Help! My husband treats me like dirt… This is the cry of so many women who do so in their quiet moments. They often wonder what happened to the hopes they held when they first met and fell in love. I have heard so many women recount how a few years after they got married, the husband suddenly changed and started behaving as if they were their worst enemy. Below are the behaviours displayed and what I think could be happening in these scenarios. I also offer what I think are the best steps to take to protect yourself if you find yourself in that situation.
He stops complimenting her Where he was her number one fan, he becomes her number one critic or ignores her. Even when she brings up this issue, he quickly dismisses it or blames her for the changes. This could be a result of inferiority complex on the part of the husband. Perhaps she is making huge progress or succeeding where the husband has failed. He is feeling so challenged by her that the only thing he can do is to try and bring her down. Jealousy usually manifests in holding back compliments.
The worst reaction a woman could have in this situation is to start feeling bad or small or ugly. Instead, I would recommend that one should find compliments elsewhere or start complimenting yourself. Relatives and friends compliment us all the time and even strangers do but we shrug them off because we think the husband’s compliment is more valuable or important. Use your bathroom mirror, stand before it, smile and tell yourself how beautiful/great you are or look. Call yourself by name and the more you do this, the sooner it begins to make sense and raise your self-esteem.
He shouts at her for no reason and in front of strangers or the kids This often arises from lack of respect for one’s spouse and the desire to control her and everyone around. This desire emanates from feelings of inadequacy as a man, being challenged to step up his plate in other spheres but failing to do so, hence the need to assert control and authority over the wife. In this case the wife is an easy target if she is soft and vulnerable. This is means of self-aggrandisement or in other words simply raising his profile so that he seems bigger and better than he actually is. To help him get there faster, he needs the praise and recognition of others. So, stepping on his wife is the easiest thing he can do to appear better, wiser and more knowledgeable. By shouting at her and calling her names, he can manage to make her small and dependent on his goodwill. People from outside may not know the background to this but from the face of it, it looks like the husband is justified in wanting to reign in or control a stupid and thoughtless woman. He seems to be the one in charge.
Women finding themselves in this situation need to speak up and defend themselves by whatever means. This does not mean shouting back, but asking him to stop firmly. Then finding an opportune time to speak up and give their side of the story and stating that even if they might appear stupid, they are not really stupid or crazy. Calling out the abusive and controlling behaviour will do the trick as it is a display of boldness and the perpetrators position is soon weakened. Usually he thrives on hiding behind the façade of goodwill and expects the victim to be afraid of challenging him.
He withholds love and sex This seems to be a big tool in the abuser’s arsenal. When he has done everything and failed to control his wife, he withholds love and sex. He stops telling her he loves her or doing things that in the past counted toward acts of love. He even rolls over to the other end of the bed to avoid sex or come to bed so late he finds her fast asleep. If she complains about this behaviour, he blows his fuse and goes into a tirade about how he works so hard and deserves rest or quiet time or blames her for the lack of love and sex. Then he can start accusing her of infidelity otherwise she needs to explain her uncontrollable desires. Now he picks his words carefully so as to inflict as much guilt as possible. Out of guilt the wife is denied access to her conjugal rights. This is another way of exercising control and power over the poor woman. Her sin is that she is a strong woman who challenges him and his manhood. So he has to find every means to put her in her place and control and feel in charge of the situation.
The above three scenarios might seem strange but this is what actually happens in a lot of homes. What can a woman do when her partner withholds love and sex as a weapon to control her? I would recommend finding a distraction. Stop pursuing him and pursue your interests instead. If you would like to pursue your studies, a hobby or leisure activity, this is the right time to do so. In this internet age, there are so many activities one can do online and some will bring a lot of satisfaction, better than sex and even some income.
Men hate being ignored and these are weapons women can use to get them back to the negotiating table. Then you can have an even playing field where you can begin to be assertive and demand that you want to be treated better, with respect and love.
Mosline Farawu is a writer of spiritual and intellectual articles with a bias toward women's issues. She lives in Zimbabwe, Africa and is a mother, wife and career woman. She aspires to become a successful coach and counsellor to other women.