Karen Gosbee's book, My Perfect Nightmare, shines a light on domestic abuse, power and wealth

Says decision to write book about marriage to late Calgary financier George Gosbee was neither cathartic nor therapeutic — it was triggering

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CALGARY – Karen Gosbee’s decision to write a book about her tumultuous marriage to late Calgary financier George Gosbee was neither cathartic nor therapeutic. Instead, she said, it was highly triggering.

The book, My Perfect Nightmare: My Glittering Marriage and How it Almost Cost Me My Life,details her personal and her family’s struggles with George, best known as the publicly gregarious founder of Tristone Capital and AltaCorp Capital and co-owner of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes.

It contains new and shocking allegations of domestic abuse as well as George’s drug use. The book also details how the family is still trying clean up his affairs three years after his suicide.

But Karen said the book is not meant to tarnish the financier and former community leader’s name. It’s intended to present the whole picture of a man who was also a prominent philanthropist and community leader, and lift the curtain on a pattern of domestic abuse that is common, but often kept hidden.

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The following interview with Karen has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: The Calgary business community was shocked in 2017 that such a prominent person would take his own life and also shocked by revelations of alcoholism. Do you expect the accounts of domestic abuse and drug use will cause a similar shock?

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A: I would have to say that people probably were familiar with him being extreme in his behaviours. I know he had outbursts in the office and he had a reputation of liking to party and a little bit of a womanizer as well. But, of course, the womanizing part was kept in a close circle of his close friends. I think there was a code that people didn’t talk about, because it was not abnormal behaviour in a lot of those circles.

I do definitely think that people will be shocked about the manner in which he enforced his power over his family — and certainly me. I didn’t come forward to tell this story because of that, to draw any sympathies or to portray myself as a victim. I wanted to come forward to tell people that there is a strong sense of entitlement going on here and this happened because no one recognized it, especially me.

Q: The book details how you were kept in the dark about money. Did the abuse get worse when his business was going poorly?

A: For perpetrators or batterers — whatever you want to call them — the No. 1 thing that they do to use coercive control involves finances. The financial stuff is a tactic that they use, and they rule over constantly. That’s the No. 1 weapon. He would never tell me a consistent story. I couldn’t have access to the banking at all.

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Q: You’ve become an advocate for mental health in Calgary in recent years. Are you now looking to get involved with women and families who have been abused?

A: One of the reasons why I came forward and told the story is to help any of these (mental health and domestic violence) organizations and if I could help them, then I certainly would. Where I get purpose now and what I get excited about is this stuff. It’s the life that George left me (and dealing with the continued aftermath of his death) that really brings me down.

I ended up sitting down with Mayor Naheed Nenshi shortly after George had passed and I said we’ve got to do this better. He set aside $25 million for a city strategy to deal with mental health and addiction and I was asked to co-chair it with (former Alberta Health Services CEO) Dr. Chris Eagle.

Q: It’s been three years since George’s death. How have you been processing it and why is this book being released now?

A: When I walked away from the situation after George passed, I myself didn’t even know the situation I was in. I took responsibility for the fact that I had remained in it and I was doing the best I can. I wasn’t trying to blame anyone or point any fingers. But I wanted to know why. I couldn’t figure out why I made those decisions.

I became more aware of that toxic, intimate partner terrorism, or domestic violence. What it is, again, is the entitlement of having power over someone else. That was a construct that was in the marriage. I couldn’t understand why I was almost robotically programmed to operate within that system. In the book, you see how I was biologically wired. I actually couldn’t function when he was not happy with me. I saw it in other people too, and I wanted to know why.

That’s why I wanted to tell a story about that, so people could recognize it. There is basically a chart that you can look at and it shows how it’s exactly the same tactics abusers use to own an individual.?It’s Biderman’s Chart of Coercion. It’s the same portrait that is used for prisoners of war.

Financial Post

? Email: gmorgan@nationalpost.com | Twitter:

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