CHRISTOS AND ALASTRINA WERE SECOND-GENERATION
Greek-Australians. They grew up in a Greek neighbourhood. Everyone knew everyone else. Their marriage, although not arranged, was enthusiastically “encouraged” by their extended family. They married when Trina was 19 and Chris 21.
The early years were easy. Chris went to work. Trina stayed home and raised their four children. Their social life revolved around their extended family.
The problem was Trina. Her parents constantly told her to “stop thinking”. But delving into the meaning of things was part of her nature. The real trouble started when she found time on her hands after the children left home. She became interested in the works of feminists Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, and this led to The Myth Of The Vaginal Orgasm by Anne Koedt, which confirmed that her sex life with Chris was as unfulfilling as she had suspected. The final straw was The Politics Of Housework by Pat Mainardi, which cemented her frustration and anger.
Trina tried to share her thoughts with Chris. His response was: “Life is simple. Don’t analyse everything.” It was simple for Chris. He maintained his lifelong friends, many of them cousins or members of the Greek club. Trina lied about taking up a weekly folk dance class, but it was actually a women’s consciousness group. This spread her knowledge not only of women’s issues, but of a whole world outside her community.
If you’ve always lived in a black box, there’s no problem. But if you lift the lid for a split second, light will enter that you can never eradicate. That was what happened. Trina couldn’t go back. She tried to get Chris to come on her voyage of enlightenment, but her pleas met deaf ears.
Trina is now 69 years old. She has come to see me because she has been planning to leave Chris for 40 years. She is organised financially, but she has been held back by what her children, family and community will think.
What cripples her most is that Chris is a good man, a generous husband and a wonderful grandparent, and she knows that, in his way, he loves her and she is his world.
What propels her forward is her dream of a future of freedom and the realisation that she has outgrown her past.
Trina needs to give Chris permission to be who he needs to be. She needs to love him and do what she has to do for herself, despite the pain it will cause both of them.