7 Months ago whilst running a busy pub post graduation I was introduced to 'Biff' by a mutual friend. Opening up at 7.30am on that Saturday for an early Rugby Match I had no idea how big a mistake that would be. Dripping in designer attire and sporting a very 'cockney, cheeky lad' attitude I was pretty impressed. Having recently gone through a very mutual and amicable break up I welcomed the attention and it wasn't long before I was flirting and laughing away like a good-un. I casually worked through the early shift, sporting a fuzzy head on a few hours sleep but the time flew and I grabbed a couple of hours sleep break at lunch time. I woke up to a message from said mutual friend asking if 'Biff' could have my number, of course I agreed and I went back to work. Later that evening my new love interest graced the bar with his presence, he sat and drank, made me laugh (a lot) and ultimately I was a tad smitten. The days that followed were a bit of a blur, I carried on putting in silly shifts but the difference was he was there the whole time. I was given flowers and chocolates, complimented like I'd never been before and a week or so later when a rather obnoxious and very drunk customer loudly labelled me a 'piece of shit' guess who was there to stick up for me and get rid of the rabble? Biff.

Illustration by Beth Shearsby

Illustration by Beth Shearsby

Although I do and always will class myself as a feminist I can't deny that being spoiled and looked after was appealing to me. I feel I've always been able to handle myself - ironically even more so now but the addition of someone who clearly cared made a huge difference. Work became more stressful so post shift drinking sessions were mandatory, my grotty flat above the pub slowly became his home too and before I knew it I was cooking dinners, making his pack lunch, doing washing and burning myself out trying to keep up with everything. Yet none of this mattered because ultimately I was being treated like a princess, I met his friends who he raved about me too and all the locals seemed to like him. Life was hectic but happy.

Unfortunately, sometimes the good doesn't last and it didn't take too long for his charming character to take a more sinister turn. So having booked the weekend off to go and meet his family for the first time I was excited. It was rare to have one of those so called weekends in the pub game so rather than go straight up to bed on that Friday night I spent what was meant to be an hour or so drinking with one of my favourite locals Steve. Well long story short I ended up going up to my bed at 5am. Being extra careful not to wake my caring, doting boyfriend I tiptoed through the door but instead of finding him fast asleep he paced the floor of my bedroom like a wild animal. "Where the fuck have you been" were the words that came out of his mouth, and in shock - I laughed. I genuinely thought he couldn't seriously be acting this way. I explained I'd been downstairs, I knew it was late but I'd just wanted to have a bit of banter and drink! I can't remember everything that followed but I do remember crying - rather hysterically, I remember trying to get out of the flat and I remember being held against the door with his hand around my throat. Fast forward 3 hours and I'm in his mums car on the way to their house for the weekend, playing happy families in true Oscar deserving style.

I blamed myself completely, my actions were out of order and I should think myself lucky for having such an understanding boyfriend. I was still drunk, having had a 'supervised' bath I'd packed a suitcase when all I wanted to do was run away. I vowed to sort out my behaviour and not corrupt my lovely man’s mood again. The weekend was perfect, we laughed and drank and there was no hint of a row. He convinced me this would never happen again and he told me he loved me and just worried, that was all. Of course I believed him. Why wouldn't I?

A mere week later, history repeated itself. Yet this time I hadn't gone awol downstairs, I laid in bed desperate to get some shut eye. I wasn't in the mood to be intimate due to the bickering we had started so I turned over and closed my eyes. I was branded all the names under the sun, he had expected sex and given the fact I wasn't responding to his advances he called me a slag - ironically so. I was a c**t, a fat slut and a horrible person. Again I cried, I wanted to get out. He was clever with his actions, he had grabbed me in such a way that I couldn't get up. I genuinely still can't get the phrase "you're not going anywhere" out of my head. The next day the same rapport occurred. He said sorry, told me he had never been like this before and it was me who had bought it out in him. I apologized, of course.

I spent the months that followed following the same pattern. My personality shrunk and I was completely blind to what was happening. I had my opportunity to get out when I left the pub and moved back home. But I was in love, I visited him at his flat on weekends - I was convinced that we had just spent too much time together and that if we only saw one another at weekends it would be different, special. Obviously that was another lie and it didn't take long before the same old story emerged. My self-esteem was non-existent, he begged me to move in and ashamedly I was close to giving in.

Illustration by Beth Shearsby

Illustration by Beth Shearsby

Things came to a dramatic head when a male friend messaged me one night asking if I was okay. Biff knew this boy and hated him. He had frequently accused me of cheating over the last few months and although I told him over and over I would never ever do that he was convinced. So when my phone went off that Saturday evening, he grabbed it. He grabbed my face and told me to admit it. He said if he found out the truth he'd slit my throat. He let loose on his tirade of insults and said some truly disgusting things. I don't think I've ever felt so worthless, I felt like a child who had be scolded and I knew then that this was it. How could someone who supposedly loved and adored me so much talk to me like he did?

I wasn't proud of what I did next but I knew fighting back wasn't an option and to be completely honest I was scared. I told him I loved him more than anything, I would never leave him and I would delete everyone from my phone. Soon he'd calmed down, that night I lay next to him completely ashamed. Still, I was completely under his spell. It wasn't until a month later, which happened to be my birthday when it ended. We had been out the night before and his behavior was perfect, I laughed and thought I finally had my lovely boyfriend back. Yet the next day his ugly side came back and during another argument he spat in my face. I was so completely taken aback I didn't even cry. I told him to leave, he wouldn't. The next day I acted as if everything was fine, he left to go home Sunday evening and I never saw him again. I told him it was over.

The next couple of months I got phone calls, my blocked contacts list grew and grew, I received flowers and cards begging for me to go back to him, but I didn't. It took changing my number and more months of no contact to finally be rid of him. Today I still get paranoid that he'll just 'turn up' at my work, each night I go home I'm scared of checking the post, every time I see a similar van to that of his works I feel sick. Given the fact I was quite a ballsy teenager and young adult I think many who know me will be surprised I'd even put up with that kind of relationship, especially for such an extended time but the point is these types of people are bullies. They are manipulative and as soon as you forgive the first time then it is much harder to get out. I may sound hypocritical but the only advice I can give is get out. At the first sign of an abusive relationship cut all contact and never return. It wasn't until a close friend told me that she worried he could actually kill me with one misjudged smack that I saw the severity of the situation.
 

Love is blind but thankfully I saw that before it was too late and I'm now in the happiest and healthiest relationship I've ever been in with someone who builds me up, makes me feel as confident as they come and ultimately someone who would protect me through and through.

Illustration by Beth Shearsby

Illustration by Beth Shearsby