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, also known as domestic violence or intimate partner violence (IPV) can happen in any romantic relationship (dating, cohabiting, or marriage) with current partners or ex-partners.

Partner abuse is a pattern of controlling, demeaning, and/or punishing behaviors and attitudes driven by self-centered motivations.

It takes on many forms:

    The Abusive Behaviors Continuum 

    It can be challenging to figure out whether a particular behavior is abusive because that same behavior might be properly labeled as reasonable depending on the circumstances. 

    Behaviors that are potentially abusive can be placed on a continuum that goes from non-abusive (totally healthy) to very abusive.


    Spousal abuse, emotionally abusive wife, girlfriend, woman continuum


    If a partner hits you out of genuine self-defense, then that behavior is non-abusive. If they hit you for other reasons, or use self-defense as an excuse for unwarranted aggressiveness, then that behavior moves into the abusive end of the continuum. Exactly where it is placed on the continuum depends on circumstances, how they hit, how often they hit, and other factors.


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

    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

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


    Partner Abuse May be Based in Learned Behavior

    abuse may be based on learned behavior

    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.


    An Abusive Partner May Lack Important Skills

    angry man abusing wife or girlfriend


    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.


    Abusive Behaviors May be Sourced in Unchecked Thoughts and Feelings 

    abusive behavior may be because of thoughts and feelings


    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


    Abusive Partners May be Suffering from Mental or Physical Health Issues

      why do men hit, beat, and abuse women, mental health

      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.


      Abuse in Intimate Relationships May be Stimulated by Conscious or Subconscious Drives 

       partner abuse two women


      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.


      Abusive Behaviors and Attitudes May be Driven by a Variety of Other Motivations

        why do men abuse, hit, beat women, wives, girlfriends, self-defense, retaliation

        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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        • Ann Silvers
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