Before I launch into my “Fleeing abuse in real time: Meet Dad” article, I really felt the need to first pay some kind of homage or call attention to the unique challenges that good men (like Dad) face who fall in love and remain in committed relationships with survivors of domestic violence.
These men (so far as I’m concerned) are the “knights in shining armor” and the genuine gentlemen whose characteristics we’d like to see in every male of any age. I have total admiration and respect for these men because they stand firm where others might literally ditch, bail and run (with good reason - and the survivors all know this). When I say domestic violence is “the gift that keeps on giving” what happens to the new partners of DV survivors is unfortunately part of it. Here’s the gender-biased backdrop:
If a DV survivor begins dating after an abusive relationship, then she’s placing herself and her children “at further risk” of abuse because the faulty assumption is that SHE made a poor choice once before so is bound to do it again; in the worst case scenario, she’s viewed as “whoring around” (even if she’s only dating one person) and is seen as placing her romantic life over and above the care of her children. In short, it makes her a bad mother.
On the other hand, an abuser dating again is supposedly a “healthy sign” that “he’s finally moving on” and his dating life (even if he has multiple girlfriends coming in and out of his life/place) has absolutely NO BEARING OR REFLECTION WHATSOEVER on his ability as a father.
Here’s where it gets really strange: a survivor mom’s new husband or partner does not hold the same weight as an abuser’s new wife or partner. Inexplicably, the abuser’s new partner is viewed as proof of his non-abusiveness (despite the history and facts) and the new partner’s opinion about him and the children holds more credibility and validity then the survivor mom’s!
In the meantime, the survivor’s new partner – if not automatically viewed as an abuser – is curiously viewed as irrelevant despite how actively involved and how supportive (in every meaning of the word) he may be with the children. The abuser will accuse mom’s new partner of replacing him or stepping into his shoes (even if mom’s new partner maintains the strictest of boundaries) and this is seen as almost criminal whereas if the survivor mom reports that the abuser’s new partner is taking (or has taken) over as “mom” it’s viewed as the survivor mom being jealous, petty or catty.
For some inexplicable reason, we’re willing to accept bad mother/good father scenarios (I do hold Disney accountable for that in part however) but we want to reject the possibility of good mother/bad father scenarios. Why is that?
A single father will never run out of support, resources or a cadre of women eagerly willing to assist him with the kids but a single mother is almost at plague status and in that situation, the emphasis is on what SHE did to get HERSELF into her situation, not what HE did to contribute to it. Bottom line is there’s more support for father-child relationships then there is support for mother-child relationships.
The “bar” set for mothers and fathers is completely different: for fathers it’s lower and for mothers it’s higher. If you have any doubt, consider the following:
- If dad changes a diaper, he’s just gone above and beyond the call of duty – it’s cute and endearing – but when mom changes a diaper there’s nothing romantic about it; it’s simply expected.
- If a baby is crying because he/she needs a diaper change, everyone starts looking for where mom is – even if dad’s standing right there!
You don’t need to take my word for this – the next time you’re at a social gathering with a baby, just observe the dynamics – (to me) it’s absolutely fascinating. I’m NOT making a value judgment here as both mothers AND fathers should be supported in their respective roles as parents but the definitive no-cross line for me is abuse and if someone’s abusive - male OR female, mother OR father, young OR old – it doesn’t matter: victim-survivors MUST be kept safe from their abusers by third parties OR until the victim-survivor chooses to maintain a relationship with the abuser him/herself. So far as I’m concerned, an abuser of either gender loses all rights to the relationship the minute a hand is raised or malevolent psychological manipulation is used to get one person’s needs/wants met at the expense of another’s.
While this all sounds terrible (and it is!) there is another side that I have the privilege of seeing: I get to witness some of the most incredible love stories and Mom and Dad’s story is one of those. Among the others are:
- Iva & Robert
- Te & Jack
- Anna & Tyrone
- Donna & Steve
- Liza & Noel
While the fact of the matter is that abusive men are in the MINORITY and good men are in the majority, the “problem” is that good men don’t think they’re doing anything special – they just humbly go about living their lives doing what they do and don’t call attention to themselves and if you point out how awesome they are, they don’t seem to get it.
Abusers on the other hand HAVE to have center stage – they HAVE to have all eyes on them, calling attention to even the smallest of details lest any of us overlook any of their “magnificence”. If we don’t notice “how awesome” they are, they’ll find some way to point out that which we’ve “overlooked”. Missing such cues can mean a world of hurt for a victim still entangled in the abusive relationship.
Another hallmark I’ve noticed with non-abusive men is that they absolutely do not “get” DV tactics; they’ll look at me bewildered that someone could/would treat his ex-wife or the mother of his child/ren in such a disrespectful way. Curiously (or rather more foreign to me personally) is that the good men view things like child support as a measure of their love for their children; if they pay what they’re supposed to on time, that’s meaningful to them. For abusers, skipping out on child support is supposed to be some kind of mark that testifies to their superiority I guess – whatever it means to abusers, child support has absolutely nothing to do with the children they’re supposed to want the best for.
I began this article with the intention of telling you all about Dad, but it’s ended up being a story about all the amazing non-abusive dads (like Dad) and my hope is that you’ll have a better understanding of what Dad's all about with this precursory introduction.