As I sipped my early morning cup of tea looking through the patio windows at the deer in the frosty field at the end of the garden my partner came alongside me, slipped his arm around my waist and stood sipping his tea just enjoying the moment watching the deer as they tentatively made their way through the field and back into the safety of the hedgerow as the dawn made way for the day ahead.
I was reminded of why I fell in love with him.
We first met 23 years ago and my precise thought on first meeting him was ‘I wouldn’t want to meet you in a dark alley’. He was, back then, built like the proverbial brick outhouse. (The photo shows us in 1997, he’d taken me hiking and camping on Dartmoor on New Year’s Eve. We were celebrating the New Year in The Plume of Feathers, Princetown, Dartmoor )
A former Royal Marine and a rugby player. His chest and shoulders were almost as broad as he was tall and he had a mop of unruly curly blonde hair. He was a formidable figure who you’d think twice about messing with! I also remember thinking how rude he was as he cut into a conversation I was having with the object of my desire at the time. This was the first opportunity I’d had to speak to said object of desire and here was this rude man ruining my chance!
Little did I know at that stage that we would end up dating for a year before going our separate ways and then meeting up again some 15 years later. But that’s another story for another day (or join me at the Introbiz Global Summit where I share that part of the story).
As we stood marvelling in the beauty in front of us, I was reminded this morning of one of our first dates, the time I knew that he really was ‘The One’. It didn’t hit me like a bolt from the blue, more sidled upon me unexpectedly and was met with total calm acceptance.
He had decided we were going to go for a walk. This was a full on long walk with maps and walking boots and waterproof jackets, he even took a rucksack. And I had a fabulous time. As was a feature of our relationship then we spent the entire time talking about anything and everything. Talking remains an important feature of our relationship today.
It was on that walk that I recognised that here was a man who shared the same love and passion for the countryside and nature as I do. As a child I’d had an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the flora and fauna of the British countryside and shortly after we split up back then, I studied for a Diploma in Countryside Management because he had reignited the passion that many of my previous relationships had extinguished. He went on to qualify as an International Mountain Leader, using his passion to lead expeditions in some of the remotest parts of the World.
Fast forward 22 years and that common passion is still something that bonds us. Quietly enjoying the wonder of the wildlife that roams in the field beyond our garden gives us shared moments of bliss and awe that no words can convey. And our unspoken understanding of each others’ passion for nature and wildlife means that when it comes to planning our holidays we get inordinately excited about the prospect of a cold, icy February week on a narrowboat somewhere in the middle of the British countryside with almost no-one else around except for kingfishers, herons, foxes, the occasional stoat or weasel, coots, moor hens and numerous other birds and wildlife.
On paper, we really shouldn’t work, we are, on the face of it, total opposites but we have shared values and principles and a deep-rooted shared passion. Our differences create an opportunity to learn from each other to make our bond stronger, and we enjoy learning from each other.
What passion do you share with your partner? What can you learn from your partner?
For ideas on how to ignite that passion and find out how you and your partner can learn for each other register for my next free live training
Today is 4th October 2020. 17 years ago today I got married for the second time. We were blessed with a warm, crisp and sunny Autumn day and were surrounded by family and friends in the small country house hotel we had exclusive use of for the event.
Little did I know then what experiences that marriage would bring me. I’d been married before to a physically and sexually abusive man who had beat me up for the first time on our wedding night. I was adamant that my second marriage would be for life.
My husband had quite literally swept me off my feet, carrying me in his arms on our first date when I had my leg in plaster and we had to climb some stairs. He was tall, dark and handsome and that gesture won many smiles, comments and claps of approval as he showed all onlookers that he would look after his woman.
Less than 2 years into our marriage and I was feeling that something wasn’t quite right. It would be another 2 years before I left, a shell of the woman I used to be.
At first, I shrugged off his somewhat insensitive comments about my appearance, how he would belittle me in public or treat me with complete disrespect. I thought that I must be mishearing his outdated and misogynistic comments about women being second class citizens and belonging in the kitchen or the bedroom. And when I challenged him about it he would tell me I should be grateful that he didn’t beat me like my first husband had. What’s worse is that I actually agreed with him. Over time I had been indoctrinated to believe that he was right, I was wrong and that I couldn’t cope with day to day life without him guiding me.
When he sold our house without telling me and bought a new house, 30 miles away in the middle of nowhere, far from anyone we knew, I trusted him when he said it was only a temporary measure and if I was that unhappy we could move back. I trusted him when he told me that I was an alcoholic and needed help, standing over me as I called AA in tears, because I drank one glass of wine per night and on the nights I didn’t pour my own, he would pour me a large vodka and tonic, telling me ‘I needed one’. I believe him when he told me that I was incapable of looking after our son because I’d never had children before and didn’t know what to do. I believed him when he dissuaded me from cuddling our son because it would lead to attachment issues. And I believed him when he told me that him taking family photos or videos and leaving me just out of shot was accidental. All the while I was trying to keep a business afloat and a roof over our head because he wasn’t working.
When I left, I left our son with him and I believed that was the right thing to do. I also believed that I would be free of what I now know was psychological abuse or coercive control.
How wrong I was. That was just the start. The 12 years that have followed have been the years that I have had to pay emotionally, financially and metaphorically for having the audacity to leave him. And they have been far, far harder than the years I was married to him. Two lengthy and expensive court battles to prove that I was fit to be the resident carer of my son were the least of it. The staggering attempts at parental alienation to discredit me in front of my son, the social services and anyone else who would listen. The pursuit of my destruction, whatever it takes, to prove that everything he said and believed about me was right.
The two attempts to take my own life because I couldn’t take the abuse any more were long after I’d left him. I’d reached the end of my tether and I’d run out of energy to carry on fighting. Watching his father take metaphorical pieces out of me was damaging my son and I wasn’t prepared to put him through anymore. Thankfully, I didn’t succeed in my attempts but I was far from out of the woods and headed down some dark and dangerous paths before eventually I was fortunate to find a fantastic therapist adept at working with survivors of abuse. I met a partner who had first known me long before I met my second husband and who supported me in working through the abuse I had endured in both marriages and a subsequent financially abusive relationship.
Working through everything I’d endured gave me strength I didn’t know I had, it helped me to re-evaluate my life and redefine my relationships not just with myself but with my partner and my son who now lives with me. It gave me the courage to believe in myself and embark on a six-year psychology and counselling degree with the Open University. It opened new doors of opportunity for me as my self-belief, self-confidence and self-esteem returned. It made me determined that I would do whatever I could to try and ensure no-one else, regardless of gender, ended up an abusive relationship.
That’s a huge undertaking. There will always be those who abuse others. But if sharing my experiences and learning helps just a few more people, who go on to help others by modelling strong, healthy and robust relationships, then it will all have been worth it.
Change is scary, leaving your abuser is scary, the abuse never stops it just changes. It’s how you respond to those changes that matter. I still get ‘abuse’ every day, these days it’s usually sad attempts to discredit and belittle me in front of my son. I spend many days worrying about when ‘pay back’ is going to happen but these days I know I’m strong. I can take on any of the attacks that are coming because now I have a solid foundation built on trust, love and self-respect; all of the values that eluded me in my marriage.
Now I truly am FREE.
To help me share my story and give hope to millions of domestic abuse sufferers and survivors around the world please register to hear me speak at the Introbiz Global Summit alongside greats such as Les Brown, Brian Tracy, Sharon Lechter, Rob Moore, Lisa Johnson.
To learn more about my work please register for my FREE live training, 5 Days to Redefine your Relationships
Or join me in this workshop ‘From Surviving to Thriving’ on 19th November which I’m hosting with Suzanne Smart of Positive Imprint and Rachel Earing of Live 4 Energy.