I'll start this post of with a little bit of a disclaimer or sorts... this isn't a happy post. This isn't a fun look back, or anything like what I've previously posted. This was actually written about three, maybe ever four weeks ago and I've been sat on it since, debating whether to share it or not.
If you've been reading for a while, know me personally, or even follow my personal page on Instagram, you'll pretty much know whats going on in my life at the moment. Things have taken a very positive turn for me in the past couple of years; I own my own home, I have a job I love, great friends, nice car, and I'm engaged and planning my wedding. It's all very happy and rosy, and things really couldn't be much better.
It's not always been like that though. I'm always very conscious that people only really post what they want you to see; the glitzy, happy side of their life, whilst in the real world they could be totally miserable.
Because of that, I've always tried to make sure I share the good with the bad, and trust me when I say, I've had my fair share before I got to now. A main feature of my past negativity came from a handful of rather toxic relationships, one of which I'll focus on in this post.
My Aunt once told me that we all need bad relationships, and I thought she was having a bit of a moment, or had consumed too much wine... but as I talk through what I consider to be a very bad relationship, it'll become clear. I promise.
So, lets cast back to my life a few years ago, when I was in my late teens and early twenties, and go from there...
I moved out at the age of 19, to move in with my then boyfriend. I was working at a reasonable job, that I enjoyed, although the pay wasn't particularly great. About 6 months into our relationship, we moved to a cheaper (nicer, larger) place that I had found for us to live, as I wanted a home that was 'ours' rather than me move into what very much felt like 'his'. That, and his place came with many issues, that I won't go into.
I had suggested at the time that we move closer to the city, as my commute if I moved to him would be just under an hour, and his still no more than 5 minutes - No. He didn't want to commute, at all, so the idea was shot down - despite this being a far fairer idea for both of us. It did kind of make sense, he was a part time retained firefighter and needed to be within a certain distance to the station to be able to attend 'shouts', but transfers to other stations are not uncommon or unheard of - in fact, one of his team transferred to another station so that he and his partner had a more equal commute to their regular jobs. But, if I'm being totally fair and objective, we were very early on in our relationship at that point, so I can understand that he wouldn't have wanted to make any major changes for a relationship still very much in its infancy.
However, he also refused to proportion the split in our bills to factor in all the extra petrol I was needing to pay for, because it wasn't 'his fault' I worked where I did. In hindsight, the lack of ability to compromise in any shape or form should have been a bit of a red flag for me, but I just didn't see it. Maybe I didn't want to, maybe I thought it was normal, or maybe I was just young and naive, who knows.
This just about sets the scene for how our relationship started, but I'll try to stay relevant and on track and focus on particular events that followed.
An overdue bill
Things went pretty smoothly for a year or so, until it became apparent that he hadn't been paying the gas or electric for over a year, as the supplier hadn't invoiced us, and he hadn't bothered to chase them for it. It was in his name (as were all the bills, because he'd insisted I wouldn't be capable enough to do it, another flag) and I'd been dutifully paying half into his account all that time, which I can only assume had been spent on crap. It certainly hadn't been kept aside for when we were inevitably invoiced...
We had to pay the full bill upfront, which, somehow, I ended up paying 'my' half for, so I'd essentially double paid. Any of you who pay for your own gas and electric will appreciate how much a years worth is in one hit. Great.
Arguments about the housework started a few months after we moved in together. He was in the routine of doing what needed to be done as soon as he got home from work. Not a bad habit to be in, but whilst our working hours may have been the same, it obviously took me much longer to get home. I'd walk in, to him being irate that 'he'd been clearing the house, while I did nothing' err, no, I've been driving home!
Admittedly, cleaning wasn't the top of my priority list, so I'd sometimes delay things until later in the evening or even the next day if I'd had a hard shift, especially as I was doing 1-2 hours of overtime many mornings before my shift even started and occasionally some after work to try and top my wage up. This absolutely infuriated him to the point that he had a massive go at me one evening when we had friends over for dinner. Given his wording, tone, and the way he so purposely brought it up, it was pretty clear that his motivation was not only to try and humiliate me for being some kind of slob, but to also get their agreement. To 'take his side' as it were. He got neither. I argued that leaving the hoovering, dusting or even the dishes for that matter for one day because you've done a 10 or 12 hour shift wasn't that a big deal and our friends agreed.
Apparently we were all wrong...
Because I wasn't earning a great deal of money, my Dad sometimes insisted on helping me with my car. I always went to a garage near my parents, as I knew and trusted them, and my Dad would on occasion like to drop in and sneakily pay my invoice before I got there. Whilst it was certainly never expected, it was always really appreciated. My partner on the other hand thought it was outright wrong, and made a massive effort to tell me so. Frequently.
"I don't get things paid for me, why should you?"
"You can hardly call yourself a real adult if you let your parents pay for things "
"It's pathetic, you should pay it yourself"
I'm sorry, but what!? We had a very different family dynamic growing up (clearly) but the way I was raised is that family help each other when they can. From what a lot of friends at the time said, my occasional help was hardly something to be considered weird or abnormal, as a lot of them had the same from their own parents.
It's rather comical to look back on now actually, as some time after we broke up, his mum gave / loaned him the money for the deposit to buy a house, which is clearly a far more significant sum of money than any MOT or set of tires would ever be... I can only surmise that this behavior stemmed from a little bit of jealousy.
"You will never regret being kind"
This is probably one of the biggest things for me, and the one that shocked my friends the most when they inevitably found out, as friends always do.
After a while my partner started to become very interested in the gym, bodybuilding and fitness. Which was fine, everyone is entitled to their hobbies and interests. He started to go several times a week, and changed our food around to suit what he needed. Also fine, I enjoy the gym, and I'm one of those who will eat pretty much any food out in front of me.
What wasn't fine, was when his attention turned from reading Men's Health, or looking up new workouts online, to looking at female gym motivation photos and telling me "If you did X, Y, Z in the gym, and ate properly you'd look like her".
There was absolutely nothing wrong with my size. I've never been what you would call 'skinny', and whilst I was a little heavier than I am now I've never been fat either, I was that happy level in between. I was healthy.
This wasn't a one off either. I should have called the relationship off there and then, but of course, it was another massive red flag that my brain just seemed to bypass. Thanks brain.
I was angry at him, but that anger soon turned itself inwards, as it often does, maybe I do need to look like these girls? Maybe there is something wrong with my appearance? Maybe I am overweight?
When putting this post together, I really struggled to find any photos of myself back then that show my body, I've either cropped it out or I'm hidden behind other people. So instead here is one from about 6 months prior, where I was about the same size, on a holiday with the girls. Half a year later, this person was made to believe herself to be huge, and grossly overweight. It's crazy isn't it?!
It continued, and I started to get really, really low about my body, appearance and self image. I started going to the gym whenever he did, which was pretty much daily, sometimes more, ate barely anything, and started taking any weight loss tablet or teatox I could get my hands on - some of which came from the internet and I'm pretty sure weren't genuine or safe to consume. It started to turn into a real problem, and I was weighing myself several times a day, tracking each and every time and ending up almost in tears if I hadn't got lighter than the last time.
It was only after I collapsed at work due to my blood sugar being though the floor, coupled with some major dehydration, and was taken to hospital that my good friend (who I worked with at the time, and I think had already got the gist of what was happening) talked me out of the horrid state I'd gotten myself in. So, with her support and occasional prompting, I went back to my normal diet, and went to the gym less. He said it was because I was lazy. As a consequence of all this, until last month, I hadn't stepped on the scales since 9th November 2014. That was my way of stopping myself being fixated on my weight, if you don't know what it is, it can't impact you, right?
"Let your smile change the world, but don't let the world change your smile"
More money lost
Due to a combination of bad spending habits, and moving out very young with nothing, my partner had managed to amass about two and a half grand worth of credit card debt, that he was barely able to keep with paying thanks to the extortionate interest rate being charged.
This was probably around two and a half years into the relationship, and we'd talked about starting to save to buy our own house together in a few years time. Obviously any kind of debt is not looked upon in a favorable manner by the banks when you apply for a mortgage, plus it makes it incredibly hard to save for a deposit and pay off at the same time. Having always been in the habit of saving, I had the funds to clear the debt entirely, which I did, on the agreement that he would pay a little back each month, with obviously no interest applied - he'd pay what he borrowed and that was it.
I'm sure you already know where this is going, but I never got it all back. Sure, he re-paid about £500 or so, but paying me back always went on the back burner. He paid for holidays, computer games, new clothes, even a thousand pound gaming PC rather than pay me back what was borrowed. Because all these things were important, and he needed them.
In a period when we'd broken up, but were trying to patch things up, he started an argument around the fact that wasn't paying towards rent or bills - despite the fact that I was not living there. I just pointed out we could take it off the tab he already owed me, which would still leave me the one very much out of pocket.
The birthday that didn't happen
In 2014 I changed jobs, with a massive pay rise and moved to an Insurance Broker in the City Center. I was finally on a good wage, and he managed to put a downer on that too, saying that I'd start to think I was better than everyone else because I was earning more... but I ignored him, something I was finally learning to do.
I used that new wage to save up, and for his 30th birthday, paid the deposit on a brand new car for him, arranged the sale of the old one, and sorted all of the insurance and paper work so all he had to do was sign his name... everything. He loved the car, and was really grateful, having needed a new car for some time as his old Clio was forever going wrong. On top of that, I arranged and paid for a surprise BBQ, in which all of his close friends could come over and enjoy his day with him.
For my birthday the following month, I got... nothing. No card. No present. No event. No 'happy birthday'. He had forgot my birthday. Which when I confronted him, was my fault because I 'didn't remind him'.
He made amends by giving me about 100 quid to go shopping with a friend. Not to sound ungrateful, but there is no thought when you give someone money as a present. Even more so if its if its your partner or a close friend. You really should know them well enough that you can get them something. A chocolate bar would have had more thought go into it than just cash...
A few weeks before we split (for the first time) I was sure he was looking on my phone and at my messages when I was out of the room. As being at home was always so stressful, I was spending more and more time doing overtime at work, or with female friends who lived nearby (my best friend was only round the corner), so I guess he must have thought something was going on. There wasn't but I can see the logic and the thought process behind it. I confronted him about it, and he denied it.
I was sure he was being untruthful, so I did something I'm really not proud of; I changed the name of one of my female friends, to a male name in my phone.
I didn't change the content or tone of my messages, but obviously there was a lot of "wanna grab a coffee at lunch?" "you want to do something tonight?" "you coming to the pub later?" messages which could look pretty suspect.
A few days later I was confronted about who "Adam" was. To this day I never told him it had been a set up, and that 'Adam' was actually Lizzie from work... Again, I'm not proud, it was a cruel thing to do and the total wrong way to go about the situation, but I guess it did confirm I had been right all along, and that he'd lied.
The final straw
Sometimes it can be hard to work out when you've finally had enough of a toxic or bad relationship, be they romantic, friends or otherwise. All of your bad experiences seem to blend into one horrific mess. For me however, its easy to identify what finally made me realise that enough was enough.
I'd gone away for Portsmouth (about 4 hours from Norwich) to play in an American Football tournament, and upon trying to tackle a much larger player, with admittedly poor form on my part, had dislocated my shoulder and fractured my collar bone. My shoulder was relocated by the paramedic, and I was given a tonne of pain killers to get me enable me to get home, to go to the hospital here as I'd be seen much faster.
As you would expect, one of my team had sent a message to my partner to let him know what had happened, and I called him on the way home to let him know I was being taken to the N&N for x-rays and asked if he could meet me there. He didn't come to the hospital. Not pick me up and get me home, or to support me.
I called my friend, and the second I told her where I was going and why, she immediately said "I'm on my way, let me know where you are". I didn't even have to ask her to come to the hospital, but she came and sat with me for nearly four hours, brought snacks, supported me, even helped me get out of some of the gear I was still wearing so my x-ray could be taken. She did everything you could want a close friend to do, but that my partner, the person who was supposed to love and care for me couldn't be bothered to do.
Trying to fix it
When the relationship finally broke, and after looking at various options of renting and flat sharing I moved back with my parents to help me save money for a house deposit. As usually happens with break ups, we somehow found our way back to each other. Saying we were sorry and making promises to change whatever we needed to, to make it work.
I didn't move back in, as he said I had to 'earn it', (despite the fact the house was rented in both our names) but I would come over to 'his' house a few times a week. We got a few visits in, when on one visit I spent the entire evening staring at the back of his head while he played on his computer, with a headset on, so he could talk to his online friends. That was it for me. When you are trying to patch things up, you put in some bloody effort, not ignore the other person when they've driven over half an hour to come see you.
After the break
So, things were called off for good shortly after that evening. He told me I'd never do better, that I'd never be able to cope by myself and would be forever living with my parents, single because no one would want me. I believed him at first, but figured I'd rather be single forever, than spend another second in that relationship.
I blocked him on all social media, but as is typical with a lot of couples he knew all my passwords, and was logging into my apple account to read my messages (which I didn't even know you could do), and would send me messages commenting on my texts with other people, or on my location if I was out, and only stopped when I threatened to involve the police.
When I went back to the area to see my friend at the other end of the road, my car got keyed - which I can't prove was him, but my car at the time (a VW Beetle) was pretty distinct and had a private number plate, making it very recognisable. That coupled with the location means the odds are pretty high that it was...
I also spent months having to hear through my friend (whose finance was one of his friends) as well as our wider group, all the horrible stories he was telling, and general bitching about me at any given opportunity, or apparently even when there was no opportunity at all.
God... he sounds like the crazy ex girlfriend who goes round slashing tires or trying to making up horrid stories to make everyone join their 'side' against their ex doesn't he? Never say it's just a crazy female thing, because it really isn't!
"You can tell someone is truly miserable in their lives
when they look for ways to destroy someone else's"
After a month or so went by and I started to recover and become myself again. I saved hard to buy a flat and started studying for my Insurance exams, which I finally finished last year. I started to date casually, but wasn't really looking for anything serious, I was just happy being single, spending time with my friends and doing what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. I was free.
I got together enough money for my deposit and brought a flat in the City, a 5 minute walk from my work - bye bye long commute!! The sale took ages to complete, but it didn't matter, I was doing what I'd been made to believe I couldn't; be happy on my own.
Some time later in the winter, I met Mike properly (we'd met very briefly before as he's a friend of my brother) and as we started to form a relationship, I realised how different it felt. He told me I was beautiful every day (and still does) whereas my previous boyfriend had never done it once - I'd get comments such as "I would" or "fit" but never "beautiful", and lets face it, they really aren't the same thing are they.
If we were spending time together in the evenings he'd turn the TV off, so we could actually talk, and he could listen. He gives me cuddles every day, he buys me flowers, or chocolate, 'just because'. We do the housework together, as a team. If I have a long day and don't want to do any, he doesn't mind, in fact, he'll offer to cook dinner, or run me a hot bath to help me chill out. He arranged a surprise trip with our close friends for my birthday.
We very rarely argue, and even when we do (which is inevitable with all couples) it’s never bad. No raised voices or hurt feelings, it’s more a petty squabble than anything. In the instances where he's wrong, he'll own up to it and say sorry - something that I never once got in my previous relationship.
When I was injured in an American Football game, I didn't have to call him, because he'd driven two hours to come watch me play. He then spent the week pandering to my every whim to help me feel better.
As I said at the beginning of this post, my aunt once told me you need bad relationships to really appreciate the good ones, and at the time I thought she was nuts. I get it now though, and the quote she shared again recently sums it up perfectly;
I think you need to fall in love with the wrong person.
I think you need to fight and cry and sweat and bleed and fail.
I think you need to have bad relationships and bad breakups.
I think you need all of that so that when the right person and the right relationship comes along you can sigh with relief and say
"Ah yes. This is how its supposed to feel."
So, I guess my summary is that you need the negative as much as you need the positive, so you can really enjoy the good times for what they are. I wouldn't advise that the level of negativity I've described is healthy, nor should it be tolerated, but it has helped me reflect a lot and see the stark contrast I now have.
If I could say one thing to my ex now, it would be 'thank you'. Thank you for being the contrast, so that I can truly see how lucky I am now. Thank you for pushing and pushing me until I wanted nothing more than to prove you wrong, that I could do it, that I didn't, and never needed you. I've learned that I deserved more, and should never have let that toxic relationship carry on for as long as I did. I will never make that mistake ever again, because I know what I am capable of alone.
Don't get me wrong, I'm fairly sure that if someone were to ask him on his version of events, you'd get a totally different story and set of examples and memories. It takes two, and it would be unfair of me to insist everything was entirely his fault and make myself out to be some innocent and unfortunate victim. I could have walked away at any time, and I didn't, that's on me.
Some people just aren't meant to be together, and bring out the worst in each other, we can chose to either be bitter about it, (which I'll admit, I was for a time) or we can see how it has helped us develop as a person and make us better - something I am doing now.
I'm a stronger, happier person now, I'll keep enjoying the positive, and battle any negative that comes my way.
"You go down a lot of wrong roads before you find the right one"