by Lucie Becus as told to Beth Johnson
Sometimes I wonder why it took me so long to discover Pilates. After all, I’d been an athlete all my life. I was on my high school and college track and cross-country teams. I ran marathons. Even as I climbed the corporate ladder, I also taught spinning classes at a local gym as a hobby.
Then in 2008, out of curiosity, I took a Pilates mat class at the gym. I was stunned by how different it felt than my usual exercise routines. In just a few weeks I saw an improvement in my abdominals that had eluded me for years.
Ten years earlier, when I was in my 20s, I had surgery to remove a section of my colon because of a bleeding ulcer. Less than a year later, I had a second emergency surgery when scar tissue from my first surgery wrapped around my intestines. All of my abdominal muscles were cut, and so I developed diastasis recti, where they separate.
For the next decade, I did about a bazillion crunches, trying to “fix” my abs. Then in 2008, when I took that first Pilates mat class, I realized it was what I had needed all along. My core started getting stronger without doing endless crunches. I was amazed. Pilates was also a perfect complement to my running and weight lifting.
GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT PILATES
By this time, I was vice president of a global branding company in my hometown of Cincinnati. It was certainly rewarding financially, and I’d won awards and grown the business. But I wasn’t passionate about it and dreamed of doing something more fulfilling. Pilates had helped me so much that I wanted to at least explore the possibility of a career teaching it.
So I signed up for training at Pendleton Pilates, which had the most comprehensive program in the Cincinnati area. It was a bit ridiculous to maintain a full-time job, including travel, and do teacher training. I would walk around the office practicing the breathing and expanding my rib cage. I am pretty sure folks thought I was nuts!
NEW TOWN, NEW JOB
But I finished my training in April 2009, and then got my PMA certification in February 2010. Three months later, I was offered a job in Nashville as the marketing director for a health-care company. To be honest, though I really wanted to pursue Pilates full time then, I wanted to gain more confidence in my teaching first. So I took the job and moved to Nashville.
MAKING A MOVE
After a year there, I bought a house and a Reformer and a Magic Circle so I could practice at home. But after two years, I realized that my “main” job was making me miserable. So in 2012, I gave up a six-figure salary to open a home studio.
I added a second Reformer and a Chair. I taught group classes at a local gym to bring in more money. I cut down on other expenses—there wasn’t much need to dress up anymore—and I figured that if I worked hard enough, I could make the financial piece work. I was very excited about this new direction in my life.
AN UNEXPECTED ROMANCE
That same year, I also met Him.
We were introduced by a mutual friend. He seemed so supportive and encouraging of my budding Pilates career, so interested in me and so happy to be with me. I could really see our futures coming together.
He was a divorced dad of two young boys aged five and eight, and since I hadn’t had kids, it was lovely to have children in my life. He had his sons half of the time, and we really became a family unit.
HAPPY IN WORK, HAPPY IN LOVE
I hadn’t ever felt pressure to get married, but I loved the idea of it with Him and was over the moon when we got engaged in 2014. I couldn’t imagine a person more perfectly suited for me or me for him. I was truly in love with a man who I believed would never lie to me and loved me unconditionally. I looked hard for red flags, and even insisted we do premarital counseling, so I felt truly confident in my choice.
After we got married, he sold his condo and moved in with me. I had been looking for a larger studio space so that I could hire more instructors, but it became clear that we couldn’t both work full time and be hands-on parents. I made the choice to scale back my teaching for a while and focus more on the boys.
I stopped looking for a studio and decided to have one built in my backyard. It was very small, so I couldn’t have any other instructors. It also violated local codes, so I was always nervous that a neighbor would complain. But it seemed worth it because I could do school pickup and set child-friendly hours.
MARRIAGE CHANGES EVERYTHING
As we headed off on our honeymoon in October 2014, I thought it was the beginning of a wonderful married life. The honeymoon was absolutely amazing. And then on the last night, everything changed. He suddenly started saying cruel things and practically sneering at me. He was cold and withholding and acted as if he really disliked me. He was a completely different person from the person I’d known for two years.
From then on, he became more and more emotionally abusive. It was death by a thousand cuts—every day he’d do something to make me feel bad. He’d wash his dishes and leave mine in the sink. He’d buy groceries, but only for himself. He’d tease me about things he knew I was sensitive about, and say that it was “fun” to get me to cry. When I had a fever and walking pneumonia, he got angry and said I was being lazy by lying around on the sofa all day. Another time he told me that I didn’t “contribute”—even though I was driving several hours a day, ferrying his sons around to school and events—and that I was lucky he “allowed” me to do Pilates.
I tried everything to get us back on track. I’d make his favorite meal, but he’d ignore it and eat leftovers. He wouldn’t wear his wedding ring. He humiliated me sexually. He blamed me for everything. But then…he’d suddenly become loving or apologetic, or get me some thoughtful gift and convince me that things would change, just enough to give me hope. But it would never last more than a day.
The rules were always changing, but one thing remained constant: The abuser is never to be blamed. You are the root of his problems, and nothing you do will change that.
I couldn’t understand what had happened. The man who had been my best friend and cheerleader suddenly seemed to have no respect for me or even like me.