For a moment, put to one side the headlines, forget the hype, and suspend any doubts you may hold about the credibility of the storyline. Instead ask what, if anything, we can learn from the conclusion to the second series of BBC 1’s Doctor Foster.
Human nature was seen at its worst.
Both the parents were self-absorbed, bitter, angry, vengeful, malicious, manipulative and above all, totally selfish. They were unable or unwilling to put the best interests of their teenage son, Tom, above their own.
The behavior of each of them plumbed ever greater depths as the story unfolded.
The end result for Simon, the husband, was the destruction of the new life and the new family he had so carefully created, to the point where he became determined to take his own life.
For Gemma, the lead character, the end result was the loss of the new life she had tried to create after her acrimonious divorce from Simon and the potential loss of her career as a GP.
The mental health of each of the characters seemed to deteriorate over the course of the show, leading the viewer to suspect it might never recover.
But above all Gemma and Simon both lost Tom, for ever. Which was ironic, given that they had each done all within their power to keep him, to the exclusion of the other.
And so, in the end, they both lost him.
The real loser in the story, however, was Tom of course. He lost his childhood.
He was left alienated from both of his parents, and his own behaviour deteriorated as his parents failed or refused to notice the affects their own actions were having on him, until he could stand it no more. You were left wondering whether the character would ever be able to form loving, lasting relationships of his own.
Ah, but, this was just drama and had no bearing on reality.
Sadly it did.
Family lawyers up and down the country witness similar situations all too frequently. The vast majority of parents love their children and are able to put them first – but some need real help when their families break up deciding what is in best for their children. The law and lawyers can help, but they are not omnipotent. In the worst cases, by the time we become involved a lot of damage has already been done. Parents may be estranged from one another and children estranged from their parents.
On occasions parents blame the Judges and even their own lawyers.” Judges are biased,” they claim. “Lawyers don’t care”. Rarely are either correct. Rather, such reactions are symptomatic of the underlying problem: some parents are just not able to put their children’s needs above everything and everyone else and take responsibility for their own actions.
So what is the solution?
A greater awareness of how vulnerable all children can be, no matter what their age.
More support from the wider family.
A greater awareness of the consequences of relationship breakdown.
The increased availability of specialised, independent support for parents and children when it is needed.
But if that is not enough to stir legislators and politicians, as well as the rest of us, into action, perhaps we all need reminding that every year relationship breakdown costs us all as taxpayers £50 billion. Surely that money could be better spent?
Image by Phil Gradwell via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence