A Family Court judge visited our "Family Life" class today. He talked about the young couples he sees in paternity court, and the repeat customers in domestic violence court.
The judge said, as he has said to us in past years, that the mothers in paternity court want the fathers of their children to be involved in their child's life, but hesitate to simply share custody - because, they admit, they don't really know the man they had a child with.
The judge also told us, as he has before, that it takes a beaten woman an average of seven strikes by her boyfriend before she leaves him for good. She keeps going back to him because, usually, she does love him - she just wants him to stop hitting her.
This led me to a question I had not thought of before. Is there more love in domestic violence relationships than in paternity relationships?
Yes, the judge answered without hesitation.
Paternity court cases come from high school romances, or the equivalent a few years later, that happened to produce a baby. They never were a strong couple, and were often not very mature.
Domestic violence cases, by contrast, usually involve couples who are invested enough in each other and in their children to keep coming back even after dreadful blowups.
Please don't misunderstand - I am not saying that love makes domestic violence in any way acceptable. But seeing that love is involved in many domestic violence cases does help me, whose life is far from first-hand experience of either domestic violence or paternity court, have a more realistic picture of the lives of those who end up before a judge in each case.