the times I left before. Even this time, it didn't really hit me until the assault in August, that the baby didn't even see, that it was not just getting worse, but getting worse at such a rapid pace it seemed my life was in danger.
This time I know I will succeed. And that I deserve better, even if better means "single." I'm feeling proud of that right now.