When Men Are the Victims of Abuse

Don’t believe it happens? Let Ron Mattocks tell you how his wife mentally abused him and how it ruined his social life, his career, and left him ready to commit suicide. Then find out how he turned things around.

I remember exactly what went through my mind at the suggestion that I had been emotionally abused by my now ex-wife. Horseshit. The very idea sounded ludicrous. I had been an all-state athlete, an Infantry Captain, and an accomplished corporate executive—positions that required strength and mental toughness. The only halfway legitimate version of  an abusive wife I could conceive was that of a 400-pound woman squashing her rail-thin, hen-pecked husband because he forgot to bring home the extra side of gravy she wanted from KFC—fodder for Jerry Springer, Tyra, and all those talk shows that specialize in bringing off-the-chart social dysfunction to the masses. I don’t think so, girlfriend. I knew who my baby mama was, and I didn’t need a paternity test to prove that the three boys born during eight years of matrimony were mine. On the other hand, I would be quick to admit that our blessed union was anything but.

The longer our marriage lasted the more my wife and I fought. Early on we attributed it to the bumps that come after the honeymoon period—except there never was a honeymoon period to begin with. Still, we rolled with it; during truces, we even joked about how I just needed to learn that timeless truth upon which every successful marriage is built: the husband is always wrong. But it was no laughing matter.

Our arguments got worse, sometimes with me smashing whatever object was nearby—a reaction that, by its virtue, automatically negated my position, valid or not. In time, my anger issues were singled out as the culprit behind all our problems. Oddly enough, I never had any anger issues prior to meeting my wife, a detail that bothered me. Knowing my behavior was considered to be a form of abuse, I was terrified at the prospect of being a monster. That wasn’t me. It had always taken a lot to make me see red, and yet, regardless of my efforts to maintain control, I was throwing more and more glasses against walls. It had to stop; and so, to avoid the slightest hint of conflict, I made sure to back down early and often.

However, even this failed to curb my wife’s growing unhappiness, a sentiment I attributed to her disdain for military life. Being a career Army officer had been my lone dream since childhood, and my bride-to-be knew what she was marrying into when she said “I do.” Yet despite promises to support me, she wasn’t shy in expressing her contempt for my chosen profession, making sure to tack on her prediction that, if forced to choose, I’d pick the Army over our family every time. Not true. And either consciously or subconsciously, I began sabotaging what, until then, had been viewed by my superiors as a very promising future. Shortly thereafter I left active duty—three months prior to September 11.

♦◊♦

In making this choice, I hoped my wife would recognize where my real allegiance lay, and as a result, our marriage would improve. Instead, she claimed that I would only resent her as the reason behind giving up my dream. Things didn’t improve, not even with the rapid promotions I earned, affording my wife the lifestyle she had spoken often of wanting. I sunk into a deep depression and, after another blowup, agreed to seek counseling for anger issues. I felt better having someone to talk to in the form of my therapist; but even so, determining the source of my anger proved to be elusive.

Soon thereafter, I was promoted again, this time to a corporate-level position, a move that created new friction with my wife. She resented that it required me to be more socially active, attending corporate dinners, participating in charity events, and traveling to other parts of the country. Coming home from work, I had to endure several hours of passive-aggressive silence before being forced to talk things out once I had gone to bed.

When she asked if I was ever going to be a man, I answered with my new standard reaction—tears and silence.

These so-called “talks” usually boiled down to her latest item among a growing list of petty criticisms: I hung pictures too high, I made the bed the wrong way, I didn’t put the dishrag in the right place, I folded T-shirts poorly—all things I did to help around the house. Eventually, to avoid these evenings of eggshell-walking, I began staying at the office until I knew she was asleep.

Sex was a rarity. I quipped to my therapist that there were three verifiable encounters that I could recall, and that’s only because they resulted in an equal number of children. On the off chance my wife did act interested, she’d shut off soon after starting. For our anniversary, she decorated the bedroom and wore lingerie, before then going on a diatribe, guilting me with every wrong I had ever committed against her.

Finally, one night I snapped. On top of the marital stresses, there were problems at my job, but my wife didn’t want to hear about it. Instead she wanted to take issue with my emotional unavailability. Months of restrained frustration erupted as I grabbed her and screamed in her face to leave me alone. I was immediately terrified. Until then, I had never laid a hand on anyone. Now I didn’t know who I was anymore. Ashamed, I broke down and left. My wife, in turn, filed a domestic abuse report with the police, thus giving her all the ammunition she needed in proving I alone was to blame for our unhappy marriage.

♦◊♦

A separation ensued, followed by reconciliation—one with a lot of conditions. I increased my therapy sessions, and at my wife’s insistence, allowed myself to be convinced that my anger stemmed from an abusive childhood (even though my life growing up was as stable as they come). Yet somehow my wife managed to twist isolated moments from my youth into a childhood fraught with abuse at the hands of my parents, none of which was remotely true. For almost a year, I agreed to cut off contact with them. Meanwhile, nastier criticisms were levied at me: she chastised my parenting with comments such as “It’s a good thing we didn’t have daughters because you would just fuck them up psychologically.” Other times she’d belittle me as being nothing more than a 14-year-old boy trying to get laid. And when she disgustingly asked if I was ever going to be a man, I answered with my new standard reaction—tears and silence.

After another one-sided argument, I admitted she was too good for me and agreed to move out. But even this did little to alleviate her control over me. When I mentioned I’d be flying to a critical corporate meeting later that week, she waited until I was boarding the plane to inform me that I would be barred from seeing my third son’s birth. This made me an emotional wreck and I performed poorly in front of our CEO. A week later I was demoted.

Thankfully, though, I did get to be there for my son’s delivery—only after she relented, reasoning that not having me there would’ve raised too many questions with the church. I will never forget that day—my wife snoozing in her hospital bed, my wrinkle-skinned son nestled in my arms, and me, slumping to the side, one career ruined, another on the verge—friendless, isolated, emasculated … suicidal.

Next: Society covers its ears

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About Ron Mattocks

Author Ron Mattocks is a father of three boys and two stepdaughters. After losing his job and becoming a stay-at-home father, he started the blog Clark Kent's Lunchbox, which eventually became the basis for his book, Sugar Milk: What One Dad Drinks When He Can't Afford Vodka. Ron lives with his wife Ashley in Houston, Texas; he sneaks off to the comic book store whenever possible.

Comments

  1. Well, not to get all Jungian psych, but the more I have been thinking about this the more I am reminded about the problem of projection at the heart of relationship difficulties between two individuals and at the heart of social demonization of entire groups of people.

  2. Are you serious?? I have known your ex-wife for 30 years and you are crazy. YOU were physically abusive to her before your marriage and continued after you were married. Why would you post lies about her. She is a whopping 90lbs and is so mild mannered and loved by everyone that has met her, except you. She has single-handed raised your 3 boys with 0% financial help from you because you are unemployed. Maybe she should receive some of the royalities from your book since so many people believe your lies. If you are such a good dad, maybe you should start a college fund for your boys, or does she have to pay for that too??
    Grow up Ron and leave your past in the past and stop making money off of her pain.
    TO ALL RON FANS…he is a liar and fraud. Take his books for what they are…Fiction. I wish you were the man you claim to be.

    • Forgive me Erin, I don’t believe I know you which, in turn, probably means you don’t know me either except through my ex-wife. This being the case, I realize nothing I say in response to your comment is likely to change your mind; however, I’m going to do it anyway.

      1) Except for the incident mentioned in the article, I never laid a hand on my ex wife–broke things, threw glasses, screamed and yelled, yes–but never touched her. That of course is my word against hers so let’s move. The marriage counselor we went documented all of this. We also each saw this counselor one-on-one for a number of sessions, and if there actually was any physical abuse, it’s likely that would’ve come out at some point during the nearly 3 years of sessions. I’ve continued to see this counselor over the past 7 years. He knows the entire history and he’s the one who suggested that I was a victim.

      2) She has not raised the boys single-handedly, and if she thinks she has done so, it’s only because she limits my access to them. Case in point: last summer when I had to threaten legal action to get my boys for the full time designated in the divorce decree. There are more examples, but this restrictive behavior is known as Parental Alienation and it’s considered a form of child abuse. I will say, though, that in the past year she has loosened up a bit, but there are still restrictions placed on me.

      3) True, after paying her $34,000 annually in child support & spousal support (an amount that exceeded the state’s maximum threshold), I lost my job and could only afford to pay $100/ month until the court could legally adjust my support payments. Once the court did this, I had the difference of what I owed in back support pro-rated and added to my current monthly payments (which by the way, was calculated at a rate 20% higher than what I make). So, by all accounts, I am not only meeting my obligation, I’m exceeding it. Since I have your personal email now, I will be happy to send you copies from the Attorney General’s office that will verify all of the above. Also through this entire period-both with & without a job-I never missed a premium payment on the $1 million dollar life insurance policy I’m required to carry for the boys, and I continued to provide them with full medical coverage.

      4) I will be happy to forward copies of all the royalty checks from my book. Try not to laugh when you see them. A common misconception is that everyone makes money from books. Not so. Lesson learned: for my next book, I plan to incorporate a boy wizard prodigy as well as several angst-ridden teen vampires and werewolves. That way I may stand a better chance of making enough money for a meal at Denny’s once a quarter. I would also like to send you a signed copy of my current book so you can read it for yourself.

      5) I haven’t started a college fund for the boys—not officially anyway. I do have a small savings account in their names, though. There’s not much to speak of in it, but I’ll forward you copies of the statements. And if it would help, I’ll send you copies of all my tax returns over the past several years. I’m entirely serious on producing this or any of the evidence I’ve offered.

      I’ve addressed your specific comments above and if I had the room in the comments I’d have a few questions for you about some more details you’re probably not privy to. But I’ll leave those alone for now. In any case, what I have shared with you are documented facts—not hearsay, not conjecture, not an emotional outburst. For as long as I’ve been writing, I’ve known never to publically publish anything of this nature unless it can be proven. Or as the old maxim goes: Never bring a knife to a gun fight.

      If I am a fraud and a liar, then so be it. You’re my ex’s friend, I’m guessing, so naturally you’re going to say this. I suppose it is possible to fool people with writing, but you can’t do it forever. But by the same token, I suppose it’s also possible to fool the people who you call your friends, but can’t do that forever either. Time will tell.

    • Erin, you are obviously one of the god-awful defenders/apologists for abusive women that is referred to in this essay. I have nothing but sympathy for the men and boys in your life that must tolerate your cringe-worthy existence.

  3. Thank you for sharing something so personal!

    I don’t believe it should be “when men are abused” or “when women are abused.” It should be “when people are abused” because the same things happen to everyone. Victims blame themselves. Others blame them. They have limited resources. They keep coming back because they can’t see things in perspective.

    Women and men are not so different. We are all the same. Abuse is abuse! And it has to be stopped.

    Again. thank you for your thoughts! Thank you for spreading abuse awareness.

  4. He emerges from the shadows,
    his eyes full of light
    and mystery,
    and holds out to me
    his heart in trembling hands.

    ~Galen Gillotte

    One of my very best and dearest friends is an abused husband-emotional AND physical-he has recorded evidence and is still not believed by the “law”. I thank you for sharing this very difficult and most personal of experiences in public. You may not feel manly by doing so, but in my eyes you are more so than you realize. :)

    Blessings on you and your family,
    ~b~

  5. “…a perceived risk that such a disclosure would be dismissed coming from the man and more than likely would be turned against him, leading to false allegations and possibly even an arrest—a situation referred to as “victim blaming.”

    This is not a perceived risk. This is a real fear. I have been a victim myself. On the night my ex and I broke up (initiated by me) she tried convincing me I had no life without her, then proceeded to break some of my belongings in our house. I called the police and she started to say “Don’t hit me, don’t hit me’ as I was on the phone with the 911 operator.

    Then she went into the kitchen and pulled a 12 inch knife on me while I was on the phone with the 911 operator. I ran outside and she put the knife up before the police arrived.

    After talking to both of us the police said I had to leave because I had family in town. I refused because she had friends she could go to and she was breaking things in the house. The police then told me I had to leave or I was being arrested.

    I am all too aware of the stigma of the male being at fault for any anger, argument, or upset in a domestic issue with a women. I couldn’t (and still don’t ) trust the authorities to protect me in a situation like this. It has made me a highly distrustful and cynical person.

    I know that not all women will behave like this. But the fact that remains is that it could have only been that one that might have sent me to prison for being a victim, not a perpetrator.

    I’ve discussed this on other websites before and no one cares. Like Emily says, there is no support for men. In retrospect it seems hypocritical and sadly, normal. Men are always expected to take care of themselves and others, forsaking themselves sometimes. The disparity of support for men and women reflect this.

  6. Brian Smith says:

    Wow! Great article. Reading it brought back a lot of memories from my own past as a victim of a wifes abuses. I was punched many times and the mental abuse was even more painful. To this day I still dont know what kept me from the suicide that was always on my mind. 30 years ago and I’m still messed up.

  7. its been 18 months since i came out of an abusive relationship.she abused me emotionally,physically and abusively.
    it was only after having counselling that i realised she was suffering from a narcisstic personality disorder.
    she constantly lied to me,had several affairs,and finally stripped me of every possession i owned.
    she beat me with a bat,and then had me arrested for domestic violence.the law only listens to the womans side of the story. the man is presumed guilty.
    i dont consider myself as a weak man,only that i was brought up to respect a woman.so,i took whatever was thrown at me for my childs sake.
    i just thank God that i am no longer controlled by her.

  8. david j adkins says:

    My real-life example of parental alienation syndrome. Warning, strong language.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPpm4Gyi1jk

  9. I have one question. Where the hell is Amanda Marcotte? I wonder what she has to say about all this. Or perhaps she’d just rather not hear it.

  10. Thank you for posting this article – which i know was over a year ago. It’s funny what you find on the web when you search for information for abused men. Clearly there aren’t a lot of information. I applaud your strength in writing this story – it moved me. Though your situation is probably 1000x worse than anything I have had to go through, I know what it feels to lose control and get angry (I never got like this ever before). It’s something with the way she phrases things, words things, always accusing always blaming. She will always be an angel to her supporters because she has a way to twist things, exaggerate, and seek the sympathy of others against you. Thank you for being strong, and thank you for starting the converstaion.

  11. I see that this article is quite old, but I feel compelled to write anyway. As an activist against ALL forms of domestic violence, I stand with you, Ron. As I say to those – mainly women – who come to me for advice and support, please work at actively moving forward from “just surviving” to THRIVING. God/dess bless you and your (new) wife. May you find peace, joy and prosperity. Namaste.

  12. hi…. even though old the article is stimulating….. i myself am facing this kind of narcissistic abuse from my wife and in laws and cant seem to find a way to convince them that they are wrong…. it can be torturous …. can u suggest of ways of solving these issues without much ado….. if divorce can be avioded then i would be happier….

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