THE DECISION TO LEAVE WAS A HARD ONE, BUT HEALTHY ONE
In our latest feature for our Real Women of Revealed Series, Courtney S. shares how walking away from her marriage was one of the hardest things she’s ever done, but also the healthiest, leading to freedom after a controlling relationship.
The first thing you notice about Courtney is her vibrant red hair, followed closely by her raspy, unbridled laugh. Spend just ten minutes with her, and you’ll feel like you’re old friends. She is uninhibited, spunky, and the perfect amount of inappropriate.
It’s hard to picture, but less than two years ago, this ball of fire felt trapped in an unhealthy relationship, yearning to get out.
Back then she was like a faded version of herself, self-conscious of every action, filtering what she said and how she moved for fear of critique from her husband.
When I finally stepped outside of it, I realized, this is not me and I’m becoming a part of something that I don’t believe in.
Her breaking point came when during a trip they took with friends, someone asked, ‘how can you be with someone so verbally and mentally abusive?”
At the time, so used to living with her every move questioned, hearing an outsider make note of his controlling behavior struck like an ember to her skin.
I thought, “Oh my God, other people know? I’m not the one creating these problems, the anger, the unpleasantness. And then when I finally stepped outside of it, I realized this is not me. I’m becoming part of something I don’t believe in.”
Courtney says, it’s like this experience, “When you see yourself from a different view. I didn’t even realize what had happened in that relationship until other people had said them to me.”
“I was going to be 30 and in my head, I kept saying, I’m not going to be 30 and still doing this. I can’t. Thirty is going to be for me. I can’t let this person run my life and tell me what I’m gonna be.”
HOW SHE SURVIVED THE DIVORCE
When Courtney told her husband she was leaving, she said she felt relief and a sense of freedom. Still, there were days she was weepy and emotional, and others where she thought she could climb a mountain. It was a roller coaster of emotions. All of a sudden she was on her own again. She felt fear about the unknown, but when it came down to it, she knew she’d figure it out. “You have to.”
Over the last year and a half, she slowly reconnected with herself. While with her ex-husband, they lived in a dark, garden apartment that felt like a dungeon to her. Now she has a third floor unit with lots of windows. “I’m obsessed with light. [The lack of light] is very signifying of our relationship.”
After feeling like everything was held over her, being able to say, “this is me ,” was a significant change. “My whole wall was all Ani Difranco posters and the girliest shi*t I could have.”
She did a lot of journaling and focused on letting go of the guilt she carried with her after leaving.
My mom said, I never realized how unhappy you were until I saw how happy you are now.
Slowly but eventually, the vibrant Courtney you see in these pictures began to take shape. She came to realize “that I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was. Just to be myself is freeing in a lot of ways. I’m going to be sensitive, I’m going to cry, and that’s ok. It’s very freeing to just be able to be you.”
For any other woman struggling in an unhealthy relationship, Courtney says the best thing you can do is “go with your gut. If it’s telling you something’s not right, there’s a reason. The other side of your brain might be saying ‘no, it’s ok…’ and sometimes things are good on paper, but if you’re feeling it, there’s a reason.”
She knows other women might feel like they’re letting themselves or other people down by leaving, but “They’re gonna love you no matter what you do.”
When asked what the experience of being photographed was like, “it’s symbolic that you start fully clothed, and slowly you take off a little more and become a little more comfortable. You shed a little of your outer shell, protective barrier and by the end you feel like you.”
We’re so happy to feature Courtney as part of our on-going series, Real Women of Revealed -a collection of photos and stories of inspirational women we feel exemplify beauty beyond appearance. Click here to see more from this series.