Does anyone like Chris Brown anymore? I wanted to like him, I really did. With his MJ moves and his catchy tunes, I really thought he and Rihanna were the best couple. Then that whole thing happened where he beat her up before the Grammys and I changed my tune. Then he threw a chair out of the window on Good Morning America. Then, I really felt bad for Chris Brown. I won’t excuse him for what he did or has done, but it’s obvious he’s got some emotional stuff going on.
Then there’s Rihanna. I’ve loved Rihanna forever. Funky style, fun music, and awesome tattoos. She’s got a lot of sass and doesn’t seem to really care about anyone’s approval. Whether it’s dying her hair red or smoking a joint on the beach of Barbados, girlfriend does what she wants for the most part.
These two people have compared their love to Romeo & Juliet. Rihanna has been quoted about her relationship saying, “The s–t is magical and it’s real”. Poetic? Maybe. But it’s clear the two are back together, between the tweets and photos on Instagram. On one hand, I want to ball up my tiny hands (it’s true, they’re very small) and shake my fists at the sky, asking the gods of music, “Why?! Why do this?!” but it must be done. It makes sense, strictly from a clinical perspective.
Both Chris Brown and Rihanna grew up in some version of domestic hell. Rihanna’s father was addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine. Chris Brown’s step-father regularly beat his mother throughout his childhood. For these two people, their family-of-origin has strongly influenced their love lives. It’s no surprise they are so drawn to each other. Let’s review why:
- Eighty-one percent of men who grew up in homes witnessing domestic violence turn to abusing their partner’s as adults. Violence teaches violence.
- As violence against the woman becomes more severe and more frequent in a home, the children experience a 300% increase in physical abuse by the adult male abuser. Violence provokes violence.
- For children of alcoholics, co-dependency is a common issue.
- Issues of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem also accompany both issues.
- The most important: Between Chris Brown’s background, Rihanna’s background, their careers, their age similarities, and shared interests, it’s likely Chris Brown and Rihanna feel that they could never be understood by anyone else as much as the other can understand them. These two fought through hell to get where they are today, meeting someone else who filled voids they had from childhood.
Think about it. Chris Brown’s background dictates that he should always protect a woman (his mother). Rihanna’s background dictates that she should find someone to protect her and fill the void left by having no male influence in her life. Both of these people have emotional wounds the other perfectly fills.
Unfortunately like many couples with these issues, their individual problems and past hurts bump up against each other. In traditional couples (or those who have worked on these issues) these problems are solved through counseling, deep discussion, and practice. Because Rihanna and (what seems to be mostly) Chris Brown have seemingly not resolved their childhood traumas, they fight. Rihanna stands up for herself because she’s scared and Chris Brown beats her when he’s too angry (flooded) to react any other way. He learned to beat women long before he knew it was right or wrong. Rihanna loves him outside of the knowledge that he hits her, most likely because the proportion of time he spent hitting her was infinitely smaller than all the other times he spent trying to love her.
“Because as angry as I was, as angry and hurt and betrayed, I just felt like he made that mistake because he needed help, and who’s going to help him? Nobody’s going to say he needs help. Everybody’s going to say he’s a monster without looking at the source, and I was more concerned about him.” — Rihanna, telling Oprah about how she felt in 2009 after the ordeal at the Grammys.
The Case File
So these two have reunited again and there’s even discussion about marriage. Let’s all remind ourselves of a few things:
- Back in 2009 when the ‘incident’ happened, Chris Brown and Rihanna were 20 and 21 respectively. Think about the relationship you were in when you were that age. Probably not a good one, maybe a dysfunctional one. Depending on your background and your emotional wounds, maybe a really bad one. You were young.
- Think about the ego that goes into being such influential pop stars. They don’t need no stinkin’ help. Well, at least that’s what I suspect to be the dominant thought process here.
- Think about Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston. Yes, it’s sad. I think everyone saw the connection those two had, even if it was toxic.
- Remember: Most of us are Rihanna’s distant fans, not her personal friends. We have no right to tell her what to do.
All in all, the right approach here is to be cautiously optimistic. Berating Rihanna for returning to Chris Brown won’t solve anything. At the end of the day, when she feels alone, scared, and misunderstood, she’ll turn the one person in her life that accepts her choice – Brown. To alienate her, to bully her, because of her choice isn’t just wrong, but it’s counterproductive to her ultimate well-being. With Chris Brown, there’s the possibility of change, but it’s not evident by his public persona and his statements about women. He’s trying to be famous in a music genre that does not champion the well-being of women. That’s going to be a difficult life of competing ideologies to lead.
If you want to read more, I’d recommend this article and all the other ones I referenced in my sources. Domestic violence is a huge issue in our society that is rarely dealt with in the media like this. I encourage you to educate yourself about the issues surrounding this problem. Vilifying either party will not help. This is a time for empathy.