It’s tough to watch friend’s marriages and relationships fall apart. I guess at times we have all been there. Standing in a doorway; voice raised, heart-rate up, arguing with our partner about something with little connection to where the discussion started in the first place.
My wife and I have lived it and so too have most of you. It is ugly and in the end one undeniable truth exists. Nobody wins. As soon as one participant in the discussion utters the infamous words, “you win”, it becomes official that, in fact, everyone has lost.
In a sense, I guess we are all losers for being involved in the dispute in the first place yet as painfully flawed mortal and normal human beings, it is our cross to bear.
Happily, for many, disputes are sorted with minimal baggage to carry forward yet the divorce and separation rates in Australia suggest that many don’t.
What often follows is a rather comical money making exercise for solicitors, as rational human beings grow fangs and engage in some sort of vindictive crusade to emotionally, and sometimes physically, crush their former lover and mother or father to their children.
Over the course of the last two years I have had male friends attacked with tree branches, faces scratched and beaten and vast some sums of money swindled from joint bank accounts to maximise the painful impact of separation.
Moreover, domestic violence statistics suggest men still continue to hunt and stalk ex-partners when unconvinced that the relationship is actually over. Women living in fear find it difficult to gain protection when isolated and the legal system can only do so much to protect them.
Watching friends navigate the dangerous waters of separation and hearing some of the petty and infantile behaviour of adults always makes me wonder whether I would react in the same way. I’d like to think not yet the evidence seems to suggest that many do.
Children become the sticking point in many break-ups and the true depths of humanity’s sins are exposed when kids become pawns in some sort of power struggle between so-called grown-ups.
A few weeks back, a trip to a certain well-advertised hardware store became a necessity and with the neighbours’ truck required, he kindly agreed to come along to lend his two, much needed hands.
In transit, we passed a local shopping centre and stopped the vehicle at a pedestrian crossing outside the main entrance. Elderly folk shuffled across the road and young parents with prams zipped along, desperate to complete their shopping before wasting the entire day.
On the opposite side of the road a car pulled up in the no-parking bay and a petite woman in her 30’s stepped out. She walked to the other side of the vehicle and assisted a young girl from the car; about three years’ old I would say.
Then the woman did the most astonishing thing. She kissed the child, who was obviously distressed, and pushed her towards the crossing. The child walked across, unassisted, as my friend and I sat stunned in the cabin of the truck.
We swung our heads to the left simultaneously, as if following a Roger Federer forehand and saw a male, waiting and waving on the other side of the street. The little girl walked towards the man, greeted him and they hopped in the car.
The entire performance probably only took around twenty to twenty five seconds. I cried. My friend asked me what was wrong and I pled hay fever, something from which I have never suffered.
The question I couldn’t stop asking was, “how does it get to that?” Court enforced or mutually arranged, it was one of the saddest things I have seen in my life and the look of isolation, fear and sheer terror on the girls face will live with me forever.
Who knows the backstory to the arrangement? He or she may be physically or emotionally abusive, financial problems may have driven a wedge between them or perhaps the love was never there to begin with.
In the end, it probably doesn’t really matter. What does, is the look on that little girls face; the look that every one of us who takes on the role of parenting never wants to see.
I hope she is strong, resilient and finds someone in the future that makes her feel loved, wanted and not like a strategic chess piece.
Part of me hopes I have misread the whole situation; jumped to a conclusion based on the misinterpretation of a moment.
Sadly, I probably haven’t and that little girl cries herself to sleep often. Just like I do when I remember her face.