That's not love

That's not love A Fictional Functional Family

That's Not Love
The line above is from a song I wrote a while ago about the way abuse cannot wear the disguise of love despite the best attempts of those who are violent to their partners to justify their actions. The Australian media is awash with stories about men behaving badly. There has been a wave of high profile incidents, featuring men in positions of influence decided they can say derogatory and in some cases, very offensive things about women without any apparent insight involved. What drives this behaviour? It has been partially dismissed by describing the offenders as larrikins as an escape clause for saying or doing stupid stuff but is clearly shorthand for 'boys will boys' - notice the expression is not 'men will be men' - a dead giveaway that it is about juvenile rather than grownup behaviour.
Where does this hatred for women come from and where does it hide only to suddenly burst forth betraying not only those that do it but also all men who would never do such a thing. I suspect it has to do with love. For some men love is something that is taken not given. For them it has become distorted by the need to be loved and when it does not present itself they demand it. In a previous life as a social worker in a prison, I would often hear men who are doing time for assaulting their partner or their children declare that they did it because they love them. When challenged on the completely contradictory nature of this statement it became apparent it was love they demanded and felt the need to command rather than something they gave.
As parents we would like to think we are indeed loved by our children but children know what love is. They do decide whether they love you or not. They are not possessions to be claimed or owned. A child's decision about who they will give love too is based in an assessment of how adults act. I am sure they know and understand that a person cannot own another person. To demand, as some abusive people do, that you must love them or else, is I believe understood by even little children more than we think. For babies, attachment is how they find love is there for them and how they in turn learn to love. In the adult world of relationships, love cannot be ordered or shaped to fill the gap in someone's life like cosmic Polly filler. Love is meant to be generously given not something captured and held prisoner until it gives up and surrenders to another's will.
How do we as a society tackle this? There is plenty of evidence that it begins in childhood. If a boy grows up understanding that love is a thing to be given not something that can be demanded or taken then they are more likely to bring something of value to all their relationships, whether that be within family, classmates, their female teachers, social encounters with young women and then to girlfriends.
The constant companion of love is respect. The two have been together for a long time and know each other well. Respect and love have always been attracted to one another and enjoy going for walks, buying each other coffee and sharing in the quirks and foibles that life throws into the mix. Long may it last.
Terry Sarten is a Whanganui writer, musician and social worker currently living and working in Sydney. Email feedback:

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