And now at 29, the mother-of-two has realised that she was married to a stranger and found the courage to leave her lying and abusive partner who she was with for almost a decade.

This is her story.

“When I was 22 and an intern at a company, I met this man while I was walking to catch a taxi home from work. He almost hit me with his car and then came out to apologize to me and told me he lost control of the car because he wanted to speak to me. He then offered to give me a lift home and I accepted and when he asked for my number, I chose to give him my BBM pin.

Two months later, we started dating officially. Although I knew that I liked him, I was skeptical because he was ten years older than I was. So one day when he took me out on vacation, I got hold of his ID number and at the time, it was possible to check someone’s marital status through Home Affairs. I checked and once I saw that he wasn’t married, that’s when I let my guard down completely and I was in love and everything seemed perfect.

We were in love and I quickly got pregnant. I was very scared since I come from a small village in KZN and I had just moved to the big city and started my career after graduating from Varsity. My parents are also very strict and I was ashamed because I had lived my whole life to make them proud and was a good child who only broke her virginity at 22.

He told me he wanted to marry me and although it was too soon, I said yes.

When I told my mother I was getting married, she was skeptical because he was a lot older and was from Zimbabwe. She was worried about the type of culture I’d be getting into since he was Shona. My grandmother on the other hand was staunch and didn’t want me to marry him, especially because he was divorced and she was worried about what had happened in his previous marriage. I got angry at my grandmother, probably because of the hormones. We had a fall out and I felt she was judging the man that I was in love with. I then decided to go ahead with marrying him and starting a life with him.

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One day –  when I was seven months pregnant and a month before he was due to pay lobola for me – I received a phone call from a woman while I was browsing online for wedding supplies in the office.The woman claimed that I was sleeping with her husband and I was convinced that she had called the wrong person. She then told me she knew my name and told me hers. I recognized her name because he had said she was his ex and they’d even speak on the phone in my presence and it was fine because I knew they had children together.

I then asked what she meant by her husband and told her not to come with drama because they separated. She then told me that she lived with him and she knew I was pregnant and she was pregnant too. I had been to his place a few times but never really stayed over because I didn’t want to be invasive as I knew that he lived with his children and brother. I also thought he didn’t invite me over because he was respected my culture and knew that we could only stay together after getting married.

She also said that they were still married and when I tried to dispute her claims because I had checked, she told me that he had paid lobola and in their Shona culture, that meant they were married according to customary law. In my culture, lobola is like an engagement.

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During the conversation with his wife, I also realised that he had lied about where he was from and had also lied about his parents still being alive. His parents had passed on in 2002 and were not living in Mpumalanga as he claimed. She also told me that he had numerous other girlfriends and that he was abusive.

I was stressed that I moved out of my apartment and stayed with my family. I stopped speaking to him and called things off with him. I was sure I’d be able to raise my child alone since I was educated. A few months later, I got back together with him because I didn’t want my children to grow up without a father like I had.

He paid my lobola and things were great for a while. I was now in a relationship with a stranger. Although he had moved out of the house he lived in with his wife and I felt that I had won, things were difficult because his family disregarded me as they preferred his other wife.

Then things got worse when he started doing the things his first wife had warned me about. He would emotionally abuse me and then tell me to take it like a wife. After a while he started to physically abuse me to a point where I became suicidal and tried to overdose on pills. He found me and forced me to drink milk while beating me.

I started hating myself and blamed myself for falling into this trap. I called his other wife and even apologized to her for taking her husband away. She told me it was okay and that we should find a way to work together as his wives. I got angry again and asked her what she meant, because as far as I knew, they were done. She told me that they were still together and he visits her often. He’d visit her when I thought he was away on business trips.

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He denied it and whenever I’d get mad about him speaking to girls, he would cheat on me and tell me he’s doing it because I was angry at him. He’d tell me that I was now a wife and a wife never calls her husband’s girlfriends. I didn’t leave because I thought I was smart enough to figure things out.

I got pregnant again at 26 and that’s when I realized that I couldn’t live this life and left. After leaving, I found out he had another child. I resigned at work and went back home. He supported the children but as soon as I started working again he stopped.

I’m still fighting him about that but I’m much happier now. I’m working again after a two year break. I no longer have the luxuries I used to have when I stayed with him in Sandton but my sanity is more important.”

If you have a personal story you want to tell, email mystory@drum.co.za.

*real name not used