This post deals with family violence and may be triggering for some readers.
My father left when I was about 18 months old. This is not a remarkable tragedy. In fact, it is far too common here in Aotearoa. I got a birthday card from him when I turned five (although in later years I have come to suspect my mother may have written this), and a phone call when I turned 10.
A few months after that phone call he passed away. I remember the first time I gave him a hongi [a Maori greeting] and a kiss because his body was cold.
I gave myself the title of ‘man of the house’ not long after this. My attitude toward my mother changed. Now that I was ‘the man’, it’s almost as though I respected her less. I became a lot angrier. I thought I knew everything. While I felt like the man of the house, I was far from a man.
What I knew of what it meant to be a man, I learned from TV, movies, music and my friends. My views of masculinity became distorted into everything negative I had heard about my father and sworn I wouldn’t become.
I never saw any of this as trauma. I never thought about it as something that required healing.
It did and does.
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Without knowing what it meant to be a man, a partner, or a father, I entered into relationships with a sense of masculine entitlement. I treated women with a certain contempt. Perhaps an anguish of past trauma. I was looking for someone to nurture me, fulfil my sexual desires and take a subservient role to my manhood; my right as a man.
For this, I am truly remorseful. I have hurt people. I have mentally and verbally abused partners. I have threatened violence against them. People who trusted me; I have betrayed their trust.