We had just returned from holiday in Turkey when I decided to leave my abusive partner. I knew I would be enough for my children. We didn’t need their father to be happy.
We didn’t need his money, his house, his flashy car or holidays. We didn’t need him. He told me I couldn’t survive, that I would come running back when things got tough.
‘No other man would want you, no-one would want a woman with baggage’, he said.
I’m happy to say that two years on, I am free of him and in a loving and healthy relationship – but at the time I didn’t disagree. I felt low, useless. I knew it would be tough.
Every time my ex hurt me he had a way of twisting it around and making me feel like it was my fault. So I’d try to change. I stopped wearing the clothes I wanted, stopped seeing my friends and stopped doing things I enjoyed. I even stopped watching my favourite programmes.
In Turkey I realised that no matter what I changed I could never please this man. He would never love me – he loved himself too much.
One night I tried to hold his hand whilst walking down some steep steps, not just for stability, but also because I wanted to try and have a connection with him. He pulled away and said, ‘We don’t hold hands, that’s what people in love do’.
He constantly kicked me down to a level where I had no respect for myself.
He didn’t even let me have any spending money. I borrowed £30 from my younger brother to spend on the holiday and he took that from me at the airport. When I asked for it back he laughed and mocked me for the small amount of money I was able to ‘contribute’ to the £3000 holiday he’d booked.
My eldest asked why there were no daddies in the refuge. I told him this is a special place for mummies and children to have a holiday without the dads
I had stayed with him because I thought the children needed their dad and that he loved them. I couldn’t be the person to come between that. But on holiday he treated me as free childcare, to watch the kids when he’d had enough of them.
At that moment I knew I could look after the children by myself and that I didn’t need him.
My children deserved a mother who was able to give herself fully. They needed me to be there in the moment with them – not the anxious, tearful, fearful and sad woman I had become. What I had allowed him to make me.
I lost money, I lost a house, I lost a car, I lost friends, I lost extended family, I lost routines. I lost all I had known for the last six years and traded it for a single room in a women’s refuge far from anywhere we knew, sharing a bathroom with three other families, universal credit and fear of the unknown.
I had no idea or any plan moving forward but I was determined to give my children a better life. All those things I lost but I felt free, I had a taste of happiness in that small room. It was our haven and safe place.
We began to form new relationships with the people around us, other women and children in the refuge run by the charity Hestia. My children thought they were on an extended part of the holiday, without their dad.
My eldest asked why there were no daddies in the refuge. I told him it was a special place for mummies and children to have a holiday without the dads. He surprised me: ‘Did all the daddies hit the other mummies? I know that’s why we are here, because Daddy hit Mummy’.
I knew at this point I had made the best decision of my life. No hardship could ever make me go back to him.
Things started to look better and brighter every day. Through the support of the charity we were rehoused after a year of battling with the council.
It was a joyous yet scary moment when we walked in our new two bedroom flat. It felt BIG. Now we were all alone. The boys followed me around from room to room and wouldn’t play in their own bedroom without me close.
youngest fell for Max instantly and wanted to be in his arms all the time, which still hasn’t changed
Although I finally got them to enjoy sleeping in their ‘grown up boys’ bedroom, I still snuck in with them at night. I couldn’t sleep without hearing their chests rise and fall.
While I was at the refuge I had noticed that some of the women were ready to move on and find a new partner using dating apps. I admired their confidence and wished someday I could be loved. I was told by my ex that I was nothing for a very long time and I truly believed it.
I didn’t think there would be anyone that would want to be with me. I knew I wasn’t ready; how could anyone love me when I didn’t even love myself?
That changed when we had been living in our flat for about three months. I’d fallen into a routine of school runs, going to the gym and was slowly starting to gain confidence in myself. I began to love myself again and was proud of what I had achieved.
I deserved to be loved and felt ready to let someone into my life. So, I joined Bumble, which I chose because it allows women to make the first contact.
Max* and I soon started messaging each other. I was open and honest about my children and my past relationship. I decided to tell him early on about what we had been through because I didn’t want to feel ashamed of my past.
I could tell straight away that Max was different. The gentle way he spoke and the language he used made me feel warm towards him.
My ex had used vulgar and aggressive words all the time, which put me on edge. Max was like a breath of fresh air.
He didn’t want to change me and found what I said interesting. We don’t agree on everything – like chocolate orange and sci-fi films – but we compromise.
After a few meetings I decided to introduce Max to my children. The first time they met he went down to their level and handed them a chocolate lolly each.
He teaches the children to love and respect me. He asks the boys: ‘Have you told mummy that she is beautiful today?’
My youngest fell for him instantly and wanted to be in his arms all the time, which still hasn’t changed (they are inseparable!). My eldest was a little wary; I could tell he wanted to like Max but something was holding him back.
I worried that he didn’t know how to trust and love someone again but Max proved to him that he will never let us down.
He’s always there helping me with the children, picking them up from school when I work late, feeding them and putting them to sleep.
We both strive to make the atmosphere and our little bubble a happy one.
I didn’t think I could be intimate with anyone again as my ex said some horrible things about my body after having two children, which made me feel so self conscious.
I still struggle with letting Max see me undressed as I have these vile comments circling in my head and I never want him to think the things my ex said. I have a way to go before I am comfortable with my body but Max compliments me, even on my worst days.
There is a small story, which summarises just how different he is from my ex.
Max and I and the boys were flying off to Greece last year. We went to change some spending money – around £500. When we came out of the store Max handed me the envelope and said ‘You’re in charge of all spending this holiday’.
He makes me feel trusted and respected in our partnership. He calls me his queen and I believe him.
It’s been nearly two years and Max has been there for all our family events no matter how big or small, from school assemblies, football matches, park trips to farm outings.
My children have felt his loving presence and seen how he treats me.
He teaches them to love and respect me. He asks the boys: ‘Have you told mummy that she is beautiful today?’.
I know it’s cheesy but these small things mean so much to keeping us together, giggling and enjoying life.
We are looking forward to moving in together and I’m excited. Sometimes I still think about how my ex would tell me that no one would ever want me and I can’t believe how much has changed. I feel loved, supported and listened to.
*Name has been changed
For 50 years, Hestia has provided support and hope every step of the way to recovery. We campaign and advocate nationally on the issues that affect the people we work with. Find out about our support at www.hestia.org/domestic-abuse.
Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]
Share your views in the comments below.
Source: Read Full Article