At this point in time, we were about three years into our marriage and a little over a year from when we would actually divorce. We would travel often, using vacations and traveling as a way to avoid dealing with our issues. When we were away from everyone, I was isolated and he had more control over me. In the same way, I felt more at ease because when he was in control, he was calmer. And when he was calmer, I had less anxiety. Each part fed off of each other; it was a vicious cycle we were spinning in.
Inevitability, we went away on a vacation again this time, to Dubrovnik, Croatia. Along the deep blue Mediterranean Sea, the very old city of Dubrovnik is surrounded by walls that ride over 80 feet tall with city streets made of marble. The locals take great pride in keeping their city perfectly clean. They were always sweeping, cleaning, or polishing the streets. There were always tons of people walking around, eating in the city, poking around at the shops, and enjoying everything that it’s beauty had to offer. The old town of Dubrovnik is one of the most favorite spots I have ever been.
The vacation went well. We did lots of things that he wanted to do, and I was submissive to avoid any confrontation. I was too scared to have an opinion or do anything to upset him at this point. We would eat at restaurants he wanted to go to, shop at places he wanted to see – we ran according to his schedule of wants and needs. On the last night of the trip after dinner, he wanted to go to the casino (not my cup of tea because it meant he would spend and essentially lose more money). Even though I didn’t want to go, we had a decent trip and I didn’t want it to end on a bad note. I figured it would be a compromise and off we went. When we arrived, the casino looked very grand on the outside. But once we got inside, things seemed much smaller. We entered into the main room which was filled with slot machines. There were 2 other people playing on what must have been 500 slot machines. My (ex) husband wanted to play table games, as usual, so we walked to the back of the slot room into the table games room. We entered the room and saw there was one roulette table and ten dealer tables, of which only four of them currently had a dealer. It was pretty small, and there were probably only 8 other people in the room actually gambling.
At that point, he turned to me and told me he wanted to play poker and be left alone. So, there I am, on a vacation that I had paid for in an attempt to spend time together, and he wanted to sit there and spend my money at the casino while I just sat there by myself. This wasn’t the first time he had done this with casinos, it was usually why I tried to avoid them. Yet again, I felt like I didn’t matter and felt abandoned. But, I didn’t want to do anything to upset him because I didn’t matter enough to myself. I decided to have a drink to wash my feelings away. In the table room still, I walked over to the bar, grabbed a cocktail, and headed back out into the slot room by myself.
As I walked out, I noticed the slot machine room was completely empty and dark. It seemed perfectly fitting for how I was feeling. I sat down at one of the slot machines with my rum and coke in hand. It was at this point that I noticed that the slot machines were all turned off, figured that is why no one was in the room anymore. I thought to myself, this really sucks…here I am in this beautiful place thousands of miles from home as a newlywed with my husband and I feel more alone and empty than I have even felt in my life. As I sipped down my drink and my feelings, I didn’t want to feel sad or pity myself. I decided that this was my vacation, too, and I made the decision to have my own fun and gamble, too.
I stood up from the slot machine in the dark and empty room and walked back over into the table game room. I stood in the doorway and saw my (ex) husband sitting at the same poker table, his chip stack running low, and his back to me. I looked to my right and noticed that the very first table was open…3-card poker, and there were two other older gentleman playing at the table. I walked over, sat down, took out some money, and began to play. I had never played 3-card poker before, but thought it would be fun to learn how to play. The dealer explained the rules, and it wasn’t long before I had gotten the hang of it. A few hands and another rum and coke later, my (ex) husband came over to my table and sat beside me. He had lost all of the money I had given him to play with and he wanted to go. I, however, was having fun and winning. I figured I had sucked it up all vacation and after all, he was the one that wanted to go to the casino. I had left him alone just as he asked, he could compromise for a little bit and hang. I also, still had a drink I wanted to finish, “Come on, I gave you your time,” I pleaded. I could sense he was frustrated, but he said he was ok to stay for a few more hands.
The next hand was dealt and I looked at my cards…all diamonds, an Ace, King, and Queen. I loudly and happily announce, “I won!” before anyone else picked up their cards. For those of you that don’t know 3-card poker, this was one of the top hands a person could have! I was so excited, so happy, so high! I ended up winning about 400 euro on that hand, and that’s when my (ex) husband demanded we leave. I, of course, wanted to play longer. “Can’t we stay for a couple more hands?” I asked.
“No, we are going. Come on let’s go now,” he said firmly. He grabbed my chips off the table and stood up. The dealer called out to him and told him he could not take my chips off of the table, only I could be the one to touch my chips. This statement to correct his behavior did not sit well with him. Being that he saw himself as the alpha-male, he was unaccepting of another person telling him what to do when it came to how he treated his women/attempted to control me. He gave me a look as he put my chips back down in front of me. I knew that look all too well and knew we had to leave. He didn’t like being corrected in general, let alone in front of me and the two other older gentleman that were still playing at the table with me. We promptly cashed out my chips and left.
On the car ride back to the hotel, he shit-talked the dealer the entire way. I didn’t want to hear him complain, and after all he gambled all of the time so he knew the rules about touching someone else’s chips. This was not new information to him, but he had to put this man down and shit talk him as much as possible in order to feel better about himself. I sat there and agreed with what he said in hopes of building his ego back up, helping him to calm down, and hoping he would soon forget what had happened. I didn’t want there to be a fight, after all this was our last night in Croatia. I wanted us to end the trip on a good note. Ten minutes later, we were in our hotel parking lot. We parked, and began walking toward the hotel. The parking lot was dark, but as we approached the hotel, the moon was brightly shinning down on us. As we walked down the pathway and got closer to the hotel entrance, the hotel was on our left, and the Mediterranean Sea was on our right. It was a beautiful, peaceful night and still pretty early. I suggested “Let’s take a stroll down the beach.” I could think of nothing more romantic and nothing better to help me feel more connected to him, especially after I was feeling so lonely and disconnected earlier.
He replied firmly, “No, we are going to bed.”
“Aw, come on! Let’s go, it’s so beautiful out.” I asserted with a smile. After all, we had done what he wanted the entire trip, the least he could do would be to go on a 5 minute walk with me, maybe kiss me under the moonlight, before we head back up to our hotel room.
“No, give me the key, I’m going in,” he said with an attitude.
I pouted, “Fine, then I’m going to go for a walk by myself.” I was hoping he would realize all of the compromises I made for him and that he would change his mind.
I turned away from him and began to walk away. I must have taken about four steps forward when I felt my grey and yellow coach crossbody bag tug around my neck so tightly that it caused me to spin around 180 degrees. I was now looking at my (ex) husband in the face, his eyes large and dark. He screamed, “Give me the fucking key!”
It all happened so fast. I felt angry and scared at the same time. I took my hands and grabbed my purse, which was still in his hands. I yanked it back towards me as hard as I could and upon relief, gasped for air. I grew enraged, “What is your fucking problem?” As much as I would like to say my self-confidence kicked in, it was probably my frustration and alcohol that gave me that vigor. He grabbed my purse again from my hands and yanked it from me, pulling the crossbody strap tighter around my neck. It went back and forth like this a few times like a tug of war.
Some of what happened next is a blur. I don’t remember if I threw the hotel room key at him, my entire purse, or what. But my goal was to get my purse off from around my neck and body so he wouldn’t keep yanking it because it felt like I was getting pushed around and choked. There were words that went back and forth between both of us, and then he took his ring off and said he didn’t want to be married to me anymore. He took a few steps closer to the water, wound his arm back, and (pretended, which I found out later) to throw his wedding band far into the Mediterranean Sea.
As I watched him in front of me, with the moonlight shining down, as we stood in between the Mediterranean Sea and our hotel, I was in disbelief again. How could this happen again? You really can’t make this up. And why was I staying? For what purpose and what reason? It was clear to me that this was an incredibly unhealthy relationship. How unhealthy did that make me for staying in it? What was my part in all of this? As all of these thoughts rushed through my head, I dropped down to my knees in the sand. I was completely devastated and began to cry hysterically.
We had been in situations like these together before, after all this wasn’t the first time he threatened divorce, took his ring off, and pretended to throw it away. As much as I was devastated in that moment, I knew this was another tantrum; I knew we would eventually reconcile, only for something like this to happen all over again. Our marriage had literally become the exact definition of domestic abuse: things would be really good, tension would build, then there would be a horrible be all-end all fight, then we would reconcile and things would seem amazing for a little bit, tension would build, then another big blow up, reconcile – and round and around we would go.