‘On the night of our honeymoon, I saw the DARKER side of my husband. My heart was beating out of my chest. He crouched down and whispered in my ear, ‘You… are NOT going to tell me what to do.’ I felt instant regret.’

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“There comes a point in life when you look back and say to yourself, ‘What was I thinking?’ I’ve said this way too many times. To say life was difficult is an understatement. Growing up, I lived with just my mom and sister. My mom kicked my father out of the house when I was very young after discovering he had molested me.

Courtesy of Beth Papili

To make ends meet, my mother ran her own beauty shop from inside our home. She was always working, so we didn’t get to spend much time with her. When she wasn’t in the shop, she was out and about on dates trying to find Mr. Right. As a teenager, I was determined to find love. I thought I knew what it was and I felt ready for whatever came my way. I was completely naïve.

Courtesy of Beth Papili

When I entered adulthood, I married early and believed I was madly in love. I was desperate for freedom from my home. But it wasn’t real love. It was pure agonizing hell. On the night of our honeymoon, my husband showed his true colors. We discussed a few things in our past life and I happened to mention I had intimate relations with a man of color in my past. He looked at me and shook his head. ‘If I had known you were a n****r lover, I never would have married you.’ My jaw dropped to the floor. For the first time, I saw the darker side of him.

Courtesy of Beth Papili

When we were dating, there had been a few times here and there where he was rude, but I always thought to myself, ‘What man isn’t?’ Overall, he had been friendly and loving to me and anyone he crossed paths with. He always held my hand and bought me flowers. He opened doors for me and told me I looked beautiful. He even showed me off to friends and family any chance he could get. But once we married, the tables turned.

It started small. He would criticize me about my weight. If I was embarrassing him, he would pinch my arms really hard to stop me. He would yell at me if I wasn’t giving him my full attention. It started with pinching and, before I knew it, the slapping and shoving began.

He bought me a Pit Bull named Sparkles and trained her to protect me. I adored her like a child. One day, he took a bunch of clothespins and put them on her ears. She howled in pain and discomfort. I took them off and screamed, ‘Stop it!” I felt instant regret. I knew I crossed a line with him. His eyes said it. I was in trouble. Nothing in my entire life could’ve prepared me for what happened next. With an evil look in his eye, he slowly walked over to me. ‘You… are NOT going to tell me what to do.’

My heart was beating out of my chest. He grabbed me out of my chair and slammed me hard into the wall. As soon as I went into the wall, Sparkles attacked him. When he hit her again, I yelled, ‘Stop! Leave her alone!’ He forcefully grabbed her and slammed her inside of her cage. He kicked it and it went sliding across the floor. His gaze returned to me and he slapped me so hard across the face. I remember thinking, ‘God, please let me pass out.’

Then it happened. He yanked my head and threw it once more into the wall. I fell to the ground, and completely blacked out. When I woke up, he was standing over me, dressed for work in his security officer uniform. He crouched down and whispered in my ear, ‘Maybe next time you’ll know your place and shut your f***ing mouth.’ He left for work, shut the door behind him, and drove away. I just laid there. I remember looking at Sparkles in her cage and saying, ‘Mommy is going to make it all go away. We’re leaving.’ And we left.

I’ll never forget that night. I went to my bedroom and packed everything as fast as I could. I cleaned myself up and didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. ‘Mom, can you please come get me?’ I told her I was scared and wanted out. The next day, I received numerous phone calls and text messages from him telling me to come home. ‘You need to come back,’ he said. My grandfather warned me to never speak to him again. So I didn’t.

He eventually filed for divorce. Having those papers in my hand was one of the happiest moments of my life. In the aftermath of it all, I couldn’t help but wonder what real love felt like. Not only had I never been in a normal marriage, but I had never been surrounded by one either. Love from a man was a foreign concept to me.

After my divorce, I found a new man and accidentally got pregnant. Here I was, freshly divorced, and suddenly on a fast track to motherhood. I thought to myself, ‘Life is just starting and now I’m stuck.’

Courtesy of Beth Papili

Little did I know my child would show me what love was really about. Although things didn’t work out with her father, I never left her side. Having my little girl made me want to be better for her and for myself.

One day, I was working a double shift at my delivery job when I went to check my emails. I opened one from Plenty of Fish, a dating website. Inside it read, ‘You’ve got messages!’ When I went onto the website, I noticed 4 to 5 messages waiting for me. I contemplated deleting them. After all, every previous guy had messaged me something perverted. They had endless comments to make about my breasts and profile photos. But then there was one, just one, who introduced himself.

Hello, I’m Matt. I’m 26 from Wilmington, Delaware and I saw your profile. I’d love to just chat and get to know you. I do not have any kids, but I’d love some in the future. If you’re interested please message me. Have a wonderful day!

Even when I read it, I thought, ‘Wow, a normal message. I give it a day or two before the scumbag asks me for my boob size.’ But something told me not to get rid of it. ‘Don’t delete it. Just message him.’ The words rang loudly in my mind. I didn’t think he would respond. A couple days after his message, I went out on a limb and messaged him. I said hello, told him who I was, and shared a little about myself, including that I had a daughter of my own.

Courtesy of Beth Papili

After talking for about two weeks, he begged to meet me for drinks one night. Mind you, the man lived an hour away from me and I was just getting off work. I finally caved and agreed to meet him as long as I could go home and get dressed first. ‘You can start heading down once I get off of work.’

I’ll never forget that one night. The service in my house was awful (we’re talking dead awful) and unless I was sitting in a specific place, I wouldn’t receive messages. I whipped my phone around until I found a sweet spot. I sat there waiting for my phone to ping, waiting for his message to let me know he had arrived at our meeting spot, Applebee’s. I waited and waited and no one came in.

I headed towards the door and that’s when it happened. I heard the ping. ‘You’ve got 1 new voicemail.’ Oh my God! I missed it. I missed the guy. I was terrified he thought I had accidentally stood him up. ‘Oh God, let me call him right back!’ So there I was, scurrying out of the door, calling him to explain everything. When he picked up, he laughed. ‘I seriously thought you were avoiding me!’ I said to him, ‘If things are ever going to work out between us, you’re going to have to get used to my service issue.’

The night went on and on and ended pretty well. Unexpectedly, I got my first kiss from him that night… and let’s just say it was pretty DAMN good. Even more surprising was the fact that he wanted nothing more than that. I was skeptical. I was on high alert. But I couldn’t help but think, ‘Could this finally be it?’ Turns out, he did want more. But it wasn’t just my body he wanted. He wanted ME.

Courtesy of Beth Papili

Days went by and he was showering me with all of this affection, positivity, love, and respect. Two weeks in, he surprised me one afternoon. He had asked my mom for permission in advance. I was sitting in my house and suddenly my mom said, ‘I think there’s something going on out back.’ Curious, I went rushing to the back door. And there he was. My prince with a big bouquet of flowers. He looked at me with a big smile on his face and said, ‘May I take you out?’ I cried. I mean, I really cried. No one had ever done anything like that for me.

Courtesy of Beth Papili

Fast forward several months later. I gave birth to our first little baby boy. We named my boy after him. Matthew Joseph Papili Jr. He was born on February 15, 2016, and he lit up our world. My boyfriend was a daddy and he was beyond proud.

Courtesy of Beth Papili

That year, the week of my birthday, my boyfriend got on his knee and proposed to me in a garden in front of his mom, dad, aunt, and a whole bunch of people we didn’t even know. It was amazing. He just blew me away. My son and daughter both got to see it.

Courtesy of Beth Papili

On January 7, 2017, I married my prince, my best friend. Our wedding was beautiful. It was the most perfect day. I got to dress up in a gorgeous gown and get my hair and makeup done. I walked down the aisle while over 100 loved ones watched us say ‘I do’. In front of everyone, I got to say, ‘You are my everything.’ At the end of the ceremony, his father made the announcement. ‘They’re pregnant with baby number three!’

Courtesy of Sean Shannon of Let’s Be Candid Photography
Courtesy of Sean Shannon of Let’s Be Candid Photography
Courtesy of Sean Shannon of Let’s Be Candid Photography
Courtesy of Sean Shannon of Let’s Be Candid Photography

On July 13, 2017, he gave me our precious baby, Jackson Anthony Papili. He was and still is this adorable, sweet, loving child who makes everyone around him smile.

Courtesy of Beth Papili

He has been there through so much drama in my family and in my life. He has supported me when I couldn’t even support myself. He sacrifices everything and anything for our kids and for me. He is so selfless, it’s not even funny. My husband is an amazing father to all three of our kids. My daughter isn’t even his, but he treats her like his own.

Courtesy of Beth Papili

He says every day that he is blessed to have all of us and he would not change a thing. I’m lucky enough to call my mother and father-in-law mom and dad. They are truly my second parents.

Courtesy of Beth Papili
Courtesy of Beth Papili

Every night, I rest my head on my husband’s chest and count every heartbeat. I trace every single curve and hair. I lay there and think about how much he has amazed me. There is not a moment in time that I don’t say thank you to him. Thank you for being who you are. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for helping me around the house. Thank you for being such an amazing father and husband.

Courtesy of Beth Papili
Courtesy of Beth Papili

Most of all, I say thank you for being YOU. I must give some credit to his amazing parents. They are the reason he is such a gentleman. The reason he works so hard to be an amazing father, husband, and person.

To all the ladies out there, I want to say this: You may not be in the best relationship. In fact, you may be in the worst relationship. However, I promise if you take the time to stay single, focus on you, pay attention to how you’re being treated, and know your worth, you’ll find your happily ever after. Never settle for anyone who makes you feel less than perfect.

And for the gentlemen: The same goes for you. You deserve to be happy just as much as us women do. Always listen to your heart. It’ll lead you to where you belong.”

Courtesy of Sean Shannon of Let’s Be Candid Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Beth Papili of Wilmington, Delaware. You can follow her Facebook page The Mom Spot. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more from survivors of domestic violence:

‘My boyfriend closed-fist punched me in the face, knocking me off my feet. My 230-pound boyfriend split open my face. The past 6 months of my life have felt like a slow torture.’

‘Why didn’t you call the police?’ ‘I would have fought back.’ ‘Well, why didn’t you?’ ‘You got married really young. Did you see the signs before you were married?’

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