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Why Does He Do That? Inside the Mind of an Abusive Man

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.

why does he do that inside mind of abusive manI’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.”

Emotional manipulation

“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:

Victim identity

“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:

Why Does He Do That

Why Does He Do That? Inside the Mind of an Abusive Man

“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.

why does he do thatRead 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.

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21 thoughts on “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Mind of an Abusive Man”

  1. I am suffering from a similar situation. My husband kept hitting me whole night yesterday. but i wont leave him. I will make him regret his behaviour and I will take my revenge. Its just 1 year since we got married but he killed my dreams.

  2. Sometimes the question is why a woman will leave and then allow that abusive person to remain in their life to continue verbally beating them down.

  3. It takes courage to share what it’s like to live with an abusive man, to write about the terrible things he’s done to you. It takes guts to be honest with yourself, and to talk about what you’re going through! It may not feel like you’re already starting to cope with an abuser or even heal…but you ARE. You found the strength to search for information on abusive relationships. You clicked on this link, and you are learning what other abusive men are like.

    Don’t discount how far you’ve come. Yes, you have a long way to go…but you are on your way. What is the next commonsense step you can take in your life? What is one small thing you can do to start thinking about leaving this relationship?

    Here’s an article that may nudge you in the right direction:

    How to Break Free From a Toxic Ex Relationship

    Start thinking about what your life will be like AFTER you leave this abusive man. What will you do, who will you become, what is God planning for you? Take one step at a time forward.

    It won’t be easy and it may not feel good, but it will be worth it.

    With love,

  4. I feel I’ve been made out to be the abuser by my now ex. I’ve had over 14 months of verbal abuse, degrading names calling and constant comparisons to his dead wife. I now feel insecure, jealous, anxious, ugly and worthless. We had an argument the other week and I got jealous, I then apologized but it was like and excuse just to do what he does. He verbally abused me, screamed and me and pushed me. I was on my hand and knees begging him to stop. I ended up pushing him to get him off me but in turn I’ve scratched his face. Now it’s been me the whole time, I’m an abuser! I’ve gauged his face, I preplanned everything etc etc…
    I now feel like it’s truly me but I can’t approach him when i feel vulnerable as I get abused. This time I fought back out of fear and defence and now everything he has done to me is insignificant and he’s done nothing wrong… I’m devastated

  5. I have been with my husband for 17 years. He now has our children thinking I’m crazy and he is wonderful. I’m so hurt and confused. I have always been a strong person so I thought… I am leaving ,he will never make me think I’m crazy because I don’t believe his lies.. He told me tonight good I’m glad your leaving your going to get it back. Great!! My mother had a sevier mental illness and I too was in foster care. I was a troubled teen and adult. I love taking care of people..( elderly). I hope I can make it… I’m not like I used to be though I cry all the time and I’m not well educated.. I can’t wait to read these books

  6. I have recently called the cops on my children’s father, we have been together for 2.5yrs and we have 2 children together. I was being Physically, Verbal, Sexual, and Emotionally abused for the last 2years. I became a working girl. Even after I fell pregnant. He didn’t care about my well being whatsoever. I have been spit on, slapped, choked, stomped on, kicked, hair pulled, thrown back and forth around the room, punched 20-30x on any given occasion, dragged, knifes pulled out, whipped with belts, pushed off my own bed, forced to drunk half a bottle of tequila or I would get punched in the head. Forced to lay on the floor, forced to get money or suffer the consequences. His words were always there’s Consequences for your actions. And no matter what I better get some money so he can have his smoke, or drink. If Not “I’m beating you” he monitored everything I did when he would go to bed, I had to go to bed. So he knew I wasn’t up messaging guys or doing anything I wasn’t suppose to do with me sneaky. He called me all types of names, and how I’m such a lil girl. And weak. When he would fight me I would be covering my face and crouching in a corner to trying blocking the blows to my head as best as I could and he would humiliate me and say Look at you! You ain’t crap, do you see yourself right now?” Your soft, a weak jerk. I should’ve never got you pregnant, I should’ve never had kids with you. Then after all that was said and done, fighting, name calling, he would tell me too roll over and why don’t you ever get completely naked…. I would think to myself how can I love on u when u just said all those horrible things of how dirty I am and I feel sick about myself now. He would send me too my room and make me sit in the room with my kids all day. Take my phone away at night and hide it.my mom was never allowed to come in MY HOUSE. I could nevery go aby where by myself, if I wAnted to go to store i couldnt run real quick he would make me take all my kids if it was only for a gallon of milk. He timed me everytime I left, and blew up my phoNE if I went to a Dr. appt or anything. He wont let me talk to him when he is around… he hates looking at me so he says. And Im not allowed to even talk to his Mom. Cause I tell her all my business and his. Which I dont, I just have no one else to talk too. So it would be what me and the kids have going on. I watch what I say and do all day around him. When I come out of my bedroom to get something to drink he watches me go to kitchen, and waits til I return to my room before he goes back to w.e it was he was doing. He says I do everything on purpose. And I’m always Lost Now, cause half the time I’m trying to just mind my own business bUT he’s trying to tell me I’m really being a sneaky trying to see what he’s up to or if he’s cheating or you hear or seen me on the phone so u think your slick coming out of the room to see who I was talking to when I only came out cause I wanted a glass of water. I can’t even eat what I want when he is around. Cuz I’m always trying to make extra problems. He complains how long it takes me to do the dishes. It’s just very miserable living with a man in MY HOUSE and I cant sit in my living room, I can’t even write in a journal he took all the paper and writing utensils in the house so I couldn’t write my feelings down or get nothing off my chest. I’m Not allowed to discuss nothing with him. There is No communication whatsoever between us. He’s told me since day 1 he runs crap no matter what. I have to explain everything I do No matter what it is… and I’m just tired people, I’m tired, I have no clue what I can do. I’M TIRED EXPLAINING MYSELF. I lost myself. I changed. I don’t know who I am anymore. I HATE MYSELF. And I turned into someone I’ve never wanted to be. I Used To Be happy, pretty, girly, independent. Now I’m fully dependent on him, no make up, stressed, losing weight, hair falling out, sad, Tom boy. He even told me to get out of bed and do something girly when I was 7 months pregnant. He told me paint your nails or do something. .. I hopped up so quick excited to do my nails. Cause if I would’ve started doing my nails he would’ve asked who I was doing them for, or accusing me of doing it for someone else so I was happy to do them. I have been feeling very isolated and I just needed to get my story out. He is in jail awaiting charges for Repeat Battery, Repeat Domestic Violence.


  8. My daughters father have been abusive since I have became pregnant. I thought he would stop. For a few months everything went well. When he got upset with me the most he would do is choke me but never hit me. Until recently, we argued over something so dumb and he punched me so hard I fell and had to get stitches. I don’t love him anymore, but I do worry for him for the sake of our daughters. I don’t want to be with him but I feel like if I’m not with him he will have no one and might end up doing something crazy. I don’t know what to do. It hurts to see my kids cry because of the fighting. He’s also not a very good parent at that. But he always wants to have sex even though I decline. I don’t know what to do.

  9. Hi help me leave my mentally and physically abusive husband..ive suffered so much In the last 7 months of marriage because he is depressed. His family have been horrible to me as well. He won’t let me go…he threatened me and kicks off if I tell him am going tp leave him. I feel trapped and abused.

  10. My on-again off-again boyfriend exploded over nothing yesterday, wouldn’t let me leave his house…took my phone, keys, etc…ripped me around by my hair, choked me unconscious (really injuring my throat), stepped in my face, hit me, kicked me…all while making all sorts of obscene threats. I repeatedly tried to reason with him…”you love me don’t do this”, etc…but he seemed hell bent on killing me. He said he was going to and I believed him, I just hoped he would stop before it ended like that. Anyways, after being in the eye of the storm like that…I realize that most people are who they are all the time, just different moods…but then there are the people who carry around vastly different personas as a substitute for normal emotional regulation because their feels are just too big to handle.
    The question is…how do I stop needing to be the cure of an abusive man and get back into me healthily?

  11. I have only realised I have been emotionally abused and blackmailed this month, after a 5 year relationship. my boyfriend came to my home where I was 100% independent, with a suitcase. I took him because he was in a bad place , drinking and smoking weed everyday, he had no confidence and was very negative when he asked me out. The first time i planned to leave him, he broke my laptop. he said i would never find a man who treats me as good as he does.
    all through the relationship, he played the victim. if i got mad i was told that i am unreasonable, and immature.
    I packed my stuff and left, when i returned home to move out, he cried, begged pleaded, and threatened to kill himself, i started speaking out to his family members, but i was told by him that i was blackening his name. he became very nasty, manipulative, saying horrible things to me, getting a reaction from me, then using the reaction against me, as i was crazy, i didn’t want him to kill himself because i cared, but he also has depression.
    Needless to say he didn’t change, he became a lot worse, the aggressive behaviour got worse, he snapped at me a lot more, said i was too hyper. He also kicked me out of my own apartment, I left quietly, why? because i would not break down, i am just tired, i left 90% of my things behind, i want to go quietly, no tears so he cannot lure me in , make me upset, so he cannot fix me and console me. i didn’t complain to anyone this time, i just had enough, he still cried and begged to take him back, all i said was you scare me. i am scared to be around you.
    this is my story, i still do not know if this is considered emotional abuse. maybe because i was so brainwashed, and told that i made him behave this way, its always my fault,its hard but i will be ok.
    Now I am open about what happened, that I was in an abusive relationship.

  12. I wasted a lot of time with my x ! Alaways wondering what happened and why ? I owned my own house made good money had freinds. Then the trickery started ! We worked on his house and mine and then one day he said why dont we put both are houses up for sale which ever one goes first will live in the other one till we find one we like together and buy it. Well mine sold first. Which was nicer. So he took his for sale sign down. And then my job dried up and i became dependent on him. I could only find part time work. Then my life became a living nightmare. It was horrable ! I finally had enough i had him arrested for hitting me and i dont regret it. Walked out the door without a dime to my name. Went to a shelter which was no picnic. Found a full time job have my own home again. Its been 6 yrs ive been away from him. And it still makes me sick to think what i went threw. I didnt know who i was. I had changed so much. People couldnt beleivr what i put up with. Do not stay with anyone that mistreats you or they will drain u of who u are emotionaly physically and finacially. No one is worth that. It isnt gonna be easy and it will take a long time to get back to who u are. But everytime u complain to someone and not do anything about it u will for sure run out of freinds then it will be strangers. Until u realize your the one that can only change the situation. Keep emergency money and take that exit out !!!

  13. I just left my abusive partner and I’m so relieved! We were together for 2 years and have a 9month baby together. Over the course of our relationship including during my pregnancy, he has blamed me for all his violent outbursts, told me to f*** off when I stand up for myself, yelled at me in my face and blocked doorways so that I couldn’t leave, tried to take my phone from me, installed gps trackers on my phone, deleted people who he thinks I shouldn’t be friends with, threatened suicide, threatened to take our baby out of the country so that I will never see her again, accused me of coming on to every single guy I speak to and so much more sh1tty behavior. My advice to anyone in a bad relationship like this is to get out ASAP and make sure you have a good support network. Life is too short to deal with petty, immature losers.

  14. I was married to a man for 10 years and should have left 3 months into first dating him. Our relationship was very rocky from the beginning and he truly was “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”‘especially when drugs and alcohol were involved. Over the course of 10 years, he was arrested for domestic violence, was given a restraining order, and Child Protective Services got involved. Men like this don’t change and you can’t help them change. They will continue to do this and you have to realize it’s not your fault. He definitely has NPD. He always wanted attention and craved it. He loves drama and nothing was ever his fault. He blamed others for his shortcomings. The sad thing about all this is that I am a successful, independent, smart woman and we have kids together. I never imagined this would happen to me, especially since I come
    from a loving and close-knit family. My advice if you are in this relationship is to get out and save yourself. You are the only person that can love yourself. Today, I’m in a healthy relationship with a man that truly loves and respects me. No one deserves to be abused and there are men out there that will treat you with love and respect.

  15. Just want to say I can relate to you. They get so mean at times you wonder why u ever got with this person in the first place. Yet we are still there taking all the b.s. and no hopes of it ever getting better. I wonder if they feel better about themselves after? I think they have evilness in them and are jealous of us women making it in the real world cause this isn’t a real life we are living. Does drugs or alcohol play a factor in it? They day that 70℅ or not do. What a trip huh.

  16. I’m in an abusive relationship, let me tell u it ain’t no laughing matter. Super jealous, very needy, always reading any paperwork I have laying around, gets mad if I even say hi to a stranger walking by who says goodmorning to us. Quick thinker ,blames me for all kinds of stuff as the reason why he had to do this or that to me.i don’t really hang out with my friends but when I do, he’s calling texting totally ruining my free time out. My friends just stare at me and say that they understand if I have to go cause they notice what I’m dealing with or what I will deal with once I go back home. I broke up with him tonight and he’s already stalking me and making stupid threats but I am in a safe place and won’t even think about going anywhere alone with him. So in case you are going thru the same b.s just always be somewhere public cause you hear on the news al these crimes of passion and just wonder why would you be the exception of not being on the news!? I’m sure those women and or men didn’t think that they would be badly hurt or even murdered.!!!! An abuser has no self control over their emotions and that’s a bad thing cause they are what they call “firecrackers”. You know they are going to go off but to what extent? Be safe and good luck out there.

  17. That sounds like my sons father. He gets enraged over the smallest things and can argue for hours. He lies and cheats and then gets mad if I ask him anything. I’m so sick of the mind games and the shouting matches. When he gets upset, he has to be in my face blocking me so I cant leave the room.

  18. Mashlya, get out while you can!!! I stayed with a bad abuser for 3 years and it was hell. You can do better, you don’t need him. Don’t worry about why he abuses, just leave him.

  19. My husband is very abusive he’s always putting me down telling me to shut up, he says he doesnt care about the way i feel and calls me names tells me he doesn’t need me in anyway and basically says that all I give to him which is everything!!

    I don’t know why he does that but I love this man with all of my heart but I’m tired of feeling like I’m the one that always starts our fights and makes the problems that we have when it’s actually him I could say the sky is purple and he would start screaming at me. I have no other family except for him and feel very lost at times.