The Big Why  

How many times have you asked your spouse why? Why did you do that? Why her? Why prostitutes? Why do you keep taking money from our family to do these horrible things? Why do you keep hurting me? 

We tend to ask a lot of why questions when we are trying to get to the truth or root of an issue. Answering the why question should provide us with something we can get our minds around. It just never does.

Why questions can be a problematic approach when attempting to acquire behavioral information from someone who already knows what he’s done is wrong or hurtful. Why questions often provoke defensiveness in the abuser who is trying to protect himself and the reasons for his behavior. Abusive men prefer the obtuse approach to answering questions.

Weaponized incompetence is a strategy

Other questions like, “What were you thinking?” or “How could you do this to me, to us?” might not be much better. Even though there are plenty of web search results that will discuss issues of what to ask instead of why questions. “What” and “how” are similar to “why” questions. These may also result in further abuse.

When an abusive man, or a man with behavior patterns of intimate betrayal is questioned, he often lies, deflects, or even attempts to shift the blame to his wife. These are all abusive attempts to throw you off course and move the spotlight from him to you. 

Abusive men assert innocence by blaming the victim

A typical strategy with abusive men is to assert innocence to remove any obligation to be responsible for their behavior. Abusive men hide behind their behavior through lies, omissions, and of course DARVO’ing – which is to deny, attack, and reverse victim-offender roles. This is not a new phenomenon. In fact, in many stories and cases throughout the domestic violence/abuse field – this is a common and yet very abusive behavior strategy. 

Moving on without the why question answered

Often women experiencing intimate betrayal and abuse believe they cannot move on without the answers to these questions. The truth is, sometimes the answers from a spouse who has been abusive and unfaithful do not help. Too many times excuses are used that make it even more difficult to move forward – for the abuser/perpetrator and the victim. 

If someone has been lying about their behavior and keeping it secret for decades, those lies are deeply embedded into thought processes to the point that even the perpetrator is convinced of his lies. Unfortunately, countless myths, excuses, justifications, and permission-giving beliefs fill the Internet and pop psych books with a plethora of inaccurate information and reasons he can use to excuse his egregious behavior.

It’s not his trauma, parents, or mental health that cause him to abuse or be unfaithful

Abusive excuse-making is a common strategy in this population. This level of self-deception is a defensive reaction made worse by the shame culture we all live in. If the behavior is shameful and wrong — being ashamed is a normal, corrective response that people who have honorable characters appreciate. This is a hard-wired feature for human beings.

People, both men and women, will likely not escape childhood without a few adverse childhood experiences (or ACE’s as the infamous assessment is described). While environment does play a role in how we are shaped, decisions made in adulthood are choices. Full stop! Decisions made to engage in behavior that takes calculated, and well-thought-out processes to execute are deliberate actions. No one has the right to say that just because he/she was hurt as a child he/she can be excused from harm caused to another human being. It does not work this way. Men know when they are doing something wrong, harmful, or outside the typical expectations of marriage behaviors. If they didn’t know it was wrong – why keep it secret?

Stop listening to the excuses, addiction/trauma narratives, and justification for bad behavior

Problematic, deceptive, dishonest, and abusive behavior is not caused by his trauma, childhood, emotional problems, etc. Abuse will not stop by unpacking his childhood, working on family-of-origin issues, or any of the myriad of justifications out there. Abuse and problematic behaviors stop when the individual executing the behaviors has a deep, and self-convicting realignment with his values and beliefs. When he checks his narratives about women, his wife or mother, and refuses to allow social scripting to be a pattern of his maladaptive thinking. 

Abuse and respect for all humanity are opposing forces, just as love and contempt are opposite forces. If a man believes he’s better than his wife, if he believes he’s smarter, more right, has more rights to how money is spent because he earns the money or any other problematic script – he needs to check his values and beliefs for abusive narratives. 

It doesn’t matter why

We do not need to know why he abuses. We need to establish a hard stop for giving this space in our lives. Abusive behavior will not be corrected if the one choosing to abuse is in any way excusing or justifying his choices. In effect, he gives himself permission to cause harm to others without regard for them as human beings. Men who live with these personal paradigms will not change in anger management, addiction recovery, or any other kind of religious or secular program unless they are willing to hold themselves accountable for their actions. 

Abusive men know when they are abusing and what they need to do to keep the abuse secret (covert) so their partner is not aware of what is going on behind her back. If we are encouraging the narratives from the pop psych and so-called recovery community to continue we will continue to ask those unsatisfying why questions and receive the hurtful and why lies that cause us to dig in deeper to ferreting out something that will satisfy the pain we feel.

We know the replies we are given are not accurate. We know our abusive spouse is making excuses or attempting to blame us – calling us the villain and asserting victimhood for themselves. We know this is a lie. We feel it. We need to walk away from these conversations, stopping the onslaught of additional abuse. We need to expect these very capable men to own their actions and make the necessary reparations for what they have done.

We are not the problem. 

The problem isn’t why.

The problem is a lack of personal ethics, values, and standards for which these men hold themselves to account. 

As women, we love these men. We see their potential. We want to be in a deep, lasting relationship with the men we married. We can expect them to act in alignment with healthy values and with their human potential by honoring the commitments they have made. 

Answers to dealing with abusive excuses

If you are looking for strategies and answers to addressing the excuses and abusive narratives you deal with daily, our support group for women is the place to be.

Check out the website for information on coaching, the year-long program for abuse correction, and support groups for women.

We look forward to providing the support you need.

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