I returned home and one thing were clear; the world had moved on and I was left behind.
Falling a year behind in my studies was disheartening. While my friends were enjoying their first year of university, I went back to being stuck at the same old college. I willingly detached myself from friends for the first six months of that year. I was desperate to be me again, so that I could come home smiling and laughing like the same girl I was before my ‘wedding day’. But the wounds were skin deep and I covered my emotions to show everyone that I was ok.
I would meditate for hours thinking about how my life had no direction. I would cry wondering why this had happened to me, until one day I decided I didn’t want to be the girl who cried by herself. I threw myself into education as if it was a lifeline. A lifeline, that’s exactly what it was.
My education gave me a purpose, a sense of belonging, a new lease of life and I wasn’t going to let anything ruin it again. I made a promise to myself that I would follow my dreams; I would work in the City in a towering glass building.
I decided to go to a university where I knew nobody, a fresh start and new beginning. I was excited for this journey because anything seemed possible. I could be whoever I wanted to be, there was no-one there who knew my story. Finally, I no longer had to be the girl with the scars.
I lived this new life with a motto - ‘What people think of me, is none of my business.’ This new mentality worked, because for the first time, I actually loved life. It was so freeing to be amongst strangers and my confidence grew. My laughter had never felt so genuine. I was ready to conquer the world!
Finally, the secret was bolted shut and impenetrable.
The beauty of this world is that all the pieces align and come together. My time at university was picture perfect. I had amazing friends, a great part-time job and when it couldn’t get any better, I met the ‘Perfect Stranger’.
Like many love stories, it started off as a chance meeting, during a casual evening out with colleagues. This evening out was the same as so many of the others I had been to, except my manager decided to bring along his best friend. He was a tall, dark and handsome man in a tailored overcoat, he had the perfect smile and for the first time, I found myself looking twice. To my surprise the attraction was mutual.
I’ve always been a traditional girl and a man would have to approach me first, so even though I was attracted to him, I didn’t dare show him any interest but all of a sudden, a kind of shyness took over me and my outspoken and confident manner seemed to have gone into sleep mode.
From our initial conversation I could sense a level of maturity in him, which only made me want to know more about this stranger who seemed different from everyone else. Suddenly he was at all of my work events, which made me happy because I enjoyed his company, so much so that somewhere along the lines these turned into regular casual outings, just the two of us.
He was charming and affectionate - everything a girl looks for in a first relationship. I had never felt these feelings before nor had someone showered me with affection and compliments like this. To me he was perfect and I would become very defensive when anyone around me thought I was too good for him. Even he would say things like, “I don’t want you to feel like you sold yourself short, you are amazing, an angel.” Maybe he genuinely believed that I was too good for him or maybe it was a ploy for me to see his vulnerable side – Whatever it was, it made me fall for him quicker and faster and before I knew it, I was in love.
Now that I have reflected on these memories, I understand why I behaved the way I did. I gave into my feelings very quickly because I felt being with him would be a way of plastering over the belief that because I was tainted no one would want me. This was so embedded in my brain that I desperately clung onto the first real thing that told me what I wanted hear. As cliché as it may sound, I guess I saw him as my hero, because it looked like he was saving me from my fate as a spinster. From the start the salesman sold himself and before long, I was breaking down my walls and told him everything about my past, yet he seemed unfazed and replied “You are pure and a gift from God and definitely made for me.” With these words I felt like I had found the one and finally my past seemed like a bad dream.
I never wanted to go into his story, because regardless of what he has done, it is his stories not mine. But I need to reference it, because I feel the similarities in our past made me feel a deeper connection to him and cemented the belief in my mind that we were truly made for each other. How you ask? Well he too was a divorcee.
According to him, his mother took him to Bangladesh at the age 18 and got him married to relative, under the threat that if he didn’t she would kill herself; this fear pushed him to agree and play by her rules. He had described it as a contract marriage, because once she became a British citizen, she vanished. I truly felt I belonged with him, he showered me with affection, showed me love and we had a similar experience, that made me believe he understand my story – what more could I have asked for in a man?
As our relationship progressed into years, I became very dependent on him to the point that he became my only friend and that was ok, he was all I needed because I was going to grow old with him. Like all relationships there were up’s and downs, but not once did I ever think to leave him – I was loyal and I had invested so much of my time into our relationship, that by then, he was referring to me as his wife and I was acting as if I was already married to him.
The Truth Found Me
Around 2 years into our relationship, I received an unexpected call from a woman who claimed that my partner was already married and that he would be up to no good with other girls. I was shocked and kept asking who she was, she didn’t answer and hung up. Confused and angry, I automatically called him for an explanation, but my naivety was no match for his tactful quick thinking. He twisted and manipulated my mind so naturally that I was made to believe the woman was a ghost from my past, a woman who might’ve had a vendetta against me. He played it so well that he even convinced me to change my number. He made me believe that he was “looking out for me” and had “seen it all before.”
Now I laugh at how gullible I was. He used this tactic for everything to give the impression that he was supportive and I had all the freedom in the world. he showed support when it came to educating myself and having a career, however the words of encouragement were always followed by a gentle reminder: “I want you to study and have a career but you are lucky, not a lot of guys let their girlfriends go to university.” But my naivety, allowed him to control me, to make me believe I only needed him and by the end of it I even drifted from my friends because they were bad influence on me. He did things so subtly that even I didn’t realise how isolated I had become and I even adored him for his protective behaviour. Every moment he made me feel like I was the only thing he cared about. I even remember this moment where we were watching an episode of EastEnders, and in that episode a female character was treated badly. He saw that it made me upset and said, “I don’t want you watching such things, I always want you to smile. I’ll never hurt you. I’ll protect you”.
There was no reason not to trust him…
He was my ‘forever’ after all.