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Why Do Men Stay in Abusive Relationships?
By Barrington H. Brennen

Question: Dear Sir: I know of many wives who find it difficult to leave an abusive husband. Last week you explained why that is so. I do not understand, however why men would stay with abusive wives. Wouldnít it be easier for men to leave? Why do men stay in abusive relationships?

Answer: Dear Reader: Thank you for your question. Many of us would not want to admit that many men, living with abusive wives, find it difficult to leave the relationship. Yes, statistically there are more abusive husbands than there are abusive wives. We also know that men are more prone to controlling and violence than women are. However, we also know that there are some women who, without reason, are belligerent, angry, and violently aggressive. Their husbands do not know what to do to please them. These wives are unashamedly very loud and boisterous, excessively critical, mostly emotionally but sometimes physically abusive. Yes, men can be abused, too, and not because they are "wimps." Although the situation is somewhat different and usually involves mostly emotional abuse, and even though it is usually easier - financially speakingĖfor a man to leave the relationship, men often stay for various reasons.

In a world where so much is expected of men (unreasonably so), and where the men are traditionally raised to be the controllers of things and people, most men are ashamed to admit that their wives are beating them up. Why then do they stay? Let me share with you five reasons, according to writer Nora Pina, why men stay in abusive relationships. I will add one more reason at the end of the list.

Denial: He may feel her abuse is caused by her emotional personality, PMS, or other hormone fluctuations. He decides to ignore her abuse because he loves her and wants the relationship to continue.

Love: In spite of the abuse, he may find enough good in the relationship to "make up" for the abuse. Often men do not see the pain and problems in marriage as easily as wives do. Men are usually more quick to forgive and forget.

Financial: He may stay, not because he wouldn't be able to support himself, but because of the prospect of paying child support and alimony or dividing the marital assets. He may choose to stay until the children are grown and then leave.

Fear: While a man may stay out of fear, it is more often fear of what she will do to herself, rather than what she might do to him. Abusive women often threaten suicide if her partner leaves. Additionally, she may have threatened to make trouble for him at his job.

Insulation: It may be easier for a man to avoid or ignore abusive incidents if he has a demanding job, or reasons to be away from home regularly.

He Needs Her: Most men are raised to depend on women to "take care of them." These women would keep their clothes clean and cook their food. In addition, they need the women to satisfy their sexual needs. Some men have low self esteem, made worse by an abusive wife. To avoid sharing their pain and answering many questions, they stay and "rough it out."

It is not surprising that women would also try to control and abuse men. The idea that women would become abusive and controlling was predicted in the Bible in Genesis 3:16. This is a verse that has been misunderstood for centuries. God told Eve that one of the results of sin would be " . . . Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." Our emphasis has always been on the man "ruling" his wife and we have overlooked the impact and meaning of the word "desire." The traditional understanding of the words "desire" and "rule" causes many to make a conclusion that the womanís actions would be subdued and the manís would be more aggressive and controlling. This is far from the truth. A deep research of the actual words used in the original language gives us a totally different picture.

Theologian Dr. John Temple Bristow, in his book "What the Bible Really Says About Love, Marriage, and Family," speaks about the mistranslations of the words. Many interpret the passage to mean that since men are to "rule" letís raise them to be strong and in charge. Since women are to "desire" their husbands, letís raise them to be submissive and quiet. Hence, our society has gone mad as a result of a misunderstanding of two simple words in the Bible--desire and rule.

Dr. Bristow points out that the Hebrew word translated "desire," or "teshuqah," is neither pleasant nor a romantic word. The word "teshuqah" was wrongly translated "desire." Teshuqah is "an insatiable desire to control a person. Eve was told that Adam would rule over her and that she would "desire" him, meaning that she would want to control him. He would be domineering, yes, and she would also be manipulative, cunning and controlling. Each of them, man and woman, would try to control the other." This understanding explains the mess we have in relationships today. Not every woman tries to control her man, just as not every man tries to do the same.

It must be clearly understood that these verses are only explaining the consequences of the bad choices Adam and Eve made, and not what God had planned for them. This is the "curse of sin." God sent his Son Jesus to remove the "curse of sin" through His death on the cross. If we accept Him as our Savior, we are no longer condemned by the curse of sin. Then, as sinners saved by grace, neither man nor woman should control or abuse each other.

I appeal to wives to love their husbands as "Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it." To cherish and honor their husbands as they are to cherished and honored. What a different country we would have if women and men would love each other instead of trying to control, abuse, or manipulate.

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April 26, 2000, TAGnet / Network Solutions

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