Are You An Abused Man?
Whether you are a man or a woman, you can be the victim of abuse in a relationship. Even though victims of abuse usually hide what is happening to them for a time, men tend to have even more reason to hide abuse beyond the usual shame a victim will feel. Why?
Because men often hide abuse for ‘ego’ reasons as well. To many abused men hide abuse in an effort to preserve their view of themselves as men at the same time as they are hiding the fact that they are abused in the first place. Somehow in their minds, men aren’t supposed to be victims of abuse.
This mistaken assumption can also contribute to the determination some men experience to hide their victimized experiences behind rationalizations and denials that make it harder to help them. I treated a man recently who let abuse go on for 10 years.
In fact, he held the idea in his mind that not setting a limit or stopping the abuse was in fact what a ‘real man’ is supposed to do in such turbulent relationship situations. He even thought of it as his duty or obligation to ‘protect’ his abusive wife no matter what she did to him.
Of course, he ignored the fact that his wife was highly volatile due to emotional illness and that it was becoming increasingly dangerous to remain married to her. It wasn’t until she almost succeeded in killing him that he was able for the first time to begin seeing and appreciating the reality he was dealing with and separated from her.
Another difficulty for most victims of abuse regardless of gender is the seductiveness and/or guilting that occurs when separation is attempted. Once attached, it is difficult to separate with the understanding that the relationship is abusive and toxic because victims of abusive relationships tend to have very poor self-esteem. This negative view of themselves makes it easier to accept mistreatment and rationalize its occurrence.
The treatment focus for an abused man is similar to treatment efforts with abused women. An important order of business is to dismantle the negative beliefs that support their poor self-esteem, while encouraging and supporting their efforts to begin setting appropriate limits on any and every type of mistreatment.
As a psychotherapist, at first, you will need to ‘lend’ to your male patient your good judgment and ability to discriminate between abusers and the caring people your patient has relationships with. The task is to develop your patient’s ability to make these discriminations on his own and eventually to act on them without guilt.
Of course, you’ll have your hands full when it comes to working with their threatened ‘male egos.’ Skill is needed to handle the resistance that inevitably occurs when trying to get at the details of what happens when he was or is abused.
As an abused person, coming clean about what is happening in your love life will always provide you will an emotional bonus. Appreciating the importance of always being honest with yourself and how your feelings about yourself translate into your love life are no small gifts.
Most men have to realize that acting tough and being strong are two different things. You get strong by working through problems in an honest and open way that results in personal growth, not by pretending something abusive doesn’t bother you.
Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan
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