Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Marriage to a Survivor Is No Picnic or My Advice to Russell Brand and Katy Perry

I have been holding back, but I decided to give into the temptation to write about my favorite celebrity, as well as my daughter, who inspires me in so many ways.
My daughter discovered the world of K-Pop (Korean popular music) last summer and ever since then has been obsessed with the Korean boy band, Big Bang. The band recently won the award Best Worldwide Act at MTV’s European Music Awards.
During the televised interviews before the awards ceremony, they briefly hung out with American singer, Katy Perry, who towered over them in her high heels.  G-Dragon, the Big Bang lead singer, is about 5’7” or 5’8” without heels.
I saw that interview they did with Katy Perry a dozen times or so because my daughter is a fan of both Katy Perry and Big Bang, and she watches every interview with Big Bang available on the internet several times over.
Katy Perry said to Big Bang, “You boys are so cute.”
Apparently there is a subculture of Big Bang “Fan Girls” in the US.  
I admit to being a bit of a Fan Girl too, but not of Big Bang.  I Google one celebrity at least once almost every day -- British comedian, Russell Brand.
I discovered him late in 2010 by perusing the "Comedy" section of The Huffington Post.  I normally read articles about abuse or politics or international affairs, but one morning I decided to lighten up and watched an interview of Russell Brand by Conan O’ Brien.  I had no idea who Russell Brand was.  What he looked like was just some guy with poor posture and crazy hair.
Russell Brand turned out to be hilarious.  I laughed and laughed and laughed and looked up more videos to share with my daughter, who loves comedy, but discovered that I had lots of explaining to do, because Russell Brand pushes the boundary in his comedic sketches towards x-rated, it seems, as often as he can get away with.
Next I found his autobiography, My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs and Standup, in the book store.  I ought it and read it as fast as I could.
I wrote about him in my blog for Christmas 2010, because Russell Brand suffered a few incidents of sex abuse and lots of instability as a child.  His parents divorced early, and his mother suffered repeated, grave illnesses.  He was shuffled around to different homes and left on his own too often.

Like many children traumatized by abuse and, in his case, inadvertent neglect, Russell Brand developed an addiction to heroin and other intoxicants as well as an addiction to sex.  Apparently heroin was the easier addiction to recover from.
Survivors of child sex abuse often gravitate to one extreme or the other -- a withdrawal from sex and relationships or addiction to sex and a steady stream of casual encounters.
Both reactions are a defense against depression.  I am the kind of survivor who withdraws from sex and relationships. Sex and relationships hurt me, so no more of that, please.  It helps that I have two children who need me and want my company.  They keep me from isolating myself completely.  They give me an easy out of the sex and relationship thing.  
I need to give them the best life I can, but the nagging thought that keeps traipsing through my mind remains, “What am I going to do when my children grow up and go away?”
Russell Brand’s addiction to sex, is probably what it is for other men like him -- a defense against being alone.  When you seek constant casual relationships, you build a wall that keeps you from being hurt while getting the intimacy that you crave at least temporarily, but it is a false intimacy.  Real intimacy takes time.  
Russell Brand, what are you going to do when you are 70 or 80?
Think about the tragic and disgusting death of Kung Fu television series star, David Carradine -- hanging himself in a closet in Thailand for prurient pleasure.
I loved the Kung Fu television series. I still quote it.  For example....
Master Po: If a man dwells on the past, then he robs the present. But if a man ignores the past, he may rob the future. The seeds of our destiny are nurtured by the roots of our past. 
That quote seems appropriate.
I taught my children spiritual life skills by watching that show with them on the internet and on DVDs checked out from the library.  They loved the Kung Fu series, but they were so disappointed to find out that David Carradine’s personality differed so much from the character he played. David Carradine grew up to become the alcoholic adult child of an alcoholic.  He was another star who suffered through an unstable and abusive childhood the way Russell Brand did.
Russell are you listening?  Please listen.
According to Russell, even after he went through treatment for sex addiction, would bed three four five women a day when opportunity presented itself and if not, then one or two at least. I am not sure what treatment for sex addiction did for him.
Then Russell Brand met the moon who outshone all the millions of stars in the sky of women -- Miss Katy Perry -- the perky and booby (am I going to be that naughty?) singer who styles herself with candy and cupcakes and now, the color blue.
Blue maybe because she married and  was divorced from Russell Brand 15 months later.
Hindsight is twenty-twenty they say.
My thoughts:
They married too soon.  
You can’t work out difference after you are married.  You have to work them out before.
Don’t marry someone just before they go on a 10 month long worldwide concert tour.  Under the best of circumstances, it is hard to be married to someone gone as  much as Katy was.  Wth sex addict Russell, that long absence was asking for trouble.
But if I was Russell, I would have gone to more of my wife’s concerts.  You know, those Biig Bang boys from Korea are awfully cute.  I would have supported her, and I would have been there to do more of the rest of what you would have done, Russell. *
And even if Katy was off a bit in her performance, let her professional trainers correct her.
You just say, “Oh Honey, you were wonderful.”
Marriages requires sacrifices on both sides.
Stories abounded that Katy would be out partying with friends, and Russell, who needed to avoid drugs and alcohol due to his past addictions, would come to haul her away from her friends.  
I don’t know what it is like to be an addict, That is one symptom of abuse I’ve never experienced, but my mother was an alcoholic.  I could never go around the drinking parties that abounded through high school and college.  Inebriated classmates brought back bad memories of my inebriated mother, who I later learned was sexually abused as a child herself.  Those parties disgusted and depressed me.
I don’t know exactly what happened or what Russell felt, but I know, if I was Katy’s husband, I would not be able to follow Katy to parties with lots of alcohol.
Apparently Katy was not ready to sacrifice parties with friends or her career.  She just got this hot these last couple years.  Hopefully, with time, she will realize that there is more in life than being a star.
Stars have trouble making their marriages work.  One of the few long term marriages between stars -- that of Warren Beatty to Annette Benning -- took place after he had remained unmarried for a very long time.  Clearly he was ready to settle down.  Another long lasting marriage between Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman required her to sacrifice her career.  Though they stayed married, her sacrifice remained a sore point for her.  Brad Pitt claims to have sacrificed sleep in favor of having children and being with Angelina Jolie.
It sounds as though Russell, like Brad Pitt, really does want family and children, but it also sounds as though he needs someone who is always there for him -- something Pop star Katy Perry just couldn’t do and remain pop star, Katy Perry.
Nobody should have to give up themselves to be loved by another.
I don’t know what Katy needs -- hopefully time to enjoy her success and have fun will help her settle down and understand that life is all about relationships......husband, wife, children, and friends.  
People who hang on to you because you have money power and fame are not real relationships.  Real relationships, such as the one I’ve been most successful with -- motherhood -- involve being there for other people when the going gets tough.
Motherhood is about getting up to care for a sick child in the middle of the night when you are sick yourself and really want to stay in bed.  You discover you have more you can give when you think you have nothing left to give.  Giving to others without thinking of ourselves is really important for our spiritual growth
Like the wedding ceremony from the old English Book of Common Prayer..... "To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part."f
Russell are you listening?
Russell has apparently gone back to the pattern of lots of causal encounters and no commitment.  Maybe they are serial monogamous encounters, but they are still a defense against what you don’t want to face -- that your deepest wounds are not healed.
Katy, seeing Russell with all those women is wounding to you.  You wonder what you meant to him.  You wonder how can he throw you away so easily?  Although I’ve never been addicted to sex, I know male sex abuse survivors who have struggled with that addiction.  One man was addicted to sex with other men and decided to live as a gay man, but he never got over his wife.  Years later he still confessed that she was the love of his life.  
Katy, you might feel used and betrayed by Russell, who now fills the tabloids with his sexual conquests so quickly after his marriage to you. Feeling compassion for Russell doesn’t come easily right now, but truthfully, he is “damaged goods.”  He clearly is struggling to recover from wounds he doesn’t fully understand yet.  He has done well in many respects, but the relationship part of healing is often the hardest part.  Clearly Russell loved you more deeply than any woman he ever dated.
Russell my advice is that you find someone like Laurene Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs, an intelligent and beautiful woman who can challenge you intellectually but who is happy to stay home and grow vegetables and herbs and eat a vegan diet and raise children and wait for you when you are on a movie set or a comedy tour.  
But get more therapy.  Yoga is really, really good.  So is meditation, but you need to be mindful of your actions.  Please understand that every time you have casual sex, you hurt the woman and yourself at least a little bit, even if she thinks she wants casual sex.  
I have a few more thoughts for Katy and Russell.
Katy, it sounds as though your parents were too restrictive, and you have your own wounds.  Try to see Russell as yourself in a different situation.  I think he loved you and probably loves you as we are awestruck by the full moon among a night sky of stars.  Your relationship just wasn't meant to last.  It was a learning experience for both of you.  You seemed so much in love this time last year.  Would you rather not have the experience of loving Russell at all?
Sometimes the gifts God gives to us are like bittersweet chocolate.  
And, Katy, I know what Russell’s aphrodisiac is -- his incredible humor and gift of language, with which he seduces and charms and makes you glow and feel an urge for  procreative acts.  
As far as Russell is concerned, Russell you make this middle aged woman who has dated very little since divorcing 8 years ago, feel the urge to procreate even though I am now too old to do so.  Congratulations, that is very hard to do.  You weren’t even present in the room. You said not a word to me and spread none of your amazing charm in my direction.  I just read My Booky Wook.  That is all it took.  Then I saw you put the make on Sherry Shepherd on the View in an old interview recorded on You Tube.  I could almost detect Sherry’s blush through my television monitor, even those she is dark skinned, and hear her think to herself, for just a moment, that just maybe she’d like to take you up on your offer.
But this life is all about relationships and spiritual growth.  Most of us women are not sex addicts.  From personal experience, I can tell you that commitment is very sexy.  As a survivor of multiple forms of abuse, I feel safe when I experience commitment and when I am with the right person.  Then I am able to unwind my tightly wound shell and relax and enjoy myself.  In case my daughter is reading this, don’t worry, I haven’t done that procreation thing in a long, long time. 
Katy, Russell, one last thing -- the tabloids said you two frequently fought.
Truthfully, much of what the tabloids say is garbage.  Some tabloid articles said Katy wanted Russell to file for divorce because she didn’t want to hurt her born again Christian parents.  Others tabloids said that she was blindsided by Russell filing for divorce.
Who knows what the truth is.  I wasn’t there to know, but fighting usually precedes divorce.  Beyond Katy’s songs, there is no hint directly from Russell or Katy at what unkind words they might have said to each other, but it is very common for survivors of abuse to develop less than perfect relationship skills.  We either hold our feelings in or we become abusive.  Drama isn’t a relationship skill. Drama destroys relationships.  Don’t go there.
You can find a way to say what you feel much more kindly.
Use I statements. I feel angry; I feel hurt and not, “You make me angry.”  
Accept responsibility for your own feelings.
Listen and reflect what the other person is saying.  You can learn this skill although it takes practice and patience.   Therapists use this skill all the time, but issues aren’t personal for therapists.  When issues are personal, when you are in pain, when you feel anger, your stress hormones rage, and you have to find a way to overcome those hormones or you may say or do something you will regret.
If you can’t overcome your feelings, take a break. Go take care of your feelings before you say something wounding to the person you love.
Then, when both of you are calmer, you can cone together and ask, “What can we do together to solve this problem? “ 
This way you are not placing blame on the other person.  
Katy, Russell, better luck next time.  The spiritual values of your respective faiths are real.  Try to live them for your own sake and for the sake of others.
One last thought, here are some books (listed below) to read to help with healing along with my thoughts about each one.  I include these for everyone who may read this blog.

Please help us continue this work...


Reading List 
When we are hurt or arguing with someone, even the person we love, the adrenaline starts pumping and we go into a fight or flight reaction.  We may say or do something we regret.  We need to take a time out from fighting and work on our own healing before we are able to go back and talk about a difficult issue.
Thich Nhat Hahn, Anger, Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, 2001.

Some would ask how could a divorced single mother who rarely dates give relationship advice. Life is wounding and all of our lives we are on a journey of healing, but sometimes we are less conscious and aware of what we need to do to heal.  Usually the most important journey is to heal our relationships.  Unfortunately, although I was aware of the problems that existed in my relationship with my ex-husband before we married, I was 33 when we married.  I think I was a little too anxious to get married.  I didn’t want to lose the chance to be a mother.  Looking back I understand that I need to solve the problems before we married.  However, I really needed to work on myself to be able to do the right thing in a relationship.  One of the good things I learned during marriage was about these wonderful books by Dr. John Gottman.  My ex-husband and I would work on these books at bedtime.  They helped.  They made our marriage better while it was failing, but we read them too late to save our marriage.
Gottman, John, Ph.D, WHY MARRIAGES SUCCEED OR FAIL....And How You Can Make Yours Last, 1995.
Gottman, John, Ph.D, SEVEN PRINCIPLES FOR MAKING MARRIAGE WORK: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert, 2000.
Ellen Bass and Laura Davis wrote these really good books for female survivors of child sex abuse.  I think that workbooks, with or without a therapist or support group, are a really good way of healing.  I have not used them extensively, but I have journaled my pain extensively.  I learned more and was more able to change and heal myself when i wrote about my pain and started to think about what I was doing and how I was thinking and what I could do to help myself.
Bass, Ellen and Laura Davis. The Courage to Heal, 1994.
This book by Laura Davis is geared to helping the partner of a female child sex abuse survivor cope with the struggle to live with and support their partner.  One useful lesson I’ve learned fro  the book is that survivors are always moving the goalposts so they can feel safe in a relationship.  My experience is that this is true for non-sexual relationships too.
Davis, Laura , Allies in Healing: When the person you love was sexually abused as a child, 1991. 
Addiction to sex is more common among male survivors of abuse, although females survivors may experience it too.  My internal reaction to sex addiction is that it is a defense against aloneness and depression.  A very different reaction to child sex abuse and rape among some women is the opposite -- the inability to enjoy intimacy.  We are wounded by relationships and withdraw from them.  Psychological trauma caused by wounding through sex truly makes pleasure from sex much more precarious.  This is wound I’ve struggled with.  It makes marriage difficult. I picked up this book to see if it would help.  No, my darling daughter, I haven’t had any chances to put it into practice but it does appear helpful.  I haven’t read much about sex addiction and how to recover from it it because I can’t relate so I have no reading suggestions to offer on the subject.
Maltz, Wendy, The Sexual Healing Journey:  A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse, 1991.
This book on male survivors by Mike Lew is excellent.  I find it useful for me too as a female survivor.
Lew, Mike MEd., Victims No Longer: The Classic Guide for Men Recovering from Sexual Child Abuse, 2004.
Dr. Romo wrote this workbook book for survivors of clergy abuse but it is an excellent book for any survivor of any form of abuse.  Again, with or without a support group or guidance from a therapist, this book will help you look at your wounds and coping skills and thought processes and move from victim, to survivor, to thriver.
Romo, Jaime J.,  Healing the Sexually Abused Heart: A Workbook for Survivors, Thrivers, and Supporters, 2010.
Copyright 2012 Virginia Jones.
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wisdom for Survivors in Relationships or What I Learned From Russell Brand Today

I am a short time Russell Brand fan, having discovered him about one month after he married Katy Perry.

I do the fan girl thing of Googling him every day to find out what he is doing.

Mostly it is mundane drama.

Today he treated me to something thoughtful.

Perez Hilton, or someone like that, quoted Russell Brand speaking about his failed marriage to Katy Perry, “I don’t have to let anything go. I don’t hold on to anything negative. It’s the same as zeroness. It’s not about letting it go. You can’t let go of someone you don’t hold, you know.”

I thought about that as I am divorced too.  We survivors have trouble maintaining our marriages, and Russell Brand is a survivor of child sex abuse among other things.  I guess Katy was away on her concert tour so long that Russell felt a bit abandoned, but he is trying to take the spiritual point of view.  Clearly he wants someone by his side -- a lot.  We survivors often feel the need for reassurance of our worth from other people or we go in the opposite direction of running away from relationships because so many have hurt.

I guess Russell is trying to come to terms with his feelings while having compassion for Katy.  She is at the top of her career.  She didn't abandon Russell on purpose.  It just happened that way.

In any case, I liked Russell's quote so much, I needed to share it.

The point is we can't control other people to meet our needs.  Actually, controlling other people to meet our needs is a very good definition of abuse.

I know because I know what it is like to have someone try to control me.
I left my husband because he held on too tight. If he had given me more room, I would have stayed.  I wanted to stay.  Even when we were fighting with each other towards the end of our marriage, we still made time for fun with each other -- going to bookstores together and discussing politics.  OK, not very romantic, but it meant much to us at the time.  

Before I married my husband, I traveled around the world a few times. I worked as a lone female U.S. government Fisheries Observer on a number of Soviet fishing vessels operating in American waters during the Cold War and visited Jordan alone right after the First Gulf War.  I was not one to be told "no,"that something was too dangerous for me to do.  I don't understand why my husband didn't understand that he could not hold me down. I needed to be free to be myself instead of always being what he wanted me to be.  Maybe he was too young to understand or maybe he didn't understand because he was from another culture that gives that freedom less readily.

So we go through these struggles with relationships and marriage and divorce.  We are supposed to learn 
from our troubles.  We are supposed to grow.

The lesson this time is that love cannot be demanded. It can only be freely given.

Me, in 1987, as a Foreign Fisheries Observer on a Soviet fishing vessel.  I am the little woman in the center.  The guys are all members of the trawl crew.

Me at a Women in Black demonstration in May 1991.

Soviet fishermen on a port call in Dutch Harbor Alaska in March 1989.