Love Shouldn't Hurt. A Battered Husband's Story.
Most people don't understand the depth and frequency of domestic violence against men by abusive wives and girlfriends.
Would you know how to help a friend if he said, "My wife beats me up. What should I do?" Would you even take him seriously?
Reading this battered husband's story can help open your eyes to the reality of physical abuse when it is perpetrated by a woman on a man.
As a counselor and author of Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, and It's Time to Get Real About It, I've heard many stories of partner abuse in all its forms and gender configurations.
Tom reached out to me when, at 72, he decided to publicly talk about his years of being abused by his former wife. I invited him to write this post so that other's can benefit from his experience and the insight he gained from coming out the other side of an extremely abusive relationship.
Tom's experiences as the target of physical abuse at the hands (and feet) of his wife represent common threads I have heard in other cases of domestic violence by women.
Tom's Story in His Own Words
If I had one wish for this blog post it would be to help my fellow males (and females who may also be reading this) to know that men can be physically abused by a woman. Yes, a big guy can be physically and mentally abused by a much smaller woman. Size doesn’t matter.
Forty years ago, I probably would have thought after reading the above paragraph, “What’s this guy talking about or smokin’?”
I would also have thought that there is no such thing as male abuse by a woman. I mean, men are usually bigger and stronger than women. Seriously, a woman beating up a man just didn’t fit my mindset then.
At that time, I had never heard about men being victims of domestic violence. I never read about it, saw it in the movies or on TV, or talked with other men who said they had been physically abused by a woman.
That’s how I thought 40 years ago. Not today!
The most shocking thing is that I didn’t recognize that a woman could physically abuse a man even though I was living it.
I married my now-ex in 1976.
During our 20-year marriage, we had two children and many happy times. Unfortunately, she also created numerous horrible events including many extremely violent abusive times.
I was beaten in the face, strangled, jumped on, and one time at 3 am while sound asleep—kicked in my back. (BTW she was a marathon runner and her legs where extremely strong.)
I’m a big guy. I’m tall and I’m big. I was afraid that I would hurt my wife if I resisted her attacks so I put my hands in my back pockets to make sure that didn't happen.
In 1989, I had leveraged my truck leasing expertise, somehow borrowed $2,000,000 and bought a small truck leasing company. At 40, I was living the dream of having my own company, planning to get rich, and very proud of myself.
Over the next several years, I was measuring up to all the criteria that I set for myself. I had an excellent social life with plenty of friends, grew my company, drove a nice car, had an wonderful house in a great community, and children in private schools.
One fateful day, I walked into my office, which I shared with Les, my bookkeeper, and went right to work as I normally did, picking up my phone to make a call.
Les swung around in his chair to exchange the customary good morning pleasantries with me, but instead, he asked what had happened to me.
I wondered what he was referring to. Had something happened to me that I wasn’t aware of? Did I have a stain on my shirt or grease on my face?
I recall asking him what he was talking about. To that he said, “What is that 6-inch long scabby cut across your cheek?”
I paused and thought for a moment. I replied nonchalantly, “Oh that. My wife hit me.”
I immediately turned my focus back to making my call.
Les kept staring in amazement at me, and said back, “Your wife did that?”
I recall thinking well yeah, that’s what I just said. Instead, I simply said, “Yeah, is it bleeding?” I wasn’t sure what his point was.
Les answered that no it’s not bleeding, and then he said something that changed my life forever. He said, “Do you know you are an abused spouse?”
No one had ever suggested that to me before. I certainly couldn’t have known that for myself, as in hindsight I wasn’t able to feel feelings etc. at that time. I couldn’t see certain realities very well. I had little or no emotions. I was like a robot moving through the world.
I don’t want to paint the picture that at that exact moment everything changed for the better. It didn’t. But it was the moment I had the first thoughts that being hit by my wife wasn’t normal.
My next thought was, “And this is not the first time either.” But I didn’t say it out loud.
There had been hundreds of abusive violent acts by her towards me. At that moment, they flooded my mind. Even though only seconds had passed. I began to see things differently!
I recall thinking that if my daughter or a friend was abused or hit, I’d suggest they get out of the situation. If necessary, I would also defend them. Yet for the very first time I was recognizing and admitting to myself that I was being abused. It was like waking up from a nightmare into a nightmare.
Why Had I Put Up With Being Beaten-Up by My Wife?
I began questioning why. Why didn’t I tell myself to get out of the abusive situation? Why did I let it go on for almost 20 years?
I remember thinking no one says to themselves, “Hey I think I’ll marry an angry abusive person who is going to beat the crap out of me.” Yet I did! My question was why?
While the answer to the why question is complex and different for each of us, over time and with a lot of help, I learned that I had other unresolved issues prior to that marriage that lead me to accept her abuse.
I thought that I had love and happiness as I had what the Jones had. I had what the TV and movies showed as markers of a successful life, but I was absent from feeling and didn’t know it until that day with Les. I was a non-feeling non-emotional sort of robot.
I now realize that had I not stopped and gotten help, like I did, I would have continued to accept these types of toxic relationships.
When I recognized that my abuser would never change, I instigated divorce.
Sadly, I only got 50% custody of my children even though it was evident that they too were subject to her abuse. The law in general supports women and does not believe men can be abused. (That needs to change!)
I got lots of therapy. I read and studied a great deal and to this day I work very hard on living happily. I have learned how to handle almost anything life can throw at me, yet now I feel every bit of it! I am now 100% human as my higher power intended me to be. Life is a wonderous place to be.
I discovered that not all women are like my ex. My second marriage has been long and happy.
My Advice to Others
I had no one to seek help from during my days of abuse. I had no one I could simply talk with. I had friends and family but, in hindsight, they were not loving people who would have been there for me.
If you have people who are able to be loving and supportive, reach out to them. Let them in. Tell them what you are going through.
If you do not have a safe support group, try to find some. There is help but you must recognize you need it and love yourself enough to follow it through.
As a friend of mine once said: be willing to live in your car. Not that you should. However, if living in your car is safer than home, live in your car and get help.
No one, especially spouses, and so-called friends or siblings should ever hurt you in any way. If you wait and hope things will change, they will not. If you think you are stronger and can rise above it, you cannot.
If you can relate to any part of my story, please seek guidance and help. Marriages are not supposed to be painful.
Help for Abused Men and Abusive Women
If you are a man in a relationship with an abusive wife or girlfriend, make a safety plan to keep yourself and your kids safe. This post explains safety plans: How to Make a Safety Plan if She is Violent.
If Tom's story resonates with you, or you want to learn more about what partner abuse looks like when a woman abuses a man, and what can be done about it, then check out my book Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, and It's Time to Get Real About It.
- Ann Silvers