It can be difficult to know when bad behavior crosses the line into abuse. So, what is domestic abuse? According the Center For Disease Control, “domestic violence is abusive or violent action that occurs between two individuals in a close relationship.”
A lot of us have bad behavior from time to time. We’ve all had times when we’ve lost our temper and spoken harshly to people we love. I don’t know any woman who hasn’t wanted to ring her husband’s neck at some point in the marriage and many men have thrown up his hands in frustration. It happens. We storm out, explode, melt down, shut out—it happens to all of us (doesn't it?)
Bad behavior occurs occasionally and generally speaking is quickly resolved. Abusive behavior becomes part of a recurring cycle:
Tension: builds steadily, she angers more easily—she’s more edgy
- She withdraws from you sexually (here we go again)
- Gives you the silent treatment and makes snide comments
- Complains about what you don’t do and how you should be doing the stuff you are doing
As tension builds
- Intentionally antagonizes—brings up touchy, unresolved issues, does little things she knows gets under your skin
- Talks about you like you are not in the room
- Calls you incessantly while you are at work or out of town
- Embarrasses you in front of family, friends or colleagues
- Nags at you consistently
- Attack your character, masculinity, fatherhood, spiritual life, career path, hobbies, dreams...
- Walk on eggshells trying not to set her off truth is, you just don’t want to “deal with her shit”
- Start coming home later, leaving earlier
- Do your best to stay out of her way
- Brace yourself for what you know is coming next
Explosion:Something “sets her off”—There is some type of “final straw” which can be real or imagined, large or small, you might see it coming and it could blind side you all together.
- Escalates her voice…next thing you know there is
- shouting and throwing and pushing,
- hitting, cussing, blaming, accusing, threats….
- Breaks things on purpose or as a result of throwing them at you (aren't you glad she missed...again?)
- Might be rude, demeaning, or just mean to people you care about (family, friends, colleagues, parishioners, customers) instead of (and in front of) you;
- Calls the police to report your behaviors
This explosion could be isolated or it could continue over several days—it often looks like an extreme tantrum.
Something happens to shut it down…
- Get arrested (if police are called)—likely she doesn’t press charges, there’s just enough intimidation to let you know that she has power
- Might frighten her by raising your voice
- Threaten to leave or actually do leave
- Threaten to put her out of the home
And then after the explosion settles……..
Reconciliation:Could be initiated by you, could be initiated by her….
- Forgives you of whatever you did to set her off
- Apologizes for her behavior
- Gives lots of heart felt excuses for her behaviors
- Promises to do better
- Agrees to get help (mental health, counseling, addiction treatment, spiritual guidance)
- Feel guilty that you were so horrible
- Feel hopeful that she is really making a change
- Are relieved that she has calmed down so you just go along with it
and for a while (this may be days, weeks or even a month or so) there is….
Calm: little conflict, some fun, some conversations and actions are like the "good ol' days"
- Might actually go to counseling a few times or take medication (if prescribed)
- Might suggest a “romantic getaway”
- Buy you gifts
- Do things you've been asking her to do
- Be more attentive to your needs sexually, cooking your favorite meals, tolerating behaviors she normally complains about
- Might begin feeling more relaxed
- Remember why you wanted to be with her to begin with
- Have hope that she has really changed this time or
- Be skeptical and on your guard
Things are seemingly going along just fine~ish....and just like that…..tension begins to build again….and so the cycle continues
Maybe she had a terrible childhood that you know contributes to her abusive behaviors. Maybe she acts like her mom—or yours. Maybe, maybe, maybe….
I know that love heals—your love can help her heal, but she will not heal without professional intervention.
If she will not get help YOU get help for yourself. Seek a licensed, professional therapist and an attorney, especially if children are involved.
I advise against seeking marital therapy or counseling from a spiritual advisor solely.
Abuse is not a marriage problem—it is the abuser’s problem. After she is treated and has begun really dealing with the root causes of her rage then the two of you can go to marriage counseling to develop new communication and coping skills.
A spiritual leader typically counsels men to either assert themselves as head of the household and/or holds the man accountable for the woman’s behaviors. Neither are fair in this type of situation.
Just as a woman is not bound to an abusive husband a man is not bound to an abusive wife.
I do not advocate couples divorcing; I really do believe divorce should be a last result. I also do not discourage divorce when one of the spouses is creating a physically, emotionally, spiritually or psychologically unsafe environment.
Men, remember, only the power of God can heal a person. A person must want to be made well. A person who wants to be well goes after healing—therapy, medication—whatever is needed.
If you or someone you know are abusing or being abused please seek help.
800-799-SAFE or 800-799-7233
If you need someone to talk to please call the national help line at 1-888-7HELPLINE.
In the St. Charles County area there are therapists who understand the abuse of men and the patterns of abusive women. You can call Breathrough Behavioral Care for confidential counseling. Dan and Michelle Robb are licensed therapists who accept most insurance plans and will work with you on a sliding scale if needed.