I am honoured to know a lot of incredible women – strong, resilient, highly-intelligent, well-organised, successful in their chosen fields or brilliant stay-at-home carers. But often they share a recurring theme that breaks my heart and causes feelings of profound sadness, frustration and yes, rage, to rise in my chest.
It is the lack of equality in their intimate partnerships and their continued acceptance of that situation as normal.
It is evident in common statements like:
I’ve done two hours of work before my husband has even got out of bed in the morning.
He really wants to have kids as soon as possible and both our Mums really want grandkids. I’m not sure if I’m ready but there is a lot of pressure. [a few months later she falls pregnant]
He really wants more kids…[later in the same conversation]…He didn’t realise he needed to take the nappy bag because he rarely looks after the children by himself.
I finally got a cleaner because I don’t have time to do it all and it doesn’t matter how many times I ask, he never helps out much.
He tries but, you know, he never does it properly.
He’s always happy to do things he enjoys like going to soccer with our son. But he’s not great with the other stuff like cleaning and cooking dinner.
He runs a large company but can’t cope with our three children for two hours without calling me.
Again and again I hear these statements uttered with an accompanying sigh of resignation. I wonder how we reached the point where women accept this behaviour as the standard. Why do we accept this is what love and relationships are supposed to look like?
Honestly, I know exactly how we got here. We arrived through the centuries of conditioning woman (and yes, men) have received, generation after generation. It’s been enforced through cultural norms, families, religious doctrine, film, television, books and our media.
Women accept this is what love looks like because we’ve been taught that it looks like this. We believe it because we see it everywhere. Yet we also wonder why we still don’t have equal rights in the workplace and why men still get off lightly in the courts for rape and other forms of sexual assault. We wonder why women working online receive vicious threats from men threatening to hunt them down, hurt or murder them. We wonder why the scourge of domestic violence continues to threaten women in relationships at every socio-economic level.
We wonder why we don’t have equality in society yet we don’t realise we don’t have it in our homes. If we don’t have it in our intimate lives how can it ever be created or sustained outside our front door?
The truth is, it can’t. But if we continue to accept inequality in our intimate lives, to shrug and say that’s just the way it is and “I love him”, nothing will ever change within our homes or outside them.
Love without equality is love with an unhealthy serve of disrespect. I am so very tired of seeing women disrespected. I can also see they are exhausted from it too. They are exhausted from the accommodating, navigating and negotiating. Yet they believe this is what love looks like so they make trade-offs in their own minds and it all continues.
If we truly want equality in society, we must first achieve it in our homes. And men who support equality in their workplaces need to do the same in their relationships. If they don’t, they are simply mouthing meaningless platitudes in an attempt to publicly look good to their female colleagues and the rest of the world.
Intimate relationships and love can be complicated. There will always be give and take throughout the twists and turns of life, and compromises to be made. But let’s get real about equality.
If you’re in a relationship, sit down and map out how much time you both spend doing paid and unpaid work to sustain life and the home. Include all the hours spent getting up to feed babies in the middle of the night, caregiving, doing the school run, shopping for groceries, cleaning, looking after relatives – although it is unpaid it is still work and if you had to pay someone to do those things (actually, let’s face it, you would need to pay several people), the bill would be huge. Tally it all up and compare notes. See who is spending more time and go from there. Perhaps you are both equally pulling your weight. If so, that is fantastic – keep going! If not, it’s time for an honest conversation.
Every woman deserves to have equality in her intimate partnership. It should be a right rather than something we need to negotiate. A given not an exception to the rule.
Love without equality is not good enough for any woman, or a good enough reason to stay with any man.
Like most people, there are things in my childhood and adolescence that scarred me emotionally. Interactions with family members and friends stay with you a long time and those memories mark you in many ways. They also influence your decisions and ideas about who you are and how the world operates.
I’m 44 now and it’s amazing how much I’m still unpicking those threads from my younger years. It’s like there are dozens of boxes strewn around the place and every now and then I trip over one and land unceremoniously on my backside.
Of course I can choose to get up at that point, kick the box to one side and keep going. But invariably all that means is there will be an even harder fall in the future. The Universe is like that you know. It will flag an issue for you to look at and, if you choose to ignore it, it will simply smack you harder next time. The Universe’s subtlety and patience can sometimes decrease rather rapidly.
These days I generally make time to undo the strings and sticky tape that’s holding the box together, and then I look inside. Some of the boxes in the past have been labeled with words like ‘rejection’, ‘need for acknowledgement’, ‘disrespect’, ‘judgement’, ‘abandonment’ and ‘love’. Inside each one has been a memory of how someone treated me, something said in jest or with cruel intention, or a situation that caused me pain.
As I’ve peered into each box, I’ve understood that I too had a role to play in creating those moments in my life. There were lessons for me to learn and things I needed to know about myself and others.
Does that mean the behaviour of some people was acceptable and kind? Definitely not. Sometimes it was the absolute opposite and, unsurprisingly, they are the moments that have marked me the most.
But with self-awareness, I have to acknowledge that while those things happened, I cannot allow them to twist my present and future in unfavourable ways. I cannot allow them to taint the possibilities and opportunities that lay before me. Yet sometimes that’s exactly what happens. Someone will say or do something in the present and I’ll be triggered back to that moment in my childhood or adolescence when something similar happened. And in that moment all the emotion from that past event will rise within me. Suddenly I will feel like I’m swimming through cotton wool, voiceless, powerless and with no idea where to go.
This is the moment the Universe pushes me over a box from my past.
It can be tempting to ignore the box and instead focus on the antagonising trigger in my present. Certainly it would feel more satisfying in the short-term to throw all my blame and pain on the person triggering my response.
But I know there is a reason such strong feelings arise and usually they start with me, my past, my lessons and my path. So I instead I apply metaphorical iodine to my wounds and open the box to peer inside. Then I find a way to work through its contents, get help to process it all if I need to, and then I do my best to let it go.
Unsurprisingly, it’s at this point the antagoniser in my present loses their power. I can deal with them calmly, almost matter-of-factly then, because it was never really about them personally. They were just a mirror showing me something to look at. They were just a chance for me to learn that now, as an adult, I can find another way.
Lucretia Ackfield is a writer and transformational teacher who helps women reconnect to the greatness that lies within by accessing their intuitive power. If you’d like to learn more about using your intuition or Lucretia’s programs, check out her Facebook page Lucretia’s Words or join her Facebook group Rock Your Inner Channel.
A good friend is going through a tough time and when I asked her if she kept a journal she said, ‘No.’
‘Start,’ I said. ‘It will always help.’
I’ve found journaling to be my lifesaver in times of pain and turmoil. It helps me clear my mind, focus and get to truth of things. It’s so easy to lie to ourselves when we turn things over in our minds for days, weeks and months on end. We can argue with ourselves and our ego tells us all kinds of things sometimes to delude us and sometimes to annihilate us.
But when you sit down to write, and you don’t allow yourself to edit your words, the truth always comes out. Often I will surprise myself with what I write.
Journaling and writing in general is my clearing house for the soul. As a writer it helps me process my life and who I am.
It is also good to help me release things that are taking up residence within my body and will eventually cause illness if I don’t let them out. I believe pain and anger can do exactly that – our bodies carry not just our organs but also our beliefs and emotions and these can harm us if not managed properly. In the past, my inability to release those emotions has led to depression and physical ailments.
The past six months have been challenging for me. I’ve lost a beloved pet, supported a close family member through the removal of cancer (and coped with my own fears around that), and been devastated by the inexplicable abandonment of someone I love. There have been good things too but the sometimes the tough things drag you down into the mire.
So I continue writing in my journal and have also started a new book to help me process the most recent happenings in my life. I don’t know if it will ever see the light of day. Perhaps I am just writing this one just for me. But write it I must. And it is through that writing that I will be able to move forward, somehow, to a place where I can have a little more peace.
Nearly a decade ago I made a decision that upset a lot of people. I ended my marriage.
My husband Daniel was, and is, a good man. He was reliable, goodlooking, caring, funny and the kind of man everyone loved.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, I stopped loving him. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t recover those feelings. They were gone and so eventually I accepted my marriage was over.
My decision to leave wasn’t popular in a lot of quarters.
Some of my friends were incredulous and even scornful. How could I consider leaving? Daniel was, in their eyes, the perfect man. I must be out of my mind.
Some of my family members were angry, upset and believed for years afterwards that I would live to regret my decision.
But I haven’t.
Leaving the home Daniel and I shared was incredibly difficult. But I knew then, as I know now, that it was what I needed to do for me. I couldn’t stay there anymore and be true to myself. I had a right to be happy and my heart was telling me very clearly that it was time to go.
Dealing with the disappointment, anger and judgement of others in that kind of situation can be hard. You need to have faith in yourself and be truly connected to what is best for you.
Sometimes other people won’t be supportive because your behaviour doesn’t align with what they want, expect or believe is right.
But you can’t let that stand in your way.
Living your life to only make others happy will only make you miserable. You have a right to be happy too.
Sometimes it will feel like being true to yourself just makes you unpopular. And you know what, it might. But the alternative is hardly an option. After all, do you want to live the life you want? Don’t you have a right to do that?
Living your life to make others happy at your own expense is actually kind of nuts. They get everything they want and you get…nothing?
I never set out to hurt anyone. And it caused me a lot of pain to see the people I cared about (including my husband) in pain. But I knew I had to go because that was best for me. Staying would keep others happy but leave me miserable.
And that’s not what life is about.
We must always be true to ourselves. So be brave my friends and live the life that is best for you. Trust your own judgement and don’t live in fear of the censure of others.
Your heart wants you to fly…so don’t lock yourself in a cage that’s been created by and for others.
When I was in year 4, a girl in year 7 came up to me and asked, “Are you wearing a bra?”
How is an eight year old supposed to know what a bra is?
I asked my Mum, “What’s a bra?” She just looked down my top, squealed with joy in her voice and said, “It’s time to go shopping, you DO have little boobies”.
Really? Like, really? At the age of eight?
There was no turning back from there. I was an early “bloomer” (as some people put it). Not long afterwards a year 7 boy said I looked like Shannon Doherty from Beverly Hills 90210.
On my expedition later that week to buy a bra with my Mum, a girl in my brother’s year level asked me, “How’s your new boyfriend Tom?”
My mother instantly slapped me across the face and I burst into tears.
I am from a first generation migrant family and I wasn’t supposed to know boys existed until marriage. It was also the 1980s and hitting children wasn’t frowned upon.
So my first experience of being “liked” didn’t turn out so well. As you can imagine, I developed an unhealthy body and sexual image of myself at a young age. Was it because I had boobs? Did I really start to look like Shannon?
I didn’t want to be pretty. I didn’t want to get into trouble.
It didn’t get better as I got older. My boobs grew bigger, my face became prettier and more boys and men noticed me as I reached my teens and young adulthood.
I struggled in a few unhealthy relationships growing up. I didn’t know if it was due to my looks or maybe I wasn’t compatible with the men I dated.
I wasn’t redirected to focus on the more important aspects in life, rather than the external attributes I possessed. I found it hard to embrace the way I looked. I grew up getting compliments. I still do.
But I’m 30 now. I have two beautiful daughters and my husband would say they look like me. And although my face is ageing slowly, I’m embracing every minute I have this face. More importantly, I focus my daughters’ attention on how well they can read, count, play, and show love, affection and manners. The looks are a given but they don’t determine the level of success you possess as a human being.
Women are the biggest critics and the most supportive beings towards one another. Mothers have the biggest impacts on their daughters. I’m blessed to have mine and blessed to be one now.
Aurora S is a woman, lover, friend and mother with a passion for lifelong learning. She has a serious job but doesn’t take life too seriously.
A few days ago I was rushing through my local shopping centre, running late for an appointment (as always), when a tall man put out a hand to stop me.
When I looked up (because he was towering over me), I realised I knew him.
It was Rowan.
In what seems like another lifetime ago, I was married and was welcomed into my husband’s family. And Rowan was the eldest son of my brother-in-law.
I’d last seen Rowan when he was around 14 years old. And now, there he was so much taller, 21 and all grown up.
He asked me how I was and what I was doing and, although I answered his questions, I was far more interested in learning about his life.
I wanted to know everything.
Where was he working? What happened to his plans to go into the Navy? Did he have a girlfriend? Were they engaged? Was he still living at home? What were his siblings up to these days?
My questions came out in such a rush and it wasn’t just because I didn’t have long to chat. I was desperate to know what his life was like now. And how his brothers and sisters and parents were.
Because, although I haven’t seen them for so long, I still care about them all very much. And hearing about how those kids were all turning out, and how Rowan’s parents were, mattered a lot.
I told Rowan I still had a photo of him and his siblings in a frame sitting on my bookcase in the hallway. And although I’m not an active member of their family anymore, I can’t bring myself to put it away.
Because I knew them all when they were newborns. And I watched them grow from babies to children to teenagers.
I must confess that I wasn’t so keen on kids when Rowan and then his brothers and sisters first began to arrive into this world. I was in my early twenties and children just weren’t part of my life’s equation.
But as the years passed and I got to know each of them, and they got to know me too, I grew to love them.
In all honesty, sometimes it was easier to be around them than the adults. Children don’t ask a lot from you I guess. They just want you to be interested, to care and to listen. At least that’s what I think.
So as I stood there talking to Rowan I felt so proud of how he had turned out. He is a beautiful young man.
And as I drove away I shed a sentimental tear or two for the family I had to walk away from all those years ago. But I guess some of them still remember me. After all, Rowan didn’t have to stop me to chat.
But he did. So I guess that means he remembers me as someone who was important in his life.
And that makes me so happy because I remember them all with love. And perhaps, when you love someone, they never forget.