A few weeks ago I received a random email from a man called Mr. F, a perceptive divorcee in his early thirties with an eager fascination for sociology and general human behaviour. A year after his divorce, he started seeing a girl who was obsessed with her womanising, verbally abusive ex-boyfriend. Hopeful that she would see the hero right in front of her, he gave her the benefit of the doubt thinking that she would eventually come around. For months, she yo-yo'ed back and forth between the good and the bad until the situation finally got ugly. Realising that he was fighting a lost cause, Mr. F ended the relationship amicably and permanently with the belief that all women preferred to be perpetually unhappy.
As I skimmed through the rest of what I thought was fan mail, I couldn't help but wonder whether the divorce had left Mr. F slightly embittered. Upon first glance, his generalisations came across resentful but after carefully considering his letter again, I recognised that he was onto a much bigger problem. Like so many men and women, Mr. F was finding it difficult to understand why certain women, great women in fact, choose to settle for something less than what they are actually worth. Self-esteem or daddy issues are an easy explanation, but perhaps there was something more disturbing about women in harmful relationships. Were they secretly addicted to the art of humiliation or just biding their time until something better comes along? And when it does come along, will they take it? We've all heard about the more serious horror stories that unfold behind closed doors, so why do they stay? What could possibly warrant any kind of emotional, physical or psychological abuse?
For Rachel, a 31 year old waitress at Stones, all she ever wanted was to love and be loved, so after a series of rocky relationships which included drug addicts, alcoholics, emotionally abusive bastards and a guy who disappeared off the face of the earth after saying he was going to the garage for smokes only to be found in prison three months later, we were all thrilled for her to have finally found her Ken doll. Plastic? Maybe a little, but in comparison to all her previous relationships, Ken was a catch. Stable, successful, anatomically correct and the most charming man that Rachel had ever met. In fact, he was exactly the type of man she would eventually like to marry.
About a month and a half into their relationship, Rachel was smitten and finally told Ken that she loved him. I remember how disappointed she was when he didn't say it back at once. "I gave him my heart and all he could say was "elephant shoes"". Perhaps a month and a half was too soon for a man like Ken to reciprocate but after nearly two years of constant devotion, unconditional affection and finding small ways to make Ken feel like the only man in the world, you'd think something had to give. The worst part was that they'd break up on and off all the time, and when they did, Ken would suddenly develop a heart until he had Rachel believing that she was suddenly L' Oreal. Was Rachel in denial or did she honestly believe that Mr. Freeze would eventually thaw out?
After countless interventions at tribal council, Rachel refused to vote him off the island, and while some members of her circle were more verbal about this particular situation, others thought it best to keep quiet and let her make her own decisions despite the unfavorable and potentially hazardous outcome. Was Rachel the kind of girl that Mr. F was talking about? How could someone with so much love to give and whose heart was bigger than the ocean settle for someone who barely acknowledges her existence?
Sometimes we play victim to our choices because we believe there is no way out. It's difficult to sympathise with a friend in this particular situation because you can never know what's going through their mind until you've walked a mile in their shoes. Perhaps a long period of being subjected to demeaning behavior results in clinging onto whatever comes your way or maybe, just maybe, it's because somewhere down the line someone forgot to tell her that she deserved heaven?
When it comes to destructive relationships, do we deserve better?