The best decision of my life
I’m sure everyone can think of a moment in their life where they have made the right decision. Perhaps even one that changed their life. This post is about mine and there won’t be any photos as it is a rather sad story (with a good ending though). It’s a story about abusive relationships and why I left Germany.
Let’s start where it all began: I was 17 and met a guy in a club. It was my birthday and I thought I had hit the jackpot. He was cute, smart and funny. After a few dates it turned into a relationship that lasted 3 years. That’s quite a commitment at that age. I know there’s no relationship without problems, it’s something you have to work on constantly but even then it should never make you feel inferior.
My relationship did though. He turned from sweet and caring into an arrogant-smart-arse-control-freak. It happened gradually, just little things I noticed here and there. See, one thing you should know about me is that my parents are divorced which came in as quite a shock when it happened – I was only 9. My siblings are older and they had all moved out to pursue jobs/uni in other cities so I was left with Mum.
I love my mum to bits and we have always had a special bond. Still, I was craving a ‘normal’ functional family. There it was, my boyfriend’s family and they welcomed me immediately. The same with his friends, I was part of their gang straight away. Having always been a nerd at school, being bullied and never one of the cool kids this was such a change and I loved it.
We spent a lot of time together and – let’s call him J because his first name starts with that letter – after a while J started to criticise things in my life:
– my mum for not supporting me enough with money (my family isn’t very rich)
– my friends that are a bit strange or bitchy (they definitely weren’t)
– my clothes being too sexy (“Who are you dressing up for?!”)
– me being confident and chatting to people (“You talk too much!”)
– my wish to have a career one day (“You don’t even have A-Levels!”)
– me missing a pill and telling him straight away (“Are you fucking stupid/dumb/retarded?! You know you’ll have to get an abortion if you get pregnant!”)
He slipped these snarky remarks and often insults into our conversations every now and then and slowly over time it completely reduced my feeling of self-worth. I didn’t know it at the time but he also made up lies about two of my very good friends and threatened to break up if I continue to see them. I loved him so of course I believed him – why would he make up lies? He loves me, so he wants me to have friends and see them. Those were the naive thoughts I had at the time.
The few other friends I had left dispersed, too. I only found out years later about the lies he told and that none of my friends liked him or wanted to see him because he was very unpleasant to them. In the end I only had him, his friends and family – and my own family of course.
Until he started to manipulate me to start a fight with my mum over money issues. I came round to my senses when my mum broke out in tears on the phone and in the end I started crying, too, feeling like a complete arsehole. In that moment I knew this had to stop.
Too afraid to end the relationship for fear of being alone, I started to stand up for myself more often. He didn’t like it. I took driving lessons and bought a car which made him furious and he broke up with me for two months!! My family was so happy about this. God knows why we got together again. I think it was me being lonely, having lost all my friends and having moved to a different city to start working after my GCSE.
J had a car, of course. Paid for by mummy. He lived with his parents and was doing his A-Levels. I moved out at the age of 16 and built myself a life in a different city, earning my own cash and living in my own place. He started to control what I am spending. It was ridiculous but I let him. Still too scared to break out. Until that one fateful day.
My company announced redundancies of 8,000 people and it hit me, naturally, being one of the youngest people there. I applied for other jobs in the same town – no luck. I applied for jobs all over Germany – no luck. I went to the job centre and it was a three hour wait so I flicked through their ‘newspaper’ which was full of job ads. One stood out: a three month internship in Brighton, UK, sponsored by the Leonardo Da Vinci fund and everything paid for (host family, English language course, monthly spending allowance).
I still don’t know why but in that moment I knew this is what I wanted and needed. It took me 4 weeks to compile an English style CV and a decent cover letter. My English really wasn’t great at the time. They picked me though, one of 15 people and a total of 450 applicants. It was my life saver.
The 19th February 2006 was the day I left. J and I said goodbye and promised to be faithful and write/call/text every day. Finally, being a thousand kilometres away from his control I found happiness, friends and confidence in myself. After two months I broke up with him over the phone. He didn’t “let” me and tried to sugar coat me, that he has made a mistake and we can still make this work, he will give me more freedom and we could both move to England in the future, etc. etc.. I stayed firm and didn’t buy into his lies and he immediately changed the tone and told me that “he should have never allowed me to go”.
Some people never change but I truly hope he knows what he has done. It could have destroyed me but instead I chose to be free.
So for me, my life only really started at the age of 19 on that cold, rainy day in Brighton….
*Domestic abuse takes on lots of different forms, the most extreme one being violence. But not all abusive relationships result in physical injuries but instead psychological ones. I felt it myself how hard it is to leave despite the constant belittling, insults and humiliation. If you’re in a position like that you should talk to someone you trust or talk to experts in your country that have experience dealing with people just like you. You can find more about it here.