“It’s hard for me to tell this story, and I find it difficult to recognise the woman who put up with the things I did, when I’ve always regarded myself as a strong individual.
I know now that it isn’t a question of strength, and that some people can just destroy your sense of self-worth so you can’t even think to leave.
But one day I did.
I met my former partner Sam* because our children knew each other from school. I had recently come out of a 14-year-marriage, and his had ended shortly before mine.
I was four months pregnant, looking at divorce, and extremely vulnerable. I wasn’t looking for anything romantically; I was just trying to keep everything together.
But Sam turned up at my door one day to jump start my daughter’s car, and it’s like from that day he never left.
He was full on from the start, showering me with compliments and gifts, being super romantic and spiritual. He would talk about how we were connected on a different level and that we were meant to be together. He always told me that he had never felt the way he did about me about anyone else.
Whenever I questioned how quickly he was moving, he always said he was just so in love and couldn't imagine not having me in his life. He explained it on such a level that initially I believed every word.
Now I can see this was all just a part of the manipulation, but at the time it was everything I wanted to hear. It was romantic and it’s like he’d honed in on exactly what I needed and given it to me.
After a few months of dating, and just a few weeks after giving birth to my son, me and Sam fell pregnant.
By this stage plenty of warning signs about the relationship had already started to appear. He could be kind but then could spend hours putting me down, putting down the work I was doing, my achievements and my career in general. I didn’t know what was for the best but I thought staying with him gave our baby a better chance at a good life somehow.
It was then that he convinced me to uproot my three children and move from our home in the Northshore, Auckland, to move overseas.
That’s when things really started to unravel.
Within days of getting there, Sam would disappear off for weeks at a time, going back to New Zealand under the guise he was working – turning off his phone and just not contacting me.
It didn’t take long for me to discover he was cheating on me with not one but multiple women, having full on relationships with them.
I was devastated. Confronting him, I thought I was the kind of woman who would end it as soon as someone strayed. But somehow he managed to talk his way out of it – always telling me that he loved me more than anyone else.
We didn’t last long overseas, and I had to come home to have our baby anyway, so we moved back. I didn’t let Sam move back into the house, but I was convinced we would be able to rebuild our relationship now we were on home turf. For some reason, I always thought things would be different.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
We were still seeing each other every day, but Sam’s behaviour turned from just emotionally abusing me to being physically aggressive. My children were seeing me get pushed around and shouted at, crying hysterically - they were frightened.
On one occasion he took me for a high speed drive, swerving all over the road, while I was heavily pregnant. The more I cried, the more he laughed.
Finally, something snapped. I looked at my children and realised what I was doing to them – the message I was teaching my young sons and daughters about how to treat people and be treated.
One day recently he took me out to lunch because he wanted to ‘talk about how we could move forward together', and be with me and raise our baby together. It was the same stuff I had always heard, but that talk was empty and his actions never lined up with what he was saying. He spent the entire lunch abusing me. I didn't speak - I just listened. I cried and asked him to take me home.
I realised then there was nothing to say anymore. I had to end it forever, he was toxic and I had to get him out of my life.That was the moment I knew there was no hope. I filed for a protection order which was granted without notice and since then I haven't had anything to do with him.
Now I just feel relieved. After the worst year of my life, I feel like I’m finally getting back to being me.
I had been so crushed in the relationship I’d stopped working, closed down my social media channels at his request, and I woke up every day feeling depressed.
Now I attend a group that helps build confidence in women and I’m working towards some exciting projects for the future. For a woman who is 8 months pregnant and a single mum – I’m in a pretty positive headspace right now.
I’ll admit that for a while I struggled bonding with my unborn baby – because it was a product of him – but now I’ve realised it will be a product of the environment, not that man.”
*Names have been changed to protect identities.
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