There are so many steps to take when getting out of a toxic relationship, especially when it’s gone on for nearly 20 years, and two children are involved.

For me, the hardest – and first – was finally realizing that what I considered normal was actually a distorted, unhealthy reality that I could no longer tolerate for myself, or the kids.

So it was time to consider my options. This was hard. I was settled, and although I knew I didn’t want to be around the ex, I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want my kids to have to move. I didn’t know what would happen with my job and was reluctant to give up all the activities which rooted us in the community.

I did understand that careful planning was necessary, and equally important was… money.

It took me a couple of years to figure out what to do and how, but when I was able to finally get the ex to physically leave the house, I was emotionally ready to move on.

“I’m free!” I thought, until papers were filed, and all hell broke loose. 

The next year was full of nonstop legal battle, as well as approximately $100,000 in bills, which I will be paying back for decades. I looked forward to the day that I’d finally get the divorce, which I believed would guarantee an easier, more peaceful existence. How wrong I was!

Soon after papers were signed, I was back in the legal system, where I have remained: more than seven years have passed since the beginning of my trying to get away from this monster.

How could this be?

Well, after quickly learning that my ex was no ally and he became a “deadbeat dad,” I devoted my life to ensuring that he adhered to the divorce agreement. 

If he refused to be emotionally supportive and present for our kids, the least I could do was hold him financially responsible.

I speedily learned to prepare for more war in court, and, having no money to spend, took him head-on myself.

I am now a veteran of the legal system; in less than three years, I have had more than 50 court appearances in two states, while largely representing myself (pro se”).

And despite having no degree in law, with outside help and support, I have been able to rack up countless successes in the courtroom against a slew of lawyers whose behavior has mirrored that of my sociopathic ex, and judges who couldn’t care less.

I have not only saved at least half a million dollars in legal fees, but have learned how strong and articulate I can be when required. 

I have discovered how to stand up for myself – not just against a toxic ex-husband, but an entire family court system that largely allows abusive behavior to take center stage.

Is this topic front and center for you right now? BTGO has an interactive workshop that goes far beyond what we cover in this post. Learn more.

The strength I gained from this experience has carried into other areas of my life. Extracting myself from an abusive marriage, raising two teens as a sole parent while battling in court and trying to run two businesses, has allowed me to build tremendous resilience.

It has also given me the opportunity to show my children by example that even though life is inherently unfair, justice is worth fighting for.

I have had several triumphs, and many moments of sheer anxiety, but yesterday was a VICTORY!

After a grueling, remote three-hour court session, I was finally able to get some tough New York court orders with TEETH. (The Connecticut ones were meaningless on paper, as no one enforced any of the promised consequences). 

COVID–19 has been brutal, but, on the bright side, it has slowed things down. Even though the courts are overwhelmed right now, a fair and patient judge took the time to thoroughly examine the issues of this dragged out my case… and I should finally and swiftly be able to collect most of the huge debt owed to my family since 2018 by the narcissist I was once married to.

I’m going back for the rest of it, armed with years of experience under my belt, and a long list of scathing court orders formally documenting his despicable behavior.

Who woulda thunk?

Being in, and especially leaving a toxic relationship can be BRUTAL. But there can be many silver linings, most of which you can’t even imagine. For me, it was an incredible opportunity to discover strengths and talents I never would have realized had I remained in the grips of someone whose only goal was to disrespect, control, and destroy me.

I’m certain the narcissist I was once married to for nearly half my life – and his flying monkeys (if he even has any left) are reading this. And I’m sure he’s continuing to try to paint himself as the victim.

But who cares? Who’s listening anymore?

Editor’s note: If abuse in the legal system is an issue in your life, and you’d like to know more – especially what you can do about it – consider viewing our interactive workshop, Stalking by Way of the Court: Abuse in the Legal System, which is available in BTGO’s Sanity School now.