On Marriage

To you this day am I wed
And to you do I make these promises:


I will love you from my deepest self
Sharing my life with you, I will be joyful
In your sharing your life with me

I commit myself to you , to a life
Of service to our marriage, and our family
And will keep my agreements with you
In a spirit of love and acceptance.

I will love you without conditions
No obstacle, no action will divide this pledge
And I will take you as you really are
And as you will become, as you grow
Into the person you shall become

I will be joined with you in a common bond
To a life of love, acceptance, and growth
To reach out beyond ourselves, and make
Our contributions to the future of our family,
Our people, and our world

I will love you without seeking to own you
Give freely of my abundance, while
Receiving joyfully from yours.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I wrote this poem in 1984 and my wife and I based our marriage vows on it. Our marriage was my second marriage, but her first, and so far, only marriage. These words bound us together in a marital relationship for the last thirty-five years. Our marriage was always unconventional in many ways, and the way it started made it necessarily so.

It turns out that we are quite different in our points of view, on a lot of issues, including, and maybe, especially, what marriage means to each of us. For many years we chose to leave our differences unfocussed and just slightly behind a curtain of apparent and superficial conformity. To our community, and mostly to our children, our marriage appeared to be pretty much according to common community values, one man and one woman, with a raft of kids, going through the process of life. Our initial agreement to be unconventional in being polyamorous was a whisper in privacy.

It was implicitly and explicitly understood that I would be discrete in my external relationships and not bring them home, even in discussion. The policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell applied because she really didn’t want to deal with it, and as long as I stayed away from her circle of friends, she was mostly fine with it. In a sense, she had been a special “friend” with me and mothered our first child while I was in an “open marriage” with my former partner.

Over the many years which followed those early times we both followed what we believed was applicable under the terms of our promises. Suffice it to say that my external relationships and experiences were kept away from the family, and never discussed with her. Any time she did bring up the issue of marital fidelity, I would always remind her of the agreement we made at the beginning. She believed that our agreement was purely a “pro forma” agreement, an agreement made purely to serve as an artifact of our original relationship.

Most importantly, she believed that I merely maintained my commitment to it to retain my intellectual independence, and was not involved with any outside relationships or sexual engagements.

And so we continued until a few years ago, when a time came when I had to explicitly introduce evidence that I had not only engaged intellectually, but had also engaged in sex with someone else. In my view, I was never unfaithful, as our promises never included any promise from me that I would not be involved with other people. In her view, when confronted with specific evidence confirming my external relationships, I’d been screwing around, and unfaithful, for all of the last 35 years.

Front Door
There’s no place like home?

It didn’t matter that we had this agreement, because she felt that it was obtained under duress, or without her full understanding of what it really meant. Over the years when she challenged me on whether or not I was seeing other people, I had always confirmed our original agreement as still being valid, and refused to specifically acknowledge when or with whom I was involved. She’d had many suspicions over the years that I was sexually active outside of the marriage, but had never felt that she wanted to push the issue, knowing that I would continue to adhere to our agreements, regardless of her fears.

The proof that I had been sexually active for years came when I took a battery of blood tests, including one for STDs, that indicated that I was a carrier of Hepatitis B, a disease that is generally contracted by an exchange of body fluids during sex. The first thing I did when this result was made known to me, was to inform my sexual partners, including my wife. Ironically, the test was a false positive, which the specialist stated to me when I went to see him, upon referral by my family doctor. So I’m not a carrier, not even remotely, but by then the damage was done, and the cat was out of the bag.

Suffice it to say, my wife decided that she no longer considers us married, and wants a divorce. I urged her to reconsider on the basis that nothing really had changed, our agreement from 35 years ago is still in place, and I still consider myself bound to its terms.

All of that took place about a year and a half ago, and we’re still living together and cohabitating. We no longer consider ourselves “married’ exactly, but we are both comfortable that we are still “partners” “nesting partners” or even just “friends” living in a common household. Sexuality has not been a facet of our marriage for a long time, so it really wasn’t an issue for either of us.

We have had a really difficult set of discussions and for now are in agreement to stay together for mutual benefit, if not in fact in a marriage, we are still in fact deeply caring people who still love each other, if not the way either of us had wanted. She will remain monogamous and I will remain polyamorous. Where we go from here is anybody’s guess.

Couple holding hands; Shutterstock ID 33263227; PO: aol; Job: production; Client: drone


What I can say for sure, is that we still love each other, and will remain friends always.

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Acting in a Violent Sexual Assault scene

My experience in the aftermath of acting in a scene.

Even acting in a film scene that included a rape scene was quite traumatic in ways I didn’t really expect at the time. It has given me a lot to think about.

Last week I played a violently sexual Christopher Columbus in a scene in a documentary film. As an inexperienced actor (my first paid gig) I did my best to follow the directions of the Director, a Vancouver woman with many film credits and obvious confidence, and to keep my own feelings about the subject and the scene somewhat suppressed. I know that the character is not me, and it’s unlikely I will find myself typecast after only one scene.

The young indigenous woman actor who played the victim in the scene was raised in an adopted non-native family. She is reconnecting with her native roots, including her birth mom and blood siblings who she hadn’t met until her twenties. It was moving to hear her talk about finding her birth mom and siblings.

Christopher Columbus is most often portrayed in very positive ways in Western and American History. It is important to realize that to North and South American first nations he is a symbol of colonialism, enslavement and disease. In this film he is portrayed as a rapist, which he may very well have been, given the values and mores of his era and his position as supreme commander of this little fleet.

She and I had a good opportunity to connect as human beings before the scene was shot, and I was comfortable at the time that she felt positive about her experience in playing this role with me, despite her playing an extreme traumatic scene with implied violent sexual assault, which was also designed to be symbolic of the assault on the first nations of the Americas. The opportunity to meet and chat casually together before acting out the scene actually made it harder, in some ways, for me to act the villain, against this young woman, who seemed rather remarkable.

In the short time we spoke I learned enough about her to have a great deal of admiration for her search for her roots, her education in aboriginal history and laws, and the courage it took for her to seek out her birth mother and blood siblings. She is also a mom with a five year old child, raising the girl largely by herself, as the father is living far away in Haida Gwaii where he works as fisher. She’s also attending college to become a social worker, with ambitions to work with troubled teens and aboriginal youth.

The Director and Producer had a vision for the film we actors try to fulfil as best as can be done.

She is a great actor, and her performance was extremely credible. Her defensive struggles included physically attacking the rapist with her nails and fists, while she made loud and shrieking cries. I’ve never heard anyone sound so much like she was being actually raped and attacked, while we struggled to make the implied attack as convincing as possible, including beating her with a rope and tying her up, while I ripped off her blouse exposing her breasts. There was a lot of pushing and pulling with her fighting off her attacker as best she could. I was directed to make it look as if I was actually having intercourse, and kissing and sucking her breasts, without actually doing so. It’s likely that anyone seeing the film will wonder if the she was actually being violated during the filming.

However, it was all make-believe, and there was no actual contact between my lips and her breasts, nor was I ever pressing against her body in the way that the film will probably make it appear. During my attack against her, after I ripped off my shirt and was ripping open her blouse, she tore open wounds on my back and shoulders with her fingernails, with such ferocity that she actually opened wounds which bled during the filming. She was quite apologetic about injuring me in her enthusiastic performance but I felt that she gave the scene gravitas and believability with her focus and intensity.

The makeup artist took the minor wounds and made them look a lot more serious than they actually were, but nonetheless I have scratch marks on my back and shoulders that have only now begun to fade. Her defensive struggles only made Christopher Columbus become deranged and even more violent in his assault. Which made her cries and screams even louder and more emotionally expressive about what was happening to her.

This documentary is about two separate but related themes – the violent assault on indigenous women as a part of the conquest by the Spanish fleet and the enormity of the humiliation and defeat of the nations of the Americas by European invaders. My scene is only a part of the documentary, and obviously I haven’t seen any of the rest of the film.

fx artistry is used to enhance the impact of a scene in many ways.

What making this film has done to me however, is give me a lot to think about and to process, particularly in regards to the sexual and violent assault of a young woman, by a much older and more powerful man. I doubt that the invader would have given her a second thought once he was done with his depraved behavior, and simply would have gone on to the next act against the native peoples, including more attacks on defenseless women and children.

History is largely silent on what happens to vulnerable women and children during wars, although recently there has been a lot more discussion and literature on the subject. What I did as an actor was play out the most vile behaviour in as convincing a fashion as I could. That was my job, and the Director and the Producer were very complimentary about how the two of us did our scene together.

I still dreamt about the scene, and her pitiful cries during the scene, and her heartfelt weeping during the rape scene itself. At the time I felt my heart pounding, and my body was trembling with the emotional impact of this close encounter. The sweat on my face and my body wasn’t all from the makeup artist. I’ll carry a visceral memory of this scene with me for a long time, and this memory will inform me in ways I never would have expected about how intensely personal and intensely evil is sexual assault actual. The very fact that she was able to express the terror, the outrage and the aftermath so eloquently with her body and her voice means that I’ll never again hear or read about a sexual assault without being deeply moved.

painting by John Henry Fuseli

During the filming, the actress kept in character the whole time, until the very end. After the shoot was over she was very subdued, in the aftermath of shooting such an emotionally draining scene. I’d feel a lot better if I could be sure that filming the rape scene isn’t haunting her dreams in the way it has mine.


Marriage can be heaven, or hell!

If only I was not me.

I should have learned to stay away from women outside of my marriages.  It’s not that I run around on my wife, but rather that while I am not sexually faithful to only one person she and I agreed to live together as husband and wife, with a specific agreement to provide her with some comfort that I would be sensitive to her feelings and not cause her to be confronted with my relationships.  We agreed that I would be discrete, stay away from anyone in our circle of friends, and not inflict disease or another child with a lover on our marriage. I was also to keep the details of my “affairs” to myself. She didn’t want to hear about them. 

It might sound unusual, and maybe it is, but it was a natural outcome of our situation, and how we became a couple in the first place.  She had been one of my lovers during my first marriage, who had become pregnant with our son.  The pregnancy had led to an ongoing relationship as friends and parents, as well as sometime lovers,  which meant that when my previous marriage ended, we were still involved with each other even if mostly as the parents of a small child. 

During my first marriage, my former wife and I had an explicitly open marriage.  It’s not very good training to being a successful husband. 

 
I don’t know for sure, but I think that a lot of marriages become virtually sexless after a long period of time together. Whether that’s true or not it may or may not reflect an underlying problem in the relationship. My marriage has been sexless for more than a decade and was pretty much very low sex from almost the beginning. My marriage is not typical, I’m sure, but the reasons for not having sex with your partner can be highly unique to the two of you.

The only real problem is not the lack of sex, it’s more likely the lack of real communication and trust between you, on this subject, if not on any other number of subjects, including this one.

My partner and I still live together in the same home, but the marriage (as a sexual relationship, that is) is largely over, although we live together.  We have five kids between us and more than 40 years of being involved with each other.
 
My previous marriage was already in trouble when I met and became involved with my wife. In the beginning, things were okay with us, and after my first marriage broke up we moved in together and ended up married after another child was born.
 
We both came into the marriage with unrealistic expectations. After explicitly agreeing to an “open” arrangement with me, she actually thought that I would change completely and become a different person and not have intimate relationships outside of our marriage. I thought that she would be as good as her word, and be willing to be open as long as I didn’t cause her to be embarrassed, or bring home any diseases.
 
We were both living a fantasy, with serious long-term consequences. I went along my merry way, living pretty much as I did during my previous “open” marriage, and she went on living in a belief that I had changed my behavior, despite our agreements to the contrary. Part of the deal we made at the beginning when we got married, was that would keep my external relationships to myself, and not expose her to the embarrassment of having to deal with them on an ongoing basis.

Well, that didn’t work out so well. She ended up feeling completely betrayed sexually and emotionally, which she more or less kept to herself for more than 30 years. She also withdrew emotionally more and more over the years, until it got to the point where sex would have been totally pointless since we no longer even shared emotional intimacy.

She, on the other hand, assumed that I was lying all along. In other words not telling her that I was faithful, when in fact I was not. I assumed that she was well aware of my other friends when she actually hoped that they didn’t exist, but she was always angry that they probably did.

She, however, wouldn’t now feel as though she has been living a lie for all this time, and so angry that it’s impossible for her to get over it.

The weird thing is that I really can’t imagine my life without her in it, and don’t want to.  But it’s far too late in my life to change who and what I am, or what I have always believed.  Same is true for her.  What can we do?

It has occurred to me many times that it would have been a lot better off if I were not me.  Or at least, made a life with someone who shared my desire for multiple partners rather than someone who really feels that I ruined her life.