Walking down the aisle to walking on eggshells 

Sam Laprade — toxic relationships

For close to a year, I barely spoke. I know what you are thinking: “Sam Laprade is always talking up a storm.”

After conducting close to 13,000 media interviews, countless public speaking engagements, and various roles in fundraising and politics, it is hard to imagine that I was ever silent. 

This all started as I went from walking down the aisle to walking on eggshells in 2016. 

I was living both like a caged animal and a rare species on display at the zoo. It is the loneliest I have ever felt. 

In our marriage, I was, in parallel, being completely ignored and having every detail scrutinized. To say it was a mind warp is putting it mildly.

When I decided to get married for the second time, I thought I had found Mr. Right. The reality is the nightmare that was about to unfold still haunts me seven years later. 

As an only child and single mom and entrepreneur, I am hyper-reliant on myself. Determined and tenacious, I persisted; yet, much like a block of ice that gets slowly chipped away, I eventually melted into the ground, feeling invisible.

I still remember the day my dear friend Stephanie called to invite me for coffee. I don’t drink coffee, and I’d just seen her the night before. What could she possibly need to see me about so urgently? The words she spoke were like a get-out-of-jail-free card. She said: “At dinner last night you didn’t say a word. How can we get you out of this marriage?” 

You see, the night before our families had gone out for dinner. As we ate at the Mandarin restaurant, the buffet was full of options, but I felt I had zero. Over the previous six months, I learned some hard lessons: what I had to say didn’t really matter. I gave up trying. I certainly didn’t talk about my workday or the daily news, politics, or what music I enjoyed, or my opinion on a movie or book. I had been conditioned to ask nothing, say nothing, and feel nothing. 

I vividly remember a day when I was put in my place. My daughter and I narrowly missed being in a car accident. We were on our way to meet my husband at a local coffee shop as he was meeting with friends. We walked in and, although shaken up, were calm. We joined the table and said hello to everyone.

I said, “Wow, we just missed being hit by another car down the street. That was a close one.” Soon the three of us piled into the vehicle to head home. My husband turned to me and said, “Save your drama for YOUR friends. My friends speak about world issues, and we don’t want a suburban wife to talk about the drivel of her day. No one wants to hear about your minute-by-minute attention-getting drama.”  

In case you are wondering, I didn’t say the right things to grocery store clerks either, or order the right entrée, or drink the right beverage, according to him. I was horrible at parenting and decorating and hosting guests, he often told me.

My hobbies were silly, and I watched the wrong television shows. My bucket list was rubbish, and I sorted the recycling incorrectly. And then there was my body. Why couldn’t I look more like (insert a friend’s name)? I wasn’t sporty enough or smart enough or funny at all.

What hurt the most was to hear that the career I dedicated my life to was not valued.

I was done. 

I took my daughter for a walk around the block one warm night in June 2017 and told her that I was going to ask ‘him’ to leave. She looked up at me with her big green eyes, at eight years old, and said, “Is it because he doesn’t respect you, Mom?” My daughter, wise beyond her years, saw the writing on the wall before I did. I was both stunned at her response and so proud of her for sharing the truth. 

I got out quickly. I needed to be strong for my daughter and not model this behaviour for one more minute. It was messy and uncomfortable. It was embarrassing but freeing. I worried about what people would say, considering that this was my second failed marriage, and then I remembered: it doesn’t matter what other people think. All that mattered was how my kid and I would move forward. 

Many wonder why people stay in unhealthy relationships.

I often wondered the same thing. As someone who has lived this way, it does not happen overnight. Just like a game of Jenga, pieces get taken away slowly until it topples. I am living proof that, with the help of family and friends, the pieces can be built up again. 

I phoned my lawyer, Marta, who had become a friend through my first divorce, and asked if she had a discount for repeat clients. We laughed. 

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