real life

"I watched Cyrell lose it on Married at First Sight, and I saw myself."

One morning six months ago, I found myself in the shower, freshening up for work after much needed make up sex.

My partner had been going on about a fight we’d had on the side of the road ever since it happened at 3am the previous Saturday.

I played it down until I saw it with my own eyes and literally gasped in disbelief.

I had drawn blood. I had broken his skin where I’d grabbed him – where I had put my hand around his throat firmly enough to let him know his drunken belittling had pushed me too far.

I’d been in denial until that moment. I’d blamed him squarely for pushing me so far with his drunk, cruel words. I’d denied that I had a problem with anger. Yes, I had apologised and said that grabbing him was wrong, but I’d qualified it with the fact that he’d pushed me there and like a cornered animal I had no choice but to lash out.

MAfs Cyrell Martha fight anger
Last night, Australia watched in horror as Cyrell and Martha fought on national TV. Image: Channel 9.

On that morning, it had only just occurred to me that when I was a teenager, angry at my mum for the breakup with my dad, I used to get in her face and say cruel things, until she got to the point where she would lose control of her emotions and hysterically slap me across the face. I’d later see her sobbing alone in her room, remorseful for hitting her beloved only daughter as the guilt and despair washed over her.

Here I was, days before my 30th birthday, standing naked in the shower feeling the same overwhelming shame. How could I have done this to my beautiful man? When I saw it in the clear light of day, the centimetre of raw skin and crimson I finally realised: I have an anger issue and there is no hiding it anymore.

I held my breath and held him, my chin pressing into his shoulder. Out of nowhere my chin started shaking uncontrollably until there was no distinction between the tears and the shower water that flowed down our tangle of vulnerable skin. He tried to console me, to tell me it was just as much his fault as mine, that he’d driven me to do it by pushing me too far.

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He was finally espousing what I had told him, what I’d been begging him to realise every time we had an explosive argument that ended in me losing it.

But the truth is, well adjusted adults with personal boundaries and some degree of emotional regulation walk away, use their words, acknowledge they are feeling triggered or remove themselves from toxic relationships. They don’t grab their partner by the throat and squeeze. Or grab their face and squeeze. Or punch them in the arm. Or punch the bed beside them like a UFC ground and pound to try to snap them out of it and make the fear and pain stop.

Watching Cyrell lose it at Martha last night floored me.

I felt her deep wounds and fears rise in her, I could feel her prefrontal cortex (the part of our brain responsible for rational high level thinking) detach itself from her primal brain, suddenly unavailable to her, as she escalated into her sea of red, her flight or fight. It felt strangely familiar.

Watch Cyrell and Martha's fight on Married at First Sight.

Video by Married at First Sight

It was shocking to watch and I found myself wanting to be outraged, but no one else was on the couch with me so I had the opportunity to be honest with myself. I too have experienced trauma and abuse which I have managed to successfully hide from my friends and family my whole life. The first sexual violation at seven years old, followed by a series of other deeply disempowering experiences over the subsequent decade which I believed I’d brought on myself.

Watching Cyrell I realised the containment of my trauma had really manifested in a pattern of explosive rage at my partner behind closed doors. To everyone else who knew me, I was a positive, fun, intelligent, generous, confident woman with my shit together. The moment my fear or abandonment was triggered in my relationship, I flipped into Cyrell.

Why can’t women talk about our anger? It doesn’t feel very feminine, well put together or in control. It feels scary. Maybe it has to do with the language used to describe women when we’re angry – psycho, crazy bitch, feral, lunatic, fucking nuts. Maybe if we were able to have a safe place to express and explore our angry feelings without judgement we might feel less like a “germ” (cheers Martha) and more able to access our primary emotions driving the angry response. The 'I’m not good enough'. The 'please don’t leave me'. Maybe if we could see examples of dynamic, passionate, successful, intelligent, multifaceted women owning their light and dark, talking authentically about their experiences and working on themselves, we might have less explosive moments and more awareness, honesty and understanding, without fear of exclusion or abandonment.

While there will no doubt be a whole lot of ‘OMG can you believe Cyrell last night’ chat around the office today, I wonder whether that shaming only serves to further isolate the women around us who need to be able to own their anger in a healthy way to work through their core wounds, instead of pushing it down.

What did you think of Cyrell's outburst on Married at First Sight last night? Tell us in a comment below.

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