Men and women are always considered to be ‘better halves’ of each other. But the ride is not the same for all the couples. Some, in the due course of life, struggle with their ‘bitter halves’ while sticking on in abusive relationships. In popular culture, we have seen women suffer silently in domestic violence, gaslighting and emotional abuse. But, do men also suffer in relationships like women? Is the vulnerability the same in relationships for both sexes? Before finding out, let us delve deeper into the suffering of abusive relationships.
What are abusive relationships?
An abusive relationship is a pattern of manipulative behaviour in which a partner is forced to give up his comfort zone due to physical and emotional suffering. This dynamic disturbs the balance in an amorous relationship. It becomes more a power game where the abuser asserts power and manipulation over the helpless victim. One individual heavily imposes their ideas on the partner, isolates them from their family, friends and relatives, and hampers their support system. Threats and intimidation become a daily routine and the victim doesn’t enjoy peace of mind at all. As a result, he/she in an abusive relationship has to struggle through different kinds of mayhem, all alone in life.
Usually, such coercive relationships or marriages take away the dignity, pride, and confidence of an individual. The affected person soon starts blaming himself for the troubles in a marriage and takes it upon himself to correct the problem. The abuse can be emotional, physical, sexual and financial in nature and can involve severe intimidation.
But why do people repeatedly return to abusive relationships? We have seen many times that the victim follows a pattern. Even after breaking up with the abuser, he ends up again with a wrong partner. Psychologically, this pattern affects the victim badly, where his ability to make the right choices suffers the most.
Why do men stay on in abusive relationships?
There is no hard and fast rule on who is the abuser in a relationship; it can be a ‘he’ or ‘she.’ It is wrong to think that it is only women who are victims of an abusive relationship. It happens to men as well. Just like women, many men are also staying in emotionally, financially and sexually abusive relationships. But what are the reasons for staying in an abusive relationship? Are psychological or social pressures forcing men to suffer in silence? There are numerous reasons that leave such victims with no other option than to stay in such a draining relationship.
1. They think it’s not that bad
We are conditioned about the concept called ‘compromise in marriage.’ Most men caught in an abusive relationship can delude themselves into believing that the relationship is not all bad and adjustments are a part of it. Men are taught from childhood that they are emotionally stronger than women and can save this sinking ship called marriage better than anyone else. That is why many men trapped in an abusive relationship find it difficult to accept that fact.
2. Silent sufferers
It is unfortunate that we often do not consider the possibility of emotional abuse of men. The silent suffering of men goes unnoticed, under the garb of their sturdy demeanour and rugged personality. The worst part is that such men also bear the burden of stagnant relationships and invest all of their energies to make a marriage or a love affair work.
3. They are worried about their image
‘Log kya kahenge!’ is the biggest reason for a man to stay in an abusive marriage. Let’s face it, men are programmed into thinking that they are stronger. Men are supposed to possess certain qualities that befit the stature of ‘Man of the House’ as per societal standards. This image becomes a burden for such men. The fear of ruining their image is a prominent reason why such men stay in abusive relationships. Such men are in a more disadvantaged position, because they can’t share their ordeal with their friends and families. They are also afraid of the ridicule and name-calling that may be hurled at them if they share their plight.
4. Psychological exploitation by the abuser
Many times, the abusive spouse knows the man’s psychology and weaknesses pretty well and convinces him to stay in the marriage for different reasons. Even our social framework has no relief for the men. Couples are expected to follow the norm ‘till death do us apart’ quite seriously. Divorce is considered a stain on an individual and he is always to be blamed for the failure of the marriage. These possible grounds put a full stop on the thoughts of separation.
5. Responsible for the family and kids
The pain and trauma of facing regular attacks from an abusive wife are the worst, especially when you have kids in the family. The fear of separating from kids keeps men sticking to the marriage, even with the continuous ordeal of abuse. Such a woman knows that as a parent, he is attached to the kids, and this love for children becomes a favourable ground for her shrewd machinations.
6. Low self-esteem
A lot like what happens to women in abusive relationships, men too suffer from low self-esteem after being subjected to prolonged abuse. They begin to doubt their self-worth and capabilities and even justify the abuse as deserved punishment for their perceived inabilities.
7. Afraid of being accused
Men are usually seen as the aggressors. That is why men subjected to abusive relationships become wary of reporting or trying to leave, as they are afraid that their partner will accuse them of being the abuser. The abuser can manipulate the situation to make it look like they are the real victims.
8. Financial autonomy is missing
With live-ins pretty common these days, many men suffer financial setbacks to support the luxuries and lifestyle of an abusive girlfriend. The financial equation gets more tangled in the case of a troublesome marriage. In case the abuser is in a better financial position than the abused, then they can use it to their advantage. When a man has been with an abusive partner for a long time, chances are that their finances are tangled up quite a bit. A dominant wife literally takes away the control of victim’s finances, and it gives a feeling of receiving a pocket money for daily expenses. The bank account statements are scrutinised with a hawk’s eye and a husband experiences a great sense of helplessness, despite being the breadwinner of the family.
9. Things will get better
The hope never leaves humans. Most men caught in an abusive relationship feel that if they pay a bit more attention to their partner’s needs, then the abuse will stop. Instead of calling out the partner on their abusive behaviour, the men tend to direct the blame inwards and think of themselves as being unable to successfully fulfil the needs of their partner.
How can men get out of abusive relationships?
Given so many perspectives of an abusive relationship, there is no point in staying in it. Remember, we all have a right to live in peace and harmony, and nobody is entitled to take that away from the victim, even a spouse. Our counsellors suggest such victim men get out of an abusive relationship as early as possible. If you are thinking about taking couple marriage counselling, then it will be another wrong decision. Remember, this ineffective way of resolving differences may cause more harm than good. In this form of an equation, the abusive wife is already in a dominant place and the husband is at the receiving end. At that time, she is too self-centred to consider her husband’s woes. This basic difference leads to counteract the mutual goals of marriage and fails the counselling process. Thus, the relationship sees no future at all.
If you are struggling in such a situation, the only advice from our experts is to get out of the abusive relationship. Recognise the abuse, realise that it’s not your fault if the marriage didn’t work, and step out of it. Talk to your support system, be it family or friends, and prepare them for any eventuality. Understanding leave decisions in violent relationships takes some time, but when the victim husband knows that the time has come, not a single moment should be wasted in separating from a toxic spouse. Because it’s never too late and you definitely deserve better in life and relationships. Do you agree with us? If you also have any stories of abuse in relationships, then do connect with our Bonobology counsellors.