Why do men abuse women?

Why do men abuse women?


Why do men verbally, physically, emotionally, financially, psychologically, sexually . . . abuse women who are their partners?

The overarching conscious or subconscious goals of partner abuse are to demean, control, or punish; but why does a particular man treat his partner that way?


A quick look at Partner Abuse: A Concise Overview of Domestic Violence, Emotional Abuse, and the 5 Other Forms of Partner Abuse in Straight and LGBTQ Relationships



Some people think that there is only one reason why a man abuses a woman. They blame it 100% on patriarchy. They think it is always and only about male privilege. But I think that there are many reasons why a particular man might abuse his wife or girlfriend. 

My Why Men are Abusive to Women list has 71 possible reasons. Only one of them is patriarchy. There are 70 other answers to the question: Why do men abuse women?

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 and feelings are created by 3 things. Emotional Intelligence Tip.


Why are men abusive to women?

There is a long list of possible answers to the question of why a particular man exhibits potentially abusive behaviors toward his wife or girlfriend. He may be anything from well-intentioned but unaware that what he is doing is as destructive as it is—to being a full-blown malicious sociopath.

Knowing why someone does something can help you understand that person better and help them understand themselves better. But understanding why isn’t the end of it. Reasons for behavior don’t excuse behavior. There has to be a willingness to use the information found in the “why” to figure out how to change.


Reasons for Behavior don't excuse behavior.


Adults are responsible for recognizing when their behaviors and attitudes are harmful to themselves or others and then doing the work to figure out how to stop. At some point, it no longer matters why he does what he does; it only matters whether he chooses to change and whether his partner is up for giving him another chance.


71 Answers to the Question: Why are Men Abusive to Women?

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


A man 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,
  6. witnessing his father abuse his mother,
  7. witnessing his mother abuse his father, or
  8. a patriarchal society.

    He may lack skill in:

    1. dealing with emotions,
    2. taking care of himself,
    3. managing his anger,
    4. budgeting money,
    5. being assertive, or
    6. communication. 


    He may be any of the following:

    1. frustrated
    2. exhausted
    3. stressed
    4. feeling threatened (emotionally, mentally, physically, financially . . .)
    5. confusing aggression with assertiveness
    6. driven by dichotomous thinking
    7. unaware of the effect of his actions
    8. insecure
    9. over-reactive
    10. a perfectionist
    11. an adrenaline junkie
    12. hormonally challenged (ie too much or too little testosterone, on steroids...) 
    13. projecting his own ways of thinking, doing, or being onto her
    14. lazy
    15. addicted to shopping, gambling, sex . . .
    16. abusing alcohol or drugs
    17. self-centered
    18. a woman-hater
    19. drawn to the game of abuse
    20. histrionic
    21. narcissistic
    22. sociopathic
    23. just plain mean

       He may have:

      1. low self-esteem,
      2. poor impulse control,
      3. physical illness,
      4. a brain injury,
      5. dementia,
      6. depression,
      7. anxiety,
      8. a bipolar disorder,
      9. posttraumatic stress, or
      10. borderline personality.


      He may want to:

      1. be heard,
      2. get her attention,
      3. better his position,
      4. get his way,
      5. punish her for her “wrongs,”
      6. punish this woman for the “wrongs” of women in general or another woman in particular,
      7. compensate for past experiences of not having control over his life,
      8. push the target of his abuse into doing something “bad,”
      9. avoid responsibility,
      10. feel superior,
      11. trap his woman,
      12. distract from something he has done, or
      13. feel powerful.

        He may be motivated by:

        1. fear,
        2. self-defense,
        3. need to protect others,
        4. love (potentially distorted love),
        5. hatred,
        6. selfishness,
        7. jealousy,
        8. personal gain (status, legal, financial . . .),
        9. retaliation,
        10. revenge (for real or imagined wrongs), or
        11. obsession. 


        For More Help 

        I describe each reason why a person is potentially abusive in my book about partner abuse when the genders are reversed:

        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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