I have learned that everyone has something or will eventually.

I married at nineteen because what I really wanted was to be a mother. That was the most important work I could do. I didn’t know what to do for a career. I could teach music and had my beautician’s license, but didn’t pursue anything.

Within a five year span I had three children. Coming up on our sixth anniversary, my husband came home and seemed different, asking me how I felt about our marriage. He told me he didn’t think that we are happy, that he likes someone at work and wants to pursue that relationship instead.

My youngest was nine-months-old. I was completely devastated. I never thought it would happen. We were living in southern California at the time. I took the children and went to his parents’ house while he stayed at our home, giving him time to think it over.

I should have kicked him out instead of leaving with the kids.

He decided he wanted a divorce.

I had residency in Nevada. The divorce was awful. Awful to tell your children. I remember coming back to the house after the holidays, just wondering what I was going to do. I couldn’t financially take care of myself. This probably set up the next relationship, where I met husband number two about three months after the divorce. We dated for a year before marriage. I had three more children in a seven year span.

Now I’m thirty-one. Met this guy in California then moved to Oregon in 1990. That was seven years of physical and verbal abuse. He would never punch me, but he would push me, shove me. One day while I was eight months pregnant he flipped the mattress I was sitting on and I went flying. He would throw things at me, shove me, get in my way and body block me. Never laid a hand on me though, and in his mind he wasn’t physically abusive because of this. I wanted this relationship to work because now I have six children, thought I loved him, and didn’t have a career. I was a mother.

So here I am in this abusive relationship with a man who, I found out later, was an alcoholic and drug addict. A few years into the marriage he told me. Towards the end of the marriage he went to AA. Nothing ever changed. He would blame me for our problems. I spent all my time looking at him and his faults. I started going to AA myself to see what I could do and began a co-dependent twelve-step program.

It changed my life. I started realizing that this guy is always going to be like this. There’s nothing you can do, I couldn’t change him. He would never give me a healthy relationship.

I’m not the kind of person who tries to change people, but when you are with someone who blames everything they do on you, you start questioning yourself. Because it’s “your fault.” Finally I recognized it isn’t my fault that he leaves our family to do drugs, takes a month of mortgage payments to buy instruments, never had a consistent job, etc.

I didn’t know he was drinking until years after. He never drank around the kids. Whenever he was high I would kick him out of the house. He would go live in the barn on our property that had a little bedroom set up, when we lived in Oregon. I remember finding out that we were going to lose our house because he hadn’t been paying the mortgage, too busy getting high instead.

We would go on and off in our relationship. Whenever he would get mad he would always destroy something of mine. During an argument, I was on the ground and he dragged me by my feet out the door, off the patio, and onto the ground before he ran into the house and tried to lock me out. I called the police and he was arrested. All six of my kids were watching this to some degree. It was awful.

After a discussion with my sister, I packed up my six kids, moved to Texas, and stayed with her for a few months. This is when I began the co-dependent class and self-care, which changed my life.

Of course, he ended up contacting me and visiting.

Let’s try this again, I sold the house, no pressure on us now,” Yada, yada.

After selling the house he gave me some money, but I couldn’t start my daycare business in Texas. I couldn’t get a rental place because I didn’t have an occupation – which would have been the daycare. It felts as though nothing would settle and stay in my life.

Eventually him, myself, and the kids went back to Oregon. On the way we were in a hotel and he got physical. Twisted my arm, grabbing me, yelling.

The first thing I did when we got to Oregon was go to Hud Housing, which is government assisted living. Depending on what you make, they will help you.

The first night we were home he started verbally abusing me again. I was furious and done with this treatment. He was eating a bowl of cereal and I smacked the bowl of cereal in his face, telling him to never talk to me that way again. That morning, he went off to work and I began the process with Hub Housing. Never told him about it. In about six months’ time I was able to find a house, kicked him out, and moved in with my children.

He actually helped me get the house ready because we were still married, and then, with given ultimatums that he couldn’t fulfill, he left. During that time, I divorced him in Oregon and took back what was rightfully mine. I had full custody of kids, he was required to provide minimal child support.

Between Hud Housing and the child support that he occasionally paid, help from my church and food stamps, and the Oregon health care plan, I was able to make ends meet.

It went from full financial security in my first marriage to the second marriage being an absolute crap shoot. We got bags of clothes from people we knew to help us, our cars were always breaking down. Life was a lot harder. My kids called us white trash at one point, but we were really just trying to survive, living day to day.

Being around someone like that makes you go crazy. I was angry at him at one point while holding my child, he was cussing at me, and I threw something into the sliding glass doors in our bedroom. My child began crying and I started thinking I was turning into him. I threw a stool into a wall at one point. It was driving me insane living with this person.

After the divorce, I was working with an after school program and getting a little money from that, but being supported through the state. Then I met husband number three, my oldest daughter’s principal. Which is weird, but anyway. It was during this time I decided that I needed to never want to be married to someone just to make things work. One of the fights I had with him in the beginning was when he came home from work and said his insurance was changing, that there is a new coverage where if either of us die, the money goes to either who is alive. But if both of us died, he said the insurance money should only go to his kids, not mine. His kids could profit off of me, but mine wouldn’t receive anything. That, obviously, was not okay with me.

I quit my job, went to school full time for a degree in education, and said no man will ever tell me how to live ever again.

I was running a successful daycare business during this time. I still had my youngest at home. I went to school full-time online and then worked fifty to seventy hours a week doing the business. Did that for about 2 years before transferring to Oregon State my junior year to finish there. I got my bachelors and my teaching license. Because I was going to school for so long, I got my masters and bachelors in about four and a half years. I was cranking it out.

Meanwhile, during school, my husband was telling me lies about my oldest two children who came from my first marriage. They were rebelling and didn’t like him, and he wanted them out of the house. I believed him. My oldest three then moved in with their father and in retrospect, it was my worst decision to let them move out.

So I had the youngest three and talked to the oldest when I could. It was devastating because they thought I was siding with this man who didn’t have their best interests at heart. He was so different in the community versus at home, he wasn’t a good person.

After I finished my degree, he retired from being a principal. His mom lived in Sparks, Nevada so we moved and I began working at a middle school.

I told him not to tell me how to spend my money on my kids. I didn’t care what he did with his. I think he only helped me pay for two quarters of college, then I needed loans because it was my thing and had nothing to do with him.

When I graduated with my doctorate my debt was about $185,000. No child support because, despite trying, my previous husband couldn’t afford it anymore.

My current husband at the time said if he had known all of this, that there would be no child support, he wouldn’t have married me.

Even though the second husband was abusive, this third did much more damage because of how he acted and treated everyone in the family. Like I said, complete opposite in the community in comparison with us. He was petty and mean and spiteful.

I had moved out with my three youngest at one point because he was such a jerk and I was tired of living with people like this. I got this feeling to move back with him though, so after a few months I did with my kids. Things were better for a bit, but then he was back to his usual negative behavior towards me. He was okay with the younger kids, but would make fun of them – laughing at their mistakes.

I finally had enough of how he treated my children and me.

While my older son was away in Africa for a mission, this husband had his daughter and her husband and their two children move in to his old room. When it was time for my son to come back, my husband would always avoid the conversation and I began to realize that room wasn’t going to be available.

My other son and I were building an attached garage to house a boat, but we converted it into a bedroom for my youngest so bedrooms could still be provided. I started thinking: my son doesn’t feel like a part of the family, my husband’s daughter and her family are here now, and he is awful to us. My son had grown up with him, since we got together when he was two-years-old, so he was basically his dad and yet was so mean to him.

I ultimately said, “I’m done. I don’t need to be around this anymore.

I moved out, divorced him on my own. Walked out of a fourteen year marriage. I didn’t need to be there anymore.

I took just a few items from the house then left. My son and I moved out. We got an apartment, cut all ties. Helped to heal a lot of the hurt he had done to all my children. They were all so happy I had left him. I focused on working on my PhD and being Dean of Students at Hug High School

There are some people who need everyone in their life to look up to them and be put on a pedestal, that was how he lived. And if you weren’t like that to him, he would treat you differently. His love was conditional. He treated me like crap 24/7.

Finally I was able to take care of myself and didn’t want to be in another relationship ever again.

I had a spiritual experience in the LDS temple while going through this divorce. I prayed about it, asking Heavenly Father what to do. LDS culture is to have one marriage and no divorce, and I was putting this guilt of my past on myself.  The only person who was making me feel not worthy was me because I felt I had failed. My main dream in life was to have this wonderful family and here I’d just destroyed family number three.

I felt like, here I am again, what should I do. I remember thinking that I had done everything I could. I prayed, asking if there was anything else I needed to know, and I got the feeling that I should put off my PhD for a while and take care of my kids.

Anything else?” I asked, and distinctly remember having this response of, “You are going to meet a man that is the companion you’ve always wanted.

I couldn’t believe it. “A fourth? No!

In November of 2009 the third marriage divorce was finalized. I was living in an apartment and found a beautiful home in Northwest Reno. I even got to pick out the designs. At Hug HS I was a Super Dean, a licensed teacher in the Dean position with an assistant principal salary. Working hard, I planned to pay my house payment with this. Life was getting better.

December comes, and my son and I are still sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags at the apartment since we left my ex-husband’s without much. So I bought us two beds since the house was getting ready to close. That was a Thursday. Saturday morning was the moving date.

Thursday night I get a call from my mortgage guy.

Um, the bank just dropped you, you can’t get the house. You made a purchase with your credit card and the bank won’t finance the house.

I was blown away. It was devastating. I called up everyone, letting them know the situation. Canceled the U-haul. Then I got called into the principal’s office at Hug and he said he needed to make some changes and because of this my job changed. I was no longer getting the AP stipend. I lost income and the house. I didn’t understand why these things were happening.

January tenth at church a man was giving a talk and I was so impressed I went to talk to him afterwards to show my appreciation because he had a similar story to mine. He emphasized that sometimes we make choices that weren’t the best, but you change your life around and it becomes better. This felt like real talk, incredibly inspirational, and different from normal LDS church convo.

Well, we started talking, one thing led to the next, and we got engaged a week and a half later. I knew this was the guy I was supposed to be with. We both just knew this is the companion you always wanted. And he is. We’ve been married for nine years. He is wonderful, all six of my kids love him.

What I’ve learned through my hardships: I still have what I wanted. I showed my kids that sometimes life is hard and things happen and you have to do the best thing even if we don’t always know what that is. Praying and asking Heavenly Father for help has gotten me through this. I now understand why things happened, all which led me to where I am now. It’s helped me to appreciate what I have.

I think my faith has had the biggest impact on my success. I prayed for food, clothing, and help, which was all received, until I was able to take care of myself. Heavenly Father was there to guide me through it all. One of the best words of advice I received was by my friend, Judy, when I lived in Oregon with husband number two.

I complained about him all the time, and she says, “You know, when you get tired of doing what you’re doing, you’ll do something about it, but until then, enjoy the ride. When you are complaining about your life, sometimes you get off on the pity party.”

When she told me this, I recognized how true it is. Some people never tire of complaining and make the same stupid decisions on this crazy merry-go-round, because jumping off may be a tougher situation with seventy hours a week of work and school and running your own business and living on food stamps all at the same time. If you want to change your life you have got to put your work into it.

I feel incredibly thankful to be where I’m at now. I have a new house, cars that don’t break down, food and clothing, I can help my family, help my children, even pay back my massive loans. There is nothing that can compare to being able to take care of my family.

I bought a Glock  and told my husband if he does anything to me I’ll shoot him. He’s never been around a woman who had been abused before, he was surprised by my comment, but he recognized I meant business. He is still alive. He is a true companion.

Looking at these four marriages, none of them were partnerships except for this current one. I never felt with the other marriages that they had my best interest at heart. I didn’t choose them wisely, I didn’t know what to look for. I owe a lot to the co-dependent meetings that taught me what healthy behavior looks like. It’s not healthy to keep doing things for someone in a relationship only so they do stuff for you in return.

I am thankful for music and piano – playing and listening to music has been such a savior to me, you can feel so much from music. My taste of music changed, when I was going through harder times I listened to heavy metal constantly, but now I listen to more instrumental pieces that link to me spiritually. I am thankful for painting, which is another way for me to shut off the world and focus in on my work. My latest thing is I now have a soap/lotion/candle/scrub business. It’s both artistic and useful.

Another thing I do to bring me peace and happiness is reading the scriptures every day. I have a lot of inspiration and revelation given to me, letting me feel more in tune. That’s been the one big thing that has helped me get through everything. I rely on Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost because bad things happen to good people all the time. How do you treat others and not let these things get you down? Reading the scriptures helps me understand what I’ve gone through and what others have gone through.

I love taking walks in nature. Listening, hearing, smelling the surrounding space. Especially sagebrush after rain.

My children and husband also bring me so much happiness and being able to serve them and others is incredible.

When you serve other people it takes the focus off of what you are going through and reminds you of what others are going through. After I went through marriage two, one of my best friends called me and said I think my husband has been getting into various nefarious things, to which she later ended up leaving him – a man who she had been married to for twenty-two abusive years. I was able to help. After you have been through tragic things, you can help others go through similar events and let them know that life will be okay.

Also, remember to forgive. I certainly have done things that aren’t right, that I needed to forgive myself for, but these three husbands, I asked for help in forgiving them so I’m not stuck in this bitterness where you can’t learn and move forward. You have to forgive the actions. That doesn’t mean they are allowed back in your life, but you need to get yourself in a place where you can forgive them and move forward. That was a huge realization for me. Once I could forgive them for the things that happened – leaving me with three children, leaving me for a drug habit, for being a terrible person, I’m letting it all go.

Life is better and sweeter now that it has ever been.

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