It was 1986. I was 18 years old. I’d had a few boyfriends but nothing serious. I enjoyed living my life too much. Going out with my friends, nice clothes, my hair was always immaculate and I wouldn’t even empty the bins unless I had a full face of make up on. I loved music, dancing and I had a job I loved. I worked with elderly people and I loved it. Me and an older guy used to go round in a mini bus and collect these people and take them to their social club. Sometimes we stayed to play bingo, have a cuppa and a chat. I lived at home with my mum, dad and my brother. My brother is autistic and very special. Life was perfect.
My brother used to go to a club for adults with Special Needs and they had regular social gatherings. It was at one of these Discos my life changed drastically. I’d gone with my family and my best friend and we were having a great time. Partway through the night I happened to glance up and my eyes were drawn to this lad about my age and we smiled at each other. He was with his best friends family (one of whom was autistic too). Me and my friend ended up dancing with this lad and his friend and we all got on great. We exchanged numbers and arranged to meet up. A few dates followed and I realised I was falling in love for the first time in my life. My friend and his friend didn’t last long but I was sure I’d found ‘the one’ I got on with all his family and all his friends. Life was still perfect.
We decided that to make our lives complete we should try for a baby. It didn’t take that long for me to fall pregnant and I was happy. Life couldn’t get more perfect.
I can’t remember exactly when it changed but I remember Valentines Day 1987 I made the mistake of saying I’d had 2 cards. 1 from him and 1 through the post. He didn’t see the funny side of it and called me all sorts of names. I can recall sitting on my parents living room floor (everyone was out) cowering as blows rained down on me. My main concern was protecting my baby. It was my own fault I knew that but didn’t want my unborn baby to suffer. Afterwards my boyfriend cried and said he was sorry and it would never happen again. I said it was ok and I believed him. I told no-one. Not that time, or all the other times.
One night when I was about 4 months pregnant we were sat outside my house in the car and he told me that his Great Grandad would love it if we got married before the baby arrived. His Great Gramps was an old fashioned gent who I loved dearly. My head was screaming ‘no no no” yet my heart was trying to please Great Gramps and I said yes.
The night before the wedding I sat in the bath and cried. This wasn’t what I wanted. I was scared. I’d stopped going out with my friends (you’ve got me now you don’t need to go out), wore less make up (too much is slutty), gave up my job (that man you work with I don’t trust him, he’s after you and you’re too friendly with him). I’d never felt so alone in my whole life.
Next day was my wedding day. July 16th 1987. Every girl dreams of a big white wedding. My wedding was not the stuff of dreams. No guests were allowed except our immediate families, no photographs except what were taken with my dads Instamatic, no flowers, no big white dress – mine was a peach maternity dress from Mothercare. There was no reception. We went back to his parents house for sausage rolls and sandwiches. Being pregnant I couldn’t even drink to numb my sadness so I just sat on the sofa and watched everyone else have fun.
We moved into our own house just after and if I thought things were bad before then he hadn’t even started to show his true colours. Every day I lived in fear. Afraid of saying/doing the wrong thing. I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in October 1987 and he was (and still is) my world. He was so tiny and relied on me to keep him safe. His Dad was clever enough to keep himself under control when our son was around but when he was in bed that was it. I found out I was pregnant again. But sadly I couldn’t save this one from the kicks to my tummy. That was the last straw for me.
I tried to be the perfect wife but nothing was ever good enough and I knew I had to do something before our son was old enough to know what was happening.
So, on July 4th 1991, when hubby was at work, I went to the phone box (we didn’t need a phone in the house when there was a call box over the road) phoned my mum and said I wanted to leave. My mum got my dad and he asked me “has he been hitting you?” I cried and my mum came over.
I left that afternoon with one bag of clothes and found myself in a Women’s Refuge away from Bristol. I was a battered wife and a single mum on benefits. I was scared and more alone than ever.
I did go back to my husband and try to make it work one more time but things were worse than before so I moved back in with my parents.
I got divorced in 1992 and got full custody of our son.
Luckily for me he found a girlfriend straight away so for the most part I was free to move on (apart from the odd phone call begging me to take him back). He never really bothered with our son but that’s his loss as he is the most amazing young man and I am so proud of the way I brought him up on my own.
I swore then I’d never let anyone treat me like that again and I’d never remarry. I had a few boyfriends/dates and life soon turned itself around. I got a job as a Teaching Assistant in a primary school and made new friends.
Fast forward to August 2010 and I got chatting to a lovely guy on an online forum we were both members of. We had spoken to each other briefly but then one night we stayed up talking until 7 a.m. I found out that he’d also been a victim of Domestic Violence. It was the perfect way for us to get to know each other. Safely in our own homes behind a keyboard. We both had trust issues, we were both scared of getting hurt, we both had our own insecurities and weren’t looking for anything other than a friend who understood. We spoke constantly every day. We stayed up for hours talking online every night. Slowly we both started to have feelings and we realised that maybe, just maybe….the only problem was distance. I lived in Bristol and he lived in Milton Keynes.
It was on a Friday night in September 2010 when he said to me “I want to meet you for coffee” my heart was in my mouth as I said yes. I was so out of my comfort zone meeting a virtual stranger in person. What if he wasn’t who I thought he was. Would I like him? Would he like me? Would we click? Was he an axe murderer? There was only one way to find out. I had to meet him. He drove to Bristol the very next day and it was like we’d always known each other. We spent the whole day just talking and more importantly smiling. I didn’t realise it at the time but I really had found the other half of me. Slowly we helped each other to trust, love and not be afraid. We both had (and still do sometimes) flashbacks/dreams/nightmares where we’re back in our bad relationships. He’s held me while I’ve cried. I’ve shown him that being intimate is a nice thing. I remember he’d hate to be touched and would flinch every time I touched/hugged him. I also had moments where I would literally cry if he touched my neck (as a result of virtually being strangled by first husband) but we’ve overcome those issues. Due to work commitments and distance we could only meet up every other weekend and as I don’t drive he made the trip down to see me every time.
Long story short we’ve been married for 7 years (been together 9) and are more in love than we’ve ever been. He taught me that I do deserve to be treated with respect, love, kindness and as an equal. He loves me unconditionally and when he looks at me I can see that. We moved to Ireland in 2017 and life truly is perfect.
I’d given up on love but I truly have found my Prince Charming and he treats me like a Princess.