Aged 19 and 20 I was in an emotionally abusive relationship, and I constantly lived in terror of the emotional abuse spilling over into physical abuse.
I am lucky that I managed to get out, more or less intact, but I found out recently that my ex is in prison for physically abusing and harming his current partner.
As I read the newspaper article I was transported back to that world of abuse, that relationship, that time of my life when I lived in constant fear.
You might think I'm stupid or an idiot for getting myself into that situation, and I totally understand you thinking that. But read on so I can help you to better understand abuse.
Prior to that relationship I was an incredibly strong woman. I took shit from no one.
I remember hearing about women who were hit by their partners and either left them and then went back, or stayed with them.
I clearly remember saying "well then they're idiots if they're staying with a man who hits them".
For me it was black and white.
A couple of days ago Ben and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. That's right, our marriage is now old enough to buy its own bottle of champagne to celebrate ;-)
And it got me to thinking. If our marriage is now 18 years old and an adult, what has it - and what have I learnt - about being married?
Not only have I been married for 18 years, but I've also been helping women all over the world with their relationships for over 3 years (via my Life Reboot Camp online programme).
Living together. Sleeping together. Potentially raising babies or fur babies together. Sharing finances. Sharing household chores. Eating together. Spending spare time together. Dealing with each other's friends, family, job / business / career.
Marriage is a whole ton of pressure to put on two people without any training or manual.
So I decided to share with you the 5 things no one told you about marriage, in the hope it will help you have a happier and better marriage.
I'm going to preface this blog post by acknowledging just how lucky I am.
Lucky to still have both my parents.
Lucky to have had the most incredible relationship with them for the past 45 years.
Lucky that they are still the ones to look after me rather than the other way round.
Now that's been said, here's the thing.
I miss my mum and dad.
The last time I saw them was in late October 2019.
It's the longest I've ever gone without seeing them, and bloody hell it's been / it is hard.
I lived in Nice, France for 12 years and thanks to easyjet we were able to see each other every 2-3 months in general.
Then when I moved to London I was just an hour down the road from them.
We saw each other for about a day every month, more or less.
My mum and dad were our support team when I had our youngest daughter, Clémence, in London in 2012.
My dad drove me, whilst in full-on labour, to hospital, through the rush hour streets of London.
My mum stayed with me and Ben right through...
Exactly 19 years ago today I spent my Saturday in a fairly typical way for a recently-dumped, overdrawn 25 year old woman. I went for some retail therapy and bought myself a new outfit, which was cheap, but which I couldn't afford all the same.
I felt a bit shitty about it when I got home, as the high quickly wore off, and I decided to save money and stay in that night.
Then my friend rang me and begged me to go out with her - she was after the bartender who worked in a bar in Nice (France) where I lived at the time.
I told her I couldn't. I was saving money. It was cold. (Even on the French Riviera it feels cold on a December evening!).
But she found the perfect argument to win me round "you can wear your new outfit, otherwise what was the point of buying it?!".
Torn between a night in by myself, watching crappy French TV and cooking for one, or a night out in a bar, with my friend, in my new clothes, I think you can guess which won!
We got to the bar relatively early and were...