Patriarchy Isn't The Only or Main Reason for Partner Abuse

Patriarchy Isn't The Only or Main Reason for Partner Abuse


The over emphasis of patriarchy as the reason for partner abuse and domestic violence is ill-placed and actually gets in the way of reducing the occurrence of partner abuse and thwarts repairing people's lives. 

What's in This Post

 What is partner abuse?
 The Patriarchal Cause Theory
 Why Abusive People Abuse Their Partners
 Reasons for Behavior Don't Excuse Behavior 
 71 Reasons Why Partners Abuse


Partner abuse books by Ann Silvers


What is partner abuse?

Let's begin by defining partner abuse:

Partner abuse is bullying within a romantic relationship. It is a pattern of controlling, demeaning, and/or punishing behaviors and attitudes with a dating, cohabiting, or marriage partner, during or after the relationship.

At its core, partner abuse is driven by self-centered motivations.

The Patriarchal Cause Theory

Many people working in the field of partner abuse and domestic violence think that:

(a) partner abuse is a male-to-female problem, and

(b) it occurs because of a patriarchal society.

I disagree with both (a) and (b).

Partner abuse happens in all sorts of gender configurations in straight and LGBTQ relationships. 

The theory that partner abuse is because of patriarchy locks the door to recognition that partner abuse is not just a male-to-female thing. It supplies a one-size-fits-all explanation of partner abuse that in reality fits-very-few. 



Attachment to patriarchy as the one and only cause of DV is one of the reasons why it is so hard for people to recognize abuse of men by women when they see it or are living it.

Click here to see the other 7 reasons I've noticed for why this happens.  

Why is it So Hard To Recognize Abuse OF Men BY Women as a Problem?



Why Abusive People Abuse Their Partners

My Why Partners Abuse list has 71 possible reasons. Only one of them is patriarchy. There are 70 other answers to the question: Why do people abuse their wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, partners?

People always have reasons for thinking what they think and doing what they do. They may not be good or healthy reasons. They may not be rational or logical reasons. They may not be conscious reasons.

We are each made up of our biology (genetics and health), everything that’s ever happened to us, and everything we’ve ever been exposed to. That combination creates our thoughts—both conscious and subconscious—and feelings in the moment. Thoughts and feelings lead to behavior.

thoughts feelings behaviors



Reasons for Behavior Don't Excuse Behavior 

In presenting this list of reasons people may behave abusively, I am not excusing away the behavior.

Discovering why someone does something is an important step in figuring out how to help the people involved. 


Reasons for behavior don't excuse behavior


71 Reasons Why Partners Abuse

Note: A combination of factors may work together to create an individual’s abusive behaviors and attitudes, or there may be one predominant reason.

An individual may have learned abusive behaviors from:

1. being pampered as a child,

2. being abused as a child,

3. being bullied,

4. bullying others,

5. previous abuse by another woman or man,

6. witnessing their father abuse their mother,

7. witnessing their mother abuse their father, or

8. a society that supports abuse toward partners (male or female), ie patriarchy or anti-male sentiment.


They may lack skill in:

9. dealing with emotions,

10. taking care of themself,

11. managing their anger,

12. budgeting money,

13. being assertive, or

14. communication.


They may be any of the following:

15. frustrated

16. exhausted

17. stressed

18. feeling threatened (emotionally, mentally, physically, financially . . .)

19. confusing aggression with assertiveness

20. driven by dichotomous (black/white, polarized) thinking

21. unaware of the effect of their actions

22. insecure

23. over-reactive

24. a perfectionist

25. an adrenaline junkie

26. hormonally challenged (ie too much or too little testosterone, menopausal, PMS, on steroids...)

27. projecting their own ways of thinking, doing, or being onto their partner

28. lazy

29. addicted to shopping, gambling, sex . . .

30. abusing alcohol or drugs

31. self-centered

32. a woman-hater or man-hater

33. drawn to the game of abuse

34. histrionic

35. narcissistic

36. sociopathic

37. just plain mean

They may have:

38. low self-esteem,

39. poor impulse control,

40. physical illness,

41. a brain injury,

42. dementia,

43. depression,

44. anxiety,

45. a bipolar disorder,

46. posttraumatic stress, or

47. borderline personality.

They may want to:

48. be heard,

49. get their partner's attention,

50. better their position,

51. get their way,

52. punish their partner for the partner's “wrongs,”

53. punish this woman or man for the “wrongs” of women/men in general or another woman/man in particular,

54. compensate for past experiences of not having control over their life,

55. push the target of their abuse into doing something “bad,”

56. avoid responsibility,

57. feel superior,

58. trap the partner,

59. distract from something they have done, or

60. feel powerful.

They may be motivated by:

61. fear,

62. self-defense,

63. need to protect others,

64. love (potentially distorted love),

65. hatred,

66. selfishness,

67. jealousy,

68. personal gain (status, legal, financial . . .),

69. retaliation,

70. revenge (for real or imagined wrongs), or

71. obsession.




Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, and It's Time to Get Real About It

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