Isolation is a form of Coercive Control

Isolation removes a person’s support network

Isolation would have been a major factor for Alida’s difficulties in Canada because she was non-English speaking, Sophie thought as she joined Bea at the lunch table.

‘You have mentioned the difficulties Alida had in Canada. A lot of non-English-speaking people’s experience in Australia has led them to awful depression, anxiety and, of course, isolation.’

Bea nodded. ‘That makes sense. Opa’s sister said in her letter that she was the closest person to Alida in Amsterdam, so it made sense that she came to the rescue by also emigrating from Holland to Canada to help Alida.’

‘Yes, we’ve seen what a caring person she is – her letter shows it to be one of her strongest characteristics.’

Bea put her fork down. ‘The other thing about Alida when they were in Amsterdam, was that she was working. But she was possibly unable to work in a foreign country owing to the situation where married women couldn’t easily work. And the language barrier being so great would’ve had an impact on her ability to work unofficially.’

‘Working would’ve given her confidence in her independence. I say this from listening to immigrants being interviewed on radio, but also because of my counselling work. I remember how happy Mum was to clean other people’s houses… oh wow! Just like her mother. Mum did it just to get more than the necessities. Like a new dress fabric so she could make her three daughters a nice Sunday dress each.’

‘Exactly, because you were all constantly growing out of your clothes.’ Bea sipped her tea. ‘Of course, in Alida’s relationship, your Opa would’ve been very happy when she was working. I’ve never heard anybody, including him, say that he was unhappy about that. Alida told me that she had to, so she could feed her children.’

Sophie’s face reddened. ‘Opa’s uncaring determination to stay in Canada not because he had any reason except to travel away from Holland, in contrast to his sister’s sacrificial uprooting of herself from Holland shows me not only that he was happy to have Alida slave away cleaning, but also he didn’t care about anything except his own wants.’

Bea frowned as she chewed her bread and cheese slowly.

‘If he’d really loved Alida, he would have taken her back home sooner. Obviously, somebody persuaded him to do so, when they did go back. But I can imagine he would’ve been very angry and resentful. That I observed with him living on our land in Australia until I was fifteen.

Bea almost choked as she tried to swallow too quickly. ‘So his admission to Tante Angelique that he was happiest before they emigrated to Canada, shows exactly what the problem was. Perhaps both were resentful on their return

Isolation can mean confined to home

to Amsterdam. Or, more likely, he exhibited some really unpleasant behaviour toward Alida.’

‘That makes me think about my relationship with my ex, which mirrors what you’ve just said. When things were going well, he was happy. Whenever I started doing something he didn’t approve of, he would start to sulk, criticise and mock me for things ranging from my appearance, clothes to anything I said or did. He’d talk over me if I tried to speak. Then he’d say something really hurtful like “You can’t even have an intelligent conversation. Why can’t you just shut up!” I’d be reduced to tears.’

‘I remember you said you eventually realised he was just like your opa. This is making so much sense to me.’

‘I’d scream when he’d sneak around the house and roar a loud ‘boo’ behind me. Once he realised he’d succeeded in terrifying me, he did it whenever he had the opportunity.’ Sophie put her head down to consume several spoons of her chopped vegetables.

‘On my visit to you in Australia, he was charming to me and everyone else, but I did notice he acted in a very strange way when he spoke to you. It was as though he had something unpleasant tasting in his mouth. He never looked at you. When we went to dinner, he almost turned his back to you, even though he sat next to you. He completely ignored you when you spoke or touched him gently on the arm.’

Sophie shuddered. ‘You can see why I was too embarrassed to invite anybody to dinner. My isolation increased as even my family refused to visit due to the tension in the air.’

‘That’s the word! We have a saying here in Holland; “It cuts the air like a knife.”’

‘And in private at home, he continued with the awful behaviour he’d previously complained about his dad Inflicting when he was with his mother, him and his brother when they were growing up. He never made the link. Even when I pointed it out and suggested he get help.’

‘Was he able to empathise with your feelings?’

‘No, and worse still, often what I’d shared in an earlier reasonable discussion would then become material for him to ridicule me with.’ Sophie looked as though she was about to cry.

Bea spread her second slice of bread with butter and her homemade jam, then said, ‘These types of men often have genetic components in their temperament, which, combined with the modelling from their fathers, causes the cycle of disruptive behaviour to keep going.’

‘So this gives us a clue of how Opa might have behaved with Alida once they returned to Amsterdam. I felt similar vibes from him and my ex when they got angry. The way Opa’s second wife shushed us; told us not to make him angry.’ Sophie gulped her tea. ‘With my ex, I soon learned to eat my food quickly at dinner and drink my wine. I’d wait for him to refill my glass, then I’d excuse myself to work on my university assignments in my study.’

‘How could you study with so much red wine and upset?’

‘Reading was a distraction, but I couldn’t always study. Sometimes I’d email somebody, even him to read at work when he wasn’t drunk, in the hope that he’d have some compassion. Huh, it didn’t work, so I started journaling to get my feelings out on the page…’

‘Awful. It’s not a life. How did he respond to your emails?’

‘Mostly he would ignore them. Sometimes he’d write an angry email back, saying things along the lines that I was insane…’

‘Oh! Another similarity with Alida.’

Sophie nodded. ‘Eventually I gave up, especially when he’d threaten me when he was home.’

‘The isolation must’ve been terrible. I’m glad you left, even though you had another terrible journey.’

‘The relationship therapy we attended and my studies, showed how women pair up with men who are familiar. So in the Imago Relationship Therapy model, I paired with a man who was like both my mother and her father who was Opa, because that’s what I grew up with. It was familiar. On the positive side, my ex looked after his physique which was like my dad’s. I admired this. Our friendship developed with going for long-distance runs, day-long cycling, and other challenging physical activities. My dad and I bonded when we were working on physical farming and building jobs together.’

‘And then you built the beautiful house for your ex and yourself.’

‘Mmm…, with Dad’s help on weekends. Then, after we moved in, the isolation set in. There was nothing to discuss. He was often away working, which gave me some peace and restful sleep in the home I’d created to meet our needs perfectly.’

‘Did you talk to anybody about what was happening?’

‘How could I tell anybody the truth of the situation? Sometimes, I’d speak with counsellors about the cruel things he’d say. Or I’d break down with Mum and Dad. They’d just say I should leave him. Actually, Dad would say, “Get rid of him!” As if I could?’

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