'I Was Married To The Real Life Wolf Of Wall Street'

When Martin Scorsese's office called me and confirmed they would be making a movie about my ex-husband, Jordan Belfort, my first thought was: "Oh God." I really didn't want the pain of my life or our Greek tragedy of a marriage to be played out on screen.

My ex-husband's memoir, The Wolf of Wall Street, which recounted his notorious career as a stockbroker in New York City, had already been published back in 2007. Jordan is a man who makes things happen, so I shouldn't have been surprised when I found out a movie was being made about his life.

But, by that point in my life, around 2012, I had done so much work on myself through therapy and education, I realized this thing was much bigger than me. I really surrendered to the process and accepted whatever it was going to be. The movie wouldn't be from my perspective, which was hard, but I had no choice.

Nadine Macaluso and Jordan Belfort, Margot Robbie
Nadine Macaluso and Jordan Belfort. Nadine is the real-life woman behind Belfort's wife, the "Duchess of Bay Ridge" in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. Margot Robbie played Nadine in the movie adaptation of Belfort's life. Nadine Macaluso/Paramount Pictures

When I first met Jordan, it was in the Hamptons in the early 90s. He was throwing a party in what exemplified the excess of Wall Street, money, and youth. The movie got it right - someone did expose themselves to me, and I immediately wanted to leave. Jordan sought me out after the party. We ended up falling in love and getting married.

Our marriage lasted eight years. Of course, there were some good moments, it wasn't all horrible, but his drug use persisted and fights would occur all the time. The final straw was when we started to visit a drugs counselor together. One day, when Jordan had missed our appointment, she looked at me and said: "If you don't divorce this
man, you're going to get cancer."

Something inside of me snapped and that night, I held an intervention for Jordan. I said to him: "I'm not going to sit here and watch you kill yourself like everyone else, just because you make them money, I'm not going to be a part of that."

One year later, he was arrested and later convicted for money laundering and securities fraud. Finally, I felt as though I was able to leave him. People think I left because he lost all of our money, but I ended the marriage because I felt I finally could. I felt safe.

When he moved out, I was so happy, I finally felt free. Luckily I had started a maternity business when I was married, so I had that to focus on and my children to sustain me. But I didn't get any money from Jordan, I walked away with next to nothing.

Around a year later, I met a wonderful man who lives in California and eventually moved out here with my kids to have a fresh start. It felt really good. I've now been with my husband for 22 years and we couldn't be happier.

Nadine Macaluso
Nadine said that while it was difficult to have no creative say in the movie, she was able to surrender to the process. Nadine Macaluso

Early on, Jordan and I made a conscious choice to be friendly with one another and have always put our children first. That doesn't mean we don't have our moments, but we chose to get along. While my kids were younger he would come over for Christmas or Thanksgiving.

When I reached my late thirties, I decided to go back to school and become a therapist. I was done with the garment business and wanted to give back, because I believe that therapy saved my life. During a very tumultuous period, therapy was able to provide a safe space where I could process my emotions every week.

I went back to school and got my masters degree to be a licensed therapist. While I was doing the 3,000 hours of work necessary to qualify, I decided to get my doctorate and eventually I started my own practice, which initially helped couples or those suffering from anxiety and depression.

When I discovered the movie would be made of Jordan's life in 2013, I was in therapy. So in treatment, I had a safe space to process my feelings, frustrated that my painful experiences would be on a screen for the whole world to see.

Interestingly enough, I became a therapist around the same time. I thought: "Oh my god, who is going to come to me now?"; But ironically, when people did find out, many of them said: "Wait, you went through that and are like this now? I want to come to you". So actually the very thing I was worried about was something that helped me.

Nadine Macaluso
Nadine re-trained as a psychotherapist in her late thirties. Nadine Macaluso

As my practice grew, many women who were in abusive relationships or trauma bonds naturally gravitated towards me and it became a real passion of mine. Around five years ago, I began to do extensive research into trauma bonding, where an individual forms a bond with someone after a recurring, cyclical pattern of abuse, and am writing a book about the subject which is due to be released next year.

Before the movie came out in 2013, I asked producers to change my name. I had no creative input and made no money from the film. When Scorsese's office called me and asked me if I would meet with Margot Robbie, who played me in the movie, and I said yes. I loved meeting her. She was 22, the age I was when I first met Jordan. She had her speech coach with her, and they taped me so she could learn my Brooklyn accent.

The movie portrayed me fighting with Jordan over his cheating with other women. However, most of our intense arguments were about his drug addiction. I understand it's Hollywood, but the movie really glamourized the drugs, the corruption, the greed and the betrayal that was present in our lives. It's not that funny, it's really painful for the people that lived through it. In my opinion, it really was a drama, not a comedy.

People have asked me why I haven't spoken out sooner to share my perspective; firstly I wanted to make sure my children were grown, functioning adults. I had a responsibility to my kids first and foremost. Secondly, I have become an expert, not just personally but
professionally on leaving tumultuous relationships. I want to use my experience to educate and empower women. Nothing I'm doing is to harm Jordan, this is for every woman who has gone through something like this and has the right to voice their experience.

Dr. Nadine Macaluso a marriage and family therapist who specializes in trauma bonding and narcissistic abuse. You can follow her on Instagram @therealdrnadine or visit her website here.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Monica Greep.