At the Marriage Recovery Center, we talk a lot about women who have been emotionally abused. I have written about this tragedy extensively and I speak out against it frequently. But there is another side to this dilemma: we need to consider men who are emotionally abused as well.
According to research by HelpGuide.org, approximately one in three abuse victims is male. Many people may find this hard to believe or understand because it seems difficult to even consider that a man could be emotionally abused. After all, we are trained in our culture to think of women as the gentler, meeker sex, whereas men are perceived as more aggressive and prone to violence. But it is time to recognize that many men are being abused and require help. Those women who are abusive also need intervention and assistance.
How Women Abuse
In an article by Victoria Ramos titled Invisible Victims: When Men Are Abused, she states that men are abused in many of the same ways as women. She cites ways women perpetrate emotional abuse:
- Severe mood swings
- Constant anger
- Threatening and inducing fear
- Yelling and screaming
- Withholding affection and/or sex
- Isolating from friends
- Name calling or demeaning language
- Treating others like a child
- Public humiliation
Because of strong cultural stereotypes, women are often excused from these behaviors. We might hear excuses such as, “She was reactive,” “She has experienced trauma,” or “She is hormonal.” Sure, these all may be strong contributing factors, but abusive behavior is abusive behavior, and we must stand up against it.
Signs of Emotionally Abused Men
Sadly, abused men rarely seek help for their abuse. Men often believe they should simply tolerate this abuse and suffer in silence. This only enables, and even reinforces, abusive behavior. Rather than speak out, men are more likely to withdraw, spend more time at work, retreat into alcohol, read, play sports, watch television, or other ways of denying reality. Men are likely to show a reluctance to trust, exhibit low self-esteem and emotional numbness, and even withdraw into depression.
Some men will also exhibit physical symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, digestive issues, and headaches. In my book, In Sickness and In Health I thoroughly discuss the mind-body connection, which applies to men as well as women.
Over time, emotional abuse exacts a huge toll on men. They lose their confidence. Their self-worth is eroded and they doubt themselves. They cannot think straight, for she has forced her reality on him. They feel guilty and fear losing their family, children, home, and financial stability. And, in additional to all of that, they feel powerless, believing they do not deserve to be free from the emotional abuse. The male abused victim often feels dependent upon the woman and fears being on his own.
Men Should Speak up When They’re Abused
Men must learn to courageously step forward, speak out, and refuse to tolerate abusive behavior. When abuse is tolerated in a relationship, it continues. Abused men must refuse to respond to abusive behavior and prepare for an intervention. Speaking out against abuse is the first step. Taking more decisive action, such as a temporary separation, is perhaps the next action step. Insisting on skilled professional help is a must if the relationship is to be saved.
Remember, regardless of gender, an abusive relationship is not a healthy relationship. A relationship filled with emotional abuse is a relationship filled with distrust, gaping emotional wounds, and compromised trust and intimacy. Emotional abuse steals life and joy from a relationship and must be confronted. Both partners must learn healthy ways of communicating and resolving conflict, dedicated to bringing about a safe, loving, and trusting relationship.
We’re here to help!
At the Marriage Recovery Center, we believe in the safety and value of everyone. We believe in ending physical and emotional abuse, regardless of gender. We recognize that it is can be hard to come forward and seek help, but if you are experiencing abuse, we encourage you to reach out for support. If you would like more information or want to schedule a session, contact our Client Care Team or call us at (206) 219-0145.