Ten years ago I was in a miserable relationship which had been going on for 13 years. For nine of those years I had been actively trying to escape from it and two years before that I knew it wasn’t what anybody would term as normal.
We met at an AA meeting and the worst thing I ever did was to begin speaking to him. The biggest draw was that he had a Harley and I’m a sucker for big motorbikes so when he offered me a day out on it I said yes.
We started meeting up regularly and drifted (I thought) into a relationship. There was a lot of on off stuff in the first few months. It felt like he was chasing me but he wasn’t, it was manipulation of the insidious kind. Questions about where he lived and previous relationships were, at first, waved away but as we got to know each other he opened up more. This felt like a privilege when it should have felt like a natural progression.
I was surprised to find that, at 30, he’d never lived away from home and that he’d only had one girlfriend. He said his first girlfriend was a woman who lived over the road from his sister’s pub and that he had sex with her for a week – no dates, no phone calls or conversations in the pub, just sex at closing time. His only real girlfriend was someone he’d met at work and that ended when she started to hint at marriage.
It was a bit weird at first but the sex wasn’t horrific so we kept on seeing each other. We were both going to AA a lot but he wasn’t happy when I went on my own. There was no interrogation about who I’d seen or who I’d spoken to but there was silence as a punishment for going alone.
After a couple of years he admitted to me that his family didn’t like me and that they tolerated me because he loved me. They thought I wasn’t quite the type for him which meant that they thought I wasn’t his equal. It’s true though because I wasn’t – I am much more clever than he is and I’m not socially inadequate (most of the time).
After that he longer came over to spend nights with me as his parents (this is a man of 32) that he shouldn’t be having a sexual relationship with me. We became “just good friends” but he insisted on holding my hand when we walked down the street. I wasn’t his partner or his friend I was his property.
Four years in we had an enormous row and I tried to escape from the relationship but he reasoned that if I was crying then it was because I loved him and so it went on. Even now people can’t imagine how somebody as strong minded as I am could get into such an abusive relationship but when they’re as manipulative as he is it’s terrifyingly easy.
There’d be phone calls to go over because there was a baby bird with an injured wing that needed catching (non-existent baby bird) or his mum was ill, or he was depressed and the list went on and on. I asked him to go to AA meetings again so he could make new friends and the response was always that he only needed one friend and that was me.
It’s a big burden being the sole friend of a person especially when that one person is intent on trying to isolate you from your friends.
I never got to celebrate birthdays because his parents came first. When his father died his mother developed separation anxiety and that curtailed his life and, by default, mine considerably.
It all came to a head at Christmas 2016. His mum was too ill to cook so on arriving at their house his younger sister gave me an apron and told me I was cooking. Rather than answer back I cooked and was grudgingly told it was okay. It was fucking fabulous actually. They drifted off into the living room and snoozed. I washed up and then squeezed myself onto the sofa and I was asked why I hadn’t made coffee…
On New Years Eve he rang me to say that his sister was going to sit with his mum so we could go out. Wow, a night out except that it wasn’t. He had a table booked for 4.30 in the afternoon at the local Beefeater and he had to be home by 6.00 pm. So my New Years Eve was a burger (yes a burger) in a Beefeater and I was expected to be happy.
I got home and rang him telling him not to contact me for six weeks. I told him I was tired, I need a rest so no texts or phone calls during that time. He agreed but I knew he wouldn’t keep it up so a few days later I sent him a letter saying I never wanted to see or hear from him again and that what passed as a friendship was over.
He had constantly told me, when I expressed an interest in photography, that I’d be useless and so the first thing I did when the shops re-opened was to buy a camera. I sold a photo six weeks later and, 10 years on, I’m the proud owner of three cameras and never leave home without one.
That was the year of my liberation – this is the year of yours.