There are no simple answers to the “Why does he do that?” question, but here are some insights into abusive men and why they abuse. I also included links to articles about why women stay with abusers.
I’m getting my Master of Social Work (MSW) at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and have encountered one of the most abusive men I’ve ever met. What shocks me is how open and honest he is about his abusive behavior. He doesn’t give a rip how his words and actions affect his wife. In fact, he wants her to leave him – which is probably partly why he’s so emotionally abusive. Why does he do that?
This article is for her – and for all women wondering why abusive men act the way they do. These examples of abusive behavior are to help wives see their relationships more clearly, and to show them they’re not alone.
“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.” – Harvey Fierstein. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. But do it we will!
At the end of this article is a link to the book Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft. It’ll help you get inside the minds of abusive men, which will help you see your relationship – and yourself – more clearly.
Examples of Abusive Behavior
You probably didn’t find this article by searching for “examples of abusive behavior”, but that’s how I’m starting this article. Before we delve into why he does that, let’s define what the “that” is.
Emotional abuse isn’t always direct criticism or being mean
Often, verbal and emotional abuse is more insidious and difficult to pinpoint. That’s why abusive men are often in long-term relationships with women – their abuse isn’t obvious! Why does he do that? Because he’s slick and unhealthy.
“You make me say these things. It’s not my fault you push me this far. You’re crazy and stupid!” or “You’re upbringing has made you frigid and useless in bed. I’ve been with so many women and I thought they were bad, but you’re the worst. You’re boring and not a turn-on.”
“You’re imagining things – I never said that!” or “Baby, you misunderstood me. I meant I LOVE it when you haven’t showered in two days. Your smell makes realize how different you are from other women.” Or “You’re too sensitive.”
Passive aggressive comments
“Whatever, I’m not mad, I don’t care” or “I’m not trying to be mean, but you look ugly in that hairstyle.” Abusive men can be passive aggressive when they’re reluctant to engage in conflict or confrontation, but have negative feelings. If you’re not sure you’re with an abusive man, read Signs of an Abusive Relationship – and How to Survive.
There is hope for you if you’re in an abusive or controlling relationship! Here’s what one reader commented:
“I just got out of my abusive relationship and I feel relieved to not have to put up with the emotional and physical abuse anymore,” says Sara on Why Does Love Hurt? “This is the beginning of a new start. A new start to think about me and do the things that make me happy. The best advice for women who are abused get out when he is sleeping, away, and slip a note to someone to let them know what is going on. Men who abuse women hate women and they will never change.”
Sara encourages women not to stick around in abusive relationships, because change never happens. The abuse will never stop – it will escalate until you eventually get hurt really, really bad. Get out while you can.
Why Does He Do That? Inside the Mind of an Abusive Man
The reasons men abuse are varied and complex. There’s never one single reason; it’s a combination of past experiences, personality, coping mechanisms, and even the current culture. For example, in some families or communities it’s acceptable to emotionally abuse women by talking down to them, calling them names, ignoring them, or bullying them.
Here are some answers to the “why does he do that?” question:
“Blamers can be dangerous to love because they usually suffer from victim identity,” writes Steven Stosny in Are You Dating an Abuser? “Feeling like victims, they see themselves as justified in whatever retaliation they enact and whatever compensation they take. Blamers will certainly cause pain for you if you come to love one.”
Here’s an excellent explanation of narcissism or Narcissistic Personality Disorder on Jen Mawter’s blog, from Narcissistic Victim Syndrome:
“A person with NPD has an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for attention and admiration, and a strong sense of entitlement. They believe they are superior and have little regard for the feelings of others….The narcissist views people as objects which can feed their needs… Narcissistic abuse is insidious because the abuse is covert, cunning and indirect.
Narcissists go to great pains to avoid being observed publicly as being abusive. The Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde behaviour creates fear, distress, confusion, inner turmoil, and chaos for the victim. The constant ‘walking on eggshells’ and attempting to avoid further conflict can be crippling. To complicate matters a narcissist is rarely medically diagnosed and often goes undetected in society (home, work, organisations, and social settings).”
Ownership or entitlement
Abusive men may feel justified in the abusive behavior because they have a sense of entitlement or ownership over their partners.
Never allow yourself to be bullied into silence. You are stronger than you think, smarter than you imagine, and more loved than you know.
Bottled up pain, anger, resentment
Disconnection from their true feelings is my personal favorite answer to the “why does he do that?” question. I believe that abusive men are not in touch with their emotions, have not processed past pain or experiences, and aren’t connected to their partners in meaningful ways. Of course, every abusive man may have a different answer or reason to act the way he does…the trick is uncovering and dealing with that reason.
If you’re in an abusive relationship…
Reach out for support! Get help. You deserve better.
Read Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. This book offers women guidelines on how to improve and survive an abusive relationship. Why Does He Do That? also discusses various types of abusive men, analyses societal myths surrounding abuse, and answers questions about the warning signs of abuse.
If you’re in a relationship with an abusive man, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. I welcome your stories and experiences below, but I can’t offer the help or support you need. Please call them for support and guidance, and more insight into the minds of abusive men.
Leaving an abusive man isn’t a one-time event. It’s actually a progression of events and feelings. Read How to Leave an Abusive Relationship – 5 Stages of Abuse to learn more.
I welcome your comments on abuse in relationships below – and the “why does he do that?” question below. I can’t offer counseling or relationship advice, but it may help you to share your experience.
My prayer for all women in abusive relationships is for hope and healing, help and faith, strength and wisdom. May you find the strength you need to get past the “why does he do that” question, and start rebuilding your life and confidence.