CHRIS­TOS AND ALASTRINA WERE SEC­OND-GEN­ER­A­TION

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Body and Soul - - Relationships -

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.

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