My father was a veteran of WW II. He obviously had post-traumatic stress syndrome. During the war he was hospitalized for frozen hands and feet, shell shock, and a broken shoulder. Then, when a bomb went off, he was injured by shrapnel that pierced his body and they could not remove the piece that lay close to his spinal cord.
After healing, he was sent back to the Battle of the Bulge and other situations.
All through my childhood my four sisters and I suffered the difficulty of his self-medicating alcoholism that took all the money that would have supported our family. He loved working in the woods, but because of his addiction, what little he worked or made usually went to the tavern to pay his bar bills. He then came home to say this is all I have left. So mainly, my mother raised us on her minimum wage paycheck.
My mother contacted the Veterans Administration to see what she would get if she divorced him. She was told she would get nothing. So she had to suffer for more than 50 years in a loveless marriage that contributed to her two nervous breakdowns.
Many awful things happened, and one was when I was in 5th grade when he got out a shotgun and ordered us all into our bedrooms. We huddled in our rooms with our mom; he was in the bathroom... then the gun went off and our mother cried out... she ran down the hallway to find him saying it was an accident -- he didnt mean to do it -- the gun accidently went off and went through the ceiling. It scared him too and he put the gun away and told us over and over it was an accident.
You see my father didnt want to kill himself, he only wanted to scare us, to control our emotions in this strange way, to see how he could make us be frightened (in the same way he was frightened during the war?). He was scared to lose control.
After that and another gun incident, my mother took the guns out of the house and asked a relative to keep them. My mother also asked the VA: If he died before she did, how much would she get to support herself? They told her $40. Well, there was no way she could live on $40 plus her $325 Social Security check, so she knew if she survived him, shed have to get SSI, and maybe food stamps. The stress was incredible, and she survived five cancer surgeries and then died one year before he died.
I married very young (too young) at the age of barely 17. Perhaps it was a way to escape that life. Right from the start my marriage was one of emotional abuse, then a few months later, right after the birth of our first child, my husband began physically abusing me.
The abuse happened three times a week for 10 years and then at least once or twice a week. I couldnt take it anymore and finally stood up to him and told him if he hurt me again, Id have him put in jail. So after 19 years he stopped hitting me, but the emotional abuse never stopped -- it just got less as he got older.
It was just too hard, and after our children were all raised and moved out, I got a divorce. When he left me he didnt give me any money to pay our debts, so I went to court and he made it look like he had no money. He was self-employed, in a business I had worked with him side-by-side through 18 years. He wouldnt allow me to get a job until the children were teenagers, and then it was okay for me to work with him, plus three other part time jobs. It was okay, because we lived in a small town where he could keep track of me. He made me wear a beeper and then a cell phone. The emotional abuse was worse than the hitting, beating, and slaps.
The Friend of the Court said the defendent has nothing to give, so there is no judgement of payment to the plaintiff. I had a part-time, minimum wage job, had just had a hysterectomy a few days before, my mother died the same week, and now the Friend of the Court in Traverse City said, I suggest you get another job!
I was shocked. No one cared what I had been through.
But I made it five months, waiting for the house to sell and the divorce to be final. All the hard work and home equity went to pay off our debts, with nothing left for each of us to start our new lives.
I paid minimum payments and used credit cards to get by. I wanted our good credit rating to stay intact to help each of us in our new lives. The court did not even make him pay me back half the money I earned that paid those bills during the time of separation when I paid bills and he paid nothing to me, but did buy an expensive engagement ring for another lady.
In the divorce I asked for $200 a month alimony to help me get started in my new life for two years. I was turned down.
I was so shocked because he was able to convince the court that he was doing poorly, when before that, he was netting $36,000 a year. But the court didnt want to hear any of it.
I tried to tell them, I have no college degree. He has skills to earn much more than me. I have talked to several ladies who have been awarded alimony for two years to help them get started and I am shocked that the courts can do as they please -- different rules for different people.
My attorney said: They dont care about anything that happened. All the court cares about is what money you have to split, and what debt you have to split.
I dont spend time having regrets; I am only happy to have found freedom from that abuse.
Now, a person could say that my fathers post-traumatic stress syndrome caused me to escape my home and get into that bad situation. It is true. I had poor self-esteem, I was timid and submissive. BUT, I realize it was my fault too, that I should have found a way to get out of that marriage, especially in the beginning. But I didnt.
So, that doesnt make me any different than millions of other people. I was married to him for 33 years. I have worked, stayed debt-free, and bought a house with low wages and self-discipline, knowing how to make a budget and live within it. It isnt easy, but a person can start over. I certainly was not asking for alimony for the rest of my life!