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Turning 40 and Extracting Yourself from an Abusive and Controlling Relationship
Episode 303rd January 2023 • Forty Drinks: The Podcast About Turning 40 • Stephanie McLaughlin
00:00:00 00:46:06

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Turning 40 and Extracting Yourself from an Abusive and Controlling Relationship

Toby Myles described herself as a grown woman when it happened. She was in her mid-30s with a couple of kids. She was a smart, college-educated, middle class woman who found herself in an explosive, abusive and controlling relationship. She wants you to know it can happen to anyone - even smart girls. She shares how that relationship affected her and how she eventually found her way out of it.

Guest Bio

Toby Myles is a conversion copywriter and owner of Toby Myles Copywriting, specializing in email launch and welcome funnels, sales pages, and website copy and copy coaching for women entrepreneurs and solopreneurs. Toby gets to know her clients’ businesses and their customer’s pain points so she can write compelling copy that converts to growth, connections, and sales!

Toby is a bestselling co-author of Business on Purpose: Inspiring Stories of Women Overcomers who are Changing the World. With over 30 years of experience in marketing and entrepreneurship, Toby has a passion for helping other women grow their audiences and business in a way that feels easy and authentic.

Meet Toby Myles

Toby Myles married her first husband, who was 10 years her senior, when she was still in college. She thought she was pretty mature for a 20-something but realized upon reflection that she didn’t give herself the space in her 20s to learn about herself. Because she was still in college and her husband seemed to have things figured out, she quickly adopted his life goals as her own but that meant she was living somebody else’s idea of what life should look like. 

Several years later, they started a family. First a son and, two years later, a daughter and things started to shift in their relationship, in part due to different ideas of how to raise the kids and what a family should look like. In Toby’s family of origin, the parents did things as adults, taking trips without the kids and having date nights. In her husband’s family of origin, everything was focused on the kids and the family unit. As the kids got older, they started to struggle. Toby wanted more couple time and her husband wanted more family time. That led Toby to realize that she didn’t really know who she was as a person and what she wanted in life. 

One of the things that held them together was that they had gone into business together; she was a graphic designer and he was an illustrator. They were very compatible in this area of their relationship. When both the marriage and the business ended, Toby was left wondering about her future. Because her now ex-husband seemed like the perfect match on paper, Toby wondered if there would be another relationship. What would that person be like? Because they had seemed like such a good match, she was perplexed and thought “if that’s not the person, then maybe there isn’t anyone out there for me.”

Several years later she did meet someone else, though. He was the polar opposite of her first husband and, in Toby’s mind, that meant he was the right person for her simply because her husband hadn’t been. She thought maybe he was the yin to her yang. 

The Polar Opposite

Toby’s new boyfriend seemed concerned about her well-being. He would tell her to call him when she got where she was going. Or ask her questions about her day - where she went, who she talked to. At first, she thought it was sweet that he cared about her so much. 

But things started to shift. What felt like love became controlling. He started asking how many people she talked to at work on a given day. Then how many men hit on her at work. When she said none, he became accusatory and the conversations would escalate into explosive arguments. 

Toby thought that this relationship had to work because her marriage didn’t. This man had had a challenging childhood, so he had his own issues. She thought if she could just love him enough and show him what a healthy relationship looked like, she could help him work through his own issues and everything would be ok. 

She was wrong. 

She says it didn’t take long before she started to see red flags that she chose to ignore. She chalked them up to her “still learning him.” 

What she’s learned about being with someone who is controlling and abusive is that you’ll have these conflicts and, when it’s all over, they’re supremely apologetic and promise it won’t happen again. Then things are fine for a while. But the next time it happens, it’s slightly more escalated. 

She also realized that he was trying to shape her into an image that he wanted to see. Many of their conflicts were about how she looked or what she was wearing. Little by little she started to lose herself. She forgot what she loved about herself. She felt like she was walking on eggshells when he was around, particularly when he was around her kids. 

In fact, one of her deepest regrets is staying in a situation that was unhealthy for her kids. “It's one thing to stay in a situation that is unhealthy for yourself, but it was unhealthy for my kids and that's not something that I can ever go back and apologize enough for.”

Toby thinks she stayed in that abusive relationship because she thought “that’s what you do” when you have kids. She thinks that if she had been more secure in herself after her marriage failed, she would have had the wherewithal to say ‘this isn’t right.’ When that relationship ended, she went the other direction. She didn’t think she’d ever be in a relationship again. 

Turning 40

Toby has a clear memory of thinking that she didn’t want to be disappointed by how her 40th birthday went, so she planned it herself. She decided she wanted to go to New York City. At the time, her cousin was a chef at a great restaurant so she decided to take the train into the city, have a great meal and do all the NYC things.  Her boyfriend agreed to the plan so she made the reservations and bought the tickets. 

On that Saturday morning, the day of her 40th birthday, she woke up early but her boyfriend wasn’t making any moves to get up or get ready even though they had planned on catching an early train. This turned into an argument and Toby said she was going to go without him. That’s when he reached for the iron sitting on the ironing board next to his bed and he threw it at her. 

Before she even had a chance to leave, there was a knock at the door. It was the police. A neighbor had heard the argument and called the cops. 

When she answered the door, she was visibly upset and the police asked to talk to her in the hallway. She had seen this sort of thing on TV and she remembered thinking “who am I?”

She ended up going to New York City by herself that weekend, but it was only the beginning of the end of the relationship. 

The next explosive argument was over something disrespectful he had said to her daughter. For some reason, it was ok when he treated her that way but when he did it to her daughter, it was the final straw. During that argument he head butted her in front of her daughter. Toby says it was almost like she needed the literal blow to her head to wake her up. That was the end of the relationship. 

Putting Herself Back Together

After that relationship, there was a lot of work to put herself back together. She got into therapy pretty quickly but sometimes even basic daily tasks were a struggle. In addition to the relationship ending, she was in a difficult financial position. 

She started looking for a job that would provide stability, security, benefits and reasonable hours. She didn’t need to love it, but she needed security and a routine for herself and her kids. She found a job in corporate marketing that fit all the criteria. It allowed her to take the kids to school in the morning. That was the first step to putting the pieces back together. 

Another thing that was important to her was to become financially independent so she never had to depend on anyone again. She learned from that relationship that when you’re not in control of your own finances, it’s easy to get stuck. But when you can cover all your own bills, you don’t need to rely on anyone else. 

Little by little she started to reconnect with the pieces of herself that she had buried during that relationship: her artistic side, her quirky side, her silliness and impulsiveness. She realized it’s ok to be these things and she wanted people in her life who would connect with those parts of her. They didn’t need to be just like her, but they needed to accept her and value her for who she is. 


Toby thought she’d never be in another relationship because relationships hadn’t worked for her. One day she said as much to her ex-husband who suggested she try out online dating.  She tried it and found she enjoyed going out to dinner with someone. But it became a lot of work because she scheduled her dates when her kids were at their dad’s house, which meant squeezing dates into weekends. After a while it became exhausting and she decided to shut down her account, but she had already scheduled three dates on that final weekend of her subscription. 

She thought maybe it just wasn’t meant to be - and she was ok with that. She was in a place where she liked who she was. She had her friends, her family, her kids. She was happy with herself and her life. 

And it was almost like the universe said, "The minute you accept that about yourself, now we're gonna bring you this gift of this new person, this new relationship who is going to complement your life."

On the final date of that weekend she met her husband. 

While Toby felt like her first husband was very much like her and her second relationship was the complete opposite of her, her second husband is a combination. They complement each other. They’re different enough that it keeps things interesting but they’re alike enough on their core values to stay aligned. 

One of her core values is using her authentic voice in every facet of her life, which is a value she brings to the copywriting business she started in 2020.


The Forty Drinks Podcast is produced and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications

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Tell me a fantastic “forty story.”


Stephanie: Hi, Toby. Thanks so much for joining me today.

Toby: Hi. Thank you, Stephanie. I'm excited to be here and chat with you.

Stephanie: I am as well. You and I met not too long ago and we were introduced by one of my previous guests on the podcast. The fabulous Miss Elle. After my conversation with her, she connected me with some really amazing women, one of which, was you. And when you told me a story and I said, "Oh, now I know why she connected us. We have to talk."

Toby: Yes. Yes.

Stephanie: So let's jump right in. Um, I think when we first spoke, you said, "I'm not the right person to be on because I'm a little bit older than 40." but you've got a great story, a great lesson and a great vantage point from which to tell it. Let's start sort of at the beginning you got married pretty young. Tell me just a little bit about that relationship.

Toby: My first husband was 10 years older than me and I always thought I was a pretty mature 20 something. I was actually still in college when we got married and what I learned, and he is a wonderful person and a good man. And, but what I learned through that time period was that I never allowed myself, the time in my twenties, that really crucial time in life to learn about myself. My first husband was already on his second career. He had already had one successful career and here I was in college and I was still trying to figure things out and so very quickly, his goals in life became my goals in life. And he was, he was much more settled at 30. You know, I was, when we met, I was 21 and he was 31. And so, so I quickly learned that, that, that critical time in my twenties, you know, I was living somebody else's idea of what life should look like.

Stephanie: Mmm.

Toby: Yeah. So, and fortunately we did not have kids right away. So we had plenty of time ourselves just as a couple. And then we started a family. I was 29 when I had my son, my first child. And two years later I had my daughter and it was around that time that things really started to shift and change for us. And in part, due to our ideas of how we were going to raise our kids, what our family unit should look like. You know, his family was 100% focused on the kids. His parents never went anywhere without the kids. They didn't go on date night. They didn't take trips away without their kids. And my parents were kind of the opposite. I mean, Yeah. So we took family vacations, but my parents took trips by themselves. You know, just the two of 'em. They went on date nights. And so we really started to struggle as our kids got older. I was wanting more couple time and, and he was really not wanting that, he was wanting more family time. And so that was kind of a point where we started to grow apart a little bit. And I really started to realize that I had just kind of boxed myself in through my twenties and didn't really know who I was as a person and what I wanted in life.

Stephanie: One of the things you told me about that relationship, you said there were some similarities between you and your husband, that you were both pretty creative people. And in fact, you went into business together.

Toby: Yes. Yes, he was an illustrator and I was a graphic designer. And so we started a business together and we collaborated on a lot of projects together. We had separate projects and our business really became an important piece of our relationship, kind of like the glue that kind of held us together. And so we are very compatible in that way. So when our marriage ended and our business ended, I really felt like, you know, I didn't know. like, was there another relationship in my future? And what would that person look like? Because it seemed like on paper, the man that I married was the perfect match for me. You know, we had similar interests. We both loved to read. We both love art, movies, things like that. And, um, his disposition was very like calm and laid back. It just seemed like, of course this has to work. And then when it didn't, I was a little bit perplexed, like, okay, well, if that's not the person, then maybe there isn't anyone out there for me.

Stephanie: Right, but then you did find someone else. And tell me a little bit about that.

Toby: Yes, it was several years later after I had split up with my first husband. And I met someone who was literally the polar opposite of my first husband. He was very type A, he was in the financial business. He was a banker, financial planner. And in my mind, it made sense to me. I thought, well, obviously like this is the right person for me because my ex-husband wasn't, so somebody who was polar opposite of my ex-husband and really opposite of, of who I was, you know, I wasn't a numbers girl. I was an artist. I was born an artist. And so I thought, well, may, maybe that's, you know, opposites attract sort of a thing, you know, the, the yin to my yang. And so I, I thought, yeah, this makes sense to me, this is, this is the person that I'm, you know, gonna be most compatible with.

Stephanie: And that didn't quite turn out the way you thought.

Toby: Yeah, it didn't, I was always pretty independent. I was a middle child and so left to my own devices a lot growing up. So I, figured things out for myself. And I was independent in my marriage too, as well, always worked. And when I met this other man, initially he was always very concerned about, make sure you let me know when you get where you're going. Right. Uh, or he would ask me questions about who I had talked to, where I went, things like that. And initially I thought, oh, isn't that sweet? You know, he really cares about me. It did not feel like control in the beginning, but little by little

Stephanie: felt like interest

Toby: felt like interest. It felt like love. I thought, well, he really he's really concerned about me. He cares when I get where I'm going and sometimes he would even, you know, if I had to go to an appointment somewhere that I'd never been before, he said, well, just, I know where that is, you can follow me and I'll make sure you get there. And I thought, oh, that's so sweet. But little by little, what felt like caring, and even love, became controlling. Even to the point of accusations. So for example, if he'd say well, how many people did you talk to at work today? I'm like, I don't know, you know, handful of people. Well, how many men hit on you while you were at work today? None, you know, and so it became more accusatory. And when I said none, or I don't know, he thought I was just playing stupid. He thought I was, you know, denying things. And these types of conversations very quickly escalated into very explosive arguments, name calling, sometimes physical situations, throwing things. and again, I felt like well, but this is, this has to work because my marriage didn't work. And so this, this has to be the missing piece to my puzzle. And he and this man had not the best upbringing, not the best childhood. And so there was a part of me that felt like if I just love him enough, I can help him through some of his own issues. Right? Like he can't help it. This is how he is, all I have to do is hang in here and love him enough and show him, you know, what a healthy relationship would look like and everything will be okay. And I was so wrong about that.

Stephanie: Tell me, how long did it take before you. Before I wanna ask this a different way. One of the things that you and I talked about when we first met was, you know, how does a. You know, a girl, you know, find herself in this situation. You know, somebody who's been happy and healthy and you know, all these things. Um, so I'm, I'm trying to, what I'm trying to get at is, you know, when you meet someone new and there's that, you know, the first blush and, you know, everybody's excited and things are going well. And then, you know, that lasts a few months and then you, you settle into a pattern of engaging with each other. And, and even that, takes months and months and months before people really start kind of, relaxing and letting themselves, be a little bit more casual around their partners. So how, how long was it before you started wondering if it wasn't just love and interest and engagement with you in your life?

Toby: mm-hmm yeah. To be honest, it really did not take that long before I started to see red flags that I chose to ignore. So, one of the things that happened was, it was summer and I took my kids to a vacation at the beach and it happened to be at a local beach that I had once been to with an ex-boyfriend like years ago, someone that was no longer in my life and when the man that I was involved with found out that I was at this beach with my kids that had been to with an ex-boyfriend, he just exploded. Right. And I, I just didn't understand it. You know, we went back and forth, like, why is this a big deal? Like, I'm not with this person. He doesn't live here. We just went here once on a vacation. But for him, I think it was, oh, you had memories with someone there and, and I'm not there with you to make new memories. And I don't remember all the specifics, but I do remember thinking this is kind of weird. Like, I don't understand why this is such a big deal. But again, I just said, "Okay, I'm still learning him," and, and I just brushed it off. And I look back, I have looked back on that specific occasion and thought I should. I should have paid attention. Those signals were coming through loud and clear. But what happens is you have these moments with someone who's abusive, who's a narcissist, you have these moments, and then when you get to the other side, they're overly apologetic. I'm so sorry. It won't happen again. I really do love you and everything's good for a while, and then something else happens and it's slightly more escalated than the previous incident, but over a period of time, it's just very small and very incremental. I feel like people like him, they, they want to reshape you into an image that they want to see. So he was attracted to me. He wanted somebody that was much more like him. He wanted a, a type A personality. I used to say he wanted a female version of himself, you know? And I think that he was trying to remake me in that image because most of the conflicts that came up were around how I dressed, you know, he was very well put together, suit, tie and things like that. And, you know, was I wearing enough lipstick? Was my blouse low cut enough, or my pants tight enough. Like all these things were trip wires for him. They would set him off. I don't think I realized until I looked back on it, that he just, he liked what he saw, but he wanted to mold me into something that I wasn't. I would say most of the explosions and then the apologies and the explosions and the apologies were centered around similar issues to that, that he was wanting me to be a different type of person, and I, I just never was going to be that. And so little by little, I start to lose who I really was. I started to forget what were the things I used to love about myself. And that is how a grown woman, middle class woman, college educated woman, you know, smart. I was a mother, you know, I wasn't a child. I was a mother. That is how that happens slowly, little by little, over a period of time. It's not like one day someone is just abusive. At least it wasn't that way in my case.

Stephanie: Right. And did you find yourself over the course of that relationship, did you find yourself making adjustments to assuage him? Did you find yourself dressing differently? Did you find yourself acting differently? Tell me a little bit about that.

Toby: For sure. Yeah. I have never loved to shop for clothes. I love to shop for shoes, but I have never loved to shop for clothes. That was something that he loved doing and it annoyed him that I didn't like it, but yet I would go with him to the mall and we'd go shopping and I would get new clothes and he would sit outside the dressing room and want me to come out so he could see how things looked and it made him mad when I said that I didn't feel like going shopping, you know, because it was like a regular thing. It was like a regular thing that we did and I never liked to go shopping. Um, my hair. I have curly hair. Right. He would get upset if I didn't blow dry my hair straight, that was something that was upsetting to him. So I never wore my hair curly. I felt like I was walking on eggshells, when he was around my kids, he felt like they should behave in a certain way. I just always felt this tension when he was in the house. What is gonna be the thing that's gonna set him off? So, you know, dinner has to be ready right on time. The kids have to be polite at the table and not act like kids. Just so many things just created this tension all the time. And when he was, out of the house, I definitely could feel like, okay, you know, I could breathe a little bit now, and just relax and just be myself. Again, ignoring the obvious signs right in front of me. Like I'm me, I'm comfortable when he's not here, and I'm walking on eggshells when he is here.

Stephanie: Right. Did you live together?

Toby: We lived together for a very short period of time. Not for very long. Yeah.

Stephanie: Yeah. And how old were your kids during this period?

Toby: They were grade school and middle school. My daughter was fourth grade maybe and my son was just starting middle school at the time.

Stephanie: Okay, so So conscious human beings.

Toby: Oh yeah. Oh, absolutely.

Stephanie: Did they ever say anything to you?

Toby: They never really said anything to me, they would just get super quiet. I think I shared with you that that is one of my deepest regrets is that, you know, it's one thing to, to stay in a situation that you know, is unhealthy for yourself, but it was unhealthy for my kids and that's not something that I can ever go back and apologize enough for. Thankfully, my kids are adults now. They're happy. They're healthy. Have jobs. You know, they live on their own. I think they turned out okay. But, you know, I just, I just feel like it was, I was being selfish by staying in that situation. If for no other reason, I should have left for their wellbeing.

Stephanie: Yeah. Why did you stay? Do you know?

Toby: I think that I, I was struggling with, um, self-esteem issues, and I think that had I been a more well-rounded person after my first marriage, uh, a little bit more secure in myself, I think I would've had the wherewithal to say, no, this is, this is not right. And I don't need to be in a relationship to take care of myself and to be happy and to look after my kids. But, um, I, I felt like, I felt like you need to be part of a relationship. I think that I thought, well, that this is what you do in life. You know, you have kids, this is what you do. Your marriage failed, so now this is what's next and wow.

Stephanie: mm-hmm

Toby: It was not only so far from the truth, but I went the polar opposite when that relationship was finally over. I didn't think I would ever be in a relationship again.

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and that definitely brings us to 40.

Toby: Mm-hmm

Stephanie: This relationship lasted, I think you said about four years.

Toby: Yeah, about four years. Yes.

Stephanie: Tell me about what happened somewhere around when you turned 40.

Toby: Somewhere around when I turned 40, a very clear event in my mind was when I was actually turning 40. I had decided that I was not gonna be disappointed about how my 40th birthday went. And so I said, I'm gonna plan my own celebration. I'm gonna do what I wanna do. And then that way I'm not leaving it in someone else's hands. I will decide what I wanna do, I'll plan the whole thing and whoever wants to participate, great. So I decided that I wanted to go to New York City for the weekend. I have family in New York. I have a cousin who at that time was a chef at a restaurant in New York, and so that's what I planned. We're gonna take the train to New York City. We're gonna go eat at my cousin's restaurant. We're gonna do all the New York City things and, and that'll be fun. My boyfriend at the time, was like, "Sure, great." So I bought the tickets. I made all the reservations and I wanted to leave early on Saturday morning because I wanted to have a full two days in the city. So Saturday morning, the day of my actual 40th birthday, we woke up early because I had planned to get an early train and he was just not making any moves to get out of bed. And, I'm poking him, like, "Come on, let's go. I wanna make this whatever early 6:00 AM train." It was crazy early. And he was being stubborn and "Why do we have to go so early? This is my only day off." And I said, "Because this is what I plan to do. This is my birthday. This is what I wanna do." And he was being very belligerent and I said, "Fine, I'm gonna go without you." And he jumped outta bed, he's like, "I don't understand why this is such a big deal." And we were arguing and it started to escalate and he had an ironing board next to his bed, he reached for the iron on the ironing board next to his bed and threw it in my direction. It whizzed past my head, landed in the wall and I said, "That's it. I'm outta here. I'm leaving." Before I even had a chance to leave there was a knock at the door. He lived in an apartment, there was a knock at the door and it was, um, it was the cops. The neighbors had heard us arguing had called the cops and I was visibly upset. They said, "Ma'am, can you come out into the hallway so we can speak to you privately?" And I had seen this sort of thing on TV, right? They don't wanna question you in front of the person. They wanna make sure you feel safe enough to answer honestly. I remember at the time thinking, "This is like what I've seen on TV, this is actually happening to me. Like who am I?" So I went out into the hall and they asked me all the questions, "Are you hurt? Are you okay? Do you have somewhere else to go? Are you here of you own free will?" All those things. I assured them that I was fine and they left. And I went back in the apartment and I got my things and I went to New York by myself for my birthday, for my 40th birthday. That was really the beginning of the end. I did come back and I think we had another very explosive argument where he had done something very disrespectful to my daughter. I got in his face and he head butted me, cut my forehead, left a, a big welt on my forehead. It was almost like I needed that blow to my head to just finally wake up. I was like, "You need to get out, we're done." And that was the end of it. Um, again, my daughter witnessed that and you know, he just pushed the wrong button that time. I took all the criticism on me, but when it was directed towards my daughter, that was the final straw. So that was, that was the end. And I very quickly, after that day got into therapy. I found a therapist through a friend of mine and start working with her. And I remember one day my older sister said to me, "Welcome back." And I was like, "What do you mean?" She's like, "We haven't recognized you for the last few years." And I was like, "Wow."

Stephanie: Mm.

Toby: You know, I didn't recognize myself either, but I felt like I was hiding things pretty well. And evidently I really wasn't.

Stephanie: Hm. Wow. So, that's just an unbelievable story. That you came through that I'm, I'm, happy for you that you made it out the other side and whatever it took to wake you up, it did, and you were able to get out of that situation. But I would imagine that after spending several years in that kind of environment, I can't imagine you were even a shade of your former self. What did you do to put yourself back together again?

Toby: You know, it was just like, literally teeny tiny little steps. Like, as you can imagine when something like that erupts sometimes even just the most basic things like getting outta bed and taking my kids to school was a struggle. You know, I had shared my life with someone even though I was unhappy a lot of the time, that was my life. And so now what does my life look like on my own? You know, who am I? On top of the abuse, I was in a bad financial situation because I had given him a lot of money and, uh, I was in a pretty big hole because I had cashed out some retirement money so I had some tax implications around that. It was literally "Okay, today you're gonna get up and you're going to start looking for a really secure job with good benefits with good hours. Might not be the job that I love. I worked when I was with him, I was still freelance graphic designer. I was doing some personal training on the side, so it was just like a little bit all over the place. I said, it starts with one thing that is gonna give me some security, a routine, a routine for my kids. So ultimately I found a job in corporate marketing and it was very secure, it was close to home, normal hours so I could take my kids to school and drop them off. And that really was like the very first step to kind of putting the pieces back together. I decided that because of the financial situation I had been in when I was with him, see, that was a piece of it too, was that I had given him money or lent him money, and I remember thinking if we split up, I'm never gonna get my money back. In the end it would've been fine, it probably still would've been worth not ever getting that money back to make the decision to leave, but I know that that was in the back of my mind that if we split up, he's never gonna pay me back the money that he owes me. So when I start working in this corporate job, it was just really important to me to be financially independent, to not ever have to depend on anyone again, because one of the things that I learned was that when you're not in control of your own finances, it's easy to be stuck, right? If you find yourself in a situation that's not good for you, it's easy to be stuck, but when you can take care of yourself, you cover all your bills and everything yourself, you don't need to rely on anyone else. If you're in a bad situation, you just pick up and leave or you ask them to leave. And so, although I was not ready by any means for another relationship, one thing I said to myself is I will never be dependent on another person again, financially. I just won't let it happen. That was like the one thing I knew, above all else that, that I would stay true to.

Stephanie: Yeah, I'm just so curious. If this guy was a banker and a financial planner, why is he borrowing money from a freelance graphic designer?

Toby: Yes. It was also

Stephanie: I mean, it just seems.

Toby: I know, I know that was one of the things. So he was in a situation where he made a small salary, but he was also commission. He worked on commission. So he was a financial planner and he would make commissions off big deals when he worked with people. And it was always, "I know this commission is coming in, so can you just float me a few thousand for rent or whatever it was until this commission came in." And then when commission day came and went, it was always, "I don't know what happened." It was, only a third of what it was supposed to be and that became the story over and over again. And he was a good salesperson and I believed him. And every time I'm expecting, this time the commissions are gonna be really good. I'll be able to cover, all these bills and I'll be able to pay you back. And it just, it just went on and on and on like that. I was perplexed about that too. He was smart individual, it wasn't an issue of him not being smart. He understood money, he was certified, but he was not smart about his own personal situation.

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. Let's leave him behind.

Stephanie: I, I, I feel a weight in my chest just talking about him. So, let's, let's leave your 40th year behind us and talk about all the things that you did to rebuild yourself. I know you said a lot of it was just putting one foot in front of the other. I love your intention to be financially independent and secure and on your own. You're absolutely right, that does just provide a sense of freedom. Is that the right word? Self-reliance maybe that's a better word.

Toby: yeah. Yeah. Or empowerment. Right?

Stephanie: There you go. That's an even better word. I know you're a word nerd. We'll get to that.

Stephanie: So you told me that afterwards you needed to do some work to find yourself again, and to remember what you loved about yourself. Tell me a little bit about that process.

Toby: All the things that I think I had just kind of buried, my artistic side, my quirky side, you know, I'm goofy, I'm silly, I'm impulsive. Um, all those things just became buried and little by little I started to kind of reconnect with those things about myself and I began to realize like, it's okay to be these things. Like this is who I am. And, I want people in my life who resonate with me and who connect with those parts of me. They don't have to be just like me, but they accept me and they value me and who I am as a person and my friendship just for exactly who I am. And so I got the job, I made friends at work, lifelong friends I'm still close with to this day. And I really focused on my kids and what was going on in their lives at that time. I was able to move us to our own townhouse, which was pretty amazing, much closer to their school, so they were able to be closer to friends again. And I remember the day I'd gone to a chamber of commerce meeting and it was beginning of spring and the breakfast meeting was not too far from my work. And so I thought, well, I'm gonna walk cause it's a really beautiful day. I was wearing my favorite black dress that had these embroidered little flowers on it and the sun was warm on my skin. And I remember the moment when I was just, wow, I feel so comfortable my own skin for the first time in forever. It was great. I was single, I was happy single and I thought, if this is how it is, then this is great. I'm happy with me. I'm happy with my life. I'm taking care of my kids. My focus is in the right place. I'm making art again. I was getting outta debt and I just felt really, really comfortable in my own skin is the best way to put it.

Stephanie: I love that. How long was that after the end of the relationship? Cause I, I know certainly I've been in some bad relationships, not like yours, but it takes a while afterwards to find your footing again.

Stephanie: So how, how long would you say that took you?

Toby: I would say it was about a year, a little over a year

Stephanie: That's what I would've guessed.

Toby: Yeah. In the beginning I was, I was going to therapy multiple times a week and then it was once a week and then it was, you know, okay, I think you have an understanding of what happened, why it happened and you come back when you need check-ins, you know, or tuneups was what she said, and I did periodically, I felt myself just on unsteady ground and questioning some of my decisions and I would go back for a little tuneup and I was, I was good to go. And the power of having that person in my life, I know it sounds dramatic, but I believe that she saved my life. Everything that I suspected she validated, she said, "This person did not accept you for who you were." So yeah, it was about a year afterwards and just as it took me little by little to fall down that hole, it took me little by little to climb back out of it. Just putting myself back together and really feeling even stronger as a person, as a woman.

Stephanie: You told me you had to remember what you loved about yourself.

Toby: Yes.

Stephanie: Tell me what some of those things are.

Toby: Uh, oh boy, I, you know, I can be silly. I like to be silly. I like to, you know, make jokes. I like to let my hair be curly 'cause my hair's curly. I love to paint and do collage and I love to read, be out in nature. Simple things, it's nothing really extravagant. I love to hang out with the people that I love, my family, my sisters. I love to just spend hours, just whatever, you know, over a cup of coffee or, watching a movie or going to a farmer's market. Like all those things, those simple joys in life. Those are the things, um, that I really just kind of buried inside that I forgot like, yeah. I used to love to do that.

Stephanie: Right. Well, and here's the kicker to the whole story, so you spent many years after that relationship on your own.

Toby: mm-hmm

Stephanie: And I forget if you said it while we were talking now, or previously you thought you'd be single forever because relationships just hadn't worked out for you.

Toby: Yeah.

Stephanie: And then what happened?

Toby: Yeah. Ironically.

Stephanie: She was wrong, folks.

Toby: Um, Yeah, she was wrong.

Stephanie: She was super wrong.

Toby: The irony of the situation is that my ex-husband lived not too far from me and our kids would go back and forth between our houses and I was dropping them off at his house one day, and I think I made some comment to that effect "I'm probably just gonna be alone forever and whatever. It's fine." And he said, "Have you ever thought about online dating?" And I was like, "No, I have not. I haven't. It sounds like super weird to me." He's like, "I don't know. You might just wanna try it." And so, I don't know, I think that planted the seed and few days later I had a glass of wine, I said, "Okay, I'm gonna check this out and see what this is all about." So I kind of dipped my toe. I really didn't create a profile. I was just trying to see what was out there, what was it like? And then maybe another few weeks later I went back on and built a profile and put a picture up there. And so I spent the next maybe year or so, just random dating people, nothing too serious, but it was kind of fun to go out, have dinner with somebody. But it also became a fair amount of work. I would schedule my dates for when my kids were at their dad's because I, I didn't wanna involve them in any of that. I was not ready for anything like that. So that meant that I was squeezing dates into a short amount of time and after a while, it was just kind of like, okay, it's exhausting, I'm gonna take a little break for a while. So I decided to shut down my online dating app, but I had head scheduled I think three different dates for that final weekend of my subscription and the very last date on Sunday of that weekend was when I met my husband. He had said the same thing, ironically, like, you know what, maybe I'm just like, it's just not meant to be, and I'm just gonna be single. And I'm okay with that. I, I like who I am. You know, I have friends, I have family, I have my kids. I'm, I'm pretty happy the way I am. Right. And it was almost like the universe said, "The minute you accept that about yourself, now we're gonna bring you this gift of this new person, this new relationship who is going to complement your life." And so, yes, I was very wrong about staying single forever.

Stephanie: Can you explain how your husband fits in a way that previous relationships didn't?

Toby: Yeah. So, um, the one piece that I was right about, I think was, I talked about my first husband being very much like me and then this other relationship.

Stephanie: mm-hmm

Toby: This man being really the opposite of me. And I would say that my husband is a little bit of a combination. He's retired military, so he's a planner, he likes things in order and things should be a certain way and do things the same way every time. You know, he follows the recipe when he makes macaroni and cheese. Whereas I just like, you know, , I just wing it and if it looks good, you know, and so. But he loves me for who I am and the things that are different about us, we love that about each other. Right. I love that he's a planner. I love that when we go on vacation, he has his like list of things, whereas I'm just throwing stuff into the suitcase until it's full. Right. So, but he's, he's got a kind heart., he speaks to me with respect and with love. He is a, an ad adventurous person, his time in the military has created a very adventurous spirit and so he loves to go places and do things. And if I say, oh, you know, I would love to, we, we ride motorcycles, so I say "I'd love to like hop on the bikes and go do a trip to out to Sturgis one year." He's like "Great, let's do it." And he's already in planning mode, right? So he has that sort of spontaneous spirit about him. I think that we really complement each other in that way. We're different enough that it keeps things interesting, but we're alike enough on the things that are really like our core values and things that are really important to us.

Stephanie: So you did a little Goldielocks-ing there. You did a little too hot, too cold, just right.

Toby: Just right. Yes, for sure. For sure.

Stephanie: That's wonderful. You've said something else to me. So you now own a small business. You used to be a graphic designer, but now you're in copywriting. Tell me a little bit about that.

thing." And in the middle of:

Stephanie: Right when you lose it and get it back, you realize how precious it is.

Toby: Yes, absolutely. I agree with that 100%.

Stephanie: Yeah. Well, Toby, I have so enjoyed our conversation today. you've been so generous in sharing your story I am so grateful. I hope that there are folks out there who hear it and might be able to see themselves in it and see, see a way to a much better place like you did. So I appreciate you sharing, I know it must have been difficult to go back. I felt the heaviness in my chest, so I know it must have been difficult to go back, and I appreciate you doing that with me.

Toby: Oh, thank you. It's my pleasure. I agree. I hope that if even one person sees themself in my story and understand that it happens to smart women too.

Stephanie: Mm-hmm

Toby: It really does. And there is life on the other side.

Stephanie: Yes. Yes. And I think that's actually a pretty common theme of almost everybody I've talked to with their 40 transition, which is there's some messiness once you realize that a change needs to be made. So there's some work to be done to get through and onto the other side of that change, but then once you get there, things are just much, much sweeter.

Toby: Yes, absolutely.

Stephanie: Yeah. All right, Toby. Thanks so much.

Toby: Thank you.




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