The beliefs that partly underpin male abusive thinking can also be formed by social and legal influences that undermine respect for women. When I was young in the 1940s and 1950s, I learned that a woman’s place was in the home, at the kitchen sink, doing menial work. Housework and rearing of children seemed unimportant. For centuries, the law itself militated against the rights of women. In Ireland, the Irish ‘mammy’ is famous. She waits ‘hand and foot’ on her beloved sons, and they quickly learn that women are there to love and serve them without any return.
Lundy Bancroft outlines 10 types of abusive personalities who have a predominant type of abusive behaviour in how they mangle the humanity of their victims by power, control, disrespect and demeaning. These can be graded into aggressive and more subtle abusers. Among the aggressive, there is the critical, jealous, violent, dangerous one, whom Bancroft calls the drill sergeant. Another aggressive abuser is the macho and conflictual individual who creates fear, and who sees women as inferior. There is also the abuser who will go to any lengths to inspire fear in his partner. Opposing him is dangerous.
Then, there is the gentle, soft-spoken, emotional one who confuses you and makes you feel guilty about hurting his feelings. He blames you, but ignores how you are feeling. Another deceiver is the handsome and sexy abuser, who makes you feel good, but increasingly indulges in flirtatious behaviour with other women, making them feel special, and you feel rejected. The victim stance is in all abusers, and this type whines that he has been wronged especially by women, and has a hard life. Among the victim-type abuser is the so-called mentally ill or addictive abuser, who denies responsibility for his actions because of his ‘illness’, and uses it to make others feel guilty for challenging him. The selfish abuser overvalues his contributions, and sees only his own needs. The know-all abuser, who is an authority on everything, dismisses your contribution with contempt. Finally, there is the calm abuser, who shows contempt for you, and quietly demolishes your self-esteem.
Abusers are liars and generally deny their abusive behaviour. Linda’s husband, Stephen, never admitted any wrongdoing
If he did do something abusive – he generally pretended it didn’t happen, and he would never be remorseful for it. He would just pretend that it didn’t happen, and it wouldn’t be up for discussion. On a few occasions he would deny it to me, and say ‘I didn’t do that’, even though I was the person he did it to. It didn’t make any sense whatsoever.
Despite Linda’s frequent confrontation, Stephen continued with denial, even when he was having affairs. He refused to move from that stance even when challenged in a couple counselling session
I remember asking him to go to counselling when he wanted to reconcile after the affair. He said to me “we don’t need counselling, there is nothing wrong with us”. But, there was a lot wrong with us. I had attended counselling for a month or so, while the affair was going on, to get some comprehension on what was happened, or what was going on in my life – or the biggest and most painful question “WHERE WAS MY LIFE GONE”? He went to counselling though, so that we could give us one last try. He never engaged fully in our sessions, and he just used his comfort angle as a reason for the affair.
While Linda’s experiences mirror that of other women, we must not forget that the female abusive personality is similar to the male one. This should not surprise us, since females are as exposed as males to the influences of insecure attachment, childhood abuse and shame. There are, however, biological considerations and differences explored by Allan Schore, which you may like to read. Females with an abusive personality type have many of the characteristics of abusive men, and as adolescents display many features of anti-social behaviour. They harbour an approval of violence, are excessively jealous, distrustful, have poor self-control, and are quick to take revenge. Abusive women are emotionally volatile, have rapidly aroused negative feelings, are easily irritated and are anxious, hostile, and tense. They are fearful, have a low stress threshold, are impulsive, and are easily stressed, especially within intimate relationships. They have the same impulse to control as male abusers, and are likely to be involved in sexual, alcohol and drug problems.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press
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