real life

"He wanted retribution." For five years, I was trapped in my marriage. Because of money.

My husband doesn’t believe I will ever leave him.

“Why would you leave the Golden Goose?” he asks. A self-inflated nod to ‘his’ financial success.

But I do leave — believing this will free my children from a bad situation. Or perhaps I should say ‘I try to leave.’

I retain a lawyer to file for divorce. Unwittingly beginning a terrifying five-journey.

Watch: Robin Bailey and Bec Sparrow share why their first marriages were big mistakes. Post continues below. 

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The starting point of the divorce avalanche.

Grocery and school supply money is immediately withheld.

My ten-year-old Volvo is left at the service station for weeks at a time. I am at his mercy for getting my kids where they need to go and forced to borrow my neighbour’s car.

My husband says, “Get a job.”

I say, “I need a car to get to work.”

He says, “You wanted to leave me, you get yourself a car.”

I say, “I need a car to get a job and I need a job to buy a car.”

He refuses to send our oldest son back to university. Shortly after, I begin to receive foreclosure notices. Our pediatrician’s office calls to say my children are no longer insured.

There are knocks on our door with warrants in debt. Cars line our cul de sac. The voyeurs who get wind of potential foreclosures. A slew of other unwanted visitors arrive — mortgage company representatives, appraisers, and others.

The more I beg my husband to stop the more he throws at me. The more I solve one problem he creates another.


He does not want divorce or resolution — he wants retribution.

I become afraid to use my debit card. The humiliation of being turned away at the supermarket is degrading. I check and recheck balances in our joint account. I no longer take my children to the store. I don’t want them to experience any more than they already have.

I repeatedly ask my husband the same question.

“When are you going to decide you love the children more than you hate me?”

The unpredictability is beyond anxiety-inducing.

One day the electricity may be turned off and the next the reinstated health insurance non-existent.

I end up in the emergency room multiple times with surface blood clots. My internist says stress must be playing a part in this and urges me to finalise my divorce.

My husband is unphased by my health issues and sleep deprivation. Sadly, he is equally unphased by the trauma he is causing to our children.

It’s all fair in his mind because as he says, “I started the war.”

Mamamia’s award-winning podcast The Split discusses navigating separation. Post continues after audio.

My kids are smart. They realise there were zero financial issues before their mother retained a lawyer. They understand two adults not getting along. Yet it is impossible to understand how their father is willing to hurt them to hurt their mother.

But the Golden Goose wants to keep all of ‘his’ riches. And nothing is more important to him than the money. Not his children. Not doing right by the mother of his children. Not right and wrong. Not legal or illegal.

Winning. Only winning. And money.

And to do so, the divorcing man has a well-devised plan to keep what he calls ‘his’ money. He takes out credit cards in my name. He forges my name on documents and loans. He ruins my credit. He threatens bankruptcy. He refuses to hire a lawyer — says he is too broke. He says all of our retirement and savings are gone and his income drastically lowered.

As sinister as this is, remember the emotional and financial abuser sees the world through a twisted lens.

The message my husband is trying to send? “Kids there would be plenty of money if your mother hadn’t left me or if your mother would get a job.”


The abuser neglects the facts. The business I helped ‘him’ build. The years I raised our children. The years I managed the bills for the business, the investment properties, and the house. The years I dealt with everything from negotiating car purchases to insurance policies to mortgages.

And perhaps most importantly, that twice we made a joint decision for me to step away from my income. Once in our twenties to build a business and again to raise our children.

Year four of the divorce my husband is finally willing to retain a lawyer. It seems he was waiting for our youngest to finish high school. The proper way for a ‘good’ man to avoid paying child support.

How does this story end?

He got away with it all.

Call me crazy. Call me foolish. Call me trusting. Call me naive. But in a million years it never occurred to me that the ‘great’ guy I met in Catholic university at 19 had been lying to me throughout the years of our marital troubles.

He had been hiding money from the moment I told him I was unhappy.

From the moment he convinced me it was time to let him take over paying the bills. But that’s the next story I will write. The one that will follow this one. How I discovered he had been hiding money long before I left.

How did I let this happen?

The mistake I made was handing over the bills.

It became my undoing — not knowing exactly what our financial status was.

And being a stay at home mother, unfortunately, made me more vulnerable to this type of abuse.

I left with zero savings and zero retirement.

I am unable to qualify for credit cards to meet any type of emergency expense. I couldn’t find a homeowner to rent to me. Instead, I had to move to an apartment building where my son’s credit could offset mine.

I am rebuilding my life — my children are rebuilding theirs. The one that should never have been interrupted.

The goose is happy. He got away with the golden egg. Or should I say he got away with what he calls ‘his’ golden egg?

Maybe one day someone will remind him of the moral of that story.

This post originally appeared on Medium and was republished here with full permission. You can read more from Colleen Sheehy Orme on Medium, or find her on Instagram and Facebook.