18 months ago I was married to a man I didn't love. A man who refused to grow up and depended entirely on me to support him and rescue him from all kinds of trouble he had a habit of getting himself into. A man who regularly stole money from my bank account to feed his gambling addiction, to the point where I was constantly either in rent arrears or unable to put food on the table or even purchase bus tickets to commute to work. I used to hide my bank cards in the most unusual places, but he would always find them, he was like a sniffer dog, always able to detect and take every last penny. I would then cancel my cards (cause once he found one, he would take a note of the number so that he could use it for online gambling, without having the physical card in his hand) and order new ones, never delivered to my flat as I didn't want to risk him getting to them first. I would pick them up from my bank instead, and immediately hide in a new place, praying he wouldn't find them this time, but he always did. I took several loans to pay off his gambling debts and cover bank overdrafts. I only paid the last one off earlier this month.
Of course, I tried very hard to make him change. Each time he stole from me, we had serious conversations. He swore it was the last time. He cried, I cried, or we both cried. Or I shouted and he refused to say a word. I was giving him a 'last chance', time after time. At one point he actually agreed to try therapy (which I paid for), but after two sessions he decided it was 'bullshit' and a waste of time.
I am a very organised person. An obsessive time keeper, never late with payments, never losing track of what I owe and what I have left to spend. A hard worker who came to this country in 2006 with one small suitcase and worked my way up from the lowest (that's below national minimum wage) paid jobs to an office job with a decent pay that should have guaranteed a comfortable life. Should have. But didn't. No amount of money would have, as the man I was married to was capable of taking (stealing!) and gambling away any amount of money overnight. I was living in constant fear. Earning more than some of my colleagues, I couldn't afford to go out with them after work. Making so much money that I wasn't entitled to any benefits, I was often unable to pay my rent. Sometimes we had certain periods of peace, when he would try to control himself and I would allow myself to regain hope. And then, in the middle of my day at work, my phone would ring - an automated message from my bank informing me of suspected fraud, and asking me to reconfirm that it was indeed myself who had just spent £40 or £50 or £130 in an online casino.
Gambling wasn't the only thing that was making my life with him miserable. He couldn't stay away from trouble. He would pick up fights, do drugs, try to smuggle drugs on to a plane (!!!!!!!), have absolutely no respect for the law whatsoever.
Exactly 18 months ago today, on a sunny Friday morning, when we both took time off work to go to an early Christmas party organised and paid for by my employer in a gorgeous 5* resort on the other side of the country, I was packing my overnight bag when he said he would go to the shop to get cigarettes. Half an hour later I was getting impatient as we were supposed to leave soon, to meet my colleagues, get on the coach and leave for the party. And then he phoned me. Apparently he didn't just pop out to the shop around the corner. He took the car and went for a ride, bluntly ignoring the fact that he didn't have a driving license and was not legally allowed to drive a car without a supervisor. He got stopped by the police and was now calling me to come pick him up. We still made it to the party, but something broke inside of me that day. That was the moment I finally decided that enough was enough.
I didn't have a plan, I didn't have anywhere to go. I was terrified of being alone. I was worried about him as well, despite all he had done to me, to our marriage. But the Universe doesn't wait. Once the realisation that this marriage really wasn't going to work formed in my head, things started to happen. Exactly a week later I met an amazing man online. A kindred spirit, someone who not only listened, but also understood me, despite our differences, different nationalities, different life stories. The immediate connection surprised and amazed us both. The number of things we had in common, the similarity of what we both wanted from life, the long, deep conversations and last but not least, the incredible attraction to each other, all made us realise that after weeks of exchanging emails (there were hundreds) and Skype conversations, we had to meet face to face. I will never forget that day. We agreed on a time and a place. I arrived early (see above: OCD time keeper) and ten minutes later, with the butterflies in my stomach going absolutely mental, I turned around as he opened the door and saw him in flesh for the very first time. We hugged. It was the most meaningful, unforgettable hug I have ever experienced. I don't think I realised it there and then, but at that point I was already in love with him. To this day, when I wake up next to him, I feel so blessed and thank my lucky stars.
Over those past 18 months my life has turned around completely. I am tempted to say I'm a new person, but that's not entirely true. I'm not a 'new' person. I am finally letting myself be the person I always knew I was deep inside. I am free. Free from fear, free from my ex's demons. Leaving my ex wasn't easy. Not just emotionally - after all, I was ending a 10-year relationship - but physically too. When he finally understood I was serious about leaving, he tried to physically stop me, he stole my phone and locked me in the bedroom; he never hit me but he did push me and kick some doors and walls in his fury. Then came the suicide attempts (his, not mine). And when I finally moved out without giving him my new address, he broke into my online Royal Mail account, found out where I had all my mail redirected to, and knocked on my door out of the blue, scaring the shit out of me. There was also the night of telephone abuse, when he wouldn't stop calling and texting, calling me names and threatening me. No, it wasn't easy, but it's all in the past and I have never been happier.
This is my story, my background.. But it's not what I plan to blog about. I want to write about things that make me happy, things that are important to me. I want to share the good things that are finally happening in my life. My partner and I have recently moved from the city to the countryside. I have taken up gardening, I am a keen forager and I love to cook - I want to blog about the simple things in life. Maybe this could be another New Beginning.