A few years ago one of my baby boomer girlfriends came to me in tears. She had been married for about 10 years at the time and her relationship with her husband had always been a bit rocky. But the tears were over something that had come out of the blue and she just couldn’t even comprehend.
“You”, he told her, “have been abusing me throughout our marriage”.
“What on earth are you talking about,” she responded. “I have never touched you”.
“No, not physical abuse, but you are guilty of another type of abuse – emotional abuse,” he said. “You constantly tell me I’m dumb. You might not be hitting me but your words are doing just as much damage over a long time”.
Predictably, their conversation ended in an all-out yelling match, which had added to her deep distress at the accusation.
I tried to do what I could to calm my friend down, and suggested that maybe they should both get some counselling, but she and her husband split up soon afterwards. The accusation was the final nail in the coffin of their relationship.
I will never know if my girlfriend was guilty of emotional abuse, but the fact she was accused of it highlights what is a very real problem in some relationships.
Here is what one male Starts at 60 reader posted on a story we ran about domestic violence some time ago, decrying the fact that most articles he had read were about women being abused.
“Why do articles like this always paint the female as the abused victim?” he wrote.
“Emotional abuse is a female ‘weapon’. I know, I lived it on and off for nearly 20 years.
“I was constantly being told I was ‘stupid’ that I ‘didn’t know’ and got abused for ‘extravagance’ when I bought McCains frozen peas instead of home brand.
“And the man just has to take it, if he reacts in any way, his abuser has the full force of the law and public opinion on her side. He doesn’t even have to physically assault her to be condemned.
“How many times have you seen a woman giving her husband a ‘mouthful’ in public, compared to the reverse?”
So, while we tend to hear more about domestic violence being perpetrated on women, it seems men can be on the receiving end of domestic violence and emotional abuse too. Even words can be a damaging weapon if you don’t think about what you are saying and think about the impact on the person you are saying them too. And sometimes we don’t even know we are doing them.
Has any male you know ever encountered emotional abuse like that described above? Tell us your experience.