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Friday, July 15, 2011

Domestic Violence: Fearful Friday

 I once had a neighbour, who very gently and caringly tried to engage with me about my marriage. A shared wall ran the length of our lounges, and the sound-proofing, if there was any, had clearly revealed more of the tenor of my first marriage than I had realised.

"Do you know," she shared about her own marriage, "I thought I was marrying Father Christmas?" She paused, then ruefully added, "He turned out to be Guy Fawkes."

There was so much in that image for me, that I'm not sure I knew how to reply. I was stunned that she had so accurately summed up my marriage. Shamed that she had so obviously overheard us. And stunned that a wonderful, kind and intelligent woman like her had also walked the same path as me.

Most of you will know about Father Christmas. A jolly, kind and well-humoured man who brings with him promises of good times and lovely goodies. Some of you may not know of Guy Fawkes. In brief, in 1604 Fawkes became involved with a small group of English Catholics, who planned to assassinate the Protestant King James and replace him with his daughter, third in the line of succession, Princess Elizabeth.  Though Guy Fawkes is remembered with fireworks, the plot to blow up Parliament took many twists and turns, and was ultimately a fizzler.  Parliament didn't go off with a bang. But in the metaphor my neighbour painted, I knew without a doubt that her husband had gone off with a bang.

And, as she already knew, my husband was no Father Christmas.  

He was another Guy Fawkes.

And he certainly did go off with a bang.

As I reflect back on those times, the Father Christmas aspect of my first marriage captures more than my husband's character. Just as our children create so much of Father Christmas through their own excitement and their own willing suspension of disbelief, I consciously overrode so, so many signs of malaise and toxicity which were present in our relationship. And just as the myth of Father Christmas is very consciously and carefully constructed and maintained by we adult perpetrators of that myth, he put a great deal of effort into ensuring that his country gentleman persona was maintained. Ultimately, I chose to override many warning signs, and believe in that myth. Dressed in white and in a fairy-tale daze, I signed up for a lifetime.

Thinking back over this part of my story, I am full of gratitude at the respectful way my neighbour raised the issue with me. She gently let me know that my reality was obvious to observers, but there was no preachy, impatient insistence at a solution.

I'd love to let her know that her comment was one of several gentle reality checks that occurred at around that time. Gently, I began to realise that my life was not the picture of perfection I had wanted it to be. Gently,  the reminders were seeds dropped into me which slowly began to germinate. Gently, my flawed reality grew larger and larger in my awareness.

Eventually, acknowledging my flawed reality became easier than the effort and pretence of continuing with my myth of perfection.

Phone: 13 11 14 (cost of local call from landline)

ReachOut Australia is a source of excellent support for women in abusive relationships.

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