A Letter To Myself On The Day I Left My Husband

I wish I could take you on a tour of our life now.

beautiful woman looking in the mirror Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock

Dear Gwenny,

When I looked at the calendar this morning, it took a moment for the date to register.

Today would have been our 13th anniversary. Instead, it was just a regular Monday. No cards, no dinner out, no hope of getting flowers or jewelry. Just Monday. A non-event.

There's something I want to say to you about that: Thank you. Thank you for saving my life.

I know you know that's what's at stake. I look back at pictures of you before and it's hard to take. I don't know how you did it for so long. Your eyes are close to empty, fading a little more each year. The light, the spark, the fight — none of it is there. You're hardly there. You simply existed, full stop.


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From time to time, people ask me how I managed to get out of my abusive relationship. The story is long, with so many moments that should have been *the* moment, but the real answer is, I don't know. Nearly four years later, and I don't know. I don't know how, when you were just a shell of yourself, a hollowed-out vessel turned paper-thin, liable to crumble into dust at the slightest touch, you managed to do the ballsiest thing you've ever done.

I've blocked a lot of it out by now. I remember the major plot points and some harrowing details.


I remember sobbing in the car outside of the CVS as the torrential rain pelted the windshield and the tornado watch was upgraded to a tornado warning, feeling the metaphor loom large. I remember the look on the therapist's face when she realized she'd been played.

I remember 911 calls and the knife on his side of the bed and the safe busted open.

Again. I remember the best friend, the one who said, "When you're ready, I'm here." And she was.

But how you got out? I don't know. I don't know how you did it, but I'm unspeakably grateful you did.

Because of you, I got to become me.

Right now, you think you're ripping everything apart at the seams: that's accurate, but not in the way you think. What you're ripping apart are the ties that have bound you — not only for the last nine years, but for your entire life.


You're breaking free.

You see, when you decide to get really honest about one part of your life, you end up getting really honest about all the other parts, too. There's no stopping it. As skilled as you are at compartmentalizing, you can't do that with real, gritty, down-in-the-dirt honesty. It's messy.

But that honesty is going to shine light on things that have been tucked in the dark corners for a long time and it's going to get ugly. And after the ugliness, it's going to be OK.

It's like when you clean out a jumbled closet and you have to make a giant mess of things before you can create order. That's what you're doing to your life right now — unpacking, examining, purging, keeping the good stuff, and giving it room to breathe. Some of it's going to be hard to let go of, but you'll be amazed by how light you feel when you're not lugging it around anymore.


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With the perspective and distance of a few years' time, you're probably expecting advice about what to do from here. (Actually, you're probably not. You don't give advice. I do.) But as it turns out, I think you did a pretty alright job navigating it all.

I mean, yeah, you messed up in some inventive ways, but welcome to making your own decisions.

What I wish I could do is give you a glimpse into your future. I wish I could take you on a tour of our life now, when you are me and we are happy. Yes, happy.

I know that you've always thought happiness was just some aspirational BS people pretended to have in anything other than flickers, but baby girl, happiness is a real thing and we have it in spades.


I wish you could see what you're going to work your behind off to build. It's nowhere near perfect and, frankly, it's not even ideal, but it's pretty wonderful anyway.

You wouldn't recognize this life — mostly because it's not a life made to please anyone else. It's yours. Entirely.

You will have a job you love so much you don't like taking days off, and you will get it because you relentlessly pursued it.

You will have more projects and opportunities than any reasonable person would entertain saying yes to, but you will say yes anyway to make up for lost time.

You will have a home filled with things you like, which, by the way, means you will know what you like. Imagine that.


More importantly, you will have a home teeming with love. Not the Hallmark card sort, but the say-what-you-feel, fight-through-together, sit-with-you-at-your-worst, do-it-again-tomorrow sort of love.

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You'll end a lot of evenings lying in bed with one or both of your beloved monsters, nose-to-nose, snickering or snuggling or storytelling or shushing, inhaling their rapidly-receding childhood.

You'll have that soul-filling knowing that comes when you can see that they're OK and their home is no longer broken. And you will finally, finally be at peace.

I wish you could see that this hard and lonely road you're staring down won't always be lonely.


You will find your people and you will dive deep with them. Your circle of women will gather around fires and tables and each other, manifesting what you've longed for for so long.

They will become family. Against all odds, they will make this alien place feel like home. You won't believe how loved you will be.

Speaking of love ... actually, no. That's better left to discovery. Just know that you will experience it — the genuine kind, unsullied by sordid motives or undercurrents of control. It'll knock you off your axis and help you find your center, and come at exactly the wrong moment, which will help make everything more right.

Right now, you're scared. You're traumatized. You're running on empty. You don't know what the future holds; you only know that you have to change its course.


I want you to know walking away will be more worth it than you can possibly imagine.

The emperor has no clothes and now you know it's going to be fine. It's going to be so much more than fine — it's going to be beautiful and complex and freeing. Right now you think that whatever lies ahead can't be much worse than what has been but in reality, it will be infinitely better.

What lies ahead is you learning to ask for more. What lies ahead is you realizing that much like Dorothy in Oz, you had the power all along; you just didn't know it. What lies ahead is knowing it.

Starting here, you stop existing and you start living. And I can't thank you enough.



The You You're About to Become

(P.S. Don't worry about your post-baby chest. Turns out, everyone's looking at that behind.)

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Gwen Hutchings is a writer, content strategist, and editor.