We had only been together 4 months when I fell pregnant. We were very different people; he worked at the local bar and spent his spare nights at the rugby club. I was studying at university and had a flair for the arts.
Looking back we were polar opposites. I had come from a more bohemian background; his upbringing was very conventional. We had very different views on the world, on bringing up children, on financial issues. But we didn’t see it then. We fell in love and it felt like we would only ever want to be together. We were 19 when we met, we hadn’t had the chance to see the world or learn about love, but more importantly we hadn’t had the opportunity to learn who we really were as people.
Despite warnings from family and friends, we decided to tie the knot just after the birth of our daughter. We took to parenting very differently. I had had a very traumatic upbringing and so had more of a grasp on the ups and downs of what life can throw at you, a perfect training for being a mum. I managed to take things in my stride more. He had had a very sheltered life, his mother had done everything for him and he struggled with the sudden responsibility of parenthood.
He started to resent the time I spent doting on my daughter, I resented that he was not the ideal father that I had hoped for. He expected me to be a diligent and devoted wife, cook and cleaner like his mother, I expected him to be a hands-on father like my Dad had been.
Because we hadn’t known each other for very long, we hadn’t realised how different our approaches to parenting were. I strongly believed in healthy eating and natural birth. He believed in conventional medicine and sweet treats for the children. There was no middle ground.
It wasn’t just in our parenting and domestic ideas that we differed. I had always been sociable and outgoing, enjoying having friends of both sexes. He resented me having male friends and was threatened by my friendship groups. I started seeing less of my friends, I became lonely and insular. He worried that he would lose me. He started insulting me and putting me down.
He later admitted that this was because he was worried that I’d find someone else, he felt that if he put me down I wouldn’t have the confidence to find someone new. He would spend copious amounts of money on computer games and CDs while I was struggling to make ends meet in the household. He found it difficult to accept the financial responsibility.
He resented me for things that had attracted him to start with, such as the way I looked, my intelligence and my outgoing personality. He felt that these things would separate us in the end.
After 3 years of feeling unhappy I realised that something had to be done. He adored me in his own way, but I realised that I needed the freedom to grow and to be trusted. His insecurities were getting to both of us. He refused to help out with our daughter. I started working nights at a local restaurant to pay for the weekly food bill, he just sat our daughter next to him on the sofa and played computer games. I’d come home to find her unfed and miserable, in a soiled nappy. It broke my heart.
Although I wasn’t happy, I didn’t have the confidence to leave him until I met someone else. I’m not proud of this fact, but it all worked out in the end. On a rare night out with friends I met someone who found me interesting and engaging, I realised that I didn’t know who I was anymore. Nothing happened that night, but I told my husband that I had given a man my phone number and that maybe we needed to sort out our marriage. He simply ignored me and grew more distant. I was young and confused, I started emailing and phoning the other man. When we eventually slept together I realised that I had the perfect excuse to leave my unhappy marriage.
When I admitted my brief affair to my husband he was livid, and grew incredibly violent. He chucked me and our daughter out of the house. Luckily my parents took us in. Although the whole experience was very traumatic, the sense of freedom was amazing.
Because of the violence and the bullying that led up to our separation I was granted divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. I had to fight hard to get child maintenance out of him, but gradually over the years we have managed to establish a civil relationship. We can both see that we were too young to get married and that we weren’t right for each other.
Over the last few years as he has grown more mature he has expressed more interest in his daughter and things are very amicable.
This year I turn 29. It’s a decade since I met my first husband and I have been fortunate to find a wonderful man who understands me. My experience before has made me realise just how precious my current relationship is. We are getting married next year, he is a good father to my daughter and he supports and encourages me in all that I do. The difference with this relationship is that we are both encouraging and supportive, we don’t restrict each other, we communicate well, we share everything, we take the time to understand each other, we give each other space as well as making time for each other, we have the same goals and dreams.
I know from personal experience that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m happier now than I have ever been.