I pulled up in front of the house and immediately noticed the change. The opened blinds in my old home office. The clay pot moved from its traditional spot in front of the door. Her presence is readily apparent in the place that was once my home.

I bought that house in 1994 but fled in 2016 to maintain my sanity. Twenty-seven years of material possessions shoved into boxes hurriedly, frantically, and haphazardly, knowing that in 72-hours, my former husband would return.

I didn’t want to leave my home.  I had worked hard to get it. Delivered babies as a solo practitioner in Louisiana. Experienced brutal nights on-call. Endured misogynistic behavior from Southern white male physicians who refused to accept me as their peer. However, my divorce coach constantly reminded me that I had to go if I wanted to be free.

I knew every nook and cranny of that house. It’s window treatments. Wood floors. Expansive foyer with statuesque pillars and 12-feet ceilings. My beloved kitchen where I prepared holiday meals for hours while he remained in his man cave without offering to help and only emerging when the preparations were complete.

As the years progressed, my home became a house of horror filled with control, manipulation, and failed attempts to mentally abuse me into submission so he could feel like a man. I would later learn through endless months of financial depositions that felt akin to rape, just how laser-focused my ex was about money. To my chagrin, I married a glorified gold digger. Love was never part of the agenda.

When I purchased that home almost 30 years ago, I never imagined that another woman would be cooking on my stove. Sitting in my customed designed office, swimming in my former pool, taking a shower in my bathroom, or sitting in front of my vanity. My sons would witness their father’s gestures of affection to this new occupant, something that he never displayed to me.

My first attorney was incompetent and allowed me to sign a quitclaim deed under significant duress by the opposing attorney. I later learned that the legal maneuvers to obtain the home violated my homestead rights, something the first attorney should have caught but didn’t. I financed my ex-husband’s legal education, an act of generosity I lived to regret.

Some might ask, would I have filed for divorce if I knew that I would lose most of my material possessions? Yes. Absolutely. I now live in a home that no one will ever take from me again. I am happy. I am at peace, and I am free. In that painful teachable moment, I learned an invaluable lesson: the most valuable things in life never leave you, and the things that pose the greatest threat to your happiness never stay.