No photos today, just words, and my sole opinion.
“35% is as fair as you’re going to get”
Those words stick with me and always will. That was the final outcome of two years trying to get equal time and parental rights with my children*. I was told I was lucky because we had a forward thinking judge.
Frankly, I wanted to write this because of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s trial. I wanted to ride that coat tail and continue the conversation. The song link above is indicative of how I felt in the midst of my relationships. Oddly, I feel a sense of relief that this relationship dynamic is being played out in such a public forum. It’s time this was spoken about so loudly. I know the trial is about defamation of character but this often happens to guys who speak up. Most aren’t really taken seriously and it’s kind of damned if I do, damned if I don’t.
“My buddies and colleagues will think I’m weak and less of a man if I tell them. If I don’t say anything and split, then I’m a bad father or a selfish dick. Okay, how do I make it work then? If I take the blame and accept it, the fights done, I eat shit for a bit but we carry on eventually. Okay, that fixes it, lets do that” We twist it more and more to fix it. Until we no longer can.
I used to host men’s peer support meetings and the stories of men in court and how difficult it is to have parental rights and to be seen equally in a familial context were very common (read ‘normal’). Seeing and hearing about men having to go to great lengths to be believed about abusive relationships were common. It is tragic and I became used to hearing it therefore more tolerant when I did hear it. Abuse against men is more common than most people think, and seeing Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s trial playing out in such a public forum is not common.
I have three sisters and grew up in a home run by my mother. My Dad worked as much as he could. They loved each other and are still together and although their relationship wouldn’t work for me, it does for them. Siblings fight of course and I was always told off for using force against any sister. Usually followed with “don’t hit your brother”, a glancing rule to a sister with little consequence. I have never hit, slapped or struck a woman since my early teens (my poor sisters). As a younger single man, I held a lot of anger that my past didn’t have to hurt me so much. I also was an active participant in creating new experiences that kept cutting those emotional scars.
I have been abusive with anger and I have used my size to dominate. It’s one of the things you learn as a man, your size matters! I have done that so infrequently that when I did, I seem pretty scary. I know manipulation and lying were also a part of my history in relationships. When I was learning how to have a relationship, I naturally expected the same balance as my folks. I worked or did what I wanted and she kept it all together. Yeah, it’s been a steep curve.
What I’m sad to see is that I haven’t once seen anyone have any compassion for Amber Heard. I had to ask myself why I felt bad for her. What she has done is inconceivable for so many and horrible behavior. If the Psychologist is to taken credibly, Ms. Heard’s leaning toward Borderline Personality and Histrionic Personality Disorder, then I for one have compassion for her. This trial reveals just how destructive and painful it can be. Underlying these two disorders is self-esteem and fear of abandonment. A need to be seen, accepted and wanted. The disorders are the brains way of assimilating these emotions and feelings into day-to-day life. A way of surviving that falls way outside our socially acceptable normal behavior.
Seriously, just imagine having the world finding out you dropped a deuce on the bed of your partner. That you hurt someone badly enough they had to visit hospital or even just having your arguments replayed in public! Wow. Every trigger this woman has is off the hook right now. This is her nightmare scenario and whether she deserves it is not a decision I will ever make.
Depp came fully prepped for a deeply revealing trial to prove abuse. He also came with some damning evidence that most people won’t have. The recordings. Hearing that argument, hearing being told to grow up, hearing the denials and avoidance as manipulation made me feel disgust. I know what it’s like to be hit, pushed, physically injured and kicked. I know how fucking twisted a toxic relationship can be. I know about learning to have a choice and slowly realizing I played an active role in every fight, every loving moment and every moment in-between. Yeah, I know right? That was as painful as the kick in the goonies. But, hearing another couple going through an argument that sounded like so many I’ve had is kinda spooky. One thing I wonder is whether Mr. Depp sunk to some lows and said or did things that weren’t recorded. I’m sure. I know I did. I remember a couple times saying things that right after I said them, I literally spoke and asked myself wtf did I just say? I crossed my own boundaries of being verbally abusive more times than I care to remember but I just didn’t know how to fix it. Mostly because I had no idea what was wrong. I just knew I was becoming someone I didn’t like. This happened in two relationships for me.
Counselling helped me a lot in owning my part and actively implementing education, support, counselling and homework. (Sometimes I wonder if I say too much here. LOL). I have not been in a relationship now for 9 years. I didn’t want to do it all over again. The last person I felt ‘feelings’ for flicked my triggers so hard, they bounced back for a second tap. There was lying, manipulative coaxing, denial with a lack of empathy or validation of my feelings. It wasn’t fun. However, at least I can say I saw it coming this time, so progress right?
Seeing this trial play out kind of makes me see how ready society seems to be to accept abuse can happen to everyone. Here is an intelligent, successful albeit famous man, being abused. This has happened to so many men and it’s never been this highly publicized and I think Mr. Depp’s courage to do this is worth tipping my hat to because I also acknowledge how damning this is to all involved. Especially the children watching their parents go through this - forever- on interweb.
Want to know another mind-fuck? I recall realizing when I really understood the implications of using being 'broken' as a justified excuse. Even if the other person didn’t find it ok, I could justify my behavior therefore it wasn’t really my fault. I could live with that.
“Yes, I did/said that but I’m not going to do this relationship properly so what do you expect? You are driving me to behave like this, if you stop, so will I.”
I still find myself in this mindset and try to justify my way out of it. When I notice it, it’s a good sign I am in self-sabotage mode. I’m lost in “I’m broken, or ill, it’s not really the real me. I’m not really like this.” This crosses my mind when I see Ms. Heard react to some of the recording.
Well, this has not been easy to write and way off topic of photography but the subject is too relevant for me to avoid. To anyone (of any gender) who’s been through a similar experience, my heart goes out to you. The mark abuse leaves is never really gone and I hope that more people can find help when they need it.
I would like to honor the memory of my dear friend, mentor and advocate for men’s mental health, Mr. Jonathon Buchanan. He was instrumental in the creation of The Nursing Centre in Courtenay, BC which included free men’s counselling and supportive services. He walked with (his term for supporting) many people through difficult times in their lives, including mine. We became good friends and the most amazing sound board I have ever had. Compassionate, honest and warm-hearted. He shall be missed terribly.
*NOTE: 1st Paragraph: My ex-partner referred to here has worked very hard to accommodate my ‘stuff’ and work with me to raise our boys. We have a unique relationship that we both value and honor and work to maintain.