Your Verbally Abusive Wife, What Can You Do?
Almost every abused man struggles with admitting he has a verbally abusive wife, so they do not seek support as readily as women do. There is hardly any support available specifically for men, gay or straight, if they want to leave an abusive relationship. The simple explanation is that most research on domestic abuse historically focuses on verbally abused women.3 There is not much out there that explains the underlying conflicts in a marriage where verbally abusive women commit the harm, so helping agencies do not know how to reach out to abused men effectively.
But wait, there is more bad news. Patricia Evans, verbal abuse expert and author on several books explaining verbal abuse, has this disappointing news:
"...although I've seen men change, I have never seen a woman transform from seriously verbally abusing her mate to treating him with empathy. The therapists I've talked with about this issue have not seen verbally abusive women change either...please know that the odds are against your partner changing."1
This applies to women in lesbian relationships also.
Why is it so unusual for a verbally abusive wife to change? For a woman to lack empathy and completely disconnect from everything that our culture says constitutes femininity (i.e. intuition, receptiveness) she must be very severely psychologically damaged, practically beyond repair.1
A Verbally Abusive Wife is Different
What's different between verbally abusive wives and husbands who abuse? One big difference is that women are not born with male privilege (they cannot base their power over their victim on societal views promoting patriarchy), so they must find another way to control and create fear through verbal abuse. In about 50% of cases, verbally abusive wives find that power in threats to "manipulate the system"2 - accuse their husband of abuse and have him arrested.
Typically, abusive women go about verbally and emotionally abusing men just as men go about abusing women. They use coercion and threats, emotional abuse, intimidation, blaming, minimizing, denying, isolation, economic abuse, and the children, plus more.2
Dealing with Verbal Abuse From Wife
So what is a man to do about his verbally abusive wife? The techniques used to help a verbally abusive man change probably won't work.1 Divorce is a scary option when children are involved because, despite stories to the contrary, mothers retain custody a majority of the time and family courts are not good at discerning abusive parents from non-abusive ones.4
- Setting personal boundaries and following through with them will protect the victim from exposure to verbal abuse and help them gain clarity about their relationship.
- Spending time with friends and attending a support group will help build strength and determination.
- Calling an abuse hotline will give victims an understanding ear and helpful resources.
- Attending counseling with a therapist familiar with the dynamics of abuse is very helpful.
- Research into trauma theory could be especially helpful in determining creative ways victims can deal with verbally abusive wives.
In the end, the verbally abused man asks the same question as any other victim of abuse: Is this relationship worth the effort and energy it requires? (See also: How to Stop Verbal Abuse and How to Deal with a Verbally Abusive Husband or Boyfriend)
Last Updated: 26 May 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD