Canada has been absorbing this week the revelation of the burials of 215 children at the Kamloops Residential Schools, many of them completely undocumented in our past, and mostly completely unknown to most Canadians. In an important sense every one of these children is a crime victim, the least of which is neglect the most serious of which is genocide. Worst of all, most of us had no clue that this burial ground even existed, although that’s just a little too convenient an excuse.
This week thousands of articles have been written on the subject, news stories broadcast on radio and television. There is much hand wringing and guilty statements about Settler privilege.
What I haven’t heard enough of, or even any of, is the genocide underway in Canada today across the country. Every day children are still being taken away from aboriginal families and forced into “care” where they are neglected, abused and abandoned, with many of these children dying while in care, or shortly after “aging” out of foster care. These kids are removed from families, single parent moms mostly, because of a system that still sees “drunken indians” instead of struggling people who have been largely dispossessed from their tribal history and context by colonial exploitation and continuing subjugation by the settler cultures.
People who have been abused as children have a really hard time as adults, especially as young adults trying to formulate romantic relationships. Without a solid foundation established early in life, emotions can feel like quicksand and you soon feel like you are drowning. People become desperate for love and accept all sorts of inappropriate behavior that seems like it must be some kind of love, or it wouldn’t be so intense. So this is the story of one such person, after an abusive and destructive marriage
Even after years of counseling, he still feels the desperate self-criticism of his youth, pulling him back into depression and suicidal thoughts. At the end of his first marriage, he actually tried to kill himself by sleepwalking in front of a bus
The transit bus driver drove his bus into the side of a building to avoid hitting the patient, most likely saving his life.
He went to see a doctor after this because he felt that he was in danger because of his actions. He consciously knew that he was a danger to himself and potentially others, but so deeply depressed about losing his wife that he was wandering around in a complete daze.
This was despite the fact that the relationship was fundamentally dysfunctional, and she used and abused him virtually every day from the very first moment he laid eyes on her. His self-worth was so low that he actually believed that everything that ever went wrong was his fault. He allowed himself to be her emotional and physical servant, charged with somehow making her feel good about herself.
Although she was highly intelligent and won many academic awards she required constant affirmations of her intellect, and couldn’t accept any opposition to her opinions on any subject at all. To whatever degree he differed from her point of view, she called him out and accused him of trying to undermine her and make her look like an idiot to their friends or families. He also took on responsibility for taking care of every aspect of her life, including paying all the bills, providing her with funds to pay for her advanced education, and a constant stream of extravagant gifts. Their life together was one of extraordinary social adventures, with a stream of her unusual friends variously moving into and out of their home and their lives together.
They were together for nearly ten years and had a daughter. Their divorce was highly acrimonious and as a result of an emotional breakdown, she intimidated him into giving into virtually all of her demands, including extremely restrictive access to their infant daughter, who is now almost forty years of age.
Because of his blindness to her faults and unwillingness to acknowledge her abusive behavior, He simply was not in any position to provide adequate co-parenting to their daughter, who ended up with her being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by his ex-wife and her mother, who had previously done the same things to his ex-wife.
It wasn’t until their daughter ran away from her mother’s house to live on the streets that he became aware of all that she had gone through in her mother’s care.
The daughter suffers from multiple psychological disorders including acute anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, PTSD as a result of multiple sexual assaults starting with her grandmother as early as five or six years old. After she ran away, at thirteen years old, from her mother’s home when she came to live with his current partner and him. It was only then that he heard her story and got her into counseling. The road was very difficult, and they were not very successful in helping the daughter overcome her many conditions.
Never in all the years he had been married to his ex-wife did he realize how destructive her constant personal attacks and total narcissistic behavior had been to him. After he more or less recovered from his breakdown and hospitalization after their marital breakdown, he still blamed himself for everything that had gone wrong in their marriage.
But no more. His daughter suffers from many psychiatric and emotional defects, some of which would have been there no matter who raised her as a young child. She also has many physical disabilities including muscular and skeletal problems that have resulted in her living life in chronic pain, and incapable of independent mobility. She also had two children, which he had to have taken from her because she is incapable of providing the minimum care level necessary for their physical and emotional health. He doesn’t blame his ex-wife or her mother for all of it, as it would unfair to do so.
But what is fair to say is that without the abuse by her narcissistic mother and a grandmother who barely survived Nazi rule in Holland as a young girl before abusing her own daughter and granddaughter, their daughter didn’t have a chance at any reasonable life. Despite years of counseling himself, He still knows that he has blinders on regarding his ex-wife and still has hard time understanding what he allowed to happen in his marriage, or what really took place in all the years she had total control over their daughter’s care and custody.
He had even blamed himself for that restricted access, and his lack of involvement in his daughter’s life. The extreme anger his ex-wife expressed towards him made a more normalized co-parenting arrangement impossible. Even spending thousands of dollar on legal fees trying to get better custodial arrangements failed.
If you are a survivor of an abusive relationship and have gotten out, don’t try to deal with this all on your own. Find a good counselor and make every effort to deal with your own demons before they drag you into yet another dangerous quagmire.
Unfortunately, you may find yourself repeating your mistakes, over and over again. Learn to recognise the cycle of abuse in your own life, and take action to change your circumstances. Leave.
I appreciate your feedback to my blog which is couched as a question, but by which you really mean as a statement of your convictions and societal beliefs.
First of all, polyamorous relationships may or may not be “open marriages” and in fact most people in poly marriages prefer to de-emphasize sexual aspects of poly life in favour of the “loving” aspects.
Polyamory means loving more
Polyamory means loving more than one person at a time but doesn’t automatically include sex. True, if often does, but the ideology of multiple relationships rests more on a person’s right to engage in intimate personal relationships outside of a formal hierarchical structure. In some respects it’s the social and familiar extension of the ideas of the Libertarian philosophy, which postulates that the free will of an individual is the highest freedom. Anything that impinges on individual freedom and the personal right to control her/her own life is contrary to this philosophy, and that includes the traditional marriage customs of almost all religions and legal systems.
“Free love” is the lowest expression of the idea of polyamory, included but hardly the point of it for most of us. Many in this community are part of the LGBTQIA community as well, with certain blurring of the lines of gender identity and sexuality as well. It also includes BDSM and other types of experimental behaviour for many followers. What Polyamory shares with this community is a conviction of many that they are “born this way” rather than this being a “choice” which is what was believed to be true about homosexuality and transgender issues until very recently.
Almost all of the women I know in this community contend that polyamory is the fundamental nature of women, only controlled and managed by organized religions and public policy. Men in this community are often less certain that it is so, I think, because they feel enormous guilt about their inability to exist in traditional relationships without “cheating” and being outlaws of a sort.
But Polyamory is also not necessarily kink.
A kinky person may be polyamorous or a traditionalist believing in the one man/one woman type of marriage. But he/she may also be extremely interested in maintaining their own independence of thought and action, regardless of choices made as to their sexual partners or co-parents of their children.
I respect that your concerns have more to do with maintaining a stable, loving home, both for the benefit of children having two parents in the home, as well as for the husband and wife, who can have the comfort of maintaining lifelong stable relationships.
However, families such as you describe are rapidly vanishing in contemporary society, and seldom, in history, were seldom more than a minority of the population. Single parent homes now out number two parent homes in many communities, especially in millennial families.
Families may be stronger in polyamorous relationships.
Recent social trends and statistics suggest that polyamorous relationships are on the rise, radically so. On a recent CBC TV special recently it is now believed by certain social scientists that more children have multiple parents (ie: more than two) than are being raised in two parent families.
There is strong historical precedence for this. If you take the issue of sexual fidelity out of the question, and simply look at the number of children raised in homes with only one adult or two parents in the historical past, the number was small.
Families often included the two parents, at least one grandparent, often a couple of aunts or uncles, and siblings of the partner. Even today, in Vancouver’s East Asian families, there are many many homes which house as many as twenty five people at once, including the children. The same is true of many families from China, where the one child rule pushed people together to collectively raise children for their welfare.
The nuclear family is inherently unstable, even in the best examples of western values. Do you have any idea of the number of these traditional families who break up over and over again, reforming into new arrangements and new parenting partners? It can scarcely be better for kids to go through repeated divorces and remarriages than to live in long term polyamorous families with multiple parents in constant attendance. My poly friends mostly have a number of children, and their children are raised in the wider family community.
Traditional marriage is a financial disaster for most, even for those it works for emotionally.
One last point. The nuclear family, and its necessary companion, the single parent family, are financially a disaster for most people. The addition of more than two people to help share the load makes all the difference in the quality of everybody’s lives, including the children. When there are multiple people earning incomes it is much easier to be able to afford a home, feed the family, have nice cars, and afford family vacations together every year.
So don’t be quite so quick to judge. Those quirky people who live in these weird situations may have it much, much better than you realise.
The details of your story about bullying are horrible! When I read about what happened to you in school, and with your so-called friends, it made me feel like I was actually there with you as it was happening.
My story was a little different, and the reasons I was bullied seemed pretty much unique to me at the time. I was small and short. In every grade until I graduated from school I was usually the smallest and lightest boy in the class. And there was no relief at home, either, because my dad was the worst bully of all, who beat me and my siblings too. When he wasn’t bullying us, he was molesting the girls and calling out the boys for not being “men”.
Like, even when I was five and six years old, he’d call me a fag, a pig and asshole. There was never a day in my life until I was about fifteen when I wasn’t afraid of my father calling me names, hitting me all over my body, and sending me to school covered in bruises from his attacks. And at school, the bullies somehow knew automatically that they could pick on me, and I really didn’t know how to stop them, or even protect myself.
Things started getting a little better after my fifteenth birthday, because my father stopped physically abusing me because I knocked him down when he tried, and then he never tried again. The same thing happened at school, when I had fight with the meanest bully at my high school, and I beat him up so badly he ended up in hospital. Obviously I had grown up a bit, although I was still small, I was an athlete and played hockey. I was an okay hockey player, but the best thing was that I learned how to fight back.
The bullying pretty much stopped after that, and the kids at school treated me a lot better, so I got along at school a lot better. At home I mostly just avoided having to deal with my dad, who still had a mean mouth, and was always mad at someone or other.
The net effect of all of this is that I grew up feeling pretty insecure, and lacked confidence. I overcompensate, to this day, and feel like I have to prove myself to other people. Despite the fact that I’ve had plenty of successes in my life, I’ve never really felt “successful” and still struggle with feelings of inadequacy when dealing with the very real challenges of living.
I’m now sixty-six years old, and although I’ve struggled with these feelings, including serious bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts, in the main I have learned to value what I have to offer the world, and respect my contributions to my fellow human beings. Having been bullied so much in my youth, and periodically even as an adult, I am a fierce protector of people who are being bullied, either as an individual or as a part of group or class of people being exploited or used by others. I won’t put up with abuse, and when I see it I stand up against it, no matter what the cost.
If you are bullied as a child, or maybe even ever, then you will have the ability to understand how it feels, and what it means to someone else when it happens to them. If you learn how to stand up for yourself, and face down the bullies, then you have learned something extremely useful to other bullied people. You become accountable for your own future happiness and safety, and are willing to do whatever you have to do to recover from falling down and failing. Nothing is impossible for you, merely difficult or painful, and neither difficulties nor pain can stop you. You’ve had to learn how to overcome all of those things, and get on with your life.
In a way I am glad that I was bullied as a kid. It taught me compassion, first of all for myself, and secondly, for others. It helped me see the ordinary humanity in each person I meet along the way. We are all simply human beings, looking out at the world and dreaming of having a good life. So I start out every day believing that this day will be better.