I read a great blog post about a horrible thing, an abused woman. It was called; “For the Love of Erika Parker”, by Kendall F. Person. It prompted me to tell a story that I had kept between friends for a while now.
This friend of mine, who will remain nameless for obvious reasons, told me about the slow death of his self-esteem. He battled something that you hear very little about. He was a husband who was being abused by his wife. It’s a joke to many. Too often the abuse of men is disregarded against the plight of women and the historical and continual abuse suffered at the hands of men.
Let’s try to focus solely on the abuse of men, not by men…
Men are strong carriers of burden and responsibility, and are not allowed to show the weakness of emotions. Emotions get in the way of success, and reveal vulnerabilities that could destroy their image of strength. Sometimes that image is the only thing driving a man towards success. Strength is a part of our DNA, our identity. This doesn’t mean women cannot be strong, but this IS a part of who we think we are supposed to be as men.
What happens when a man’s strength is challenged by someone he cannot, nor wants to, defend himself against?
What happens when roles are reversed?
What happens when a husband is abused by his wife?
My friend X, was not an overtly masculine guy. As in, he did not try to show everyone in the room how much of a man he was at every given opportunity. He loved sports, and was pretty good at them, not great but good. He worked out a lot, drank beer with the guys, and did and said typical guy things.
You would never know it by looking at him, because the last thing he would reveal was the torment his wife was causing in their marriage. They looked so perfect on the outside. They were the life of the party, funny, beautiful, and exciting.
Abuse comes in many forms, with the most common being physical and mental (or emotional). The problem when a man experiences physical abuse from his wife, for whatever reason, it becomes more of a mental abuse. When a woman abuses a defenseless man, as any man should be with a woman unless they are protecting themselves from potential death, that man suffers from emasculation. He literally feels like less of a man. That bravado, that strength and confidence slowly erodes into complete worthlessness.
Does a slap to the face hurt? Only temporarily.
Does a purse to the face hurt? For a minute or two.
Does a plate or glass thrown at you, missing and shattering above you on the wall scare you? Absolutely.
These physical acts are but moments in time, and easily forgotten, but the scars leave their mark on the soul whether they realize it or not.
What happens during the evolving abuse, is the exploitation of weakness. Or at least what the wife sees as weakness.
When X didn’t fight back, and allowed the physically random fist to connect with the nose; his abuser grew more bold. He was no longer wearing armor, so she made him feel pain like no other person could induce. Why not use all of the hot buttons, life fears, and stresses she knew about her lover to inflict pain on him? Pain she felt he deserved!?
She would spend the next several years breaking X down into an unrecognizable ghost of his former self. She let him know every time she thought he was gaining weight, or needed to “do some push ups”. She played nice, like she was just giving a gentle push of encouragement, but it was constant and nice only when she chose.
She would make subtle faces of disgust at his sexual advancements. She wanted him to know that he was inferior to her.
No one could see that X’s personality had become an act. He was portraying the character of his past self, just barely remembering the part.
Over time her complaining about their stature in life, and reminders of past promises on the future, became her main assault. Her backups were trusty go to’s, physical aggressiveness and appearance related verbal grenade lobs.
He eventually believed he was a failure. He believed he was ugly. He believed he was fat, and unworthy of his wife. He eventually started to believe all her torture was something that he deserved.
He hated himself.
She agreed with his self-hatred.
Does any of this sound familiar? It is easy to assume that only women go through this, but that would be a fallacy of great significance.
Whether it was right or wrong, X freed himself. It did not take long for him to realize who he was again. What did take long was believing it was true. To this day, X tells me that he has a hard time believing in himself. He doesn’t believe people when they compliment him. He struggles with his self-image, and self-love.
He does not remember the temporary physical pain, but those scars on his soul are callused and encompass his identity. Trusting again will always be hard, but being free from abuse is worth the hard road ahead.
At least he is free. At least he has the opportunity to know himself again.
This is a reminder, that no matter how society tries to break us down into categories, we all experience pain and hopefully love. Very few issues are truly only for one group and one group alone. Abuse happens to men more frequently than anyone would guess. Men wear their armor, and pretend to be okay, but that is usually a lie they tell themselves.
I doubt this little story will do much to open the world’s eyes to a glossed over atrocity, but at least you who are reading this, know the struggles of one man.
X was abused, but today we celebrate his freedom!
Here are a few helpful resources for the abused. If you suspect or know someone, don’t be afraid to give love through support. Take a chance, it may save someone from a lot of pain.