Gentle Men & Abusive Women: A Lethal Pairing Nobody Wants to Talk About

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Dr. Jed Diamond shares his personal story, and his hard-earned insights, about being an abused man in a relationship.

When most of us think of the word “gentle” we often picture a caring and supportive woman and when we think of “abusive” we picture an angry, out of control man. But as the classic Gershwin’s song reminds us, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

Men can be abused by women, and some of these men don’t survive the encounter. I was one of the lucky ones. I got out in time, but I almost lost my life in the process.

I met Rita at Harbin Hot Springs, a retreat and spa in northern California, where people often go to relax in the hot tubs, but also are on the lookout for other kinds of “hot” connections. I had recently ended a long-time marriage and I was definitely ready for some relaxation and I was open to meeting someone new.

It was certainly lust at first sight for me and the relationship developed quickly from there. We mated, dated, and things went hot and heavy. After a weekend with her I was exhausted. At times I was sure I was in love. At other times I was sure I was insane. She was exciting, stimulating in ways I had never imagined, and I craved contact with her.

I should have gotten a wakeup call when she told me about her experience in Mexico. She had gone down with her boyfriend for a week in the sun. Coming home after a night of drinking a truck load of Mexican guys ran through a puddle and splashed them as they were walking on the edge of the road. Rita became enraged, screamed some obscenities, gave them the finger.

Her description of what followed was chilling:

“The guys turned around and drove toward us at high speed. We tried to get out of the way, but I wasn’t fast enough. They plowed into me and drove away. I was pinned against the door of a parked car, which was the only reason I didn’t die. I was in the hospital for a month before I could return with my boyfriend to the States.”

The way she told the story reminded me of guys comparing war wounds or badges of “honor” in gang fights. She seemed proud of her exploits.

Rather than run the other way, I was intrigued. A year later, we decided to get married. It never occurred to me that I was “hooked” on her like an addict is hooked on heroin. I hadn’t read Stanton Peele’s book, Love and Addiction. I might have seen the danger if I had, but probably not. “Many of us are addicts, only we don’t know it,” says Peele. “We turn to each other out of the same needs that drive some people to drink and others to heroin. Interpersonal addiction, “love addiction,” is just about the most common yet least recognized form of addiction we know.”

Nice Gentle Men Can Be Eaten Alive By Angry Hurtful Women

As I got to know Rita better I realized that she had come from an abusive background. Her father first idolized her when she was a child, then totally rejected her when she moved into puberty and began to develop a woman’s body. Her mother was angry, jealous, and critical of everything she did.

I tried to be a good guy, a good listener, a sensitive partner. She seemed to thrive with my loving attention, but she would also go into “her moods” as I came to recognize them and when she did I became increasingly fearful. She would turn all her hurt, pain and rage on to me.

One time when we were driving, we got into a verbal disagreement, which escalated with her screaming at me and me trying to calm her down so I could drive. In a fury she reached across and grabbed my glasses off my face and threw them out her window. Later she was effusive with her apologies, kind, giving, and extremely imaginative in our love-making, with promises that it would never happen again. And of course, it didn’t happen again…until it did.

“Like all abusive relationships, things alternated between heaven and hell.”

Like many men in these kinds of relationships, I sank deeper into despair, and became more and more cut off from friends. I was ashamed to tell anyone that my wife was abusing me. I already felt like a poor excuse for a man since I couldn’t seem to stand up for myself. The thought of telling others that I was a hopeless wimp, which was how I saw myself, made me feel even more demeaned. I became increasingly depressed and at one point asked that the gun she kept for protection be removed from the house because I was afraid I might use it. She did what I asked and eventually got rid of the gun for good.

Get Out, Get Help, or Die

We decided to take a trip across country in a futile attempt to “have more fun and rekindle the joy in our marriage.” We bought a camper van and we fought all across the country. I felt if I didn’t stand and fight I would die and if I kept fighting it would kill me. I started noticing physical symptoms including difficulty urinating and pains in my joints. I was sure my body was breaking down. I knew I needed help, but I felt like a prisoner who had lost the will to escape.

Like all abusive relationships, things alternated between heaven and hell. There were times that we were higher than high. We were sure things had changed and we were finally on the road to recovery. At other times things got ugly. After one of our fights we got ready for bed. Rita was still livid at something I had said and looked at me with such hatred it chilled my soul. She took a knife out of the drawer and smiled at me. “Pleasant dreams,” she said. I never closed my eyes the whole night.

She was driving one day as we rolled through the Rockies. The views were spectacular, but once again we had one of our fights. She demanded that I apologize. By this time I was always apologizing, no matter what I did. I knew it was better to give in than face her destructive anger. To preserve any shred of self-worth, I would try to hold out a little bit before I gave in.

This time things were different. The first time she demanded that I apologize I said, “no.” My goal was to hang on for three rounds before I gave in. That was the best I thought I could do. She swerved the van close to the edge. We were high in the mountains with a long drop off that would surely kill us. “Apologize,” she screamed at me. Once again I said, “no.” She swerved even closer to the edge.

This is it, I thought. Either I give in or she’s going to kill us. I had no doubt she could do it and in her state of mind, I had no doubt she would do it. Once again she demanded “God damn you, apologize.” At that moment something clicked in me. I knew I would not apologize. Doing so meant I would give away my very being. I would rather die with myself intact than live a life of shame and fear. When I said “no” the last time, there was no defiance, no anger, no fear, just a resolve to reclaim the small bit of self-hood I had left.

“I came to realize that women can be as abusive as men…”

She swerved toward the edge and came back on the road. She finally pulled over and broke into tears. The addictive spell had been broken. We returned home and our marriage ended shortly afterwards. I knew I was lucky to be alive and I vowed to do the work on myself so that this would never happen again. I finally reached out for help and began to talk about my abusive relationship and learn how to heal the wounds from my past that made me vulnerable to women like Rita.

I came to realize that women can be as abusive as men and that men’s self-esteem can be undermined to such a degree that we lose our sense of self and become addicted to the cycle of abuse and desire. We long for a better life, but we need help to find to help. Help to find that better life. The help starts when we begin to talk about what’s really going on. I’m still talking and would enjoy hearing from others who have had similar experiences or are touched by what I’ve shared.

***

Dr. Jed Diamond talks about how to break free from abuse, trauma, and the stresses that overwhelm us in his new book, Stress Relief for Men.

About Jed Diamond Ph.D

Jed Diamond, Ph.D., is the Founder and Director of the MenAlive, a health program that helps men live long and well. Though focused on men’s health, MenAlive is also for women who care about the health of the men in their lives. Jed is the author of 14 books including his latest: The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come. Since its inception in 1992, he has been on the Board of Advisors of the Men’s Health Network.  He is also a member of the International Society of Men’s Health and a founding member of the American Society of Men’s Health. He blogs for the ThirdAge, Huffington Post, BeliefNet, Scribd, and other venues. He is the only male columnist who blogs for the National Association of Baby Boomer Women.His homepage is MenAlive.com.

Comments

  1. This has me really got me thinking that my past relationships was not my fault and that I do think I got this love addiction

  2. Jed, thank you! I just have been through hell, and feel currently like I am mortally wounded by my recent experience of abuse. I am desperate to share my story and find that there are no resources at all in South Africa for men such As myself. Any suggestions as to how I can share and get some guidance would be greatly appreciated – please help. Thanks

  3. Adam Blanch says:

    Been there, got the scar to prove it. So many men I know have had similar experiences. The great thing about this piece is that you take responsibility for your ‘addiction’ and chose to do the work to sort it out. Erin Pizzey, who founded the first ever women’s refuge in London, wrote a very good book 30 years ago on the way abusees are addicted to their abusers, but she is vilified by feminists as ‘blaming the victim’, which is sad because the only way out of this cycle is for the person. who usually has serial abusive relationships, to take responsibility as you did.

  4. Jed,

    You are a leader in your field.

    How do we take experiences like yours and similar experiences of other men and change policy so domestic violence prevention services will actually help abused men, instead of re-victimizing them?

    I’m thinking of the case two years ago when an Arizona State Senator was hounded from office by Arizona NOW, among others, after his girlfriend reacted violently because he danced with another woman at a party. There were photos of his facial wounds in the media, and still he was treated by the domestic violence prevention activists and their friends in the media as the perp.

  5. David Jones says:

    Martina your comments are a perfect example of victim blaming and I am surprised that no one else has called this out. Your statement “It sounds to me like she felt disconnected from you, not validated and not heard” is like saying “well perhaps if you weren’t a bad lover/man and were able to be better than she would not have abused you” it is so similar to the countless number of excuses I have heard from men in the DV offenders class I have run. Imagine for a moment that the situation was reverse and a man said “If she would just prove to him she loved him more by being physically available he wouldn’t think that she was cheating and wouldn’t feel the need to be abusive” now imagine that this comment was made to a woman who just poured her heart out concerning her past abusive experience. Do we imagine that this statement would go unchallenged in a forum even remotely similar to this space? I think not, and frankly I am surprised I am the first one to point out the victim blaming here, especially since it is so quickly jumped on (as it should be) on so many other posts on this site.

    • David Jones,

      A strictly factual question for you, as you mention you run classes for men who are DV offenders:

      To your knowledge are there classes for women who are DV offenders? For example, does the organization you work for run them? Or are women offenders simply placed into classes with male DV offenders? How common is it for women to be identified as DV offenders and required to attend classes? Do you have any statistics or studies on the treatment of women DV offenders?

      (We know from DOJ and NIH surveys that about 25% of lesbian women have been victims of DV in a lesbian relationship, so even if we are talking about just 10% x 25% = 2.5% of the population, totally ignoring woman-on-man DV, 2.5% of all women would not be a small number of potential students.)

      Thanks in advance.

  6. Jed i personally thank you for being brave enough to discuss a real issue that affects real men, and not just some faux / mens issue, constructed to shame men.

  7. Thanks for the comments. Its nice to know that my experiences resonate with so many people. I’m happy to report that Carlin and I have been happily married for 33 years now and my experiences (and hers) from the past are now part of the history, the lessons learned, and changes made. Its never too late for a joyful marriage.

  8. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    I sympathize. I’m definitely what I’d call a b____ – magnet. I probably sound critical here much of the time, but I tend to fall for controlling women. Part of the problem is that this attribute often accompanies intellectuality, which is very attractive.

  9. It sounds to me like she felt disconnected from you, not validated and not heard. And frankly it always takes two to tango, not just to know how to turn away from someone but also to stand up in a conversation and just tell the truth.

    I’m not advocating staying in an abusive relationship, at all, and this person you were with does sound dangerous. I wouldn’t stay in the house where someone pulled a knife on me. But I think that it’s important to be emotionally accountable — not just for caring about the other person, but to speak a personal truth, before it turns into such a big resentment that everyone just has to walk away.

    It’s certainly always easier for me to feel like I have a moral upper hand when an ex did something conventionally wrong, but I find that it’s the most fruitful when I look at my part, too.

    • There just does seem to be some other stuff in here, aside from the obvious, abhorrent abuse that to me sounds like really typical male/female issues. That’s what I’m responding to.

      Otherwise I agree with almost all of the comments on here, and I think it’s great that you are safe and sound!!

  10. Wow i beginning to think the good men project is in fact a real mens / fathers help website instead of the gender-feminist rag that many MRA’s think it is.

    • Part of that thought that GMP is a gender feminist rag is over the way MRAs have been treated here. Supposedly MRAs are welcome to join the conversation here but there’s a bit of a history of giving feminists more lattitude to speak freely, deleting posts contributed by MRAs with zero explanation, and last year when GMP was attacked for being an “MRA hell hole” there wasn’t much effort to respond to how incorrect that sentiment was.

      • Sometimes women’s issues are taken more seriously here it seems, case in point the anti-MRA pro-feminist ideology from a few years ago, especially that god awful invite the mra’s to speak and criticize the hell out of them debacle. It’s getting very annoying, especially when male voices are being silenced on a site FOR men.

        • The truth is, the GMP is about masculinity + gender in the 21st century, but it’s for everyone, not just men. That’s why we have lots of female contributors + lots of female readers as well. And men’s issues are ABSOLUTELY taken seriously at the GMP (there’s no way they’re somehow ignored, belittled or trivialized), but they’re also not treated as more important than women’s issues for the simple reason that many of the issues are stake in this magazine are about humanism, cultural investigation, social justice, gender constructions and performance, which often connect organically with many women’s issues + mainstream feminism, which seeks to eliminate inequality.

          • OP, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but feminism, at least what is feminism now, doesn’t seek to eliminate inequality as far as men are concerned.

            Now this comes from personal bias but when I told my story about my issues of having been abused by females in addition to males, three feminists (one after the other) tried to convince me that my privileged white male status negated what I suffered from and that females don’t abuse, only men do. That it was an anomaly and nothing compared to the abuse women go through. Three feminists, OP.

            Not all feminists are like that, yes, but there still exists this strand that believes men don’t have issues and are better off compared to women (power dynamics). These three feminists came from that strand and it has remained ever so prominent and powerful to have polluted the egalitarian aims the movement possessed once upon a time.

            Even feminists who are egalitarian, they don’t have power. It’s the zero-sum game that run the roost now and many egalitarians admit that to speak out against them means stigmatization and ridicule of their reputation. (Look up Erin Prizzy, Christina-Hoff Sommers, Warren Farrel).

            If feminist sought to eliminate inequality, they wouldn’t have stood by and allowed theories like the Duluth Model of Domestic Violence to pass into government law. A model that automatically labels Domestic Abuse as something men alone do to women and police use as reference when called to a Domestic Abuse situation.

            When Father’s Rights Advocates fought to introduce a bill into Family Court that would make Shared Parenting an option in Divorce Outcome, the most prominent Feminist organization called NOW opposed them and even claimed that it would only allow abusive fathers to game the system and harm their children more. Never mind that this was not a MANDATORY option, merely an option and voided if there was hard evidence the parent was detrimental and abusive towards the child.

            Mary K. Ross, a feminist researcher, excluded male victims from her research on Sexual Abuse and her research is still cited to this day.

            Where were the egalitarian feminists when these three significant events took place? Why was there next to no opposition?

            Between this and what happened to me, I refuse to believe that feminism now seeks to eliminate inequality for both sexes. At least the feminism practiced now. I still am aware that there are egalitarian feminists out there. But they’re considered outliers to the movement itself.

  11. Great article. Thanks.

    It seems to me that there exists a cultural understanding that a husband should learn that his wife is always right, even if she’s wrong–let it go, it’s not worth fighting. I’ve heard it over and over, usually on comedy shows, but still…I always thought that was BS, and although I was a nice guy who approached disagreements with thoughtfulness and humility, it wasn’t in my nature to back off what I believed was the truth. Nevertheless, I played that part in my first marriage when I discovered that my ex-wife had such deep-seeded psychological problems that challenging her in arguments would lead to her spiraling out of control. She had issues she shared, mother/childhood/assault, that she seemed forthright about acknowledging and facing, but it seems that she would not go any farther in discussing how this was playing out in her marriage(s). She hit me a few times, (just a slap), but it was emotional manipulation and fear that led me to “give up” in arguments, and ultimately on the marriage. I was afraid of 3 things. The first, was that she would hurt herself. She locked herself in the bathroom with a knife at least 3 times. Once after an argument she fell down a flight of stairs, getting a nasty concussion; she said at one point she didn’t want to catch herself when she slipped. This made me fear to leave the relationship, too. Secondly, she would go off even when her children were around, and as a stepfather, I thought it was more important to drop any disagreement for the effect it might have on the children, who had already been through a lot with her divorce from their dad. Lastly, I felt there were a couple times where I sensed a veiled threat when she mentioned that my grabbing her arms (to keep her from hitting me) left bruises that her doctor saw. And then again, when she wanted me to discipline the kids (or step in to keep her from losing it), that I may have been too rough when I picked up one of them up to get her on her feet and make her go upstairs to get ready for school–I was firm, not abusive, and certainly not half as harsh as she had been at times. Eventually, I began to feel like it was just a matter of time before something horrible would happen, and I’d end up in jail for something I didn’t do. I think a lot of men fear that in abusive relationships, because they know they are the first to be suspected in such cases, and even defending themselves can be turned around on them.

    • Well said Paul. Wife is always right without argument, and if you argue back, some just argue, argue, argue, without logic or constructive intent. And control by being out of control is classic, threaten and make everyone else responsible.

  12. Well, this is a common story (Somerset Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage”, anyone?). Not-so-lovely “Rita” was for you and many other men, Jed, what “bad boys” are for many “good” women; in both cases, the partner is a psycho, but the sex is probably pretty hot. This begs the question, then, of how can we have the best of both worlds, and ditch the worst; that is have a relationship with an emotionally stable partner, but that still has wildness and passion?

    I should add that I often wonder what happens to the Ritas of this world once they get too old and unprepossessing to entrap guys.

    • To get the best of “both” worlds, you have to fall in love with a woman who has been abused in her past. She will have the passion for you, once she recognizes you’re the real good man that she was looking for- so long as you prove she can trust you. The exchange is that you must be able to help her when her own abused past recurs in her emotions, because it does come up over and over again at the most “random” times, unexpectedly. Triggers. If you can handle the emotional crap of someone who has been abused, then you will have your best of “both” worlds because she will know what she’s got, will treat you well (and with true passion) for being a decent human being, and won’t do to you what was done to her.

  13. (Simon Forsyth): “One of the things that really gets me is that domestic violence is almost always portrayed as physical and man beats woman, when I know that women are so much more devious and manipulative when it comes to abuse”.

    Devious and manipulative is exactly what these women are. I think they are also very charming (others, upon first meeting them, will think they are “lovely people”), and in most cases the women are very attractive, hence they can quite easily trap men.

    It perplexes me that men so often don’t see through these women, when many women will become immediately aware of their cunning and deception. Perhaps, because women are more emotionally aware and tuned in, we are able to see these traits in other women. Men are just too easily charmed by them, and especially because so often these women are pretty forward and sexually aggressive.

    I recently read somewhere that a study had been done which concluded that more men were abused in relationships than women. Of course it is important to define what exactly constitutes abuse, because many women complain about abuse only when it becomes physical. One would hardly go to the police station and open a case of abuse against a partner if it was only verbal/emotional. But, verbal/emotional abuse IS ABUSE, and women are very, very good at it.

    Unfortunately there is nowhere for a man to go to report abuse. He cannot say he is being emotionally abused because then he would be considered a wimp. He cannot say he was being physically abused because then he would be laughed at. He cannot retaliate physical abuse (even though perhaps it would be warranted, sometimes – maybe a slap to control the woman) because then he would be the abuser.

    All I can do is apologise to the many men who suffer emotional/verbal/physical abuse at the hands of women. They are a disgrace to womanhood, and thankfully I can say that we are not all that way.

    What everyone should remember is that as soon as there is disrespect in a relationship on the part of one (or both) partners, and when the fights become personal attacks, and as soon as one partner starts making offensive or crude comments about the other, it is THE END of the relationship and the offended partner should walk out immediately. A relationship in which there is no respect has no foundation. No child deserves to grow up witnessing such a relationship between the parents. If the woman is the abuser the husband and father should obtain sufficient evidence of her abusive nature to be of assistance to him when it comes to custody of the child/children.

    The courts should not automatically assume the woman is the better parent. If a woman emotionally or physically abuses her husband she IS A BAD PARENT.

    So So the majority of men suffer this abusea

  14. Simon Forsyth says:

    Jed. I can resonate with the story here both from my experience and that of my late dad.
    My mother is narcissistic ( I only discovered this a year ago!) She verbally abused bit me and my dad, who was too soft. She criticised him constantly. Nothing he did was right and she destroyed him. He finally left her after about 25 years of marriage but she continued to manipulate him through my adopted sister.
    She abused me the same way, verbally. Nothing I did was right and I was the family scapegoat. Even if I wasn’t even present something was my fault. She told my dad when she was pregnant that if it was a boy she would hate it and she did! My dad was so under her thumb that he backed her against me even if she was blatantly lying. I left home a year before I left school because I knew that if I didn’t I would kill her. It was very difficult but I had the support of some good friends who looked after me.
    After Dad left Mother (we weren’t allowed to call her Mum) I tried to have a better relationship with him, but it was always filled with some mistrust. He was super sensitive and I felt he was controlling me, by pushing me into becoming a professional photographer, but I now realise that he believed in me so much more than I did. What I saw from the position of an angry person who was sick of being controlled and criticised for everything, as control was just a father trying to do his best for me. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t see this before dad died.
    After not having anything to do with my mother for 8 years I tried to do my bit after dad died and Christchurch had some major earthquakes 3 years ago. But she hasn’t changed at all and still blames everyone apart from herself, so I have given up. While It is difficult at times, I realise that it is the only way to deal with it.
    I know I am damaged. my mother never nurtured me and there was no physical touch apart from a smack, so I am touch averse and have self esteem issues which I have been seeing psychologists and counsellors for most of my life.
    One of the things that really gets me is that domestic violence is almost always portrayed as physical and man beats woman, when I know that women are so much more devious and manipulative when it comes to abuse.

  15. Thanks for writing this Jed, I had an abusive relationship that finally propelled me out of a destructive self-relationship, so I can relate. I actually have a kind of gratitude for the experience now, as it propelled me on a path to realising my self value.
    I now do a lot of work with Men and it’s a lot more common that people think for men to be the target of emotional abuse. Thanks for sharing, keep it up!

  16. Valter Viglietti says:

    People talk about equality.
    Here’s equality: any person of any gender can be human’s best and human’s worst. Any.

    Jed, thank you for sharing your story.
    I’ve seen addictive relationships, and they do work that way – regardless the abuser’s gender.

  17. Jed-
    Thank you for this courageous piece.
    As a couples therapist, I’ve worked with many men in situations similar to yours. As with women in abusive relationships, there’s a great deal of denial, disbelief and shame. The shame can be even greater in the men, which is saying a lot.

    Unfortunately, as you and many commenters have said, there’s not a lot of talk about abused men.

    Your piece confirms a basic belief that I have about people: We all have a bottom line, and occasionally we sink below it. I think that’s what ultimately breaks the spell: the shock of violating one’s own basic integrity. I’ve seen people have a bottom line so low that they have to crawl under it. The good news is that sinking that low can be a needed wake-up call.

    There’s a human dignity in all of us. Frightening that it can take a near death experience to contact it.

    Again, thank you. I’ll be sharing this piece.

    • “As a couples therapist, I’ve worked with many men in situations similar to yours. As with women in abusive relationships, there’s a great deal of denial, disbelief and shame. The shame can be even greater in the men, which is saying a lot. ”

      This is the result of a culture that attempt to protect women by arguing they are fundamentally ‘incapable’. Ie ‘women and children first’ translates into ‘women *are* children’ in a way. No, i’m not saying I agree with this, but that this is a natural consequence of our paternalistic attitude towards women. The only way to help someone is to show them how and why they have the power to help themselves. This results in women not realizing their own agency…or responsibility, particularly in situations where there is a ‘bad guy’ [not the terminology….this isn’t a coincidence, but an emergent phenomenon of what i’m talking about].

      We need a new way of talking about agency in an equalizing manner. Men and Women are equal because they’re human beings, regardless of our social conceptions about the matter.

  18. I take great issue with a writer above saying that the “abuse which matters most.” Oh, really? So there’s a pecking order for victims, is there? Thank you for denying me the equality that you have every right to expect for your own gender. All abuse matters, and it takes nothing away to acknowledge that this can happen to men. It happened to me. And each time someone denigrates it with either denial or a politically motivated rationale such as this, I feel like someone tearing open old wounds.

    I was in a cycle of constant and steady abuse for six years while living abroad in London. At first, I fought back when things deteriorated to the physical, which only fogs the issue and sends an abused man into a cycle of guilt and regret, thinking he’s the abuser. Then when you DON’T fight back, you discover it gets worse. I was gradually cut off from my friends, made ever more financially dependent on this person and psychologically worn down until it was considered a “betrayal” if I had my own bank account. At different times, my partner put me out on the street and made homeless for a night or two… or more.

    I left three times, trying to break away. Third time the “charm.” But it meant leaving my four-year-old daughter on her very first day of school, and subsequently, my partner denied me access and all contact for three long years. I still get harangues over whatever sum of money I send for support, despite the fact that the exchange rate almost cuts my sum in two… and one year, I continued to send a full quarter of my income while living off my credit cards and welfare. Because my daughter is precious to me. When I flew back to London last Christmas to try to see my child, now twelve, I only got to see her for two hours one day and two hours of another, both times with the ex in tow — out of a total time there of three weeks. And my daughter, now entering her teen years and having only been able to communicate with me via webcam, has little interest in knowing me.

    I write. I’m a writer who has actually made a living selling his words. But I know I can’t write a book on this because of obvious libel issues, plus it is still excruciating even with an ocean between this person and me. I left the UK so that I could at least try to support myself properly back in my own country, and I left my child because I saw the effect that watching almost nightly fights and daily criticisms were having on her. I am past being bitter… I hope. I think I am. But I am not past the loss.

  19. recluse323 says:

    I was in such a relationship too for 18 months. I’m 9 months post breakup and I’m still piecing it together. Same underlying story with my ex too. Funny thing is my PD woman knew she was doing it and would admit it (the bad behavior) but kept doing it. It got to the point where I din’t not know who I would get when I picked her up or called her. Was it heaven or hell?? Got to the point where I would start shaking in her presence. I never understood how the shaking manifested. Thanks for the read.

  20. I married a woman and tried everything possible to make it work. Having a gun pointed at me, punched, kicked, having things tossed at me in front of my kids, who were terrified. Nothing like going to the police and being ignored. I went through a horrible four year divorce, but received custody of my children. This woman did everything she could to hurt them since it was the only way left to get back at me. Taking them for evasive medical treatments, having both my daughter and my son locked-up in an institution as young teens and finally losing all contact with her own children when things became totally insane. Of course I could fix these things, but the thousands and thousands of dollars in bills and the damage to my children will last a lifetime. I married a woman that they call “mom” and who has given them both the nurturing they need, even as adults.

    • Hening, It takes a lot to reach out for help, and as you say, too often men are ignored (women also used to be ignored when they were abused, but organized and supported each other). Abuse can leave lasting wounds to children and adults, but healing is possible and a good relationship can be immensely helpful. I’ve been remarried now for 33 years. Carlin has been a great mother to my two children as I have been to her three. The healing continues for us all.

  21. I understand the fear that some women have that if we focus on abuse, both female and male, we will end up losing the focus on women or moving backwards and seeing abuse of women as “normal.” Just as women empowered themselves when they came together to tell the truth about the abuse they experienced, I hope men can also tell the truth about what is happening to us. We all know that the abuse cycle continues unless we speak out, heal old wounds, and commit to new ways of being.

    Ultimately we are all in this together. As we cut ourselves off from our own deep healing, we are more likely to be abusive of others or get into other abusive relationships.

    I very much appreciate the dialogue that we can have here about what we each can do to heal ourselves, our relationships, and ultimately this home planet we all share.

    • I understand the fear that some women have that if we focus on abuse, both female and male, we will end up losing the focus on women or moving backwards and seeing abuse of women as “normal.”
      Now when men have fear of something that is supportive of women that fear is almost always written off as men being afraid of losing privilege or losing the spotlight or not wanting women to get help and support. It would be real tempting to tell the women you describe the same things that are told to the men I describe but that wouldn’t be right. But at the same time those women need to realize that abuse is not “something that men do to women”.

      Just as women empowered themselves when they came together to tell the truth about the abuse they experienced, I hope men can also tell the truth about what is happening to us.
      I would like to believe that the women that have empowered themselves as you say would have enough compassion to not go on the defensive (or offensive for that matter) when men start speaking up. Unfortunately while a lot are a lot of them are not.

  22. @Mark I do not understand why GMP runs these women are abusive too articles.Even on this male support website,it is clear that the abuse which matters most is that which men committ against women and children.The strong feminist element on GMP and in the media isn’t able to hold both ideas equally-that women and men abuse.They insist on dealing with the issues seperately,preserving the hierarchy Some feminists have a fear that recognizing that men AND women abuse will undermine the strength of their narrative.I pray that it will. I watched the animation film “Wreck it Ralph”,which is aimed at children.In it you will find an extremely abusive-toward men- female character.In one scene she elbows, punches,screams at and demeans the lead character,Ralph.Ironically,Ralph is cast as the bad guy.She does the same to another male character-a classic,sexually nonthreatening,stand up nice guy-who falls in love with her anyway.In one scene he asks if she is always so intense.We are then given her back story which serves as the excuse for her current behavior.His love for her is not unlike what Mr.Diamond described he experienced.It is shallow,first stage, romantic “love” driven by lust.In one bizarre scene,she and Fix it Felix are trapped in Nestle Quik Sand.He panics and she smacks the holy shit out of him to calm him.The Laffy Taffy hanging above them begin to chuckle at the sight.Felix notices and tells his love interest to hit him again.Everytime she clocked him, using a variety of blows, the Taffy laughed,each time drooping closer to them.Finally they reached up,grabbed the Taffy and were pulled to safety.I am sure the audience-children mostly-laughed as the taffy had.Yet,there is debate and denial,as to the existance of and seriousness of this problem.

  23. I was in a cycle like this for only a year and a half. She convinced me we only needed one car. Her car. I had no way to leave if I wanted to. She would regularly laud my lack of job over me but would spike into depression and chaos when I tried to get one to keep me from being able to go or keep it. Her rages made me afraid for my life. Today, six years later, I still wake up at slight noises when I sleep. I’m terrified of alcohol when other people have it. Which is sad, because I drink, but get anxious when my (now) wife does. My wife has never forgiven my ex. I’m not sure I can either. She stripped everything from me until I was nothing more than a dog. Fearing reproach and trying to enjoy the love when she gave it.

    One of the hardest things was being unable to find help afterwards. So many places which are now referred to as “Violence against women centers” weren’t willing to see me, they said that there’s no more funding for treating males. I looked up the Violence against women act… they were right. I wound up going to Alanon, a program for people who are in relationships with alcoholics. It was very helpful.

  24. I spent five years with a woman who I later found out had been diagnosed with Boderline Personality Disorder. It was totally comsumptive and draining, yet I too was completely addicted. Nothing ever made her happy, and I was always taking responsibility for that. She was good at identifying my own self esteem issues, and using those “tender spots” to manipulate me. I finally broke free and can appreciate now how the experience with her helped me to understand my own dysfunctions and shadows going all the way back to childhood.

    • Anton, You’re right. For every abusive woman (or man) there is a partner who has become hooked on the dysfunction. We can also get hooked on blaming others, or recognize our part in the drama and learn to get the support we need to break free. Blame keeps us addicted to dysfunction, whether we’re blaming ourselves, blaming someone else, or blaming our situation. We get free when we take our lives into our own precious hands, forgive others and ourselves, know that they (and we) did the best we could at the time. Now we need to practice love, for that is truly who we are.

      • “Blame keeps us addicted to dysfunction, whether we’re blaming ourselves, blaming someone else, or blaming our situation.”

        Codependency is a two-way street. To stop playing tug-of-war, we must drop the rope on our end by healing ourselves and seeing our contribution to the problem. It’s the solution that has worked for me. I urge any man who is seeking help to find a local meeting of Al Anon. It’s not just for people who love alcoholics, it works for all types of abusive and dysfunctional relationships.

  25. I very much appreciate the supportive comments. Although these events occurred many years ago and there has been a lot of healing since, it still is not easy to talk about. Too many men and women are abused as children and often grow up to be in an abusive relationship as adults. The first step in healing abuse is to recognize that it is going on and be willing to reach out for help. Too many men feel ashamed that they are being abused by a woman. Most of us grow up being taught that a real man can take care of himself, that he can take the pain, suck it up, and solve his problems himself. Too many of us accept the pain of an abusive relationship because “it feels like home.” It triggers memories from the past.

    To paraphrase an old saying: “Be it ever so shitty, there’s no place like home.” Even though we may have grown up in an abusive environment, we can learn to change things.

    But we all need to speak the truth about abuse, no matter who is the abuser or who is being abused. The truth is the first step to freedom. Keep the comments coming. We all benefit by hearing from each other.

  26. “Kylee had such a poor image of herself that she thought her main value to me was her sexuality. She attempted to advance our dating to a sexual level almost immediately. She was constantly trying to blow me in parking lots, have sleepovers, etc.”

    Shit….Thanks for putting that bluntly. Is it possible that women/girls of that nature tend to find an idealized “type” of man and are drawn to him.. Scares me a bit as that accelerated sexual movement was there in more than half the women I ever dated….. Surprise BJ in the theater on a first date, BJ after a simple ride home from a commuter college, a somewhat varied list with one similar ending….. and highly sexualized young women….. and that was 3 decades ago.

  27. These people are classic sociopaths. Read the book, The Sociopath Next Door. You will begin to understand the behavior, cycles and symptoms of the personality. They are more common than you think. I’m so glad that you were able to get away with your life AND leaving her with hers as well.

  28. Although I haven’t always been successful in love, I was fortunate to have been in relationships with sane women. So when Kylee came along, I just expected her to be sane too. So I was completely unprepared for what issues she had. She had also had a good relationship with her father until she was about 13. Her mother was incredibly critical, and rarely had a positive thing to say. I saw this firsthand.
    Kylee had such a poor image of herself that she thought her main value to me was her sexuality. She attempted to advance our dating to a sexual level almost immediately. She was constantly trying to blow me in parking lots, have sleepovers, etc. I’m a slow mover, but I did enjoy the attention and gave in more than I expected. I eventually found out we had an amazing sexual chemistry and by that point I was able to justify some of her odd quirks. For example, she would completely lose the ability to have a conversation when we talked about dating exclusively, even though we were with each other so much there wasn’t time to date others. When I asked her about guys she would text, she acted like it wasn’t my business and I should just trust her. She would always find a way to blame me for anything she did that hurt me.
    Huge red flags, but I was in too deep and I was addicted to the highs and the sexual depth we shared. In the end I found out that she had slept over at a friend’s house, in his bed, with him. I didn’t know the details, but I’d was enough for me to end it. When I confronted her, she completely denied it and blamed me for being nosey and uptight. I was devastated, and the odd thing was she was the only one I could talk to about it, probably because I was so embarrassed I had chosen someone so messed up. So I still hung out with her, and with great timing she started making plans with a new guy. Finally I had the courage to try to hold my head up high and walk away. I took the high road and explained to her that I would still be her friend and that I enjoyed our time together.

    The rejection was such a shock that I nearly shut down. I knew it was for the best, but it didn’t lessen the blow. My performance at work dropped significantly, and I needed to see two therapists to try and figure out how to recover. After a year I’m about 85% there, but still have my low days. I just have to tell myself how lucky I am because I dodged a bullet with her in the long run. Now I just have to get my trust and confidence levels back up to where they were so I can let someone new in.

    Thank you so much for this article. I knew I couldn’t be the only one willing to admit that they were a guy in an abusive, manipulative relationship.

    • @Joseph I think some abuse by having affairs with the friends and acquaitances of their partners.I have dated such women.I am always surprised that these men and women don’t understand the potential danger of such behavior.For me,I realized I was much better off being a player rather than a partner.I am NOT suggesting you or anyone else follow my lead.Relationships are playgrounds for all kinds of dysfunctions and the denial that goes with them.

  29. For a long time I was in a marriage where I was constantly abused verbally – and sometimes physically — for causing problems in our relationship. No matter how long the various accusations were discussed – and some discussions lasted literally for hours until we were both exhausted physically and mentally – every problem was deemed to be my fault, but I couldn’t understand how or why until I eventually discovered that my wife was an incurable depressive. Although I loved her dearly, the situation became intolerable.
    I am now happily divorced.
    Some of us are unlucky in love. But we must always be careful not to blame all women for the faults of a few.

    • Hi James
      Thank you for these words:
      ✺”Some of us are unlucky in love. But we must always be careful not to blame all women for the faults of a few.”✺
      And as a woman I say the same about men. Let’s not blame all men for the faults of a few men.

  30. I’ve been on the receiving end without much hope that I would ever get any official help If it was made public, I’m bigger, I’m stronger and with a bad heart that you can’t see if your just intervening now. Her therapist had a hard time accepting that it was her not me……even when she admitted it…….attachment disorder just doesn’t do it justice.

  31. Hi,
    Very well-written article. It intrigues me to find out what happened to Rita after the divorce.. Could you share more if she got healed? Thanks!

  32. I actually almost wish the title didn’t refer to the victims of abuse as “gentle”. I guess it bothers me to portray male victims of abuse as “gentle” because it might strenghten one of the reasons it’s so hard to accept help : the fear of being perceived as weak, fragile, all those things “real men” aren’t supposed to ever be.
    Besides, maybe it would help us all detect abuse faster and help our friends/ourselves if we challenge our preconceived ideas about who abuse victims are, accept them to potentially come from every background, at all social positions etc, and focus on what abuse victims really have in common : the symptoms.
    If I may, this is a TED talk I found very valid on abuse : http://on.ted.com/Steiner
    Thank you for bringing this up and your great post.

  33. First I must say thank you for courageously sharing your brave story. To shine a light on a very dark place for all, yet especially for men considering its even more shameful as men are expected to “be tough, man up, and stand up for yourself at all costs”. Thank you for reminding me that men too can and are abused severely and deserve the same support, acknowledgement, and validation as women in the similar terrifying situations and relationships. Again, thank you.

    Lily

  34. Thank god I’m not the only one. Why is this spoken so little of, It wasn’t even on the radar when I married my ex as something to look out for. It was only when I started falling apart after my separation that I had to scour the internet to work out what was wrong with. People kept telling me I was going through normal separation grief but that wasn’t it and I knew it.

  35. Sounds exactly what I had with my first girlfriend. I’m grateful to be Alive, having escaped her. I’m learning what real relationships are.

  36. Thank you for crafting this post. It is excellent and hopefully a help to many. There is more shame and embarrassment around a man in this situation than a woman because he is expected to know how to “handle his woman.” I have a friend who explained to me that he thought of once physically responding to his wife who had superior verbal and arguing skills during one of their many fights. Oftentimes men can feelout powered with just words. We generally are outmatched as women have much more experience with words, you know….helping their peers develop eating disorders and bullying, whereas guys get physical after a few words. Well, physical aggression is rightfully wrong. But verbal aggression slips in underneath the radar too easily.

  37. We’ve all faced moments when we have to choose between facing an onslaught of withering emotions or giving in just to keep the peace. That’s not love, that’s just abuse. Thanks for writing about this.

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