I rarely see women who are in an abusive relationship. I often see them when they have come out of an abusive relationship though. Sometimes this is when they are trying to get their lives back together or sometimes it’s something that happened in their past and they have moved on.
I often ask these clients a particular question. When I first asked this, I was afraid of a backlash and being accused of blaming the victim but I knew it had to be asked. The question is: “Why did you get into the relationship in the first place”. Sometimes they will tell me that he was charming and they did’t see the real person until they were married, or they saw him as a misunderstood rebel and so on. I ask them if their friends or family liked the person and often the answer is no. They saw through him.
I have never had a backlash to the question and often the client will say that they have asked themselves the same thing. The reason this question has to be asked is because unless you can understand why you went into the relationship in the first place, you may well make the same mistake again. But of course, this goes against the tide of blaming the victim. The victim of domestic violence has to see their responsibility in the events that happened in their life.
There’s a lot of nonsense in the media about the type of man who are violent to their partners. (There’s probably as much violence against men but that’s for a another time). And many articles identify the cause as being a ‘macho’ mentality in men. Blaming a ‘macho’ culture is misguided. Many of these men see themselves as protecting of women who they see as the weaker sex. In a different context such a generalisation would be seen as racism. There are marches protesting against violence against women, and probably some men on those marches are violent to their partners.
However, in practice there is a particular type of man who often comes up as being violent to their partner. It’s the kind of man who may be considered nerdy. Often these men put women on a pedestal and see them as goddesses. The problem is that when they get married or settle down with a partner they realise that their partner doesn’t meet these completely unrealistic expectations. And so they get violent. The thinking is ‘If you were a real women you wouldn’t… get angry or not do as you’re told or argue etc’. These are the men who seem charming and deferential at the start of the relationship. Not all ‘nerdy’ men become violent of course, but we have to understand the psychology of the minds of the men and the women in abusive relationships.
Of course, many women have an unrealistic ideal about men but that’s for another blog.