I met you when I was 22. You were 32. I very quickly fell for you but I was never sure how you felt about me.
After about a year I left but felt a gaping wound that never really went away. About a year after that I heard you'd had a breakdown. I reached out initially out of a warped sense of loyalty but after a couple of months realised we were far better off as friends then we'd ever been as a couple.
After a while we became friends with benefits. This was off and on for a couple of years until I realised that I had fallen in love and was terrified I'd get my heart broken. I fled the country, under the pretence of having an extended trip to visit relatives in Europe. You were in touch most days and I missed you terribly.
After 6 months in Europe, having worked in a local restaurant, I was signed off work due to stress. I started to get panic attacks and at one terrifyingly low point I couldn't even leave my apartment for 10 days. You checked in with me daily, you encouraged me to seek help and you suggested I would be better off back in the U.K so I could have the support of family and friends in person.
I got myself back to the U.K and you collected me from the airport. Instead of me going to stay with family, I moved into your spare bedroom where you assured I was welcome to stay till 'I got back on my feet'. My relationship with my family was tenuous at best and I blamed my long divorced parents for all of my troubles, particularly my mother. I confided in you about this and you encouraged me to keep my distance from them for the time being.
My grandparents contacted me, to ascertain how I was and I arranged to meet them. You accompanied me. The memory of that day now haunts me. My grandad thanked you for 'taking care of me'.
Around that time I had been experiencing night terrors... vicious panic attacks in my sleep that had me waking up covered in sweat, heart pounding and terrified. One night you woke me up only to tell me I had been crying and calling out in my sleep. You held me and then said "come through to my bed for a cuddle". I did just that, only with a couple of days we were intimate.
Little did I know at the time that the cycle of mental and psychological abuse had already begun. Although I actually believe it was always there, right from the first time I met you 10 years ago.
A little under a year after getting back together, talk of marriage was frequently on the cards. As was the subject of children. I began to change my views to fit yours. You were adamant you wanted 2 or 3 children and that you wanted to be married first. I now realise that you never once told me you loved me, or that it was me you wanted to marry and have children with. I just happened to have come along again and you exploited my love for you and made me believe you had my best interests at heart.
We got engaged in 2015 and a year later were married in a hotel I didn't choose, with a number of guests I had never even met let alone was actually friends with. The wedding was a facade. You orchestrated the whole thing to impress your friends and your family. On the surface it was a fairytale, in reality I was dying inside. I felt like I was selling my soul and I felt completely and utterly trapped. No one around me could see it, hell, I didn't even see what it was at the time.
Piece by piece you gained control over every aspect of my life. You made me think I was crazy and stupid and weird. You belittled me every chance you got and I despise you for it. You made me think that I didn't deserve you and that my life should revolve around yours.
Every so often I would try to rebel against your regime, but I always caved to keep the peace. I even stopped using contraception to 'give you a baby' which ended when I was 10 and a half weeks pregnant in the most traumatic event I have ever been through. I had been terribly ill for the duration of my pregnancy, yet you didn't care. You didn't help and you didn't even stay with me in hospital when I had to miscarry our baby. I will never ever forgive you for that. In hindsight, our marriage ended that night. I wish I'd left you then. I wish I'd yelled at you and told you were a crap husband who only ever cared about himself.
I lost all respect for you after that. I had massive doubts about trying for another baby, yet you refused to take precautions and I reacted badly to hormonal birth control. Our sex life dwindled as you only wanted it to try and get me pregnant again and I was terrified of the prospect of another pregnancy so came up with one excuse after the next to avoid sex. You hated me for denying you sex, so punished me by criticising the meals I made, the way I drove, my dress sense, my hairstyle, the colour of my gel nails or even how often I went out with friends or family.
I became a shadow of myself and yearned for my marriage to improve but it never ever did. I contacted a helpline and asked for advice on how to leave you. I gathered a little information but then fear of the unknown kicked in and I resolved to 'try harder'. I thought it was my fault. I thought if I tried harder then you would be nicer towards me and not constantly find fault with everything I did, or how much I'd spent on groceries that week.
You denied me any rights to the mortgage, the household bills, even refused to redecorate the house which looked and still looks like a bachelor pad. You relegated my stuff to an unused bedroom which you decorated for me then complained whenever I chose to spend time there, reading, listening to music or watching TV. You expected me to be by your side constantly when we were both in the house. You never once in the 5 years I lived there, referred to the property as 'our house'. Similarly, it was always your money, not ours.
You never encouraged me to seek employment or offered to help with finances so I could go and retain. Every so often you would demand I get a job, even though I had been out of paid work for so long that I rarely even got invited to attend an interview.
Around 3 months before I left you, we were on holiday. I say holiday, but in reality it was yet another trip to Europe so you could take part in aquathlon. We had been to previous events abroad and I was sick of never being able to choose a holiday purely on the basis of it just being somewhere I wanted to visit.
Towards the end of what would turn out to be our last holiday together, you pushed the subject of yet another race destination holiday, despite the fact I had been saying for months I didn't want to go. When I suggested we go somewhere that didn't revolve around a race, you laughed in my face and told me "never going to happen". I realised then that things would never ever get better in our marriage, and I also realised that you were the problem, not me.
On our return from that trip, you again mentioned the next race abroad and I again stated I didn't want to go. You threatened to go without me, and by threatened I mean you yelled at me then stormed off. I thought that was the matter closed only for you to tell me a few days later that we "needed to sort flights" at which point I said "I'm not going". You immediately shut down and started sulking, as you would always do whenever you didn't get your own way only by this point I had wised up to your behaviour. I informed you that there was no point in trying to guilt trip me into going and that I would not be changing my mind on the matter.
That was day one of the three weeks where you didn't utter a single to word to me other than the odd 'no'. That was also day one of you sleeping on the couch downstairs and it was also day one of you even acting that I was living in the house. From that point we began to live completely separate lives. Any attempts I made to get you to communicate with me where stonewalled. Eventually you emailed me a letter. In that letter you used derogatory language on more than one occasion and I knew then it would only be a matter of time before I left you.
Over the course of the next month I started telling people of your behaviour. That was when I heard the term 'domestic abuse'.
Even now, 3.5 weeks since I fled, I can't believe I didn't know it was that. Even now, I question whether it really was abuse. But then I remember how you gaslighted me, controlled me and financially kept me completely dependant on you and I realise that the abuse was there all along. I realise now that when I married you the abuse only escalated. I hate you for that. I hate you for taking away my choices, I hate you for making me think I was crazy and weird.
I hate you for calling my family weird and most of all I hate you for stealing those years of my life. But that's all you're getting. You've done enough damage. You don't get to do any more. You don't get to make decisions for me anymore and you sure as hell don't get to inflict your brand of narcissistic behaviour over and over again.
I will come out the other side of this and I will always be a strong woman for leaving you. You can't hurt me anymore.
Now I am free.