Live, Laugh, Love: A Domestic Violence Survivor’s Brave Mantra

These three words remind one woman of what a healthy, happy life should be.

Posted in , Oct 22, 2014

Live Laugh Love

In the summer of 2009, I was elated to receive a gift from one of my closest mentors, whom I call Dean. I was 22 and getting ready to marry the love of my life and Dean was afraid he might have to miss the wedding, so he gave me my present a few weeks early: three contemporary black picture frames, each with one word at the bottom—Live, Laugh, Love

The words on the frames stirred up in me every beautiful memory of my courtship with my fiancé. They helped my new reality sink in and I was so euphoric. “Look!” I told my fiancé, “It’s our first wedding present—we’re really getting married!” My fiancé saw the joy in my eyes when I told him how much I’d treasure our first gift and he smiled and said to convey his thanks to Dean. 

Soon after that, we were married, and my joy quickly dissolved. Our four-year marriage became a tumultuous roller coaster, full of make-ups and break-ups. Just a few days into being newlyweds, my now-ex-husband called me from work raging and screaming about something silly. When he got home, the rage hadn’t dissipated. I sat on the sofa, confused, afraid, and watched him screaming at me.

And then he did what I now understand is a calculated tactic that many abusers employ—they hurt you by destroying the things that mean the most to you. He looked around for something to do the trick, and went straight for the frames. He grabbed them off the wall, saying the ideals those words represented didn't exist in the real world, so he threw the frames and they shattered when they hit the ground.

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This began a sick cycle of abuse; many good times were mixed up with a lot of bad ones, and I was plagued with a lot of fear and anxiety. I was threatened with violence over things like wanting to take a nap. A few years in, I unexpectedly got pregnant, and thought the violence would end. He wouldn’t be abusive while I was pregnant, right?  

Wrong. With my unborn child now in danger, I realized he’d never be able to control himself, and didn’t even think he had a problem. Though it wasn’t easy, we separated during the pregnancy. I endured a pregnancy by myself with no sense of security, keeping up with court dates, lawyers, doctors’ appointments, working full-time and prepping for a baby—all with a pinched nerve in my back.

My divorce, pregnancy and back problems took a heavy toll on me, physically, spiritually and emotionally, but I had incredible support from family, friends, my work and most importantly, through domestic violence counseling. The counseling sessions sparked much-needed periods of reflection on what a healthy and happy life is about.

It was during this period that I thought long and hard about how the abuse began and what caused it. I accepted that it wasn’t my fault and refocused all of my attention on being happy and healthy for the baby. I knew I had to ensure that my child would never witness abuse at home or manifest the traits of an abuser.

Today, my beautiful daughter is healthy and happy. I am too. And the picture frames? They hang on the wall in my home, though there are no photos inside.  I look at them every day and make a conscious effort to create new memories for them by living more, laughing harder and loving deeply. 

After all, these ideals are possible; the principles they represent do exist, and they are the best gift that anyone can give to their children, to the world and to themselves.

If you or anyone you know is in a domestic violence situation (intimate partner violence or child abuse), please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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