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Over the past year, people have often wondered how I can have the energy to start a side business on top of my full time work, constant travel and extra-curricular activities. Whilst some of this is driven by an internal need to achieve (more on that in another post), a lot is due to having left a toxic relationship two years ago and finally feeling free – knowing that I have a second chance in life. Here is the first part of my 4.5 year story.

My city apartment

When I was 24 I left my hometown of Adelaide to move to the big city of Melbourne and I was so lucky to have a great job and an apartment right in the city. I was young and independent, but old enough to make choices for myself and able to handle any situation. So I didn’t bat an eyelid when, at the age of 25 I met a friendly couple in their mid-40s who were in an open marriage. I figured it was all in the open so no one was being hurt. I started dating the husband (let’s call him Jim) – we had a couple lunches/ dinners, and within a few dates he told he loved me. I remember the exact moment, we were having lunch at Flagstaff Gardens in the CBD near Parliament Station.

I recall feeling a bit confused, but I decided that my heart was open and that I could try and fall in love too. As silly as it sounds, I started telling him I loved him too, acting more affectionate, and then lo and behold within a few months I actually did truly fall in love.

“Before I knew it, I had become his mistress – the other woman.”

It was an extremely lonely period of my life. That first year of our relationship, most nights I would go to bed alone in my apartment, lonely and jealous of not being the one he was coming home to, the one to share his life. Even though his wife was lovely and completely approved of our relationship, it wasn’t enough to slay the pangs of jealousy that I felt. I also knew deep down that something wasn’t right, that there was another reason I was so unhappy – I wasn’t putting myself first, and my life was in limbo. Whilst Jim didn’t outright say that I couldn’t date other people, I believed that it wouldn’t be fair to him if I did (considering how well he treated me on our dates and how much we loved each other), so I purposely didn’t date anyone else. I even turned down a couple guys that I liked during that time so I could cherish my relationship with this older man. I was also probably a little scared of how upset he would be if he found out that I was interested in anyone else (he would get extremely jealous if I commented on someone else’s attractiveness or eligibility). Once he flew into a jealous rage when I wanted to spend a few hours with a male friend, he put his hand around my throat and stumbled back in shock when he saw the genuine look of fear in my eyes. He apologised profusely.

One of the many cards Jim wrote for me, this one to accompany a commitment ring he gave me while he was married

But knowing that the relationship wasn’t good for me, I decided that 1 yr was enough and I would put an end to it. As it was, Jim needed to go overseas for work for one year in Cyprus. At the time I was studying my Masters degree and had big plans to apply for an internship in Europe with the UN or WHO (something I had dreamt about for years since university). But I decided that instead of pursuing this goal, it would be more important for me to fly over to Cyprus and spend a few more cherished moments with this man before we broke up, because I knew it would make him happy to see me. So I didn’t apply for the internship, I told Jim we were breaking up as it wasn’t good for me, but that I would come over and spend two weeks with him in Cyprus/Turkey.

Photo of me sadly smiling on holidays in Turkey

Every moment of those two weeks I was counting down the day we would have to say goodbye and I would wish with all my heart that the situation was different and we were truly a couple. The day came when I said goodbye at the airport, and when I boarded the plane I laid there crying the whole way back to Australia (I remember covering my face and making out like I was sick/tired so I wouldn’t be interrupted by the food breaks). I was so heartbroken, I couldn’t function properly, so shortly after I went back home to my family in Adelaide to heal. At that point they didn’t really know the details, but they knew I needed comforting. I stayed in Adelaide for 6 weeks and was lucky enough to have an understanding workplace that had kept my job open for me when I returned to Melbourne. So I continued on with my life and everything went back to normal.

We loved staying and swimming at the Crown Metropol

Things were good for a few months, then one night Jim got back in touch with me and I was feeling a bit lonely at that point. So we resumed our relationship, and I said to myself that this time it was different – I had control, and I wouldn’t allow the relationship to lead me to heartbreak like it did the first time. So we continued on, going on so many wonderful dates and getaways (when he didn’t have other family commitments), and I convinced myself that this was okay – my emotional needs were being met and even though I would ideally like a relationship of my own some day, I was too busy anyway. It was also too difficult thinking about a life without him in it –  I mean we were texting/communicating at least every hour or so, we were best friends and soul mates.

Another couple years flew by with Jim and I professing our love for each other every day. I knew that Jim and his wife were arguing a bit more than when I’d first met them, and I felt proud that I could provide Jim with the solace and love that he truly deserved. I knew that at some stage, I would be able to walk away and find someone else when the time was right. I felt in control, loved and valued, and probably a little smug for finally being the #1 person in Jim’s life.

So everything was ticking along fine… until one day Jim was at my apartment, he told me he was leaving his wife and two teenage children to be with me.

Leaving a toxic relationship (part 2)

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