the continuing conundrum of living life on life’s terms #recovery #mentalhealth #sexandgender

July 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that I would have difficulty with intimacy in my marriage. I was abandoned by my mother as a result of her mental illness. I remember not being able to make a connection with her as early as 4 years old. I was abandoned by my father as collateral damage from my mother’s mental illness. My dad was not able to cope with mom’s mental condition and gradually withdrew from the family home. By my early teens he was no longer home any evening of the week and he worked full time during the week. Also around this time he started building a sailboat and was away on the weekends working on his boat. Eventually he also betrayed our family by having an affair and moving out, leaving me and my four younger brothers with my mentally ill mother. By this time she was rarely lucid, suffering non-stop from paranoid schizophrenia. So, yes, I have trust and intimacy issues.

It turns out my sexual history demonstrates typical behaviours of a daughter who does not have a healthy, supportive connection with her father. I started seeking out male attention from my male teachers as early as grade 5. I also started seeking boy’s attention at that time, but I had no idea how to go about it. I was a tomboy, I liked sports, games, climbing, riding bikes, swimming in the canyon. I liked boys clothes. My hair was cut short. Now that I think of it, I can see how my identification with boys was both an expression of my natural aptitudes, and a hope that I would be accepted by my father. My dad privileged my brothers over me, showing them more attention and interest. He also privileged attention to my sister over me, she was the eldest and a beautiful, smart, talented girl. She was much more comfortable being ‘girly’ in her fashion and she actually wore makeup, something I have never been able to do.

When I read about transgender characteristics, I wonder if I am in that realm. But I have always been heterosexual, sexually attracted to men, and felt pretty good in my female body. I think it was more that I perceived the difference in power associated with gender and I hoped to position myself next to power by playing down my femininity rather than accentuating my female gender.

As a teenager I desperately wanted male attention even though I had no idea about how to attract the male gaze. If any boy would give me attention I would latch onto him like a limpet, obsessing about what he was thinking about me and conniving to manipulate circumstances so as to bring us together. At some point, age 14 or 15, I realized I could use my sexuality to attract attention. I was never a typically ‘pretty’ girl, but I was good looking enough to attract fairly handsome boyfriends. My first serious boyfriend was a lovely young man. I felt very lucky to have his attention. Bonus that I loved his mom, and she would give me the motherly advice and attention that I could not get at home. I used to hang out in her kitchen many afternoons after school drinking tea and chatting with her.

Ha. I was going to write about the horrible state of my marriage today, how my husband is so tiresome and unlikable, how our marriage lacks intimacy and how I don’t care. Instead I am tracing back to the very earliest days of my relationship history and noticing how difficult it has been for me to ever have a long term intimate relationship. Rather than my husband being tiresome, it is possible that he is extremely patient. Rather than lacking intimacy, it is possible that our ongoing commitment to each other and our marriage, despite our lack of sexual fireworks, is a testament to a deep and abiding intimacy. Rather than thinking I don’t care, it is possible that I am so frustrated with my own inability to connect that I wish I didn’t care so I wouldn’t feel the pain of separation.

Ah. The continuing conundrum of living life on life’s terms.

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