I was going to a wait a few days before running this post, since I’ve already run a couple this week — but the story is changing so rapidly I decided to get it now before it takes more turns.
In case you just returned from Siberia, you may not know that actress Halle Berry has been locked in a hellacious custody battle with Gabriel Aubry, the absurdly good-looking babydaddy of her daughter Nahla.
Halle petitioned the court to let her move Nahla to France where her fiance, actor Olivier Martinez, lives. Halle stated that she needed to do this to protect Nahla from paparazzi; according to her, French paparazzi are friendlier.
Halle’s petition was denied and the judge ruled Nahla must remain in Los Angeles so she could see her father. Shortly after this decision, Aubry got in a brawl with Martinez during the Thanksgiving drop-off of Nahla. The fight was so vicious (Martinez is a former boxer) that both were sent to the emergency room. Halle is now seeking a restraining order against Aubry so he will be unable to come within 100 yards of her, Martinez, and Nahla.
However, Aubry has already won a restraining order against Martinez, who, he says, threatened to kill him. And if you look at the photos here, you may surmise that Aubry is telling the truth. His face is shockingly battered, while Martinez has suffered only a swollen hand, apparently from pummeling Aubry.
Admission: I know none of these people. I base my wildly subjective reactions on esteemed publications such as TMZ and Radar Online AND my understanding of how adults’ childhood mishigas seeps into divorce.
All of which makes me feel really, really bad for Halle’s babydaddy. And for Nahla, of course. Because she is now stuck in the vortex of her parents’ unresolved childhood traumas which are apparently driving the custody train.
The Babydaddy was a Foster Child
One of nine children that his mother was unable to care for, Aubry reportedly bounced around FIVE different foster homes before becoming a model at age 20. I work with foster children and I have seen first-hand the damage that comes from repeated disruptions and failed attachments. I don’t care how rich, famous and smouldery Aubry is, on some level he is still that kid who got tossed around like a football, getting close to, and then losing, attachment figure after attachment figure.
Now. Imagine a father with that level of abandonment issues having to hand off his only child to her richer, more famous, more powerful mother AND the fiance with whom she wants to traipse off to France…on Thanksgiving, one of the most Rockwellian of all family holidays.
Can you feel his pain? I can.
Halle Watched her Father Beat Up Her Mother
Apparently young Halle watched her father beat up her mother before the couple split and the father dropped out of her life. Um, hello? The father dropped out of her life! Do we see any parallels to her current situation? Halle still has no contact with her dad and has not responded to contact from his relatives, according to her half-sister.
Imagine. Your earliest memories involve your dad hitting your mom. You remember what that violence looked like, what it sounded like, and how powerless you were to stop it. Your mom leaves your dad and you spend the bulk of your childhood poor, being raised by a single mother who never remarries.
Given all this, does it not make sense that Halle might lack the psychological capacity to make room for a man in her life? And that becoming rich and famous enables her to do what she couldn’t do when she was little: have power over a father figure? And avenge her mother?
And that maybe, maybe, if you buy into Freud’s theory of repetition compulsion, it’s possible that both Gabriel and Halle subconsciously recreated their childhood traumas in an attempt to resolve them. But as is often the case, the resolving went awry.
Gabriel’s Repetition Compulsion
Gabriel was abandoned by his mother. He has a child with Halle, but never marries her, making it easier for the relationship to dissolve. As a former foster child who never had parents he could count on, Gabriel probably grew up with a lack of healthy entitlement. Then he chooses a babymama who appears to be something of a diva, and takes him to court to prove that he is a bad father, thus not entitled to parent his own child.
Gabriel has to relive the pain of his childhood disruptions every time he hands over his child to Halle during timeshare transitions. He has to fight to keep his ex from moving Nahla to another country — and essentially cutting her out of his life.
With the present-day drama stirring up his childhood trauma, how could Gabriel not be angry? How could he not feel triggered dropping off his daughter to his ex and her new partner who is edging him out of his father role?
Is it really a surprise that this inner turmoil exploded into a physical altercation? A physical altercation which manifested in…
Halle’s Repetition Compulsion
Halle felt scared and powerless watching her father beat up her mother. She grows up to be a powerhouse Hollywood player but never gets over the anger at her father and the lack of control she felt as a child. She chooses a man over whom she feels she has power (he’s younger, not as rich, she keeps him at a distance by not marrying him), and assumes she will have even more power if she is able to raise her daughter solo.
But Gabriel has his own control issues. He’s triggered by Halle’s attempts to control him. Halle has accused him of having an anger management problem. But what does that mean? Does he have anger management problems in a vacuum? Or does he react in anger to the mother of his child telling him he has no rights as a parent?
Is Halle’s perception that Gabriel is dangerous at all colored by a hypervigilance common to most adults who witnessed abuse?
The irony is that Halle appears to have picked a new love who appears to be far more violent than Gabriel.
Whatever the case — and is it ever a complicated case — Halle has recapitulated her childhood trauma. She has co-created a physically violent scene that her daughter witnessed. Nahla will grow up with a template of high-conflict parenting. She will grow up with the imprint of violence and its outcome of estranged parents and a possible estrangement from her father.
Nothing has been resolved. The trauma will just repeat itself. One can only hope that Nahla will figure out how to have a mutually respectful relationship in which she and her future partner can co-parent effectively.
Nothing I have written should be construed as support of violence. I am not saying that Halle “made” her babydaddy hit anyone. However, it’s worth pointing out that Aubry did not hit his babymama. He hit Martinez, his gender and physical equal. And some reports state that Martineze provoked the fight, tackling Aubry from behind.
I will own that I am biased in Aubry’s favor. As an adult adoptee with my own entitlement and attachment issues who married a mega-powerful man with whom I had a custody battle, I am probably over-identified with Halle’s babydaddy.
Any kind of abuse of power makes me angry. It doesn’t matter if a man or a woman is wielding the power. Trying to take away the other parent’s right to be part of a child’s life, unless that parent is the spawn of Satan, is just flat out wrong.
I hope that Aubry’s altercation with Martinez does not cause him to lose custody of Nahla. I hope that all players in the family law posse attached to this case are educated in family systems and psychological issues that are driving both parties in this high-conflict custody battle. (Dream on, Pauline).
Aubry may need anger management classes, but it appears that Halle could use conflict-resolution classes. Both of them could benefit from reading In the Name of the Child, an excellent, if dense, book designed to help people understand how high-conflict divorce damages children.
And in the meantime, I really hope that Aubry does not get deported. I don’t know this guy, but I feel strongly that he deserves to raise his daughter — and she deserves to have him in her life.