For Tashera Simmons, longtime wife of troubled rapper DMX, the very private struggles of her 14-year marriage became public knowledge in the ’90s after his multiple arrests, prison stints and drug problems plagued the news. To add insult to injury, X’s infidelities took center stage as fans learned he’d fathered six children outside their marriage. The woman known as “Mrs. DMX,” mother of four children with the rapper, quickly earned a reputation for being the ultimate “ride or die chick” (some would say “doormat”), after standing by him through what many felt was more nonsense than any one wife should ever take.

In 2005, the couple became estranged, and a few years later Simmons stopped staying silent to speak out about the verbal abuse she had endured as she struggled to find her own voice outside of X’s shadow. Most recently their relationship made headlines again when they starred on Vh1’s Couples Rehab this past spring in a final, and many felt desperate, attempt to repair their broken union. The rapper yelled and screamed at his wife repeatedly throughout the show, even confessing that he “never wanted to get married.” By the season finale, Simmons had reached her breaking point, and she shocked both X and viewers who felt she’d “never leave” by telling him she wants a divorce. Some fans feel it was all just for TV, and others say too little, too late — but none of that matters to Simmons today. She tells that she’s “definitely” moving forward with the divorce filing, and that this isn’t just the end of their story, it’s the beginning of hers.

ESSENCE.COM: So, you’ve officially decided to file for divorce, right?
TASHERA SIMMONS: Yes and no. There’s so much to be decided on, so we’re actually in the process of filling now. Our lawyers want to give us advice. On the show, he was really stunned and he couldn’t believe it. I don’t know why. After going through all the stuff we did — after he did all the things he has done and after us going through therapy — I was just like, I couldn’t leave [the show] without asking for a divorce.

ESSENCE.COM: That took a lot of courage. How do you feel?
SIMMONS: I felt like it was time. I’m [about] self-empowerment now, and I was so totally over the situation. I want to help other women, so I knew I needed to put my relationship on Front Street so they could see what I was dealing with, and what I chose to do.

ESSENCE.COM: What mistakes do you think ultimately led to where you and X are today?
SIMMONS: To be honest with you, I’m not perfect. But overall, when I really look back, I wouldn’t change a thing. As far as when you say “mistakes” in our marriage, I know that the mistake I made, as a woman, was that I sacrificed too much of myself in that relationship. I just felt like it went unnoticed. But I would do it again because me and X started when we were 18 years old, so it’s really like we have 24 years together. I learned so much [from] my journey with him, so I wouldn’t change that. I’m definitely open to dating and new beginnings. I just feel that next time I will definitely know my self worth, and I would never sacrifice so much of myself again. I was so young. X and I met when we were 11. I didn’t know anything else. But, as a grown woman now, shame on me if I ever do that again.

ESSENCE.COM: What is it like to read what others say about your decision to stay with X this long?
SIMMONS: After the hell I’ve been through with X, honestly, nothing really bothers me. No one has walked in my shoes. I realize that it takes a certain kind of woman to even deal with what I’ve been through. I’m such a free-spirited, happy person, and I always keep a good attitude. It’s easy to judge when you’re outside looking in. To be in my life, and to have dealt with what I did in my personal life, with X, and within this industry, I just feel like, if they could walk in my shoes they might have a whole other thing to say. I would definitely tell women that you just have to live for you. You’re never going to make everyone happy but you just have to make yourself happy. It’s enough that you’re trying to make yourself happy, and a man happy, and then you’ve gotta worry about what everyone else is saying? It’s just too much.

ESSENCE.COM: If you met a woman who was dating a man with a strong personality like X’s, what warnings would you give her?
SIMMONS: I would definitely tell them to make sure they stand for what they believe in and what they want for themselves. They will get sucked in if they don’t. I was young and I always thought I had a dream about what I wanted in a man, but when you’re young and you don’t really know, you can easily get sucked in.

ESSENCE.COM: Was deciding on the divorce a tough decision?
SIMMONS: I do still feel bad about getting a divorce, even after everything X put me through, because I took my vows very seriously. And, I know X is never going to love anyone the way he loves me, and I feel the same way about him. But [there] just comes a time when you give your all, and you know you gave your all, and it’s just time to move on. When you know [you’ve given] 100 percent, then I would say definitely consider divorce. Marriage wasn’t a joke for me… Regardless of what was going on, I still stayed loyal and faithful to my marriage. That’s why I can move on and feel really good right now because I know I gave my all to this marriage.

ESSENCE.COM: What are you looking for in your next relationship?
SIMMONS: Definitely someone who’s not so self-centered. I don’t say that in a negative way, but you know, X has a lot of issues. I can speak openly about it now, because, you know, everyone saw Couples Therapy, and they saw how X had a lot of childhood issues. So, I’m looking for somebody where we can meet halfway on everything, and it’s not always about that person… I don’t want someone to lose themselves in me either.