This is a kind of a male version of the “He Might Not Hit You” articles and memes doing the rounds this year. I’m not one to dwell on the past, but occasionally my previous relationship still comes up in conversations. My partner said something to me the other week that had me taken aback. “It sounds to me as if your ex-wife was abusive, from a certain point of view.”
And I think she’s right. As men, we don’t tend to think of women’s volatile and controlling behaviour as abusive, but that is exactly what it is. We tend to stick with the narrative of woman as victim and man as perpetrator and label her behaviour as “henpecking” – something unpleasant but ultimately harmless. Even when she does shitty things, we presume that a man did something to provoke her. It’s how we enable women who cheat, after all.
Here are some ways women abuse men in their lives without lifting a finger to physically harm him.
Maybe She Doesn’t Hit You, But She Always Puts You Down
My ex never put me down, thankfully. However, this is the most common form of psychological abuse by any abuser against the victim that is not physical abuse. It is the most common form of abuse when the woman is the perpetrator and the man is the victim. She makes you feel small and insignificant. She tells you “you’ll be nothing without me”. She puts you down to her friends, your friends, and your respective families. She will also use the damsel in distress technique to stir up sympathy, even implying that you are such an awful partner that she can’t cope.
Maybe She Doesn’t Hit You, But She Cheats and Blames You
This is one I did experience. She may use any number of excuses: you’re not the man she met. You don’t fulfil her needs in bed (but you do and you both know you do – all you get in return is criticism). You don’t pay her any attention (but she has made it that she’s the centre of your life as she slowly pushes your friends out). She is not responsible for her actions. Once again, society enables this shitty behaviour in promoting “Damsel in Distress”. No matter how bad a woman acts, it’s never her fault.
Maybe She Doesn’t Hit You, But She Wants You Co-Dependent
I did experience this, and to a degree she got her wish. Even the strongest independent spirit would have struggled to resist her unhealthy co-dependent relationship with her mother. It may be a slow war of attrition or it may be picking constant fights about your friends and family, but she wants to cut you off from the people around you. She never wants to see your family at Christmas and will be actively hostile to the notion of spending time with your family for a change. She doesn’t like it when you go out with friends. It gets to the point that she will become so volatile when you do, that you will simply stop – realising that it’s not worth the hassle of another argument because you got back five minutes later than she demanded.
Maybe She Doesn’t Hit You, But She Sets You Up to Lose Every Argument
Been there, done this too. If you ask her to go with you when invited out by friends, you’re forcing her out against her will. If you leave it to her to decide, that’s you telling her you don’t want her by your side. She is manipulative and strives to make you look like the unreasonable one in everything. She wants an expensive holiday – you tell her you can’t afford it, so she sulks. You suggest a shorter holiday or somewhere cheaper and she digs her heals in until she gets what she wants, even bringing in her friends or family against you. Every time, she wants everyone to see that you are the one who will not budge despite that she will eventually get her way on everything.
Maybe She Doesn’t Hit You, But She Has No Respect For Your Wishes or Views
Yep, this one too. She knew I didn’t want children (ever). She knew I wanted to wait to get married until we had some stability and at least, both of us in work. She knew we couldn’t afford the expensive honeymoon, but she dug her heels in, completely dismissing my protests and putting enormous pressure on me to change my mind. When she has no respect for your wishes, your opinions count for nothing. When she does ask for your opinion, it’s only so she can talk you out of it or tell you why you are wrong. No, you can’t watch your programme on TV, but it will never be that she will miss hers – and you must learn to like it. What sort of boyfriend/husband are you? Don’t you care about her interests? And, of course, the same never applies the other way around. She won’t watch sport because it’s a load of crap, but if you don’t want to watch a documentary about sewing with her, then you’re being selfish.