My Dream Holiday Was A Nightmare In Disguise

Photo:  MART PRODUCTION, Pawel Gaul, npdesignde | Canva
Woman paying for past pre-relationship 'mistake' while on holiday

We were off on our first holiday together: Antigua — a Caribbean paradise.

Sitting on the plane laughing, joking, playing cards, and snuggling up we encapsulated “young love.”

I noticed an older couple looking over at us smiling. Maybe we reminded them of when they were young and in love.

And we were in love.

But we were also hiding a big secret, one that made me feel worthless, dirty, ashamed, and weak.

I was hoping that the secret would stay within the confines of our four walls at home and that this would be two weeks of being with the man I fell in love with — the charming, funny, gorgeous man who adored me.

A few months before he found out I had slept with a waiter whilst on holiday in Jamaica — this was before we met. I was single and on holiday with my sister at the time. I had told a friend who had told her boyfriend, who happened to know my ex. It wasn’t something I was proud of, but at the same time, I knew I had done nothing wrong — I was single!

He was disgusted with me when he found out and called me a variety of names, but I thought we had gotten past it. Little did I know that every day on this other Caribbean Island he would remind me.

Only a couple of days into our holiday, I was made to pay for being a "w****" whilst in Jamaica. He would not let it drop and I couldn’t understand what the problem was — it was before I met him.

He lost his temper and started pushing me around. As he dragged me along by my hair, I remember begging him, “Please, not here.”

This was meant to be our dream holiday.

Was I naïve to think his abuse would stop whilst on holiday?

Evidently so, because those eggshells, threatening looks, mood swings, and violent outbursts continued as if we were at home.

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We were on the holiday of a lifetime that we couldn’t afford. We were putting it all on a credit card that I knew we would not be able to pay back. This vacation would result in debt letters, lies, and another monthly payment to come out of our zero bank balance.

We went to a marvelous lobster restaurant at the end of a pier. What should have been a romantic evening was filled with worry — on my part anyway. He was ordering with abandon. All I could think of was: How on earth are we going to pay for all of this? It would be my responsibility, because, of course, our credit card was in my name.

The white sands and clear blue skies did work some of their magic. We had moments of fun, laughter, and even love.

We quickly became part of a group of other young couples. My ex was charming and most of the women were enamored by his good looks and confidence (read: arrogance). He’d play up to them and had become best friends with the men. He could do no wrong in their eyes, they hung on his every word.

I was the dutiful girlfriend. Getting involved but not too much, being friendly but not too much, having fun with them all — but not too much. Knowing my place and never giving anyone more attention than I gave him.

I had become used to walking on eggshells and monitoring myself, so I just carried on as I did at home: watching his every move and making sure I didn’t do anything to upset him. 

But I did do something to upset him.

It happened when I was on the dance floor. I loved dancing and would happily dance by myself.

As I was dancing, I started chatting to a guy, someone we had been talking to throughout our holiday. He had a girlfriend and knew I was with my boyfriend. We were harmlessly chatting as we had both found ourselves on the dance floor without our partners.

One glance across at him and I knew I had done something wrong. The look on his face made my blood run cold, I was in deep trouble.

I had been feeling joyously tipsy but that disappeared immediately as I moved into fight or flight mode.

I was in for a beating, and I didn’t know what to do. I chose flight.

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I quickly walked off the dance floor away from my boyfriend. As I got out of sight I ran. I didn’t know where to go. I was on the other side of the world. I knew I had to hide and wait it out until he had calmed down and hopefully saw sense.

I ran into the girl’s toilets and hid behind one of the cubicle doors. My heart was hammering.

What if he found me and dragged me out? What would he do? Maybe I could get to our room, grab my passport, and ask for help. But how would I get to the airport without him getting hold of me? What would happen when we got home? Would anyone believe my fears?

I heard him outside the toilets asking someone if they’d seen a blonde woman.

Please god, don’t let him come in here. He walked off.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

But now what? Do I stay here all night?

I sat there for what seemed like hours, silent tears streaming down my face. I knew this wasn’t right, but I felt powerless to do anything about it. I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me.

How had I ended up here? What had I done wrong to deserve this? When would it end? Why me? Why couldn’t we be like the other couples? Did they have secrets like we did?

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I dozed off for a while and when I woke up, I plucked up the courage to go back to our room. He was already in bed asleep so I silently got into bed and waited for the morning to see what my fate was.

Silence was what awaited me. He blanked me. He’d never stonewalled me before, this was something new and it made me feel uneasy.

I went down to the beach and there he was sitting with our friends as if nothing was going on. I set myself up on the beach a little way away from them. I just wanted him to talk to me so I could assess his mood — was he putting off a beating until later?

I’d never felt so alone, humiliated, and embarrassed.

I heard someone tell him to come over and talk to me. I don’t know what he told them about what had happened and why.

He didn’t want to be seen as the bad guy so he came over and asked me to sit with them. I dutifully obliged, searching his face for signs of anger. There were palpable signs of awkwardness and embarrassment but he was oblivious to it.

He acted as if nothing had happened and I went back to pretending this nightmare was my dream holiday.

If you’re experiencing domestic abuse, you’re not alone.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that approximately 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the U.S. More than 12 million women and men over the course of the year suffer from instances of domestic violence and abuse.

If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse or violence, there are resources to get help.

There are ways to go about asking for help as safely as possible. For more information, resources, legal advice, and relevant links visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline. For anyone struggling with domestic abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474 or log onto thehotline.org.

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Lisa Johnson is a writer and coach, based in the UK. She is a regular writer on Medium, sharing her personal experiences and lessons learned, proving that there is life, love, and happiness after domestic abuse. 

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.