I’ve always wondered why men choose to behave in an abusive way. Is it society? How he was raised? Does he have something he needs to resolve in his life? A man can be charming, kind, and likable in public. He can even be a pillar of the community. However, in private, he feels justified to lie, name-call, control, and lay hands on his partner and hurt her. He may also do this to his children. What exactly is going through his mind to display this kind of behavior?
This type of person has a specific thought process when it comes to his partner. In his mind he sees her as an object, without autonomy, choices, emotions, or needs.
Since she is an object, she doesn’t require his empathy. She is there only for his gratification. He doesn’t look at her as a separate person, but rather a mere extension of himself. His distorted view gives him his right to impose any demands on his partner and his family. He feels justified to behave in any way that keeps his partner in line.
Here’s a glimpse into common feelings and how he processes his thoughts, feelings, and reactions in a relationship:
Aspects that create a healthy intimate relationship, such as honesty and opening up to his partner, makes the abuser feel vulnerable and unsafe. He wants things to work perfectly for him, but any imperfection seen on his side is not acceptable to him. He must feel strong, and he doesn't see being vulnerable as a strength.
His reaction to feeling vulnerable:
- Shuts down and gives the silent treatment.
- Leaves; walks out the door leaving his partner feeling abandoned.
- Lies to his partner to avoid intimacy and to take control.
- Minimizes and makes light of situations, doesn’t take her concerns seriously.
- Makes her feel bad about herself if there’s a conflict.
Although it may seem like the abuser is independent and can do without his partner, abusers are on the contrary, very dependent. His neediness creates an unrealistic expectation of the relationship. When he feels helpless, he will react to that feeling by trying to control his partner and get her to stay with him by any means necessary.
His reaction to feeling emotionally dependent:
- Excessive jealousy/jealous rage.
- Hypervigilance in monitoring his partner’s whereabouts.
- Becoming sexually possessive.
- Physical control including physical abuse.
- Takes ownership of his partner, “If I can’t have you, nobody can have you.”
- Threats or plans of homicide if his partner leaves and refuses to return to him.
He has a fragile ego and has a hard time taking criticism, even if it’s constructive. It’s common that a man with low self-worth will be more inclined to be abusive to others. Men with a healthy self-esteem would not react in this way. A man who is ‘down on himself’ more easily reacts in anger.
His reaction to his low self-esteem:
- Blows up in anger over small incidents, is easily insulted.
- Puts others down to feel better about himself.
- Exerts his male privilege.
- Defines the roles in the relationship.
- Uses his partner like a servant.
- Deals with all the money matters and doesn’t let his partner make money decisions.
The abuser has a fear of being mocked, embarrassed, or betrayed by his partner. He is afraid of losing his family, which he considers an extension of himself.
He is afraid of not being perfect or making a mistake.
His reaction to fear:
- Rants about how life isn’t fair, or any injustice that he’s been given. Shifts any responsibility away from himself.
- A multitude of verbally abusive interactions, such as: manipulation, lying, silent treatment, putting down, invalidating the partner, blaming, undermining, criticizing, and judging.
- Isolating his partner from her family and friends. Doesn’t let her spend time with others when he isn’t present.
- Punishing her for being a separate person with her own needs.
- Blaming her for the abuse and claiming that he is the victim.
This Is NOT Normal.
Many people may believe that these behaviors are part of a “normal relationship.” This is because it’s handed down from generation to generation, on both the abuser’s side and the victim’s side.
This behavior is not normal. It is a toxic way of problem-solving and interacting in a relationship. This is also the man’s problem, although he makes it seem like the woman’s problem. Women in these relationships are typically eased into them slowly by the abuser. He is kind and charming, and over time, his behavior gets more out of control.
It is possible for the abuser to change his thought patterns and beliefs, but his motivation must be internal. The abuser cannot be coerced or manipulated into change. When he starts admitting his behavior is wrong and takes responsibility for the problems he’s causing in his relationship, only then he is open to getting help, real help, for himself.
Note: I’m using the pronoun “he” in this blog because 85% of domestic abuse offenders are men. However, this article is not meant to suggest that all abusers are male. Thank you for your understanding.