Tag Archives: divorce

So I’m getting married (again).

The best way to find out if someone is trustworthy is is to trust them.

– Ernest Hemingway.


So, I’m getting married…again.

My partner and I had already exchanged silver commitment rings on a bone white clifftop along the trail that lead to Marley Spit from Bundeena. We found the rings from a hippie shop on King st – Russian wedding rings, the bands intertwined. We un-shouldered our packs, took some photos, ate Vita Wheats and then slipped the rings on each others fingers. Took more photos. Felt a bit giddy.

Afterwards we jumped around in this big sandy rock puddle in bare feet in the wind then decided to walk back against the falling hush of late afternoon. We got muddy, we laughed and cracked dirty jokes. There were tiny birds following us in the bushes. I peed beside the path and he stood as lookout. We finally came down to the beach and waited for the ferry. The sky was fired up in pink and grey and the mosquitos started biting.

And then we rode back on the ferry, talking in the wooden boat about kink, our dreams, our families. Our future.

That was my commitment day and it will remain in my memory as one of the more profound, sweet and easy-going exchanges towards a solid bond I’ve had. It was all us, no ceremony. Our families and friends were not witnesses which at the time was a desired absence. For that commitment, at that time.

I’m not especially into big weddings. I’m into hella sucessful relationships and I actually think big weddings can exclude some of the possibility of that by generating needless stress and worry and weighing folk with expense and debt. It feels so needless and so theatrical. At times hysterical.

But I’m not against weddings altogether, or marriage. For the longest time I raged aloud that I was against both, seeing big weddings and consumer overload, seeing my history, my own painful past marriage, my hatred of convention. I’m really not a conventional person. I was projecting my issues and writing them in big fucking capital letters across the sky for all to see. I like this quote, from Jean Kerr: “Being divorced is like being hit by a Mack truck. If you live through it, you start looking very carefully to the right and to the left.”

And it isn’t that I was wrong. It’s that I’ve dealt with some of that stuff, and I feel better. Which is pretty wonderful, I must tell you. To find some peace is something I have struggled for, long and hard. I found it long before I found Librarian; he is not the arbiter of my soundness of mind. Those props go to big pharma, my family, friends and therapist and the ambling of time.

Here’s what I believe about marriage: I believe in consensual healthy all-people marriage. That means all sexes, genders, and groupings of people, across all races and religions and so on. I believe in group marriage – being polyamorous – and I believe in marriage rights that recognise the trans and intersex community as well as the same-sex marriage lobbyists.

I acknowledge I have massive privilege in being able to decide to get formally married by the state because I am female bodied and my primary partner is male bodied. This is something nobody should ever forget, if they are married. By luck of birth, you can choose a form of relationship recognition that others are barred from. And it behooves you to at least remember that and show some respect and kindness and join the struggle for those communities across a range of issues they deem relevant.

So yeah, I’m getting married again. I had just been to a funeral of a beautiful woman, the mother of one of my brother’s best friends. It was terrible of course but she seemed such a sprite, such a fantastically funny woman who loved hard but laughed harder. And we were walking along Harris St and passing by the ABC Centre and the moon was awfully big with trees bashing silhouettes against. And there was traffic and we were arm in arm and I asked, will you marry me?

He’s sensible. He took a few days to think about it. And he answered me in response to the lyrics of a Bruno Mars song from a youtube video I was fascinated by, as he was walking out my friend Anna’s gate to a concert, throwing it over his shoulder like the cheeky man he is. There was zero cliche romance in the making of any of it – it was just a pretty unspectacular proposition with an unspectacular reply. I like that it’s pretty much only cute to us, which makes it an anti-hype story that’s too boring to retell at a million dinner parties. Have I mentioned I hate cliche? I hate cliche. I also hate pink. Not puppies or Christmas though.

The one thing I’m not going to write here is why. People ask the question with such gumption, as though they would accept it if I thought myself in a place to question their personal decisions. Folk who do this should reconsider or I’m going to start asking you who you vote for, and why, and look at you like you owe me a damn answer.

Fact is, and so I’ve learned from experience, divorce is cheap and easy – unless you have a million assets but that all remains the same if you’re in a de-facto relationship. There’s certain benefits to it when the person you’re marrying is from another country, despite him already having a work visa all on his own-some. For instance, there’s stuff around having kids together that works better when married. On paper, it’s not very romantic. It’s binding, it isn’t, it’s meaningful, it isn’t. All of those arguments seem like straw-men to justify ourselves when we should be asking just why people presume it’s their business.

I wish the people questioning me had diverted their energy to ask me how I was feeling about getting married again. That would have been actually useful and not antagonistic. Because it isn’t like I was going to sigh “ok, I fold, you’re right – this is madness!” At least my therapist had the decency to ask first how I was feeling, though to be fair she’s being paid to care a fair bit about my feelings.

I’m feeling excited. Scared. It’s bringing up a lot of memories for me. I’m apprehensive of almost everyone expressing any desire to involve themselves. I don’t want a production and I’ll fight hand over fist to keep the planning autonomous. There’ll be no hype, no bullshit, no big fucking dress, no catering and no white attire anyfuckingwhere. If the thing costs more than $50, we’ve done it wrong.

I’m sure of him though. As sure as a human being can be of another human they hope in. All human love is frail, of course it is, and all trust has the capacity to expose us and falter and fail. I have a few friends who view human attachment with a cold and cynical eye. They act like they were the only ones ever given reason to doubt the rightness of caring for another person in such a way as you’d hitch your wagon to them. I view it with a warm and cynical eye, with a carefully open mind. I’m no Elizabeth Taylor, but I’m no dyed in the wool denier of my squishy heart with it’s squishy loving-people needs.

I know what I want to do with my life, and that’s give the greater share of it to a partner well-matched, a small family, my work and my community. I’m bloody ‘well’ enough now, with a good career underway. I’ve found my grooves and I have my community. I’m so far from the stroppy, messy, unsure, anxious and malleable 21 who married an Irishman on a hill over Tamworth. I’m nearly 30, and I’m a big girl.

And I’m sure of him, my Librarian, my accented man who brings me tissues and juice when I’m sick, and wrestles like a big mean puppy with me, and finds me rare books, and hates conservatives, and hides in caves in the middle of nowhere with me, makes plans to swim in winter pools in the summer with me. Talks lustfully about the same boys I talk lustfully about. Communicates honestly, openly, gently. Who asks me if I want to live in Montreal one day. Who loves a long train ride and shares Laura Viers on his iPod with me.

My Librarian with his tall spine and scratchy beard and serious demeanour and long legged gait. With his willingness to get drunk with my family the first night he met them. Who tells me he misses my brothers. Who singlehandedly wins my friends over. Who hates the prospect of monogamy as much as me. Who teases and whispers and shakes me to my toes. Who has seen half the world and still prefers to look at me.

I can hardly wait to stand with no fanfare in no expensive dress, with no fancy food, and no fancy appointed place, to say how excited I am about the reality of being primarily bonded with this person for, hopefully, a long fucking time.

Here’s to a long fucking time!


Reclaim The Night: my story

*warning: this post may be triggering for survivors of domestic and family violence. Please read in a space that is safe for you, in your own time. If you are currently in an unsafe situation, please navigate away now and clear your internet history after reading this. Please ensure you access information like this from computers where your online activity can’t be monitored.

Why share this kind of personal information?

I attended the Reclaim The Night rally and march tonight and have been pondering since then whether it may be a good idea to share my story. Mine is a really common tale that many can relate to but most don’t speak about.

Members of my friendship circle, my family, and work spaces over the years have all told me their stories…usually on the sly. Relationship violence has happened to people I know of all genders and sexualities (most commonly women-identified people, but that’s only my limited experience).

I’ve actually been a little bit frightened to record what happened to me as publicly as this, since the last time my ex partner got wind of me doing so he ‘gently reminded’ me of his ability to mount legal action should I tell people what had happened (though for some reason he was under the impression that I’ve repeated falsehoods, when all I’ve ever stated has been my understanding of what happened to me). Intimating legal action is apparently a fairly predictable thing for people in his position to do, I’ve since learned. Knowing more about how people with anger related issues think, especially after you’ve left them, has helped me feel much calmer and less concerned.

Now I feel reasonably safe to talk about my experiences openly and I think it could be helpful to others. That’s why I choose to share here. In the past, I’ve had people seek me out privately to share or be directed to resources. That has made the possibility of adversity pretty much worth it.

So, what happened?

I’ve had almost two years now to reflect on the circumstances that led to me leaving my city, home, and partner. I was in my relationship for shy of seven years, and was legally married to them. We had strong emotional bonds, and a depth of shared experiences. We loved each other in very complex ways. We had the normal share of problems that long-term relationships have.

I believe my partner was – and is – a really good person, with many wonderful qualities. He was kind to me in many ways. He cared for me and looked after me when I was sick, and when we went through a miscarriage. He was smart and funny, and I know he genuinely tried hard to be a good partner. He was not malicious or devious. He could be really gentle, and you know, dorky and annoying and just…average. He was, however, a fairly broody and angry person and he chose not to grow beyond his anger in the time we shared together.

Unfortunately, I experienced emotional and physical abuse in my relationship as a result of this anger – because being a generally decent person doesn’t mean you won’t become an abuser.

I was shaken, spat on, called a whore, had things thrown in my home, objects broken, was shoved violently into a fridge, had my experiences of violence from another man denied and blamed on me, was told early on in the relationship that I was a ‘slut’ and slut-shamed generally, was guilted and crazy-made, told I was disgusting and so on. My partner kept a journal in which I discovered violent fantasies about him hurting me physically.

Well, why didn’t I just leave the first time something scary happened?

I once heard someone from my Roller Derby community say “if a woman stays after the first time she is hit, she’s pretty much asking for it”. That was pretty shocking to me (and I don’t think indicative of the wider Derby community at all!), and I’ve listened to colleagues say the same. I’ve overheard strangers on buses say similar things.

This is a pretty terrible attitude. See, abuse just doesn’t work like that. That old horrid analogy about boiling a frog – but starting with cold water – applies here. Very few abusers start out by socking you in the face. They start small…with small controls, or manipulations, or denigrations until they build up to yelling. Then maybe pushing and shoving, and spitting. Throwing and breaking things, isolating you, controlling you more and more. Things that would leave bruises very rarely arrive from out of the blue, with no trail of development behind them. There’s always something, and that something is usually bad, but tolerable enough that you don’t leave right away.

And sometimes it is really hard to leave because it JUST. IS. Financial reasons, children, fear, you’ve tried before, you have health issues, you have pets together, you’re too isolated, you think it’ll get better, you don’t want to feel like you’ve failed, you love them….and on and on. We shouldn’t trivialise these issues – they’re real.

I was carrying a lot of damage from growing up in a home with a really ill parent, and was mentally unwell myself a lot of the time, so I didn’t have the resources to resist for a long period. When I was appropriately supported and had the resources, I left, and due to a lucky confluence of circumstance (love, encouragement, distance, practical support) I stayed out. I’m actually really fortunate I left before I sustained significant physical harm; as it is, I had emotional and psychological bruising that makes for an expensive therapist bill.

Community reactions and being believed: really bloody important.

For some reason when relating this story, I always feel compelled to say “well, I was never hit (in the face etc)” like a justifying preamble denying extreme violence is necessary to be believed. As though, if I don’t say that, nobody will want to hear it and will somehow scoff and wonder why I’m not “over it”.

We have pretty strong narratives in our society that tell people who experience violence to just suck it up, get over it, move on. We’re also drowned in media that downplays the majority of common relationship violence (see Tara’s dialogue in True Blood with her returning ex girlfriend at the door – after she hid her identity. Violence/acceptance of violence/sex is not an uncommon trope, with variation) and lets us give our sympathy to only the most extreme examples of male-on-female physical violence. Same sex violence is rarely dealt with (except in the above example where it is sexualised. Ugh.)

The direct impact of this is that it has a silencing effect. I mean, if you feel like your experience is not “enough”, and that people won’t really give much of a shit if you speak up, are you really likely to?

I worry all the time about being perceived as that harpy that won’t shut up about a little shove. I used to have panic attacks about it, but would talk openly anyway because I knew it was important to. I’m sure many people do think that way about me, but I’m now happy and secure enough in myself to know that they have their own stuff going on that renders them ignorant and harmful.

Being believed is important, and listening and not being a jerk is important. Whenever we downplay the shitty things that happen to people in the context of relationship violence, we take away their confidence to speak, and that’s a terribly important thing to steal. In doing so, we really slow down their healing process. Which is super jerky.

Every experience of violence is shocking and fucked and needs to be listened to. Diminishing someone’s experience will always cost them more than it would cost you to listen and validate them.

Things do get better (eventually)

Well, if you have resources. Not everyone has that privilege, and it is a pretty massive one.

I wish everyone had access to the kinds of friendships, family support, community and therapeutic tools that I’ve had. In NSW, people who have experienced violence can actually get many hours of free psychologists appointments through the Victims of Crime scheme – a cool thing to know.

I would never claim to have worked through the ick leftover after I walked away from my relationship on my own. There have been a lot of lonely moments though, where I’ve been all on my own with memories and a buttload of sadness, having run out of text boxes on social networking sites to fill with my overflowing (and I’m sure frequently irritating) emotions. I’m mellowing. Thank goodness.

But slowly, through a combination of my own slog and just bearing up, and the seemingly endless courage of others on my behalf, things have gotten better. I barely ever think of the bad times now, unless something really reminds me. Loud noises still freak me out, I can’t deal with shouting men, and my pulse races when I see depictions of physical stuff that resembled my experiences.

But less, and less, and less. It just isn’t a case of ‘time passing’ – it is a case of lots of factors coming together to make the burden ease, the scariness fade, and the possibilities of freedom from these things grow larger.

If you’re reading this and you’ve survived, fuck yeah! If you’re still on your way, I believe and hope it will get better for you, and I know you’re already a survivor. If you’re reading this and you think you’re an abuser, please seek help too. It is never too late to be better.

Some useful links.

NSW Victims of Crime (note: you do not have to report your abuser to access this, last time I checked)

Domestic Violence Line (1800 656 463)

NSW Rape Crisis Centre
(1800 424 017)

Strategies for dealing with grief anniversaries or difficult dates

I thought I’d compile a brief note on how to deal with grief anniversaries and dates of significance that are difficult.

I mark a few different grief anniversaries, and a few difficult dates. These are made up of a few things. Firstly, in February there’s the date of my hospital admission at the beginning of my miscarriage – which I mark as a ‘death date’, though truly, my child died in the womb some weeks before I began bleeding.

Much later in the year I mark my child’s ‘birthday’ – her expected due date was the end of August, as plotted by my GP. This is a more celebratory time, and less overlaid with painful memories of invasive medical procedures and trauma. This is a day when I allow myself to remember the exciting flutter of being pregnant, and give myself hope for that to happen again – one day.

And in early December I mark two years since I left my husband and moved to Sydney. Now I’m officially divorced, hurrah! This day is a sort of celebration of freedom and all the wonderful things that have flowered in my life since leaving, with a residual amount of sadness at having lost a good friend in the process.

I think anniversaries are a good opportunity to weigh our lives, reflect and think on where we’ve come from and what we’ve gained. It is also simply a good chance to pay respect to important people and processes that have changed us.

Marking that somehow can seem difficult.

I feel it is important to divest yourself of the notion that all ritual is meaningless and pointless. As a born cynic, I’ve really struggled with this. I found it hard to allow myself rituals, because my break from fundamentalist Christianity as a youth really built a harsh view of such things into my psyche. But I’ve recently been allowing myself rites that I self-construct, around which I build meaning.

Rituals help us to cope, and help us to look at our feelings about death, and the natural decay and pain that life brings. Hooray for those that don’t need such things, but I cope better by doing, not just thinking with no marker.

On August’s birthday this year, I plan to take a couple of friends I trust and climb the hill in Sydney Park, and from there, fly a kite with her name attached to the tail.

Last year, I took time out and looked through her things which I keep in a box in my room, I wrote a letter (unsent) to my ex husband, I blogged, and I wore the special necklace my friend Cassie bought me with ‘August’ engraved on it.

To mark the anniversary of the end of my marriage, I’ll probably go for a walk alone, and bury the few remaining special tokens I have from my husband. I have a friendship ring he gave me for our first Valentine’s Day, and the aventurine stone I gave him on our first date to ‘guard his heart’. I no longer need these things. I may bury them with salt, water, and bread to send them away from me in peace. I’m not spiritually inclined; this too is a reference to burial taken from a favourite novel, which he gave me as a gift.

In the end, the most important thing is that you mark anniversaries in a way that feels comfortable and true for you. If being alone brings you comfort, do that. If being surrounded by friends does, do that.

And most of all, remember that what applies in the blogosphere applies with grief – don’t read the comments. People will give you loads of flower advice and platitudes, but remember you are allowed to ignore all of it. It is sweet that people want to help, but these are often intensely private experiences that are hard to vocalise properly in a facebook thread. If you want to try, awesome. But silence is fine too.

As long as what you’re doing helps you and doesn’t harm you, do it.

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