Of monsters and men

Anyone else a fan of “Of monsters and men”? They’ve got some great music, but that’s not what I’m writing about. Last time I blogged I talked about scribble writing in my journals because, although I’m pretty open, I don’t share everything for the reasons I wrote about then. 

(Trigger warning: abuse, domestic violence)

I follow Grant Shimmin on Twitter and he wrote an excellent article this week, which has made me speak out a bit more. If you follow me, you know I’ve had weight loss surgery and as part of the journey I’ve done 2+ years of counselling and am still unpacking the shit in my head. Part of that is realising how awful my first marriage was – something I carefully hid from myself (and others). When we separated most of our friends were completely unprepared because we seemed so fortunate except for my infertility.

My ex-husband wasn’t a monster. He was an ordinary man who could be difficult and had mental health issues (severe, crippling depression). It’s really only this last six months or so I have started to admit I was abused. Not physically, but there are ways to abuse people where the scars aren’t obvious. I am dealing with the impacts of that abuse now thanks to counselling and other support.

Does Tony know the extent of the abuse? No. Will I tell him the details? No. He fell in love with the product of that abuse – I don’t mean he was/is abusive. Far from it; he’s one of life’s gentle supportive people. But the things that make me “me” – behaviours, actions, ways of being – are a product of that abusive relationship and he’s dealing with a changing me. That’s enough for anyone.

As I said, people were shocked when we separated. Because men who abuse others – physically, emotionally, sexually and financially – men who rape and attack – get away with it because of their seeming normalcy. They don’t wear a sign saying “hey, I’m a monster so be careful”. My ex was probably Tony’s best friend, we all used to hang round together. He had some great friends, who are no doubt very loyal and would say I’m lying – one of the reasons I have never spoken up, and also out of respect for his kids.

When the Courts, media etc say men have “acted out of character” or are “good men who suddenly snapped” they are wrong; this narrative enables men to keep abusing, and silences victims. I know from personal experience that abuse is insidious and increases over time, but often remains hidden because of shame and an attempt to maintain a sense of (admittedly damaged) self. When women say they’re abused, believe them. When someone says a good man “snapped” call bullshit…

 

 

We don’t all have the same values

We don’t all have the same values, and we don’t have to in order to get along. But we should be prepared to respect other people’s right to live their lives their own way, without fear or hate. This is something I just wrote in my art journal:

This week I have been exposed to some awfully bigoted people, with views I find abhorrent. It’s mainly been around the Rainbow community but also the way people live their lives. My job as a librarian exposes me to myriad views!

I’m a sociologist so see marriage, gender roles, etc as social constructs originally designed to make society safer etc. Many ‘rules’ and institutions have survived long past their logical need.

I don’t care what people do, or who they do it with, provided it’s truly consensual, with no power imbalance and no one is being hurt. There’s infinite variety in the human condition … people should be free to do whatever floats their goat.

Many people know Tony and I started as an affair, and 26 years on, we’re still together. Of course the relationship is different to those early days. We’re not young anymore! We share a strong companionate love & rely on each other.

We’ve always said it’s who you go home to at night that counts. Heinlein wrote that “sex is just friction between two bodies”. That’s a simplification but also a good point. Emotional connection matters, sex alone not so much. I wish people were less judgemental of others because the world needs to be kinder.  

Adding to what I wrote in my journal, although I have been married twice, I don’t see marriage as essential, sacrosanct or any other moral words. Nor do I have a problem with people having an affair, being bi or pan sexual, and so on. I think some of us have the capacity to love many people in our lifetimes, and sometimes they overlap. As someone who has suffered abuse in the past (which I won’t ever detail), what I care about is power imbalances, consent, safe choices and so on.

I occasionally have someone in the library who I can tell wants to ask me something but is scared of being judged. I smile and say “I don’t care if you dance naked round a fire in the back yard with your neighbour’s wife and a dead chicken, drinking moonshine and smoking mushrooms! What I care about is finding the information you need. Tell me what you’re after.”. Generally people smile and open up. Usually what they want is far from shocking anyway, but that fact they were so hesitant speaks volumes about how judged people feel. Maybe if we all listened more and judged less, there’d be less abuse in the word.

coco fierce4