My Story of emotional domestic violence with the love of my life...by Chloe

It's only a very recent thing that I've learned I was in an abusive domestic relationship. If I'm entirely honest, I'm not sure, yet I fully accept that.

R and I met when I was 19, he 21. He was the older brother of a school friend of mine and instantly had fresh appeal to 19 years old me. He had his place, and he was charming and popular with a big group of friends. Drugs (cannabis, cocaine, mushrooms, valium - a whole cocktail) were also a big love of his too. Having zero interest in narcotics and no interest in trying them I had to accept that they were recreationally a part of his life.

I lost my virginity to him a month or so after we first met and we started dating. I'd had relationships before but nothing this serious, it was exciting and a new adventure/chapter in my life which I wholeheartedly embraced. Fast forward 5/6 months in and he called me out of the blue one night to say he'd been cheating on me with his ex. She thought she might be pregnant and threatened to tell me if he didn't. I couldn't breathe, I thought I might suffocate with shock and pain. How had this happened? More importantly, how could my charming R with whom I had given myself to him and embraced my vulnerability do this to me? I couldn't lose him, I loved him too much, and the pain of a world without him was too much to bear. I struggled to understand how or why he did what he did and looking back he never really offered up much of an explanation other than "she was nice, men are genetically programmed to have more than one partner." My friends and family were as shocked as I was when they found out, but more shocked when I took him back.

Throughout the next 3-4 years, he dumped me several times, each time entirely out of the blue and very rarely face to face. He didn't want a girlfriend right now, and things were getting too intense, he'd been back in touch with his ex, he wasn't feeling right at the moment, and didn't want to hurt me. I heard it all, and every time he broke my heart. I tried to learn to live without him, and that's when he got back in touch. I didn't see it at the time. I thought it was fate bringing us back together. I had never been this in love with anyone before. I felt strangely bound to him.

The next few years are now a bit of a blur. We had a lovely holiday to Tenerife. He spent most days hating his job and getting into more and more debt. I tried my hardest to help him - whether that was lending him money, extending my student overdraft when he called me asking for £300. I cleaned his flat while he was at work. I drove to his work and met him on his lunch hour - I was his "princess," his "hero" who looked after him and "kept him on the straight and narrow." I also happened to be "not as thin as I used to be" or "boring because I had no hobbies." His remarks about my clothes (he felt I dressed like an "old lady") what I spent my money on, how much I earned and my savvy sensible attitude to not going into debt stung. I began to feel like I couldn't do anything right.

I kept these fears to myself because something bigger was happening. My little brother suffered a mental breakdown due to a traumatic incident and his mental health suffered. By now, I had learned to drive, started my own business, joined a walking group and loved walking my dogs and being outdoors... but I bent over backward to try and care for my brother who had slipped into a very dark depression. I dedicated 2015 to him, and his care and R was not impressed. Several nasty outbursts to me and my mentally ill brother ensued, leading my immediate family to see him for who/what he was and banned him from the house. This turn of events, of course, was my fault. Why hadn't I stuck up for R? What kind of rubbish, insensitive, nasty girlfriend was I? (His words, not mine). His words stung and secretly inside I felt they weren't true - how could I give him the attention I was once doing and drive to meet him at work on his lunch hour when I had a business to run, a brother to take care of and myself to shower and feed? I was trying to be helpful but was failing R. I must be a negligent person, I thought.

R's aggression spilled out tenfold after he'd had a drink. He was charming, fun and daft to all of his friends but had this strange look in his eye when it was just him and me alone. He'd snarl and punch things, kick objects near me but deliberately never at me because that would be wrong. Right? I began to fear him, and we never went out together if he'd be drinking. There were times he'd push me on the bed or shake me because I wasn't paying attention to what he was saying, I hadn't stuck up for him enough or wasn't listening correctly to some event he'd made up in his head and convinced himself had happened.

He began to be cruel and nasty to me when I asked what the money was for when he asked me for £20, £10 every other day. "We're a couple." "Couple's share things." "You're the only person I know who won't share and you're so selfish." I was by now earning a good wage from my own business and very proud of that - I didn't want to keep having to lend him my hard earned money and risk getting myself into debt when he'd spent his monthly income on drugs and repaying drug debts before paying his household bills.

We had been together almost seven years until two weeks ago after a horrendous event at a meal we had (because we hadn't done anything together in ages), and I somehow ended things. R shouted at me in the street, slammed his feet into my car dashboard, shook with rage at me because I was "about to break his heart." According to him, I did nothing for him; I don't put any time or effort into our relationship. His words stung me bitterly.

Little does he know I'd been in self-funded counseling for four months to deal with the conflicted feelings I had about our relationship. Where had my gorgeous blue-eyed boy gone who was so loving and tender? Who was this monster and what was I doing wrong to make him rear his ugly head? After being referred to Relate Counselling and feeling horrendously guilty for going behind his back, my mental and physical health was failing. I was exhausted of walking on eggshells, fielding questions from him as to why I wouldn't move in with him or why I didn't get excited when he talked about marriage. He tried to bully me into having children, and I felt so fearful and trapped. We had been together so long undoubtedly I owed him this... Any normal girl would be overjoyed to have their partner keen to marry them, right?

So here I am 2 weeks on from the horrible event. I ended things and felt incredibly guilty. Almost horrified by my actions. I feel like I've lost part of myself and life feels very, very quiet - too quiet because there's no drama or need to plan what I'd say to justify why I couldn't spend the whole weekend with him. Where do I go from here? Up. Onwards with my life. I heard a rumor on the mill that he'd told his sister (my friend) he's fine, and what "we" did was for the best. I'm still fearful of him and find myself not wanting to have to speak to him or try to be pleasant. Ideally, I'd like to blot out the whole of our seven-year relationship because it's too painful. I think I still love him. I'm not sure when I'll start feeling more like my old self again, if ever.

I am proud I found the courage to end things before I got talked into marriage or kids or spending my money on the house for us. I am scared I might go back during a weak moment when he inevitably calls... I am writing this to share my story with others and in the hope that writing it makes it real, makes it sink in that I was in an abusive relationship.

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