Blame, Fault and Responsibility

How often have you had conversations with your husband hoping to get him to understand how you feel?

How often did you feel dismissed in those conversations?

Did he tell you he didn’t want to argue or fight with you?

Did he say something about your past trauma?

Regardless of what your husband said regarding the nature or content of these discussions, wives want their husbands to see how his behavior hurts them and make the choice to change.

It isn’t an argument or fight.

A conversation with your husband about his behavior will often not go well. He may say you are attacking, accusing, or criticizing him, even though you are hoping to be seen and have the pain validated.

An argument or fight requires the participation of both parties. When abusive men use these words, it blurs the facts and purpose of the conversation. Instead of this discussion being solution-focused and honor-based for both parties, the responsibility for his actions is concealed and mutualized in the language that shares the blame. Or he may fully accuse you and not take any ownership for his actions.

A fight or argument requires two participants. 

A discussion between two loving human beings is a completely different social interaction. Both are agent participants. Both are responsible for the outcome and what happens during the exchange. Both will be careful not to offend. Both will work to understand one another. An abusive man will not engage in a pro-couple exchange. He will use language to mutualize – which is to ensure you are at fault, or worse, he will do everything he can to control the exchange so that he is the victim and not responsible at all because you “made him” do or say that abusive thing.

Men who engage in targeted partner abuse© do not take responsibility for their behavior choices.

It isn’t blame or fault-finding

An abusive man does not want to look at his behavior as needing correction or improvement. The best way to move the spotlight off him and onto you is to accuse you of accusing him. 

Think about it – if you approached someone who you believe loves you and wants a healthy relationship with you – isn’t the correct thought process to listen with an open mind and heart to a plea from your spouse? 

This will anger an abusive man. He may accuse you of always being so critical. He’ll tell you how tired he is of never being good enough. So it goes, on and on for hours, in discussions that never yield a healthy outcome or achieve closure on the issue at hand.

Abusers control the conversation by doing the thing he is accusing you of doing.

Protecting Power or Taking Responsibility

One of the most effective ways an abuser can protect the power position is to control the language and dialogue in each exchange. Abusers use a type of language management to manipulate and control. The patterns involve mutualizing, blame-shifting or table-turning, projecting, denial, absolutes, DARVO, or my favorite term – twistifying©

These are all familiar words to us. Abusive men know this. These terms are the strategic plays used to keep a victim hyper-focused on getting the abuser to understand. The more he strategically confuses, denies, etc. The more you drill down and work harder to show him all the examples of his behavior and how hurtful it is, the angrier he will become and the more hurt he will direct your way. 

Abusive men give themselves permission to be right and villainize you in harmful ways

“What her family and friends may not know is that when an abused woman refuses to “look at her part” in the abuse, she has taken a powerful step out of self-blame and toward emotional recovery. She doesn’t have any responsibility for his actions. Anyone who tries to get her to share responsibility is adopting the abuser’s perspective” (Bancroft).

My Behavior is NOT my Fault

If we can convince people that we are not responsible for our behavior, we make it more difficult to be accused, and more likely we will be acquitted if blamed. When society doesn’t hold abusers accountable – no one will.

“If you are aware of chronic or severe mistreatment and do not speak out against it, your silence communicates implicitly that you see nothing unacceptable taking place. Abusers interpret silence as approval, or at least as forgiveness. To abused women, meanwhile, the silence means that no one will help – just what her partner wants her to believe. Anyone who chooses to quietly look the other way therefore unwittingly becomes the abuser’s ally” (Bancroft).

We cannot be neutral or “Switzerland” regarding abuse

Confusion of love and abuse

Abusive men justify and excuse their behavior for a myriad of reasons that are all faulty. The most egregious is to tell a woman you are threatening, betraying, or cheating on that you love her. A man who loves and cares for his wife will show care and regard for his wife by listening to her talk. He won’t make counteraccusations when she asks him to care about her by not repeating hurtful behavior. He won’t behave in ways that exploit her and position him in a place of entitlement he does not possess. He won’t twist her words, make counterclaims, threaten, or control. He will love her, serve her, and work to achieve a mutual benefit.

“Genuine love means respecting the humanity of the other person, wanting what is best for him or her, and supporting the other person’s self-esteem and independence. This kind of love is incompatible with abuse and coercion.”

(Bancroft)

One of the most challenging negotiations is with a man who operates in a power and control framework. It will do no good to try to share these incongruencies with him. He will deny them or get angry when he recognizes you can see through his behavior. Abusive men operate from a place of hostility rather than love and affection.  

Any challenge to his behavior or his perceived power is a threat. This often results in a verbally violent exchange that will be mutualized and counter-blamed as her fault rather than him taking responsibility for his unilateral acts of verbal aggression. 

Until the abuser is ready to be responsible for his behavior – healthy communication is not possible

Can he change this unhealthy dynamic?

If you have ever witnessed your abusive partner switch from abuse to civility when a child or other type of witness enters the room, or when he picks up the phone or opens the door, then you know he is aware of what he is doing and can control it. 

This is referred to as “controlled switching” or the ability to change one’s actions or words when an environment change occurs, and you’ll be caught in an action that you want to keep hidden.

The short answer is, yes. 

An abusive man can change the way he treats his wife.  

More importantly, abusive men should change!

Husbands, please take responsibility for yourself

To all the abusive men, please stop treating your wife with disrespect. She has a right to feel the way she does about the behavior you’ve exacted on her. Please stop acting as though your behavior is a big surprise to you. You aren’t a victim of your childhood, a previous relationship, or your mental health. If your behavior creates problems in your life – fix the attitudes and beliefs at the genesis of those problems. You are your problem. 

If your wife is trying to stay in the marriage – show her the dignity and respect she deserves and provide a reason for her to want to be with you. 

If you are having trouble navigating these or other abusive behaviors, schedule a discovery call.

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