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  • Writer's pictureAs Told To Veronica Wells-Puoane

Why I Left: God Told Me To Run!

African American woman, toxic relationships, marriage, african american woman thinking, no sugar no cream mag
Mike Von, Unsplash

I was with him since I was 15. We’re from a small town in Louisiana and we met when I was in the ninth grade. By the time I was in the 10th grade, I got pregnant with my first child. So we just stayed together. And you know teenage love, it was toxic from the beginning. We tried to make it work and it got worse and worse.

As teenagers, there was cheating, talking to other people. I don’t know myself. He don’t know who he is. Then there was college, fraternities, sororities, we went through all of that.

We were together ten years before we got married. He felt like he was ready and I knew I was ready but he wasn’t all that ready because he was still doing what he wanted to do.

And of course, I’m not putting anything all on him. We were in a relationship and I had the mentality of, ‘If you can do it to me, I can do it you.’ But of course I was in my teenage years and my early twenties.

We moved to Shreveport, which is an hour north of where we’re from. So it was like a start over. But when I moved to Shreveport with him, I learned he had another girl pregnant. (1)

At the time, I thought well because I cheated, this was his “get back.” He got me back.

That’s how that started.

After that, we got married in 2009.

He got me back.

NSNC: You got married after he got someone else pregnant?

Yes…I’m telling you I’m a work in progress. That ain’t the cake.

I got married in 2009. Everything was perfect to me. We got pregnant. We wanted to try for a girl (after the son they had when they were in high school.) I thought two kids and I’ll be done. Perfect. By our one year anniversary, I was pregnant with our second son.

I had our son in June 2010. In March of 2011, I found out he had another son the same age as my son. (2)

My son was born June 2010, another child was born in August of 2010.

Being a newlywed and scared, I stayed. I wanted to talk through it. You know I’m a Southern girl. I just felt like. ‘Okay, you made this mistake.’ But I’m not going to lie, it was so—oh God, it broke me. I just reverted back to that old person. He didn’t want to talk about it, none of that. And what he wasn’t giving me—I went and had an affair. It was only about sex. I don’t know why I did it. I’m better than that and I learned from it.

Of course, he found out and he got another girl pregnant. (3) Our marriage was on the rocks for 2-3 years and all along, I’m thinking this is my fault because I cheated.

NSNC: So, this is the third baby he’s had in addition to the children he has with you?

Yes, one was before we got married. I do count him as my stepson. I have a relationship with him. I know it’s weird but I just felt like we weren’t married…

I’m going to be honest, I stayed because of my kids. I come from a household where my parents were divorced. I wanted to give my kids something that I didn’t have. We both worked hard. We both have careers and we built a life for our kids. So momma was suffering for her kids, that’s what I told myself.

We built our dream home. I had a career in banking. I wasn’t making a lot of money but I made enough to do what I wanted to do because of course, he was the breadwinner. I never had to worry about anything financially so that’s why I stayed.

And another baby was born in my marriage. (4)

NSNC: So, we’re at 4.

Yes. I was numb at this point. But I was preparing myself because I was like this is on you. What are you going to do? He said, I think we should separate and let all of this come out. And Veronica, I’m not lying to you, I heard God say, ‘Run!’

So I agreed to the separation and I left. And it’s been a year. I started therapy in September of 2019 and I was literally going three times a month. I was going once a week. It’s been a blessing.

I heard God say, ‘Run!’

NSNC: There were so many different instances of him cheating. Did you always know?

Yes, I accepted it. He had a pattern. I know it’s weird for me to say he was never disrespectful. But it was never anybody calling my house, showing up to my house. The women that he had, he controlled them. I was never bothered. The only reason I found out about these kids is because he told me. I wouldn’t know about these kids unless he told me.

But he had a pattern on the weekends. Fridays were our date night. Saturdays we hung around the house, did whatever, got in the pool. I always got this anxious feeling around 7-10 pm because he would get up and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to go to the casino.’ I’ve never been the type of woman to question anything because I believe it was Toni Braxton who said, ‘What are you going to do when you get that information? Are you going to leave?’ I knew I wasn’t going to leave so I never went looking for anything. I knew it but I never asked.

NSNC: When you left, you didn’t make an announcement, you just left?

It was an agreement. He said we should separate. He said, ‘I’ll pay your rent for a year.’ The deal was we would separate for a year and get back together. I let him think that and I thought that too. You have to realize, being in a relationship for 20 years, letting someone do this to you, I was mentally abused. Never physical, never physical. But mentally abused.

I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll give it a year.’ But I heard God say run and I ran and I’m not going back, ever. My divorce [was] final on November 2, 2020.

I know it’s weird but he’s my family. He’s my kids’ dad. He’s a wonderful dad, great dad, provider. He just wasn’t a good husband to me. And I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t a good wife to him during certain times. And when he couldn’t forgive…If I could forgive humans having whole humans, I felt like him not forgiving me and holding it over my head, it justified what he was doing. It gave him solace. That was his ammo.

NSNC: How did the mental abuse play out?

I was never told I’m pretty. He said, ‘I don’t tell you you’re pretty or compliment your outfit because I know that will go to your head.’ Or he’d say, ‘You’re the reason I do this.’ You did this and you did that. He’d say, ‘You stay on social media. You stay on your phone.’ Things like that. He was controlling.

I knew I wasn’t going to leave so I never went looking for anything.

NSNC: While all this was going on, did friends and family know or were all of the children kept between the two of you?

They didn’t know. They knew only about one. So when this last one came, I was done. My family accepted his first son. They bought him Christmas gifts. They accepted him because that was before our marriage. I told my cousins. But I didn’t tell a lot of family my business because Ima be there. The deal was, you keep that shit away from me, my family and my boys and we’ll be good. It can’t affect us.

My best friend knew. She’d say, ‘If you’re going to be there, it’s going to be some stuff you got to take.’ And this last one, when I told her, I was just numb.

I found out about this last child, January 10, 2019. And it was for a white girl, Veronica.

NSNC: Stop! Gurl, no!

And it’s a baby girl. I don’t have a girl. All of that anger and stuff. Anyway, we went to celebrate our ten-year anniversary February 14 of that same year. I couldn’t cancel!

NSNC: Do you think the fact that nobody knew was what allowed you to stay for so long?

Oh yes! Our friends didn’t know. I think people know now that we’re separated. If you look at my social media, I did take all of his pictures down. But he never posted pictures—he’s not active on social media , so he never took pictures like that. The family pictures that I did have of us, I took down. My family knows and his family knows now.

Our immediate friends know. His frat brothers know. I’m sure they know.

The son that is the same age as my youngest, I did allow him to start coming around. Because I felt like I was just trying to be a good wife. And my youngest son was excited. It was like having a new friend. My oldest son is so much older than him, he’s basically like an only child. My oldest son turned 21 in December.

My youngest son said, ‘He’ll be my best friend.’ So that’s what pushed me over the edge to allow this child to come over.

Now, do I feel my ex-husband has deep issues, to keep having kids like this and putting my life in danger and his life…of course!

NSNC: What do you think is going on with him?

I don’t know. I can’t answer that. I’ve asked him to go to therapy. Once he realized I was serious about the divorce he did want to do marriage counseling. But I didn’t want to do marriage counseling because I knew I wanted a divorce. I want him to get counseling for himself, not to get back with me. He said, ‘I don’t need counseling. I know what I’ve done. I know how to correct that.’

No, you don’t.

I was just numb.

NSNC: Is he involved in the other children’s lives at all?

Yes, yes he is. This little girl, he’s involved in her life. He’s introduced everybody. I didn’t have a problem with him introducing her because I’m not that type of woman. I’m not with you anymore and they need to know their siblings. Whatever questions they have, that’s on you brother, not me. My oldest came to me, the day after his dad told him about all of that. He was so worried about his mama. I said, ‘I’m fine. You’re grown so I don’t need to explain to you that your dad has these kids and we were married.’

I told him, ‘I’m okay.’

And when I left my marriage, the blessings started rolling in.

I got a new job, the salary that I had asked for. I just stepped out on faith.

NSNC: I’m really interested in you saying you heard God’s voice. Was this the first time you heard God’s voice in relation to your marriage?

Yes. I have journals from my years of being married and it’s the same shit over and over. ‘God, forgive me. God forgive him.’ And him bringing my past up made me feel guilty. I thought, he’s doing this [cheating] because of what I’ve done. That’s how I felt. When he said, I think we should separate, I was in the shower, and I heard God say, ‘Run.’ I got out the shower, I went to work. And I prayed on it again and I still heard God say, ‘Run.’ Not leave, run.

Sunday came and I said ok, I’m going to move to this apartment complex. And it’s crazy how God works. He brought me back to my beginnings. When we moved here, we lived in this same apartment complex. I was literally in the same building. My best friend said, He brought you back to your beginnings because this is your do-over.

God didn’t bless me while I was still in my marriage.

I’m a bank manager now. That’s my career. I’ve been in banking for 15 years. I always wanted to be a bank manager. I was an assistant bank manager for years. My pay was horrible but I loved my job. And of course with him being the provider, I didn’t have to worry about money. He would say, ‘Ashanti, don’t worry about it. I make the money for us.’ And that was true but something was telling me that I need to push forward. You need to be doing something for you.

He paid my rent for a year, I moved out.

In December, I made a vision board. I said I was going to be so selfish. I wasn’t doing anything for my kids. The vision board was about me. I put the salary that I needed, that would be enough for me to pay my own rent, pay my bills, car note, and have money for savings. I apply for the job, got the job. I had already been on five interviews at different banks. We’re not a big city, so we don’t have a lot of banks.

One day, I was up at 3 in the morning on Indeed, applying for a position. I got a call the next day for a phone interview.

I said, ‘Lord, this is my last chance. I don’t have any more banks to apply to here. If I’m going to advance, I would need to move. I don’t want to move because I don’t want to move away from my family and I don’t want to take my youngest son away from his father.’

So, I got the call. The guy offered me the job, I took it. He said, ‘Your salary will be

$50,000.’ That’s not what I asked for. I asked for $60,000. I took the job because it still was way more than what I was making. Three days later, I got the offer letter. Guess what the offer letter said?

NSNC: It said 60?

It said $60,000. And I cried because I was willing to accept that job for $50,000. But God said I’m going to give you what you’ve been praying and asking for because I was specific in my prayers. It was on my vision board in big glitter letters.

God didn’t bless me while I was still in my marriage.

I forgot to tell you I got a part time job at Raising Cane’s. It’s a fast food place, girl. I was not shame. I was doing whatever I had to do to pay my car note and my insurance. And I felt God said, ‘You humbled yourself. You didn’t care what anybody said. You went and worked at a fast food restaurant. So I’m going to bless you child, with what you’ve been praying for.’ And He did.

I will be closing--I’m building my home. I’m building a house. I [closed] on January 21, 2021. I’ve never been at this much peace.

Am I hurting that I’m going through a divorce? Yes. Do I cry some days? Yes, but not like I was at first. Do I have fear? Not anymore. But I did have fear.

That’s why [NSNC Instagram] post spoke to me because it was so hard to leave.

NSNC: Why was it hard?

I’m getting emotional because my ex-husband is my friend. I know it sounds bad to say. How can this person be your friend if he’s done this to you? But he’s my friend and my family. I’ve forgiven him some but I still have anger. I think why the fuck did you have to do this? We had a great family, even with the flaws. I know it sounds bad but I could have excused the cheating if he had been honest. We would have gone to therapy and we need to cut this shit out. Because I’m not innocent at all but it’s only so much a woman can take.

I can say that I made that mistake and learned from it. And if you weren’t going to forgive me, you should have said, ‘I want a divorce.’

Leaving him was the best decision I ever made for myself. But it’s hard when you depend on somebody financially, when somebody can give you everything you ask for, we ate out three times a week—and I’m not talking about McDonald’s and Burger King. When I can say, ‘I want to take our son to Disney World’ and he says, ‘Just book it.’ I don’t have to worry about finances. This man took care of everything.

My mom always said, they look at what you have. They look at your husband so women are going to flock. I said, ‘I understand that mama but he gotta be open? You got to accept all of that?’ Because at the end of the day, you still have to pay them and that’s taking away from us.

People look from the outside and think, ‘Oh, she’s got this big house. She got this, she drives this. She does this.’ You know how people say, ‘You couldn’t walk a mile in my shoes?’ You couldn’t put my shoes on. And that’s not a notch in my belt, because I chose to go through all that. But I feel like God covered me even though I was disobedient. I ignored the signs. It crosses my mind where I could be now if I would have left the first time. But I just have to keep it moving and it’s a reason behind everything. I’m happy now and I’m looking forward to my future.

God covered me even though I was disobedient.

NSNC: What has helped you during this transition?

Therapy and a good support system. My family and my friends have been a great support.

NSNC: What would you say you had to heal about yourself coming out of this marriage?

Low self-esteem, self-doubt. When you’ve been mentally abused for so long…even as a child, all I’ve ever been told was I was pretty. No one ever said, ‘You’re smart. You’re going to be something in life.’ You’ve told me this all my life so all I’m going to think is I’m pretty and I can use my looks to get anything I want. The self-doubt of me wondering if I can do this? Am I qualified? Do I deserve this? That’s hard for me.

I was nervous talking to you. Like do she want to talk to me? Am I worthy of this interview?

NSNC: Gurl…

No, seriously. When you messaged me, I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ When I told my best friend she said, ‘Just pray on it. And you’ve always said you wanted to tell your story because you want to help other women.’

I felt therapy would help me be the best that I can be so I can help those women. Me not thinking I’m worthy has been my biggest healing. I’m learning to love who I am. I’m learning to be unapologetic. And I’m just learning to live one day at a time. I’m a planner. My therapist asked me, why do you think you started planning the way that you do? And I said, ‘I had to plan so that my ex-husband would know that no woman or kid could interfere with that.’

Therapy has given me my self-worth.

I had to set boundaries with my ex, it’s helped me do that. You’ve left but you’re still allowing this man to control you. That all goes with self-worth.

NSNC: Why do you think he didn’t want the divorce?

It’s the control. Because he controlled me, everything I did. And I wasn’t scared of him. I still did what I wanted to do, knowing he’d bitch about it. It never was, you can’t go. But it was an attitude.

NSNC: Did you feel pressure to stay because there’s value in being married?

Of course! And social media doesn’t make it any better. When I found out about the first kid (in their marriage), that was the first thing I said, ‘What are people going to think if I leave? So yes, that pressure is on women to stay in a marriage, to endure. We think, ‘Let me see if I can change him. Let me see if this was a mistake.’ And, 'If I leave now and he changes, is someone else going to benefit?' I’m not going to lie, I think about that now. So I put up with this shit all these years and you can go to the white woman and you going to be this perfect man? And he’s not. But that was my thought. I said, ‘If this nigga go over here and be this perfect man, I’m gon kill this muthafucka.’

But I can’t even think about that. My best friend says, there’s always a woman out there who will make a man act right or he’ll want to act right for. But I allowed him to do what he wanted to do, no questions asked. I didn’t put up a fight. I didn’t demand respect because I didn’t think I deserved respect because of everything he made me believe was my fault.

If I leave now and he changes, is someone else going to benefit?

NSNC: What would you say to other women who’ve found themselves in a similar situation? They know they should leave but it’s difficult.

You have to look within. Look within and say is this what I want my life to be? If they have kids and think about staying for the kids—my son is ten. I’m supposed to sit in this shit for eight more years? Who says that I’m going to be alive in eight years? What could I do in these eight years? Get a new job. Travel. Just be at peace.

And don’t be embarrassed. Most people stay because they worry about what somebody else is going to say. I went back to a fast food restaurant. I would leave my banking job, take off my skirt and heels and make $10/hr because I needed to pay my car note. I wasn’t embarrassed. I wasn’t ashamed. Pray and have a good support system because it’s going to hurt and it’s going to be scary. But dig deep. And ask if this is what you want for yourself. You have to be selfish in that question. It’s not about your kids. .

What I tell women, if they can afford it, go to therapy, even before they leave. I didn’t leave until November. I started therapy in September. I started my therapy first. I told myself, if I’m going to tackle this I know I can’t do this alone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a spiritual person. I started meditating, journaling, but I knew I needed professional help. I needed a Black woman. And I’m not talking about no old Black woman that’s going to tell me to stay and work it out with my husband.

And I wanted to make my sons proud. I wanted them, especially my oldest, too look at me and know his momma is a strong woman. I endured a lot but at the end, I chose ME.

My goal is to start a nonprofit to help women like me. I lived it and I believe my story will help women who think they can’t leave.

I do want to be married again. I do want to date. I will not be having any more kids. But I just want to live a healthy life. Of course my physical health but mentally, emotionally, in my relationship, I want it to be healthy because I’ve never had that.


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