Thanks for your prayers this weekend. They were much needed and appreciated. My time at Wheaton College was well received and the staff that attended were open to looking at the mistakes people helpers make when working with individuals and couples in destructive relationships.
While I was speaking at Loving Well Marriage Weekend at Wheaton College Church a man approached me and said he had read my material years ago and it helped him understand better what was going on in his marriage. His wife was toxic and abusive. His church encouraged him to patiently forbear. He was grateful for my work that provided him a clear Biblical alternative.
Recently I’ve encountered more men who experience marital abuse, both verbal and physical. Sadly there is not a lot of conversation about marital abuse when the victim is male. Even less so in the Christian community. Imagine how alone and isolated these men feel without a community of other men who know what they’ve been through and who offer loving Biblical support as the women here on this site receive.
Women are not immune to becoming abusive. As many of you know, my own mother was abusive and I have a close male family member who was verbally and emotionally squashed by his wife. Today’s question comes from a man who wants to know why I don't talk more about men being abused.
Today’s Question: Why is there so little conversation about abusive wives and mothers? I have been hit more times than I can remember by my wife. I have had glasses, saucepans and other hard objects thrown at me. There has been damage to my car, a fist through the wall, confiscation of my things to make me late for or miss work.
I have seen her punch my then teenage son in the face and deny it minutes later. I have seen her slap my then-teenage daughter's face over and over and over. We have all, at some point been dragged around by our hair. I have walked inside and seen clumps of hair on the floor from my wife grabbing my daughter's hair in an argument.
Yet in all of this, my wife draws on information from psychologists and even this site and says that I am the abuser and that I am a narcissist. I acknowledge that I have failed many times to be the loving supportive husband my wife wants. I have delved into pornography and kept distant from her emotionally. On the other hand, I do not want to be intimate emotionally with someone who shows such little respect for her family.
My wife is very pleasant to other people and often generous to some. But there is no acknowledgment of hurt, or the need to apologize to my children or myself. I feel as though she will never be satisfied unless I am a male version of herself. It feels very controlling and the blame is always focused on me. I can be on the phone with her for over an hour quite often, but in that hour, I am unlikely to be able to finish a sentence.
Please acknowledge that this stuff happens to men too. I have a loving relationship with our kids, but my son especially (now 24) has very infrequent contact with his Mom. He has pleaded with me not to go back to live with her.
Answer: First, let me say that if your wife is on this site she has never received any endorsement from me or anyone else on this blog to excuse or justify her behaving the way you describe. Even if she believed that you are a narcissist, it does not excuse her actions. That would be repaying evil for evil, which is clearly ungodly. If she is doing what you describe, she is behaving abusively.
But may I ask you why you have not stepped in to protect your children from her physical abuse? Why have you allowed her to repeatedly slap them, punch your son in the face, pull their hair until it comes out of their head with no consequence? If you were a woman I would ask you the same question. God has entrusted your children to you and your wife to protect and nurture, and if one of you is consistently behaving badly towards them, why are you witnessing it but not intervening to protect them? Help me to understand what has kept you passive and silent?
Second, I agree with you. Men are not taken seriously as victims of domestic abuse. Here are some sobering facts.
- Men indeed have fewer resources to help them then women have. The only national toll-free helpline for men is the Domestic Abuse Helpline (888-743- 5754). Go to their website to find other helpful websites and resources for men who are abused. www.dahmw.org. There are very few shelters (out of 1,200-1,800 DV shelters) that offer services to men.
- Men are less likely to be supported or validated. Men who report abuse are often seen as wimpy, frail, passive, or stupid, thus making it much more likely that they won’t report. Suzanne Steinmentz, director of the Family Research Institute at Indiana University/Purdue said, “They [men] wouldn’t dream of reporting the kind of minor abuse – – such as slapping or kicking – – that women routinely report.” Why not? Because men are supposed to “take it like a man.”
- Society doesn’t deem men as “victims” and we tend to perceive women more vulnerable than men, therefore abuse by a woman toward a man may seem more justified or excusable than abuse by a man toward a woman. A recent study revealed that more than 51% of men and 52% of women felt that sometimes it was appropriate for a wife to slap her husband. On the other hand, only 26% of men and 21% of women felt it was ever appropriate for a husband to slap his wife.
- A man calling the police to report domestic abuse is three times more likely to be arrested than the woman who is abusing him. This makes him afraid to report, thus making the statistics for abuse of men higher than we know.
- When a woman is abusive, she is more likely to be seen as “sick” and labeled with a mental health diagnosis. People tend to be more compassionate toward someone labeled sick. When a man is abusive, he is more likely to be labeled with entitlement issues, power and control problems, character defects or sin problems. Compassion is directed toward the female victim, not the male offender.
Third, you’re right, I don’t talk much about men being victims. This site and my ministry has primarily focused on women being the ones who have been oppressed. My book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship talked about both men and women being victims of destructive individuals. However, after The Emotionally Destructive Marriage was released, my ministry focused more on women. There are many reasons for this but the simple answer is, that is where God has called me to be. That doesn't’ mean I’ve never helped a man in a destructive marriage, I have and will continue to do so. But my primary audience is women who want to please God, who want to be able to know how to handle being in a destructive marriage in a godly way. That’s why I am so shocked your wife would be reading this blog and believe that she is entitled to behave as you describe.
Although there is not a lot written about domestic abuse from a Christian perspective, Christian women experience extra pressure to be submissive to their domineering and oppressive spouses. A Christian man would not receive the same advice, although he might be counseled to be long-suffering and forbearing. I also think there would be more pastoral support for him to take a leadership position in his home and implement strong consequences and clear boundaries towards a wife that was being unruly, abusive, and destructive.
But the bottom line is: domestic abuse isn’t a woman’s problem or a man’s problem it is a human problem, it’s a sin problem and it’s a tragedy (Click To Tweet).
Let’s pray that Christian leaders, especially more male leaders, will take a more proactive role in helping both men and women address and heal the violence in their heart and their home.
I pray you are getting help for your children as well as for yourself. God gives wisdom for both the victim and abuser to heal and to change so that generational patterns can be broken. But that will only happen as they find support and encouragement to speak up and speak out about this sin so that they can receive the help they and their loved ones desperately need.
Friend, Do you feel women are given different biblical counsel than men are when they live with a destructive spouse? Men, if you are in a destructive marriage, what advice have you received from pastors and Christian counselors on what you should do?