Let’s deal with the elephant in the room: it doesn’t matter how ‘manly’ you are, how much you bench or how much you earn, men experience abuse too.
Sure, men are perceived as the strong, more powerful, and often the alphas in a relationship but we can fall victim to emotional, financial, and physical abuse.
It can happen to the best of us. There is no shame in it. Finding yourself in an abusive relationship is never your fault.
Gender roles are no longer what they once were. Men — who were once seen as the protectors and security providers — have lost their purpose. In many relationships, women have equal financial power in relationships and can call the shots.
While this can be positive, it can also lead to a rise in male abuse in relationships. It’s a dangerous shift occurring under the radar today.
So, how do you know when you’re in an abusive relationship or have unknowingly been in one in the past? What does it look like and how can you pull yourself out of it?
We’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know and when you need to make a break for it.
What does an abusive relationship look like?
There’s no simple answer.
Abuse is a chameleon that can take on many forms—it can be obvious or hidden in plain sight. You may not realize it’s happening until you’re in too deep that you can’t see what’s going on.
An abusive relationship may include domestic violence, such as physical attacks, slapping, hitting, or punching. However, it can also be more underhanded. Emotional and psychological abuse could include threats, manipulation, isolating yourself from others, and a whole host of other nasty techniques designed to punish and control you.
The truth is that every abusive relationship is unique. Plus, these types of relationships are highly common in the United States.
Intimate partner violence affects more than 12 million people every year in the US alone.
Reports from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control states almost half of all men will experience psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime and it’s only increasing.
Understanding whether your relationship is abusive or not can take time, serious reflection and energy. Often enough, when you’re in a relationship of this nature, you may find that you rationalize your partner’s behavior and overlook some of the telltale signs.
One of the most common misconceptions when it comes to abusive relationships is that people can simply leave the moment it happens. Walk out the door. Sadly, it’s rarely that straightforward.
Let’s take a deep dive into abusive relationships and how to free yourself from them.
Abusive relationships: The facts and stats
Understanding the facts is an essential place to start.
According to a report from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, here are some of the most significant statistics on men and abusive relationships:
- Almost 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. That’s more than 10 million people a year.
- One in four men has experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- 35% of men report significant impacts from experiences of rape, stalking, or physical violence from an intimate partner.
- 6% of men will experience sexual coercion at some point in their lifetime.
- Men who are stalked are mainly stalked by their intimate partners.
- More than 50% of male rape victims knew the person who raped them while only 15% reported being raped by a stranger.
- More than 5% of men have been victims of stalking which left them fearful for their personal safety.
Of course, many of these statistics deal with extreme cases of abusive behavior. However, it’s important to recognize that abuse can come in a whole load of different packages.
If you’re experiencing any type of abuse, it’s time to seriously consider removing yourself from the relationship. Or if you realize you did in the past, you can work on resolving that trauma and heal from that relationship knowing the real pitfalls that led to its demise.
Emotionally abusive relationships
First up, let’s talk about one of the sneakiest types of abusive behavior.
Emotional abuse is used to control and gain power over you. This particular form of abuse is dangerous as you might not even know it’s happening to you.
Your partner will use a range of tactics including gaslighting, manipulation, and fear to make you feel like you’re the one in the wrong. Believe it or not, you may even feel as though you’re the one going crazy here.
It’s important to notice the signs of emotional abuse so you can break the pattern and leave the relationship. You’re not going mad—you may be blind to the control you are under.
The modern world means that there are many ways that your partner can control you and your behavior. It may be something as innocent-seeming as telling you not to go for a night out with your coworkers, checking your private messages on social media, reading through your emails, stalking you when you are out or darker, like threatening to hurt you emotionally or physically.
Understand that this type of control is not normal or healthy. It can significantly damage you and your self-esteem.
Signs of an emotionally abusive relationship
Worried you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship? Okay. Let’s take a look at some of the telltale signs. If you notice any of these red flags, you need to reconsider the relationship.
1. Name-calling or slurs
Your partner might call you names like ‘stupid’ or ‘d*ckhead’.
If they are continually putting you down with abusive names, that is a problem. You may think it’s no big deal, but it can slowly wear away your self-confidence.
Your language and words matter, it communicates what one is truly feeling and this will only decrease the level of respect your partner has for you over time.
2. Abusive texts or social media contact
Many victims only experience abusive behavior via social media or text messages.
However, all abusive partners may use these mediums to control, humiliate, or hurt their victims.
You may get frantic text messages when you’re out with friends or overly controlling private messages when you are posting on social media.
3. Isolating you from your friends
Emotional abusers want you to feel isolated.
Why? Because it’s much easier to manipulate and control someone if they don’t have close friends around them who can offer an outside perspective of the way you’re being treated.
Your partner may say cruel things about the people closest to you or even do it in sly ways to make you question your own friendships and family members, or even worst, stop you from seeing them entirely.
4. Extreme jealousy
Everyone feels jealous now and then. But if your partner is always jealous of you and your friends that’s a serious red flag.
For instance, you may find that they are always asking you where you are, worried about you cheating, or that they act overly irate when you go out.
None of the above behavior is okay. You don’t need to stand for it. You deserve someone who trusts and respects you.
5. Character assassinating
Does your partner say you ‘always’ do certain things? They might say you ‘never’ plan date nights or ‘always’ get out of bed late.
People are multifaceted and they rarely do things all of the time. They are painting you in such a bad light to make you feel bad and change your behavior without seeing the situation from your perspective.
When your partner says these things, they are making blanket statements about you that are likely unfair and often false. Try to avoid internalizing them.
Jealousy can quickly spiral into hard accusations.
If you have an emotionally abusive partner, they might accuse you of having affairs constantly. This can come out in a whole range of ways.
Your partner might shout and scream at you when they fear that you’ve cheated when you’ve really just been hanging with your friends.
7. Treating you like a child
When was the last time someone told you what to wear, what to eat, who you should hang out with, to exercise more or how to act?
News flash: You’re no longer a child and no one should have this power over you.
If your partner tends to control your behavior in this way, that could be a telltale sign of emotional abuse as you cannot make your own decisions without their approval.
8. Monitoring your behavior
Being in a relationship isn’t the same as being in shackles.
You should be allowed to go where you want, when you want, and with whom you want so as long as you are not actually cheating.
So, if your partner insists on knowing your whereabouts at all times too often, that could be a real issue.
Worse still, they might follow you around, check your Uber app to see where you’ve been, and feverishly watch your and your friends’ every move on social media.
Financially abusive relationships
Money, money, money—it makes the world go round. It also gives people the freedom to do what they want.
It should come as no surprise that many abusers use finances to their advantage. It’s a simple way to gain control over you and what you can do.
Let’s get one thing straight: If you make your own money, you are entitled to it. No one in your life has the right to take control of your finances. It’s that simple.
Money is energy that you put into your work and on the other side money comes out. If you don’t control your own money you don’t control your energy. This is a form of psychological slavery. Recognizing financial abuse isn’t as difficult as you might expect. While your partner may say that they are doing things for ‘your own good’, you need to be aware and ensure their agenda has your best interest in mind.
Signs of a financially abusive relationship
If you have a sneaking suspicion that you’re in a financially abusive relationship, let’s lay out the facts.
The telltale signs aren’t too hard to notice. Here are a few to watch out for:
1. Taking over the budget
Who controls the budget in your household? If you live with your partner, you might have combined your finances.
Okay, that’s one thing. However, if your so-called love is managing the whole budget and not letting you have a say, that’s a problem.
You deserve autonomy and transparency when it comes to your hard-earned money. Frankly, we all do.
2. Giving you an ‘allowance’
Next up, here’s a red flag that you shouldn’t stand for.
If your partner gives you a monthly ‘allowance’, it means that they are treating you like a small child. Both people in the relationship should have their own financial independence.
This is one of the problems that keep people in relationships that are abusive. They literally can’t afford to leave.
Or the situation can be that you give her an allowance and it far exceeds what you are even paying yourself.
You are working to support her and give her a lifestyle at your expense. You feel that the only way to keep her happy is to buy her attention and affection, which is not a healthy relationship.
If the moment you stop giving her an allowance she would leave, then you don’t have a relationship you have a master who is with you for one thing only – your money.
3. Hiding finances from you
Does your partner keep you in the dark when it comes to finances? If so, it could mean that they are financially abusing you.
Sure, she helps with paying the bills and budgeting, but do you have complete transparency about where your money is going?
This type of sneaky behavior is particularly common when your partner has a poor relationship with money. Perhaps they are a shopaholic.
Perhaps they are a gambler. Whatever the reason, it’s a dangerous game to play.
4. Domestic violence
Domestic violence is a serious issue for men in the United States and it’s on the rise.
Physical abuse can include scratching, hitting, waking you up, slapping you, threatening you, and even using weapons.
Of course, it doesn’t end there.
This nasty cocktail often comes with a side order of sexual abuse. That might be rape or ongoing sexual assaults.
Here’s the problem: Many of us men feel ashamed of being physically abused by our partners. Most of us believe it is our fault or that we can’t be abused as we are bigger and stronger. That’s not the case.
Domestic abuse can affect any man. Especially since men feel that they cannot stand up for themselves because it may lead to legal consequences that men don’t want to deal with as the courts are likely to favor a woman’s argument over their own, so they instead just take the abuse.
Noticing the signs of the problem is vital to your ongoing well-being. You need to recognize it so you can resolve it or get out.
Telltale signs of domestic violence
When someone is abusing you, they may kick and punch you. However, these are not the only signs of domestic violence. Let’s take a look at some of the forms it can take:
1. Physical abuse
The most obvious form of domestic violence is physical abuse. That may include slapping, kicking, biting, scratching, punching, or pinching you.
There are plenty of ways that someone can physically abuse you. If someone is causing you pain, it is never okay.
2. Sexual abuse
Rape is the most extreme case of sexual abuse. But there are other forms you need to know about.
For example, your partner may say that you ‘owe’ them sex, constantly make sex about them, their pleasure and doing sexual acts for them, or make you dress in a certain way for them. Is your sex life equal or very one-sided in whose needs are being met?
Also, women can use sex as a way of having power over you. If you don’t do “this”, then I’m not going to withhold sex and intimacy from you.
At times, threats can be as damaging as violence. Nobody deserves to live in fear and feel like they are walking on eggshells. When you’re in a domestic abuse situation, your partner may threaten to hurt you.
That means that you’re constantly worried about your every move, what they are going to do and when they will retaliate.
4. Controls you
No shocker here. One of the major ways that domestic violence can come out is through control.
The reason is simple: Abusers want to control the people around them. They see their partner as a possession, rather than a person.
This behavior may include checking their phone, telling them where to go and who to see, and deciding what they do. Are you freely making your own decision in life or are you under the control and guise of someone else?
The long-term dangers of abusive relationships
Staying in an abusive relationship can be dangerous for a man’s personal power and ability to be a confident attractive man.
Research from the American Psychological Association suggests that these relationships can have a lasting effect on people—even after they leave and carry the trauma over to the next relationship.
You might experience a number of the following:
- Low confidence and/or self-esteem
- Lack of motivation
- Loss of trust in the people around you
- High defenses around being intimate and deeper connections
- Anxiety and depression
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Negative thought patterns
- Trouble with sleeping
- Low appetite or even overeating
The sooner you take action and leave the situation, the sooner you can start dealing with the fallout. That’s not to say that it’s a simple task.
Men find it extremely hard to leave abusive relationships and may get stuck in them for years, especially if children are involved.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. With the right support, guidance and help, you can move forward and become stronger because of this situation. This is not the end. This is the beginning of a new journey and reclaiming your personal power.
How to leave an abusive relationship
Want to leave your abusive relationship?
Okay, good. That’s the first step.
When you have acknowledged there’s a problem with your partner, you can start to make a safe exit strategy.
Keep in mind that it’s never wise to simply up and leave. While that may seem like the most obvious way to go, it can be a risky move (especially if your partner is emotionally or physically violent or if finances are intertwined).
Instead, you need to plan ahead and get things in place.
1. Make a solid plan of action
You can start by deciding how and when you want to leave.
Next, it’s about figuring out how that looks.
Where will you go? Who will you stay with? Do you have enough money to get by? What are your travel plans? Can you keep your same job in this new place? Are there any legal consequences that you should be aware of in your state?
Even if you are not married, there can be legal things to be aware of, especially if you lived together and both contributed to the mortgage in some way.
Be precise and plan everything down to a tee.
2. Reach out to people around you
Reaching out to trusted people around you is the next step.
Who has got your best interests at heart? You can explain your situation and how it’s affecting you personally. Share the game plan with them, listen for feedback and have them support you through it.
It’s important to be upfront and honest with them that you will be going through a very challenging time in the coming months and may need to lean on them.
You must feel safe that you can reach out when you need to and won’t be a bother to them.
If nobody springs to mind, you may want to contact a domestic violence charity or organization. Getting some social support will help give you the strength to move out.
3. Find your inner strength
The last part of the equation is often the hardest and requires the most courage. You need to find your inner strength and remember who you are as a man.
Who were you before the relationship? What dreams did this man have? You deserve to live a great life of your own making and abusive partners can really dismantle the vision you want for your life.
If you’ve been in an abusive relationship for a matter of years, your self-esteem, confidence and self-worth could be extremely low making this a very challenging journey for you and possibly weeks into the split you’ll go back to her out of comfort.
This must not happen. You need to draw a line in the sand and commit to creating a better life and relationship for yourself.
Take the time that you need to build yourself up and walk out knowing it will be possibly the hardest thing you’ve done in years, but there is significant growth and a greater life awaiting you on the other side.
4. Look for helpful resources
Of course, every abusive situation is different, and you have to figure out what works for you.
Luckily, there are plenty of handy helplines and resources out there that can give you additional information.
Check them out below:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline
- Victim Connect Resource Center
- Day One: The Call to Safety
- Learn more about our men’s coaching services to reclaim your personal power and create an epic relationship
Ready to get out of an abusive relationship? Taking that first step is often the hardest.
However, when you recognize that you’re in an abusive situation, you have to think about your future and what you really want out of life. The pain of leaving will soon be replaced by the happiness of a new and better relationship where you have your own personal power.
I know that’s hard to see now, but it’s the truth if you stay the course of the journey. The sooner you decide to make a positive change, the sooner you can walk away from this relationship for good and reclaim your life.
It’s not an easy path but it is an essential path to finding your freedom.