“Beware of rude and abusive people who love their mouths more than they love you.” ~ J. E. Brown
You think you are being verbally abused by your partner. In fact, you suspect that you are in an impossible situation, living with a partner who doesn’t honor you, wants to change you, or at least wants always to be in charge at your expense.
It’s hard to admit it. It’s terrible to give up the image you once had of your guy as a loving, strong, smart and caring mate. But it’s been a long time since you saw him that way. Instead, you find yourself always braced for the next verbal assault; the next incident where you are found lacking in some way or to blame for things being the way they are. You feel ashamed and sad and angry but stuck. It’s hard to believe it. You don’t understand what happened. You even sometimes think it is all your fault.
Why do women stay with men who put them down? The reasons are varied and complicated.
It’s not uncommon for partners to be completely taken by surprise. Often, people who abuse do nothing of the sort while dating. If the person in pursuit makes any negative comment, it is quickly explained away. There are apologies and promises. He may even cry. Once married, the situation turns. Now that he has her, he doesn’t feel the need to keep himself in check. Afraid that she will in any way have the upper hand in any discussion, he begins a campaign to keep her off balance. The wife is mystified. She wonders what she did wrong. Where did the fun guy she married go? He tells her it’s all her fault. If he is artful about it, she wonders if he is right and works overtime to fix it – not understanding that he doesn’t have any intention of fixing it.
Other women think they can see the insecurity inside the person who is always asserting control. She tries to help him. She agrees with him that life has been unfair to him. She sides with him against the world, not understanding that in his eyes the world includes her. When he turns on her, she tries to be understanding and to explain the situation to him. Once in a while, he even accepts her help, which gives her the false impression that things are changing. What she doesn’t understand is that his insecurity is bigger than his love for her. It is bigger than rational thought. It is bigger than his desire to have a mutual, equal partnership.
Still other partners think the problem is one of communication. Couples therapists and counselors will tell you that the most frequent presenting problem is “we can’t communicate.” Often enough, what that means is that one of the partners doesn’t really want to communicate if communication means sharing decision-making and power. From his point of view, she stubbornly won’t understand when he is being perfectly clear that he’s the one in charge. She is sure that the therapist will help him recognize that he needs to hear another point of view. After all, he is a rational person, right? She thinks he wants the relationship to succeed as much as she does. She doesn’t get it that a need for control isn’t rational and, yes, he wants the relationship to succeed, but only on his terms.
Other women are too scared, insecure, embarrassed, or dependent to leave. Her confidence is shot. Over time, she’s been worn down and worn out. She may have given up trying to have friends since he always objects to her spending any time with them. She may have lost any say about the finances, even if she is making the bulk of the money. She is so convinced of her own powerlessness, she doesn’t think she can make it on her own or that she can find a better match. Feeling unlovable, worthless and helpless, she sinks into a low-grade, or not so low-grade, depression that keeps her stuck.