By Michael Laws
If romantic attraction is a chemically induced madness, then one might expect relationship break-ups to be an ordered and rational affair.
Sadly, it is instead a time when we are always at our worst. On anyone's list of regrets, the treatment of, or by an ex will always be near the top. Whether the breaker or the breakee, we are reduced to our most manic and incoherent at such times. An entire wing of the judicial sector – the Family Court – is uniquely ordered to cope with such mess.
Eventually we get through it. It is often unpleasant and the emotional distress can linger for months and even years. But we survive.
Well, most of us do. Some people handle rejection badly. They physically attack, maim and kill the partner who is leaving or threatening to leave. Such people are crazies and deserve all the prison time coming their way.
But these are the extremes. For the great mass of us, we behave badly and say bestial things but we get there. Then some new flood of neurotoxins invades us, and we do it all again with someone new.
Of course there will be relationships that turn toxic long before the final slam of the door. Any number of otherwise-sane Kiwis live within those toxic relationships this day. They employ a wide range of techniques to maintain such toxicity – from slaps or punches, to passive-aggressive defiance, through to nobbling the goldfish.
Indeed it was revealed in a splendidly mad survey released this past week by the Women's Refuge and the SPCA that goldfish, budgies, kittens and kelpies are the new battleground for warring couples.
The survey alleges that up to one-third of women stay in abusive relationships because they fear what their partner might do to the pets should they leave.
I must admit to rampant insensitivity when I read the media coverage of this survey and introduced the topic to my talkback audience last week. What sort of moron, I asked, stays in a relationship because they are worried about their cat?
I even posed the question, do such women – if they exist – secretly thrill at the madness that has enveloped them and their relationship?
Over the next three hours, callers represented myriad viewpoints and experiences. My favourite was the cat lady from Timaru who had endured 15 years of hell, she said, because her controlling and violent partner had threatened her cats should she leave.
Any vestige of empathy evaporated by that point. Cats are feral narcissists. Only their purr distinguishes them from rats. But then my cat lady went one step further, and betrayed a truth. The real reason she kept going back, she said, was that she loved him.
It is time we stopped being so PC about such women – about any partner irrespective of gender – who maintains an abusive relationship. At the end of the day, most are staying because they want to. It makes no sense to any outsider but they are addicted, hooked as much as the smoker to nicotine or the alcoholic to liquor.
At which point the stronger element of personal responsibility comes into play. If you're staying for the goldfish then you are either a moron, or part of the sickness. Either stop being so weak or stop complaining.
Of course this is a distinctly un-PC view. The PC thing to do is wear a white ribbon once a year under the pretence that we care. This piece of puerile PR by the Families Commission would have us believe that all domestic violence in New Zealand is solely the province of men. It's a campaign imported from male feminists in Canada (yep, you read that right – male feminists) after some madman shot 14 women to death in 1989.
But this country loves apeing the excesses of others. And gesture politics is as potty as it gets. The White Ribbon campaign argues it targets men – and solely men – because apparently we hit harder. Violent and abusive women are ignored. So too domestic violence against children by either adult gender.
When I asked the chief families commissioner last week why only men were being targeted he said it was because men were the greater proportion of abusers.
Of course, the largest number of marchers on White Ribbon Day are always white, middle-class males like the chief families commissioner. It makes them feel better, I guess, but it does nothing to resolve domestic violence.
Sunday Star Times, 1st April 2012