My ex surprised me with a house... It was the final sign to leave.

I felt controlled. He had picked the house, picked the area and was using his family’s wealth to stop me living my life. Then to top it off, he acted like I was crazy for not being grateful.

Phillippa Koushk-Jalali

Tell me about yourself

I'm a 34 year old safeguarding nurse, living in Yorkshire with my husband and our cat.

Tell me about your past relationship

I met my ex when we were 14 and we got together shortly afterwards. He came from money and both his parents were very high earners which was a stark contrast to my upbringing– single mum, raised on a council estate with no financial support. We’d even lived in a women’s refuge at one point as we were homeless for a while. Ex and his parents were good people, but I don’t believe they realised how privileged they were, and it blew my mind that they could afford anything without it being a big deal. We stayed together until university.

Did you go to university together?

He was a year older than me and went to university first in our hometown and he made it clear that he thought I would too. I decided to enrol despite not actually wanting to live in the same city and as they didn’t do the course I wanted, I did the next best thing which meant that I wasn’t very invested. But I wanted to make him happy and I felt safe and secure with him. We moved into a student flat together with some other flatmates.

How did you feel about your choice?

A few months in, on a night out, I ran into some friends who had moved away to uni and were basically living their best life. I suddenly realised that If I didn’t do what I wanted to when I could, I’d regret it. I decided to drop out of uni and managed to get a place at the university at the next major city. I told my ex about it and he was furious. I’d told him about my plans to drop out and apply elsewhere but tbh I don’t think he thought it would actually happen.

How did him buying you a house come about?

I told him that I wanted to move into halls at the new uni which was about 45-minute drive away but he made me feel so guilty that I agreed that I would continue living with him and commute in. It was hard to see my coursemates bonding in their halls and having spontaneous nights out. Meanwhile, my ex got a job managing a pub his dad had bought so he was often not in anyway. Resentment built up and when my first year came to its end, I told him I wanted to move. I explained we could still see each other but I needed to do this. That’s when he told me that he had wanted to surprise me but I had ‘forced his hand’. He had bought us a house with some gifted money.

How did you react?

I was so shocked that he had done all of this without telling me. He couldn’t understand why I wasn’t happy that we were homeowners at 20 with no mortgage. For me, it was the last straw. I didn’t want to stay with him because it was safe- I just wanted to be a 20-year-old student. I felt controlled. He had picked the house, picked the area and was using his family’s wealth to stop me from living my life. Then to top it off, he acted like I was crazy for not being grateful. I told him we were over and moved out. He called me repeatedly for months, telling me he had done this for me and ‘why couldn’t I see that'. I was sad that he was obviously struggling but I didn’t regret my decision.

Do you still feel the same way?

That was 14 years ago and I stand by that decision. I'm only just getting on to the property ladder now but it's for a house my now husband and I picked together and worked bloody hard for.. I don't feel indebted to anyone over it.

What did you learn from the experience?

I think that growing up I associated money with security. My earliest memories were of my mum working all hours, wearing hand-me-down clothes and using food banks, not being able to tell my friends my address whilst we were in the refuge.. Money gives you power and opportunity- Just being able to live in your own home or grocery shop and not think about every penny is (sadly!) such a luxury and I think on some level, my ex used this power to try to manipulate me into living the life he wanted. I’m not saying he consciously tried to control me but it’s made me aware of the platform people hold when they have money.

What's your current relationship like?

My husband is the complete opposite, financially, to my ex. We both earn roughly the same amount and now that I'm earning an okay wage, I’m at that point where I no longer think about money daily and I'm extremely aware of how lucky this is. When we got married and when we decided to buy a house, we both agreed right away that we would prefer not to accept financial help wherever possible as we did not want to feel obligated to anyone– even though I'm sure neither set of parents would consciously do this. It's important to me that we are self-sufficient.