In Defense of Mel Gibson…sort of

Allow me to preface this by saying that as a woman and former divorce lawyer of 13 years I, in no way, condone domestic violence nor do I think that what Mel Gibson has been tape recorded saying is in any way acceptable.  In fact, he has said things that are deeply disturbing if not legally actionable.

However, how and why we choose a partner is always complex. While it is true that verbal abuse and physical threats are never to be sanctioned, what is often overheard by others not directly involved can be but a partial insight and oftentimes misleading.

The choice for two people to be together, for better or worse so to speak, is a mutual choice.  Hopefully, that choice is made out of want rather than need.  But this is not always the case.  In fact, most people come together seeking to fill a lack or void in themselves in the hope that the presence and love from the other will fill it. This is rarely a conscious intention.  And while its never a good way to find a significant other… it’s a very common and human one.

I speak from experience.

When my marriage began to wither, I became at first frustrated by, and later angry at, my spouse’s emotionally detached behavior.  There was a subtle pattern of emotional manipulation that at times drove me to the brink… although I recognized it only in hindsight.  We stayed together. He manipulated me in a very passive/aggressive way as my frustration and anger mounted.  Ultimately, I yelled a lot and said things I’d retract today if I could.

Listening to the Gibson tapes, I was struck by two things.  First, and most obvious, his rage.  But secondly her calm.  I hear myself in him.  I hear my former husband in her.  After all, what is she even doing having these conversations with him?  Why, after prior encounters with his rage, is she still hot-tubbing with him and sleeping in the same bed?  Why is she so calm knowing it escalates and infuriates his anger? What does that do for her?

I hear him saying (however crudely) that he wants certain things from her.  I also hear her saying (admittedly between the lines) “I am trying to love you but you need help.”

This is a co-dependent, enabling and very destructive relationship at best.  But it’s too easy to get caught up in the blame-game and condemn the loudest voice. 

Both these people need help.  Both need to get to the root of their own personal demons and they definitely need to be apart in order to do that internal work . Something drew them together and that something was powerful.

Now it’s about the constructive and wise use of that power.

I don’t believe in fairy tales.  However, when human beings are willing to go the extra mile and do the tough work, miracles are possible as are happy endings.  I have no idea what that looks like in this matter but I wish them both well and send them both healing.

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