5 Min Read
- Why It's So Easy To Overlook An Abusive Woman
- What Do Abusive Women Look Like?
- What To Do About A Woman Who's Abusive
- Readers Share What They Think
When it comes to being abusive it seems like men get all of the focus and blame. This is largely the case because men are usually more obvious about their abuse, such as becoming physically or verbally abusive. However, abusive women are much more common than most people might think.
Because of the different forms of abuse typically used by women, abusive women are harder to recognize. Women typically abuse in subtler, less outward ways than men that can be difficult to spot. These ways usually are hidden and don't leave obvious wounds like a black eye.
Why It’s So Easy To Overlook An Abusive Woman
Not only do women abuse in less obvious ways, but men are also typically very reluctant to admit to anyone (including themselves) that they’re being abused.
Being abused by a woman can be emasculating and embarrassing. And since many men view themselves as the dominant one in the relationship, it also doesn’t seem like it should even be possible. Because of this most men never tell anyone about the abuse and go to great lengths to hide it.
However, if you’re a man in a relationship with an abusive woman you’re far from alone.
Abuse by a woman can be sneaky and chalked up to “just the way women are” or being “fickle.” But no matter how it’s explained, abuse is abuse, no matter who’s doing it – even if it’s a woman.
What Do Abusive Women Look Like?
So, what do abusive women really look like in real life?
Here are 7 common abusive behaviors practiced by women, along with descriptions from real life partners.
While a man can be just as likely to use most of these, women more often utilize them to hurt those they're supposed to love. There are also a couple of these behaviors that are much more exclusive to women.
- Angry & Yelling. We all can yell from time to time, but a woman who's abusive is going to do it much more regularly, and often without a clear reason. One of the things that can make a relationship especially abusive is the uncertainty of when you're going to 'get it.' Obviously, this behavior is not exclusive to just women.
I believe my wife is regularly emotionally abusive towards me. When she yells and puts me down and says mean things I get upset and say mean things back to her. How do I not react when she pushes my buttons with her abuse?" -Adam
- Demanding. Being demanding isn't just about having unrealistic or unfair expectations, it can also be about being selfish. A guy I'm counseling has an abusive wife who's very demanding towards him, from expecting him to get her glass of water when she wants it, to putting her gym bag in the car for her, to taking care of her horses every day. You name it - she demands it of him.
In these cases, there are often repercussions if the demands aren’t met. She may get angry, call him names, pout, give him the cold shoulder, or even withhold sex. Whatever the response, its purpose is to condition or train him to do what she wants when she wants it.
- Controlling. This is one that can be hard to outwardly spot and is often just something you feel more than you can see. Controlling behavior can look like just being concerned about your well-being, like wanting you to call while you're away from home. The motivation, however, is not concern but the need to have power by being in control.
- Where are you?
- Who are you talking/texting?
- Who are you with?
- Why were you talking to her/him?
Some partners even go as far as monitoring their spouse’s social media or tracking whereabouts through apps.
I been researching emotional abuse, and I think I'm heading down that path to be an emotionally abusive to my husband. One example is I'm pretty controlling if he wants to go to a party or event and his ex girlfriend is there I guilt him into not going and I get jealous way to easy. I have been cheated on in the past and have had bad relationships. I'm letting fear ruin this one. He has never proven to be a Cheater but my mind keeps thinking every guy is. He's such a good man I want to trust him so bad." -Anna
- Demeaning & Belittling. Sadly, it's not uncommon for partners to put each other down and just excuse it as humor. Abusive women can be very skilled at demeaning their partner in this kind of way. Name calling or put downs are common forms of this.
My wife is abusive. As a child she was sexually abused and as a 19 year old she was raped. We have been together since she was 18. She is now 23. We have a one year old daughter. She is always angry and impatient with me and our daughter, referring to our daughter as "little a**hole" or "little turd" and calls her retarded. I get called much worse names however my concern is for our daughter. My wife has voiced to me on many occasion that she wish she hadn’t gotten married so young and that she wished she didn't have a baby. That she wants to feel free that she wants to run away from us because we make her angry, we tie her down. That it isn't fair that she hasn't had a life. As a result I have been abused physically, mentally and emotionally over the passed few years we have been married and my daughter verbally abused and border line physically abused. I feel like I have tried everything but I'm your classic "nice guy". To afraid to make her angry." -Nate
- Silent Treatment. This one is a relationship killer. It can seem normal that after a fight partners will not talk for a while, but the silent treatment is much, much more and much, much worse. This is an intentional choice not to communicate in order to hurt the other partner. It can go on for days and even weeks.
My wife is very verbally abusive to me. She says horrible hateful things and has rage issues. She dumps all over me and then will not talk to me for a week. I feel helpless. I refuse to engage because I'm a Christian and to me this behavior is very ungodly." -Bruce
- Undermine. Here's another one that can be tricky to spot. Undermining behavior can be excused away with statements such as, "I didn't hear you say that" or "I forgot." It can look accidental, like a simple mistake, but when there's a regular pattern of it it's usually not.
This can eventually lead to gaslighting as well. “You never told me that” when you actually did, or “I told you about that, you just didn’t listen” when she never did. Over time you start to doubt yourself and your own sanity.
- Withhold Affection & Sex. Abusive women commonly use this one to hurt or punish their man. While sex should really only happen when both partners are feeling close to each other, willfully withholding sex to exercise power or hurt is wrong and damaging to the connection between partners.
I have been verbally abusive toward my husband and have accused him many times for being unfaithful. Then I won't let him touch me sexually. How can I stop the jealousy? I don't want to be a psycho jealous wife." -Lori
What To Do About A Woman Who's Abusive
One of the first things you should do is ask for help.
As you can see from the quotes above, and probably already know if you're in a similar situation, it's overwhelming and can seem like there's nothing you can do to change it. One of the effects of being in relationships with abusive women is believing that it's your fault and there's something you can do differently to change it.
While it's true you can have an impact on changing things, it's very important that you don't take on responsibility for the other person's behavior. The needed change can only happen if they are responsible.
- Get professional counseling help. While many people such as family and friends can have good intentions to help, only someone with training and experience is really going to be able to effectively help you.
- Set boundaries and limits on the treatment you'll accept. This is hard to know how to do, which is why having a professional helping and supporting you is so important.
Change is possible. I work with men and women every day who get help and learn how to make change happen. As you can see from the two women quoted earlier, even abusive women can recognize their behavior is bad and want to change it.
Do you know any abusive women? If you've had firsthand experience with a woman who's abusive please share your story with others by leaving a comment below. You can remain anonymous.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published Feb 15, 2018 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Looking for More? Check Out These Articles
- What Are The Signs of Verbal Abuse?
- What Should You Do When Your Wife (or husband) Is Controlling?
- How Do You Handle A Woman Suffering Through A Midlife Crisis?
- Get More Help with an Abusive Relationship