That wasn’t love, that was just hope.

We met when I was a teenager, it was a cold night in January and I had recently gone through a break up as well as calling it quits with “the man from seven years ago”. My self esteem was pretty low and he took an interest. I remember him looking at me from across the room, I remember because this was the first time I ever noticed a man acting interested in me. I was bored, I was lonely, I was rejected by not one man but two, so there was only one thought on my mind that night. That was him, the stranger from across the room.

The next day I didn’t think a lot more of him. I didn’t think it would go anywhere, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted it to. It was the week before my 18th birthday and I was newly single but he pursued me and of course me being me… I accepted his advances. Let’s face it, I was the type of girl who accepted advances and settled for them because I was just happy to be receiving advances in the first place. I never asked myself the question. I never asked myself, “but am I happy with the person making the advances?”. It is a question I wish I’d of known how to ask myself back then. Maybe then I wouldn’t of had to go through what I did.

Our relationship moved fast. At first his constant attention and effort was flattering and refreshing. He made me feel important and wanted. Looking back he also had a funny way of making me feel lucky and grateful. In the early days there were some red flags I chose to ignore and my reason for that was because I didn’t want to admit defeat. I didn’t want to be proven wrong. I wanted it to work because by this time I was in too deep and I felt as though I didn’t have anything else. Loneliness petrified me. There was very little, if any at all, trust there, I felt a continuous unease in the relationship as though he was doing something wrong. The truth is, you should always trust your gut and if not your gut, your friends because I was told more than once he had cheated on me, again, more than once. This only made me want it work more, I was desperate to prove everyone wrong. In the process I alienated myself to the point where he was my whole world and and what’s more frightening is that it was okay.

Flash forward a year later and we were moving in together. We did this for all of the wrong reasons. I moved out of my family home to help him because he was being forced out of his. I was 18, I wasn’t ready and it was a decision I would come to regret. We had a Honeymoon Period after we moved in of course, who doesn’t? Shame it didn’t last. After a few month’s of us living together he started to stop coming home. The first time it happened I was beside myself with worry, I had fell asleep early and I woke up for work the next morning to discover he hadn’t come home. I remember it was a Monday morning and he hadn’t been driving for very long. He had gone out Sunday early evening and told me he was driving to a friends house for a few hours. When I woke up alone I panicked. I remember trying to contact him over and over again, I got in touch with his Mam and she hadn’t heard from him either. I was seconds away from phoning The Hospital when he came waltzing through the door as if nothing was wrong. He thought it perfectly normal to go out all night and not let me know whether or not he was okay or that he wasn’t coming home. He didn’t see why I would of had a reason to be worried even when he had never done anything like it before. Or maybe he did, probably when we didn’t share the same roof. This became a recurring pattern. It would happen a few times a week, weekdays and weekends. Once, I sat home and waited up past 4 in the morning, calling and calling and still he never came home. What’s worse was the blatant lying, the first, was when he would say he would only be a couple of hours, the second, when he used to tell me where he had been all day and night. Sometimes, he would leave as early as morning and not come home til the following afternoon, he would ignore me the entire time. It continued for months until eventually I stopped caring and he stopped leaving the house.

The years we lived together I can best describe as living with The King of The Castle. He didn’t lift a finger, he hardly washed a sock but in his mind that was okay because he worked hard at work. Apparently, I didn’t. Therefore, I spent my free time cleaning, washing, shopping until it became routine and I didn’t mind so much. It took me a long time to remember that I wanted to be in a partnership and whatever it was that I was in, it certainly wasn’t that. It barely resembled anything close to a relationship anymore. Around the time I fell into this routine I became very house proud, it was mine, I worked hard for it, it was important to me, it’s where I felt safe. He knew that, therefore he could take it away.

Once I realised that I wanted a partnership I started telling him so. I fought for what I wanted, I wanted him to be more productive and appreciative and I wanted us to go out more and be more and try a little harder for each other. I wanted him to concentrate on me just as much as he concentrated on his XBox. I wanted him to show me he loved me as much as he said he did. He didn’t like me telling him these things, he called it nagging. He reacted the only way he knew would get me to stop, violently. He would trash the house, cut up my clothes, smash my belongings, threaten me, push me around until eventually I was too tired to keep fighting. We lived in this circle of hell for months. It was always the same, me, nagging and him reacting. He always said the same thing “Dem, with every action you get a reaction. This is my reaction”. Most days I still counted myself lucky, he never hit me directly. He would always throw something at me or push me into something or take it out on my belongings instead. I could tell he started to enjoy the control he had over me. After some time I stopped speaking up and fighting back, I stopped giving him “actions” to react to. We fell into a new pattern of co inhabiting, I cleaned, sometimes he cooked but mostly he would buy me pizza, we slept in the same bed but that’s all we shared, I stayed in one room while he stayed in another. I started going out more often with friends, I had just started a new job, I had a place to live, it just so happened that I didn’t like the man I was living with but I told myself it could be worse. It could of always been worse.

Over the years we grew complacent and we grew apart. I grew up and he grew a temper so big I no longer recognised the man behind it. He made me feel a fear I had never experienced and he made me fully understand the expression “walking on eggshells”. For a long time I used to pretend to myself that it wasn’t so bad and that sometimes I even deserved it because it was like he always said… every action gets a reaction. It must of been my fault as it was my actions that made him react this way.

I admit I was no angel. During the early days I tried to get out, I sought the help of an ex boyfriend. I was looking for any means of escape but I suffered for that. A thousand times over. Yet still I stayed. There is a certain level of fear that comes with the unknown and that’s what I would of been facing. There is also the fear of change, something else I was not prepared to face. I was scared to stay but petrified of what would happen if did leave. So I stayed for a further two years.

It all came to a head the night after I ended things. I remember almost changing my mind because he cried and begged me to but I couldn’t, I wouldn’t. Too much had happened and we were too far gone. It was time to move on. This very night he accused me of having an affair and decided the best course of action was to take my phone, my keys, my money, my bank card, even the WiFi router and lock me in the house. I didn’t protest, I didn’t cry, infact I didn’t even react. I watched him go and sat back down because I didn’t care enough anymore for him to hurt me. He had lost his control. I think he knew that because he came back and calmly returned my things and apologised. I accepted and went to bed, I slept soundly that night because I knew it was over. He knew it too.

Nothing is ever simple and the months that followed were anything but. It was a little while longer before I was free of him completely. I remember the day I left that house with only my own belongings because it really didn’t matter so much anymore anyway. I slept on my Mam’s settee for six months but I didn’t mind, it felt good to be home. I eventually mended old friendships that he caused so much chaos for. I found myself a new feeling of content, one I had not felt for a long time. Not that it lasted, what feeling ever does?

As for him he walked away unscathed and pretty much debt free. He has a family now and I can only hope he treats her better than he did me. I can only wish for them to never become as volatile as we did. It took me this long to realise what love is and what it isn’t. I wonder if I ever did love him, I cared for him completely, that much I do know… but I can’t say that what we had was love, it was hope. Hope for something better, hope for something more, hope for change and to find the strength to welcome it. Hope to learn from our mistakes.

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