Thank you all for your thoughtful and supportive messages. I appreciate the time taken to read my story and respond and I will look into the grief forums. My Dad died suddenly, he was young, 47, and there was an expectation on me to hold my family together. A helluva responsibility for a 21 year old. I didn't understand the impact of grief, I was trying to be strong for my family, manage work, manage life. When I started dating my ex-husband six months later I probably needed to be cared for and so I settled quickly into engagement and then marriage. What followed was 20 years of instability, gaslighting and manipulation. I maintained the house, kids, finances, full-time work etc while continually feeling under pressure for not supporting or responding to him in the way he expected. I couldn't relax, if I wasn't being accused of either shouting or mumbling, being unappreciative, I'd be placating him and biting down on the rage that was building inside me. I broke down. While battling severe anxiety and agoraphobia, he took my medication for himself, the clearest indication that nothing could be salvaged so I ended it. It took 6 years to manage my anxiety as I was constantly in fight or flight mode and in that time one of my kids was hospitalised (chronic illness), I lost my last grandparent and my Mum died while I was with her. I also went through a restructure at work and myself and my team were threatened and bullied by a narcissist (we have all since left). Sometimes, when I condense it like this, I'm amazed I got through it. These experiences and a great deal of introspection have shaped the way that I approach relationships. We have complex emotions, our life experiences dictate how we behave towards others, our flaws and our scars impact how we respond. We make mistakes, do terrible things, do wonderful things. I'm no different, I can be petty, abrasive, shallow, I hold guilt for how I've treated people in the past. But we are capable of change and we get to choose who we want to be and how we want to be. I'm naturally accepting of people and appreciate that we all have our quirks. When meeting people I want to dig in deep to understand them so I can be a better friend/lover. In dating we are so vulnerable because we open ourselves up to hope and possibilities and fear and rejection. While honesty and kindness are key, I value the power of love and connection. That's me, I'll need to do another post about him.