Over the last week or so the hype surrounding the release of the film 50 shades of grey has been growing. Alongside of this, the voices of protest have also become louder.
Being in a secure and loving relationship, I have never felt any voyeuristic need to read about anyone elses sex lfe and have not read the book. I admit to my ignorance of the contents, thinking only that it was “smutty” and wondering why so many women were drawn to it. Over these last weeks I have been educated as to the true nature of the story, badly written abuse – in many forms.
I have joined the protest, in my limited way. Posting on social media, discussing it with colleagues and students. I have been horrified by the responses, excitement about seeing the film – even by one who has been assaulted herself. Assurances that it is a romantic story in which Ana eventually helps Christian to overcome his past….. the cost to herself is not discussed.
I am struck by how strong my own gut reaction is. In my work as an F.E, teacher I do encounter women who have been in abusive relationships, and have help as much as I can. But is that the only reason?
None of my friends have been in abusive realtionships ..that I know of. How could I have forgotten that actually several of my personal friends have been in abusive relationships? I even helped one of them to end it – just said the right word at the right time. For many women, including myself – apparently – we only think of abuse when the interactions are violent, but abuse takes many forms.
So why do I feel so deeply about this?
Before I started my relationship with the lovely man who is my husband, I had had a couple of relationships which were abusive. I have never called them abusive to anyone, even myself before. Controlling, manipulating men whose influence on my life made me someone that I was not. Men who did not recognise my needs or ignored them. I was not physically beaten; I was emotionally and psychologically scared. In the spectrum of abuse, mine was at the far end away from rape and bodily harm. But nevertheless, it has stayed with me. Looking back, I see a woman whom I can barely recognise.
They were damaged and needy – like Christian – did I really think (like Ana?) that I could fix them? Are we drawn to broken men because our maternal instincts want to be fulfilled in fixing them? There were many good times to be sure, but as time went on the good times became fewer, and the arguments started. The accusations. The belittling. The comparisons with other women. The yelling and the silences. The tears… The spoken and unspoken blame – all of the problems in the relationship were, of course, my fault, and I believed that.
So why didn’t I leave? The simple answer is I don’t know. The fear of being alone? The fear of admitting my mistakes in choosing these men? The fear of being pitied? Admission to others that it was not “alright”? I was eventually rejected by each of them; each time I was devastated. Now I thank God.
My husband is my best friend – we have been friends for many years. Learning from past mistakes, our relationship is grounded in accepting each other “just as we are”. This means putting up with, sometimes, incredibly irritating personality traits. But we are blessed with a huge amount of love and openess in our family – something else I thank God for. We have two family rules – never go to sleep angry and never leave the house without a kiss and a hug. It works.
Mostly I do not think of the past; but sometimes things come to mind and the hurt comes back. It is time to bring these things out into the open, not all of it into the public, but to my own awareness so that I can ackowledge them and give them over to God. I know that He will wash away the past and lift the burden from me.