Smack.

In the beginning of a relationship it’s hard to see any of the annoying or bad attributes that your newfound beloved may possess. The ‘honeymoon’ period of each relationship has those lovely rose tinted glasses that make your partner seem like the most perfect man/woman in the world. In this short-lived period of time all you want is to be around them 24/7 and spend a lot of time in bed getting to know each other (in more than one way!)

After the few lovely rose tinted months progress, unfortunately those lovely romance goggles start to see much more clearly, and with that clear vision comes the time when you see the REAL person you fell in love with. And of course, with any long-term relationship the number of fights or fallouts do increase, but as I’ve always believed: a relationship with no arguments whatsoever isn’t a healthy relationship.

Arguments allow you to vent how you feel, and after each fight you become stronger from it and learn how to deal with conflicts in a much more controlled way. However, not all individuals can stay so controlled when in an argument and this can sometimes be the start of a slippery slope into fights that hurt in more than one way.

Petty arguments or getting annoyed if your partner doesn’t clean up or leaves wet towels on the floor (two of my main pet peeves), is just the start of how your relationship will be carved out in the future. Soon enough, those wet towels on the floor, dirty underwear and clothes thrown about your lovely bedroom and fights over what to watch on TV start to reveal the person underneath the lovely romantic exterior that once plastered a big smile on your face for the first blissful 3-5 months of the relationship.

Unfortunately, sometimes what you find underneath the beginning romance is a lot darker than what those rose tinted glasses made out to be. What I had never really encountered at all in my life was anger and violence. In some circumstances the more you get to know your significant other, the more you understand as to why they react in a certain way in arguments or when unhappy, but along with it comes the result and consequences of how they treat you when the rumble of thunderous anger storms over you.

I remember the first time I felt scared of my own partner. Scared!? To this day it still makes me so sad and even embarrassed that I let myself succumb so greatly to someone’s anger. In that moment I did not recognize the person shouting, swearing and degrading me by every second. I did not think that the person I loved, and who loved me, could treat me in such a way. To be blunt, I felt like a cowering dog that was about to get kicked.

For months afterwards I endlessly Googled or consoled in my mother whether verbal abuse was a quick step away from actual physical abuse. The internet and all the various website forums I trawled pointed to a big YES, whilst my mother said that yes, in some cases if your partner is being verbally abusive it can eventually lead to physical abuse. One thing my mother did make very clear to me was that someone’s violent childhood and turbulent upbringing was in no means an excuse for the behaviour that had recently been displayed by my ex-partner.

Every name under the swearing sun, you name it, I’ve been called it. Every word feels like a bullet hitting a weak safety vest, letting the verbal bullets cut slowly into my skin, into my blood, and into myself, disfiguring or breaking the way I see/saw myself. ‘You selfish little bitch, you’ve ruined everything… You’re a disgusting moody little shit, get out of my life…’ Sadly those words and names float around in my head to this very second. If the person who you feel knows you the better than anyone else seems to think so lowly of you (even if it is just in a heat of the moment rage) then imagine how hard it is to reassure yourself that you are not that piece of worthless crap in the gutter that you now feel like. On a few occasions I thought in my head that a bruise or cut would feel so much less painful than the words that were spat out at me

I found myself in a catch 22 – on the one hand I wanted to be there and help my partner through his anger issues and felt so sad knowing the details of the violence he grew up in, but on the other hand, I had to ask myself whether I wanted to stick around someone who was verbally abusive. I couldn’t get my head around it all, and to this day I still can’t.

The rose tint of my glasses is long gone, and now I see more clearly in front of me. I see more clearly as to how I should be treated and that abuse of any kind is not acceptable in a relationship. The names still float around in my head, and knock me off balance on a few occasions, but I know that if I believe the poisonous words in my head then I will never begin to like myself. I realised a way back when I was in a dark period of my life that if I don’t learn to like myself, I won’t learn to like other people or be liked in return. A little positivity every day will get you a long way from who you used to be, and who you used to be with.

McDonald’s, Piss & Romance.

One balmy London summer night I found my boyfriend and myself in a side street near Oxford Circus, sitting on the grubby curb with a greasy Big Mac and fries in hand. After watching a few drunken girls stumble past us, bouncers hauling a man down the road and looking at the trickle of a horrible smelling liquid ease its way down the pavement (which was most probably piss), I looked over at my boyfriend and realized that despite the yelling, honking, dirt and burger stuffed in his mouth that this was one of the most romantic times I had ever spent with him.

Romance is built up to represent candle lit dinners, flowers, cosy nights in, spontaneous gifts or pretty much anything that doesn’t involve a Big Mac or the smell of piss. The majority of us either founded our view of romance from novels or movies or perhaps even from our parents and friends, but my view of romance was built from the one person who showed me what real romance is, or at least what is real to me.

The closest to romance I had before P was being bought a Panini, but only because the Italian shop owner jokily said that my ‘gentleman’ should treat me to lunch and that a lady shouldn’t have to pay on a date (then ensued the awkward moment where my previous boyfriend had to pull out his wallet for the second time and begrudgingly handed the £3.50 over). Before P I had never known romance and naturally found it strange at first when he wanted to buy my cinema ticket or take me out for dinner.

As the days and months passed by, the romance within my relationship with P changed. As students, the number of restaurant dinners and movie trips began to dwindle (as did our bank balances). Yet I soon found myself happily curled up with him in bed watching a film or cooking dinner together and not caring that I wasn’t dressed up in a nice restaurant or that I was watching a film on my laptop and not the big screen.

Everyone has different views on what is romantic, but sitting on that London curbside with P, I realized that I didn’t want to be anywhere else. I didn’t want to be looking across a candle lit table at him with a fancy plate of food to devour, I wanted to be right there, side by side on the dirty pavement laughing and being ourselves whilst devouring the greasy and glorious burgers and fries. No waiters to pester us, no couples or tables around us, and despite the surrounding drunks or honking taxis, it all faded away and it felt like we were the only two people on that street, just being ourselves. To me, that’s what real romance is, when you can be yourself whenever or wherever you are and still find the romance – even if you can smell piss.

The monsters inside.

Inside each and every one of us is a smouldering dark pit of unwanted memories, resentments and emotions. This pit within us has the ability within seconds to turn us from a settled happy person, to a raging monster whom we don’t even recognize. Maybe we thought we were always that ‘settled’ and ‘happy’ person, but deep down we all know there is a monster, big or small, inside each of us that sometimes we cannot ignore or control.

As children, we are told of the scary monsters beneath our beds or the ones inside our closets at night. The only scary thing about these ‘monsters’ was that in reality they were not the big hairy ogres that lived in our imaginations, but instead were the memories and emotions that lived and grew inside us.

I remember the day that I started to realize the difference between the monsters of fantasy and those of reality. It was a sunny Saturday morning, and as usual I was sat at the kitchen table doing exam revision whilst my mother made coffee for my father, who had just come in from rowing. There had been a quiz inside one of the Saturday papers titled “how well do you know your daughter?” and my mother thought it would be fun to test my dad on the questions. My mother began with the ‘easy’ ones first: “Name three of her best friends”, my father ‘ummed’ and laughed whilst guessing random names, however none of his guesses were right. “What is her favourite subject at school?”, he didn’t know. “Name a music band she likes”, no answer. “What is her favourite sport?”, another wrong answer. “What is her favourite TV show?”, another wrong guess. By the end of the quiz I was feeling so disappointed and embarrassed that my own father clearly knew nothing about me, but laughed it off and made jokes to try and mask this horrible truth.

This ‘horrible truth’ then manifested itself quickly inside me, growing over the months and years. Every time my father let me down, from not being at a school music recital I was playing in, to only wanting to watch TV and be alone on weekends, the anger, sadness and resentment I felt slowly created a bigger monster inside of me. This was not a monster I could get rid of by simply turning on the lights and looking underneath my bed, but if I could have seen it back then, I would have been too scared to face it and let it out.

Many of us do not face up to the monsters inside of us. Sometimes we would rather pretend that these monstrous feelings inside of us do not exist as we know that facing up to it would mean us having to acknowledge painful memories which then makes that pain or memory much more real. Although facing up to our own demons and monsters puts us in a vulnerable position, the choice to try to tackle each horrible or scary monster shows great strength. The more we acknowledge our feelings, resentments and memories, the stronger we become, as we now feel that we can tackle these monsters, rather than ignoring them.

When my father announced that he and my mother were going to get a divorce, its safe to say that my monster obviously felt it could be contained no longer. By that point it was so big that it was uncontrollable, and all the anger and tears poured out in a rage that wouldn’t be out of place on the Jeremy Kyle/Jerry Springer show. My monster took hold of me and unleashed its burning anger, almost leading me to smash one of the standing lamps on him (I think the only reason I didn’t do this is because my mother told me it was an expensive lamp). I was scared of myself, but this monster wanted to hurt him so badly, for all the years in which nothing had been said. Tears streaming down my face, I told my father: “even if I did smash this lamp on you, it wouldn’t even come close to the pain that you’ve made me feel“.

I had ignored and tried to run away from the ever growing monster that held all the painful emotions and memories of my father for so long, allowing it to fester inside me over the years. As a result, I painfully learned an important lesson: running away from your monster will only turn you into one.