The ‘Other Child’ In Your Marriage
On parenting a volatile man…
It’s been fascinating to watch the fallout from Sunday night’s Oscars’ ceremony. These celebrity spats are always helpful because it gets us mere mortals to consider what they mean to society and where they resonate on our moral scale.
I’ll admit, my own emotions bounced around a bit at first. I saw the footage of Will Smith assaulting (slap feels like we are minimising) Chris Rock on stage and I was appalled. Then I discovered the context of the (rather crass) joke and was appalled by that too. There was a fleeting second where I thought, ‘wow there is a guy defending his wife’s honour’ because, aren’t us girls always brought up with this ridiculous myth of the white knight coming to save us? It’s implanted in our fairy tales. But then I stopped myself. The key for me was in Smith’s outburst afterwards: “Keep My Wife’s Name Out Your Fucking Mouth.” Ah, there we have it: my wife. Not Jada. My possession. Chris Rock’s ‘roasting’ of Jada had not offended her as much as her husband’s ego. Oh dear, we all know not to offend an insecure man’s ego. (Note: not all men).
Twitter, and callers to James O’Brien’s phone in, were torn. There were some meat-head guys (there always are) who said he was absolutely right to defend ‘his missus’. There are those who also rightly pointed out that Jada doesn’t need a man to speak for her, she can speak for herself, a quick glance through her Instagram shows that she’s well used to doing that. But the other angle is this, women who are married to guys who are unable to keep their emotions in check have their work cut out for life. I have grown up with these guys. I have gone out with these guys. They are the ‘other child’ in your relationship. There is nothing masculine about them ‘defending your honour’ you’re just making a constant risk assessment and then managing the situation.
I remember being about nine or ten years old in the car and my dad got into an argument with a man at the petrol pump. They hurled a few eighties’ insults at each other and then I remember the guy saying something in reference to me and then ‘if she is your daughter.’ Oh, how things escalated. I remember, even then, pleading with my dad not to get out the car and punch him. My heart was racing, dad’s knuckles were white on the steering wheel, we roared off the petrol court and I could finally relax. I was a kid, I didn’t want to see my dad punched. I didn’t feel safe. But even at that age I took on the responsibility of neutralising the situation.
My uncle, god love him, is another one of these guys who will defend his wife’s honour. I’ve seen my aunt have to placate him many times when he has decided that someone has offended ‘his missus’. I’ve seen the stress on her face as she’s tried to make the whole sorry mess go away.
Years ago I was on holiday in Tunisia and while my boyfriend looked in a shop window a gang of about five young lads took the opportunity to put their hands between my legs. When my boyfriend returned to me, oblivious, I waited until they had disappeared out of sight before I told him because, again, I was worried that he would get beaten up ‘defending my honour’. Of course it was me who was to blame because he thought he’d somehow lost face.
Anyway, I could go on, but my point is this, there are some women who want to go out with men who will punch or slap a man who insults her, and there are, I believe, more of us who just find the whole thing embarrassing and anxiety provoking because we don’t want anyone — especially the man who we love — to get hurt.
But what happens is we end up managing the emotions of a man who is unable to manage them himself. We end up parenting them because they’re not mature enough to parent themselves, and that is not sexy. Our husbands become the ‘other child’ in our marriage.
From the outside some might think Smith was sticking up for his wife, his family. His pathetic tearful acceptance speech that “love makes you do crazy things” is just “look what you made me do” reorganised in my opinion. His apology came after consequences not his actions and makes clear he feels sorry for no-one but himself.
There have also been those who have insisted that Jada must have said something to Smith to ‘make him’ get up and do that. Oh, and I’ve noticed no-one using the words ‘hysterical’ or ‘crazy’ or ‘hormonal’ to describe Smith’s actions. No, they are the preserve of women. In reality, and in all cases of violence, no-one is to blame for his lack of control but him — the perpetrator of that violence. He was acting like a child and he’s now shown a generation of young boys who look up to him that violence is acceptable and that they must be somehow ‘less of a man’ if they don’t defend their women accordingly.
Believe me, my whole life I’ve witnessed women who would much rather their husbands cut a man down with a few choice words rather than his fist. That is the mark of a true man.