Once upon a time a girl met a boy, or a boy met a girl, or a boy met a boy – you know what I mean.
And in the beginning everything was great. They started dating and things progressed to meeting each other’s friends and possibly their parents. Sometimes his or her paramour would regularly surprise them with unexpected gifts or flowers or chocolate. Life indeed couldn’t be any sweeter. They were happy.
But then somewhere along the line – perhaps two months or two years – something changed, probably because some people can only stay on their best behaviour for so long.
Perhaps their girlfriend or boyfriend lashed out at them unexpectedly but quickly apologised because they’d had a crap day, were hungry or maybe were just in a bad mood. And they were forgiven because he or she was already invested in the relationship and didn’t want to bolt at the first hurdle. Humans are, well, human after all and no one is perfect.
Sometimes their lovers were very charismatic, too, so they moved on from the first “hiccup” and the relationship often progressed to a more serious “I love you” phase.
But then “it” happened again – usually in private – which often left him or her reeling because they didn’t have any forewarning that a shit-storm was about to rain down on their head because they’d said the wrong thing, offered an opinion the other person didn’t like or dared to suggest something different for dinner.
Often the apologies were again swift and seemingly heartfelt so, perhaps by this time a little hesitantly, they forgave them again but remained on tenterhooks for a while. Then there were often presents for no apparent reason.
He or she usually didn’t talk to anyone about it because, on the outside, everything was rosy and they were lucky and in love. They were the only ones, you see, who were special enough to witness their lovers’ kaleidoscope of true colours.
Sometimes, by this stage, the relationship moved into new territory and marriage and/or children were being discussed – a conversation often started by their lover, which only now do they understand why.
Maybe he or she had always wanted children so the offer was so tantalising that perhaps it blinded them to the truth that was right in front of them.
Sometimes they married him or her and had a child. Other times they had children together without the need of a ring. And once in a while, they merely started down the path of a parenthood that he or she had thought was lost to them forever.
But having children together, or considering it, didn’t make the bad times go away. Sometimes they just got worse and there were now children there to see it, too.
The tantrums (not usually from the children), he or she learned, could be about anything and none of it was ever justified. Sometimes she was pregnant when it happened but that made no difference. Other times he or she had real drama and grief in their life and yet it seemed they cared for that not a jot.
However, over time, sometimes he or she came to believe the taunts that they were a bad person, a bad mother or father, or a bad partner who was lucky to have anyone love them at all. And so they stayed. Often if they were invested before, they were doubly so now, so they struggled to see a way out.
But sometimes, after a few years or a decade or more, they bravely decided to act.
Perhaps it was the opportunity of time away alone when he or she saw the possibility of a new life – one lived without fear – and finally walked out the door for good.
Maybe it was realising that the damage to the children was too great from a partner who was increasingly unstable and prone to verbal threats that were becoming physical.
Or possibly it was a nondescript day where he or she experienced a volley of venom in a public place with other people present who did nothing but turn the other way. They didn’t help because they were used to it and at that moment he or she knew they never wanted to get used to it. So, if they had any self respect, then they had to make a choice.
And perhaps he or she goes on to meet the love of their life and soon realises a peace that they thought was nothing more than a pipe-dream in this lifetime.
Or maybe they become a single mother or father and do everything they can to give those children the happiest of childhoods and dampen the impact from the other side.
And possibly he or she learns to forgive but not to forget and restarts their life with a better understanding that it’s okay to be single because they’re at their most joyful and most creative then.The mood of the house only depends on how happy they are now.
But when there are children involved, sometimes the cycle of abuse continues through text messages or phone calls, and they do all they can not to react and try to stay positive for the sake of their kids – even as their ex-lover quickly moves on to their next victim.
And sometimes, after waiting months for an apology that never comes, there is nothing but silence but he or she comes to learn that maybe this is the final (and most appreciated) “gift” of them all.
And they come to understand that hurt people hurt people, but he or she is not the person directly in the firing line any more – even though they wonder how “love” ever led them there in the first place.
And so perhaps an allegorical love story is written, albeit with some trepidation.
And then he or she moves on – towards the light and towards a new life.
And they never look back.
The inaugural National Family Violence Summit is being held in Canberra this week.