Life with Luke had seemed so full of promise when she met Luke, 29, a plumber, and dad to Jimmy aged 8. Amanda, 26, wanted nothing more than to have a lovely home with him and somewhere Jimmy could stay at weekends. But within three years it was all over.
Luke was great when we first met in a nightclub three years ago. He was good looking, had a great sense of homour and he just bowled me over totally. When he asked me out I jumped at the offer-and six months later when he asked if I would like to rent a house with him-I couldn't pretend not to be the happiest girl on earth.
But what I didn't realise was that going out with someone and living with them are two completely different things.
I knew he had a son by his ex wife and I had met him a few times before we moved in together. Luke had split from his wife when Jimmy was only two years old and he missed his son like mad.
I was looking forward to being a 'step mum'- even if it was just at weekends.
I was working as a receptionist for a car hire company and although the money wasn't exactly brilliant, I really liked my job.
So the big day came and I moved my bits and bobs from mum's to my new place.
Luke had a few items from the flat he shared but most of his furniture was really tatty and i didn't want it in our new home together. Besides I wanted us to have a new start. We'd managed to collect some furnishings from friends and family but I wanted some new stuff and when we saw how much we could get on a 'buy now pay later' schemes shops were offering we went for it and got a lovely 4 seater leather sofa, a chair, a dining table and even a new bed. Mum keep saying to slow down but I wanted our new start in life together to be perfect.
I was a bit shocked when Luke came home one night with a new bed for Jimmy, a new TV for Jimmy's room, a new wardrobe and a new play station for him...but I knew Luke was going to miss him and wanted to make up for the things Jimmy had at his mum's house, but didn't have at our place.
'It must have cost a fortune!' I shrieked and Luke sat and almost cried as he said he was going to make our home a home for Jimmy as well. I stroked his head and said it was fine.
Our kitchen was a bit of a mess and I really wanted a new fridge but we hung on to what we had been given.
We had a bank account to pay the rent and other bills but I wasn't expecting the account to be emptied quite to fast. It seemed that from month one there was never enough money. I also didn't realise how much I was relying on mum when I had lived at home. Food bills were so expensive now I was buying my own-and so was going out.
At the weekends we took Jimmy out to places-and were rarely back without change of £100 by the time we had paid for drinks or a bit of lunch somewhere-and then Luke still had to pay maintenance to Jimmy's mum even though Jimmy was staying with us 3 nights a week.
In the end me and Luke were sitting in most nights watching telly. Luke's ex wanted more money from him and Luke daren't say no incase she stopped him from having Jimmy.
It was all a strain. I never seemed to have money to have my legs waxed or my hair done any more-and nights out with the girls were unheard of.
After a year I was skint and had enough of not being able to afford anything and it was then I started borrowing money-and applied for a credit card. . To begin with it was brilliant. I had cash again ad could live a little like we used to. We had a holiday the two of us and I even managed to take mum to London.
We took Jimmy to a theme park with a couple of of his friends and it was great being able to splash out again. For his birthday we got him a new bike. Life was great and Luke and I knew we coped far better when we had a bit of money to play with.
But pay back time hit too soon and we were snowed under with debt, bills and horrid letters.
Our relationship took the strain and before the following year was out we were like cat and dog. Jimmy hated staying with us and I don't blame him. Luke felt guilty because of all the stress in the house and felt it was his fault but the fact was he wasn't bringing in enough-especially with having to fork out so much every month. In the end I resented the amount he was paying his ex-even though I knew it was only fair. His outgoings were having a bad affect on our relationship and I hated it.
We were in chaos not knowing who to pay what first. finally we threw in the towel and we split up. Jimmy wasn't getting over time like he had and this meant less money coming in. We split up owing £35,000 on furniture, loans, interest and outstanding bills. It was a nightmare. I had already taken out another loan to pay off what I already owed on my store cards and I was in it too deep to get out now and my health started to suffer. I wasn't sleeping and it was all such a mess.
In the end I took on the debts. Jimmy had the car taken off him and said he didn't want to know the other debts we had.
I was almost ill. It wasn't until I went on line and read about other women my age were in debt too-and that there was a way through it-it would still hurt but at least there was a light at the end of the tunnel.