The Myth of Mutual Abuse

mutual abuse

The Myth of Mutual Abuse

by Jessica R., an advocate at The Hotline/loveisrespect

mutual abuse myth“What you said made me act that way.”

“You hit/shoved/pushed me, too.”

“You started this.”

“You’re abusing me, too.”

Has your partner ever said things like this to you? Here at The Hotline, we talk with a lot of people who are able to recognize that their relationship is unhealthy or even abusive, but they also believe that the abuse exists on both ends, or that both partners are at fault for the abuse.

Many times, we speak with survivors of abuse who want to address concerns they have about their own behaviors. They will often express that their relationship is mutually abusive, a concept used when describing a relationship where both partners are abusive towards one another. But “mutual abuse” doesn’t exist. Abuse is about an imbalance of power and control. In an unhealthy or abusive relationship, there may be unhealthy behaviors from both/all partners, but in an abusive relationship, one person tends to have more control than the other.

So, why doesn’t mutual abuse exist?


If you’ve ever yelled at your partner, participated in an intense argument or used physical force, there are certain instances where this would not be considered abusive.

Enduring abuse over time can lead to broken down self-esteem, feelings of low self-worth and intense emotional stress or even PTSD. While it’s never healthy to yell back at a partner or be violent with them if you are experiencing abuse you might have used one of these strategies when you felt your safety was at risk or you were trying to re-establish your independence in the relationship. Self-defense is not abuse, and identifying it as such can increase any fear you already feel in the situation. Everyone has the right to defend their safety, both emotionally and physically.

Blame Shifting

The excuse of “mutual abuse” also allows the abusive partner to shift blame.  We know that abusive partners rarely take responsibility for their actions and that blame shifting is a common tactic. If your abusive partner is claiming that you’re equally or more responsible for an incident, or that you too were abusive, this is their way of manipulating you into believing you did something to deserve this treatment. Believing you’re at fault helps the abusive partner continue to have control and often leaves you feeling as if you’re the one who needs to make changes.

For example, an argument occurs in which your partner tries to keep you from leaving the room. They may physically block the doorway and in your attempt to rightfully leave, you shove your partner out of the way. Your partner chooses to lash out at you for this with physical violence. Afterwards, they claim that you were abusive too because you shoved them. Your partner’s attempt to keep you from leaving already exhibits efforts to gain power and control. Their extreme reaction to the shove does as well. They felt threatened by your choice to leave when in a healthy relationship your partner would respect your right to walk away from an argument. When it’s over they blame you for their actions of violence in a final pursuit of control. You shoving your partner in order to get away from them does not constitute abuse. Abuse is a pattern of behavior intended to have power over someone else, usually a partner.

Difference Between Survivor and Abuser

In assessing your own and your partner’s behavior, you might notice certain things that correlate with red flags of abuse. That, along with an abusive partner’s constant manipulation and blame shifting, can make it hard to accept that you are in fact the survivor and NOT the abuser. One way to recognize the difference between an abuser and the person they’re hurting is the willingness to seek change. Admitting to unhealthy or abusive behavior, committing to stop, reaching out for help and asking about the process of change are things that abusive people rarely do. If you’re reading this post because you’re thinking about how you can change your own behaviors and create a healthier relationship, ask yourself: Is this something you could see your partner doing?

If you have concerns about your relationship, Hotline advocates are available 24/7/365. Call us at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or chat by selecting the Chat Now button right here on our website. Chat en español 12-6 p.m. Hora Central.

Comment section

48 replies
  1. Nobody thinks it can happen to them, but it can, and it did to me. Oh, I saw red flags in the beginning of our relationship, but I dismissed them as “wow, no man has ever loved me that mych to get to jealous”. He talked me into quitting a great job to stay home with the kids after I got pregnant, giving up my personal phone and paid off car, to get ones in hus name, lose my independence slowly. He would always play punch me a little to hard in the beginning, he wrestled me way rougher than I thought a man should, but I always made excuses. He went on to push me down on floors, choke me so hard one night, my throat hurt for days, but I must say the verbal abuse was worse. Hed call me stupid, stupid fucking cunt, whore, retard, bitch, fat, ugly, made fun of my body, hair, parenting, he even made fun of excess skin I had after losing a lot of weight (i worked so hard to lose it) after having 2 of his children. He said he could make a mask out of all that nasty skin hanging from my belly. His comments felt like a knife in my heart each and every time. My two teen daughters heard this for years and I knew I had to leave or they would think men treat woman this way. In the beginning, I would sit and cry, when I finally started coming back at him, things got worse. It finally took my daughter calling the police to get him to leave. Now he is abusing financially. He owns his own business and can pay his attorney, I can not. I lost everything, my self esteem, my trust in men and my faith in the justice system. Please, if you see any red flags in tge beginning of a relationship, run, this is not love and it will get worse. I wish I were dead everyday, but I have to live for my children, I have to fight this demon.

  2. Hi Debra,

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. There is nothing you ever could have done to deserve any of his abuse. You have a right to build a life free of him and his abuse. For him to continue to try to hurt you isn’t ok. The legal system can often feel overwhelming and confusing however you do not have to navigate it alone. There are support services and legal resources out there for survivors. If you would like to be connected to those resources, our advocates are here 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 and reachable everyday on chat from 7am to 2am CST.

    Take care,

    Advocate LC

  3. Thank you for sharing this article…
    I too saw the red flags in the beginning, 6 years ago. Before we even started dating, he was extremely clingy and would get jealous if I spent time with any of my friends, especially male friends, but I too felt special – he cares enough about me to be jealous! He told me he loved me on date 3 and got mad when I didn’t immediately say I loved him too. I lost quite a few friends in the first 2 months of being with him because I was ‘too caught up’ with this guy. Other friends stayed out of worry for me: “he’s too possessive. Be careful.” – I knew I should’ve left, but he threatened to kill himself if I did / told me there was no point in living if I wasn’t in his life. I was 18 and that scared me into staying. Fast forward a few years and I go through a horrible health scare…he stayed by my side and helped me through it. But in the weeks / months of recovery, he convinced me that no one else cared because they didn’t come visit or weren’t there helping. He made me believe that he was the only one I could rely on – that if he weren’t in my life, I would have died – alone. Any time we fought (or fight now) he reminds me of this – that he kept me safe, that he ‘proved’ his love for me. He convinced me that nobody would love me because of this health issue and we ended up getting married at 23. We’ve been married for 1.5 years and there’s been so much fighting… He blames me for the fights, points out everything I’d done wrong, tells me all the ways I had hurt him, calls me stupid for not seeing that I was at fault and never admits that he played a role in the fight. So many times I have thought about leaving, but my health is still an issue, I’m pretty dependent on him because I cannot drive (and he knows it!) and I am afraid to start over. 4 months ago, I gave birth to our daughter… I felt obligated to stay when I found out I was pregnant and I thought things would change once she was born. But that hasn’t been the case. Now the fights are worse than ever. He screams at me, calls me names, still argues that everything is my fault, tells me I could never leave him because of my health – told me that no judge would allow me to see my daughter because I have this health issue and it’s also documented that I’m fighting depression (aka he argues that he’s physically and mentally healthier than I am so he would get to ‘keep her’ and if I leave him, I’d never see her again). He does all of this in front of her or while holding her. Some nights, if I’m emotional for any reason, he won’t let me even hold her – he tells me that he “doesn’t trust me” with her because I’m so “emotionally unstable” that I might hurt her. I’ve begged him to stop fighting in front of her and he just laughs and tells my 4 month old that her momma is just “being stupid.”
    He’s never been truly physical with me (aside from grabbing me, too hard, to prevent me from leaving), but he has punched holes in the wall right next to me and thrown things at me and he uses everything I”ve ever shared in a moment of ‘weakness’ against me.  I’ve thought about leaving – and I want to, to protect my daughter, but I’m so worried that he’ll follow / fight. I’m so worried that he’ll try to take her from me and run away. I’m so worried that he’ll get physical. And I keep second guessing myself / wondering if I’m crazy / should I give him another chance to change etc… it’s beyond horrible and every day I wish I were dead. I’m only here because of my beautiful little girl. She needs her mommy…

  4. Hi Erica,

    Thank you for reaching out and sharing your story! That took so much courage so I am glad that you were brave enough to do so and felt this was a safe space.

    From everything you are describing, it definitely sounds like you are experiencing emotional abuse. Healthy relationships are all about RESPECT and it seems like he is not respecting you as an equal. Regardless of the fact that he has never been directly physical with you, throwing things and intimidating you are still emotional manipulations and abuse that are not ok at all.

    From what we know about emotional abuse, it can be just as detrimental to your well-being, and often longer lasting than physical. So even if he has not become physical yet, that is absolutely something that can and does escalate in abusive relationships, especially after big events such as children.

    I can’t say for sure what you should do because only you are the expert on your life, but I definitely encourage you to reach out to us directly so we can talk and safety plan options with you more. We are here 24/7 by phone 1-800-799-7233 or 7am-2amCt through our online chat on the homepage of our website.

    Thanks again for reaching out and enjoying our article!

    Stay safe,
    Advocate KB

  5. My husband of 1 year (romantic partner of 6years) is known for crying ‘mutual abuse’ in our fights. He is always arguing that if he’s abusive then I’m ‘extremely abusive.’ He’s never hit me, but he has grabbed me to prevent me from leaving and I have pushed him back and once slapped his face trying to get him off of me. He’ll never let me live that down. It’s brought up in every fight (“I’ve never hit you before, but you’ve hit me” “I’m going to tell everyone that you’ve hit me before. that will make them see that you’re the abusive one”)… it’s horrible and I’ve heard it and so many other gaslighting attempts that I’m starting to believe him – that people will think I’m the abuser…
    But now, he’s capitalizing on a new strategy – using my deepest secrets against me and then gaslighting me into thinking that it never happened…
    o Example: I have a history of cutting my upper thigh with a scissor / sharp object as a coping mechanism / a way to deal with my negative emotions (my therapist and parents are aware as well and I”ve never done it in a suicidal manner). Its been going on since I was 16 – so 9years now. I shared that with my husband and he’s seen the scars and sometimes the fresh wounds.
    On January 24, 2016, we got into a huge argument and he was using an angry, loud, tone of voice with me while holding our four month old daughter. I asked him if I could take her from him because I didn’t want her getting scared. He said no. I told him to give her to me. He said no in a louder voice. I again told him to give her to me because I didn’t like the way he was talking in her ear – she was scared – and I was worried that he may hurt her (he doesn’t think things through when he’s angry – has punched holes in our walls and broken things before). He glared at me when I said that and quickly responded by saying “no. I don’t trust you with her. You’ve been crying and extremely emotional all day. How do I know you won’t go and cut her”
     ….He accused me of wanting to purposefully hurt my own daughter because I was ‘so emotional’
     At first I was in shock. and then the emotion hit. I fell to my knees, sobbing and begged to know why he was being so mean and angry. He looked at me as if I was pitiful.
     The next day, he wanted to talk about our fight. he said “what happened after you told me to give her to you?”… uh what??!. He ‘claims’ that he couldn’t remember anything except me asking to take M (our daughter), but he ‘doesn’t remember anything’ after that moment. He doesn’t remember finally putting her in her crib and running into our bathroom threatening to call my mother and his and ‘expose me’ as a cutter – threatening to tell them that I was the reason he was going to kill himself right then and there.
    So he asked me to recount what had happened. When I did, he broke down into tears and apologized profusely and added “I’ll go talk to the therapist. I don’t ever want to be that mean or angry again. I’m so sorry. I don’t want to lose you. I love you and I need you. But I understand that I’ve lost some of your trust. I understand if you hate me…it’s okay. I deserve it. I don’t deserve you, but I love you so much!”
    o I told him that he was correct, that I didn’t trust him and that I don’t know if the emotional / mental wound he made will ever heal, but I appreciate his willingness to go to therapy to talk. <– even though I don't trust him to do it…
    o Now this isn’t the first time he’s used a dark secret (or a vulnerability) against me (he’s been using my cancer diagnosis / fear of dying alone against me for 2.5 years now) and he always follows it up with “I’m so sorry. I love you. I need you” and I know it won’t be the last time, but idk what to do. Was it wrong of me to respond the way I did? If I don’t respond at all, he tells me I’m cold and heartless or he gets emotional and questions my love for him (‘why won’t you look at me. Why are you still crying? I said I’m sorry. Didn’t you hear me?). but If I respond in ‘too friendly’ of a way he ‘forgets’ that it happens and thinks that everything is back to normal.  how should I respond / react when this happens?? I don’t want to piss him off but I don’t want to pretend things are 100% “okay” again. I want him to see that he hurt me…I want him to want to change, but will that ever happen? Should I give up hope? I'm so confused and so hurt. I want to have hope, but is it worth it??

  6. Erica,
    I have been in a very abusive relationship the past 4 yrs. I will be having this man’s baby any day now. He has beaten me throughout my pregnancy, as he did prior.

    It started as you describe your relationship: jealousy, control, guilt, isolation, verbal/emotional abuse, convinced his friends I’m crazy. Somewhere in the middle of all that, the physical abuse began. I’ve been to the ER on many occassions with significant injuries. Nurses know me there & frustrated why i don’t turn him in.

    But this is not about me…I want to reach out to you, Erica. Only recently have I been researching domestic violence. There are many reasons we stay that no one understands unless in our situation. But I’ve finally come to understand this:
    My situation will not improve no matter what I do, as long as I’m with this man.

    Your baby girl will grow up watching her dad disrespect you, belittle you, control you. He will start hitting you too. Don’t stay around to prove me wrong. He WILL.

    Find a way. Leave. Do it while your baby is too young to remember this nightmare.
    It is scary to leave. If your only/safest option is a donestic violence womens shelter, i won’t lie….its not fun. Ive been in one. But its temporary and there, you will have access to advocates, social workers, legal representatives, so many resources to help make sure you won’t have your baby taken. People who will drive you where you need to go, help you with steps to take to gain independence & re-build your self esteem.

    You said you are only here for your daughter. Be there in everyway, then. Allowing her to witness her mother living like you do will set her up to follow in your path. She will grow up angry, have low self-esteem, & won’t respect you.

    Take the steps to get out now. Its a tough, emotional, scary, journey. Stay focused on a better future; remind yourself you are creating a better life for your daughter. If you go on like this, what a giant disservice to her, and yourself. You BOTH deserve better. I promise.

    Much love to you & your daughter.

  7. Thank you for bringing attention to the issue of “mutual abuse.” Thank you for clarifying the insanity of the concept. My sig-other uses all of the tactics listed in the article to turn the tables on me. During beatings, if it gets to the point I fear for my life (I’ve been choked unconscious, resulting in signifiant memory loss; knives held to me) I fight back. I kick, bite, whatever it takes to stay alive. Its tricky bc when I fight back he becomes angrier & punches harder, but it gets his hands away from my throat or drop his knife. One day I won’t be so lucky. One day he will kill me if I don’t find a way out.

    True to your article, he labels my self defense as “abuse.” He says when I scream in pain or fear I “set him off” making him continue to hit me. Says I make him mad on purpose with my “smart mouth.” Says I “make him” hit me so others will feel srry for me.

    I have never been in a physical fight in my life. Have never participated in sports, i dont workout. I’m a girly-type & nowhere near a physical threat to anyone. Never.

    He is a former competition boxer. He has been in uncountable street fights (winning them). Everyone fears him. He can lift anything, break anything, & has no fear.

    I want to share my story about the day I finally got the courage to call police for help. Keep the above information in mind as you read:
    It was day 3 of beatings. He had torn my bloody clothes off me, choked me unconscious. When I came-to, I was confused. I asked what happened, vision blurry. His answer was a punch to my head. I was crawling, I don’t know where. My next memory, wearing only panties, I was struggling to hang on to my car keys & cell phone but he got them both from me. I don’t remember how I got away. I remember banging on the neighbors door with a small blanket wrapped around my naked body. She wasn’t going to let me in. I remember begging her to open the door & finally yelled, “open the fuc*king door!” She did.

    I collapsed on her living room floor, my voice so hoarse, hurt to talk after being choked. I don’t remember anything about her house except her wedding photo on a table. They looked very young.

    A policeman came. I don’t remember anything about the conversation until he said this: “I found a mark on your bf’s arm. He said you did it. Said he was asleep & you attacked him. If you press charges, he’s turning you in & claiming ‘self-defense.’ So, you can both go to jail today or you can drop it & find somewhere to go if you can’t get along.” I remember looking down at my arms & legs, the blanket was small & only covered my mid-section. I saw so many bruises, scrapes, smeared blood. I looked up at him & said, “really? You would take me to jail over a mark on his arm? Look at me.'” The policeman told me to “watch my attitude” or he would “find another reason to arrest me.” He said he was going to talk to my bf & come back. When he returned, he threw a pair of my sweatpants, a t-shirt, & tennis shoes on the floor next to me. He said, “put your clothes on. Your bf doesnt want you back in his house; doesnt trust you.” He tossed my car keys on the floor & said, “find somewhere else to go.”
    I was not allowed to get anything out of the house. Had to beg the policeman to get my phone from my bf before I left.

    I had to live in a shelter. At some point within my first 2-wks at the shelter, my bf said I could pick up some clothes, etc. I loaded some things in my car. As I was gathering another armful of clothes, he pushed me into the closet, called me a greedy, materialistic, bitch while punching me. He dragged me out of the closet, threw me around, & broke my finger. When I got away, I drove myself to the ER & returned to the shelter. Everyone was upset bc I went there alone. I didn’t tell them I was going there.

    That was 3 yrs ago. I have left him several times. My plan never works and I end up with the choice of homeslessness (on the streets) or at his house. I’m tired, pregnant, scared. My situation is bad. I still look for a solution. No one will help. No one cares. My goal is survival until i find a way out.

    If you are being abused and you DO have a way out. Dont be ashamed. Dont be scared. Get out. None of us deserve this life.

  8. HI Erica,
    Its so strange, your story is the closest to any ive ever heard relating to mine. I too feel the same and my lil girl is everything to me. He calls me 50/50. After getting in a really bad accident my back still suffering and then months later another rear end accident causing me to really stress n take anothe leave from work. I am getting PTSD therapy and now taking medication. Now with my therapy and medication om taking now, this is just another notch on his belt to use against me. He too destroys things, the lease is in our names but now he dont have a job anymore and im hanging by a string to keep mine. He doesnt help me at all when im here with him , she screams and cries and he wont budge. Hell get up eventually and aay something like ” her diaper is full arent you gonna change her”…after hearing me struggle having been changing her and barely able to pick her up with my back worsened. Anything at all like “i found a coin in her crib for her to choke on” n he will note things to his mom to scheme up a history of me being unfit or something. He even says his mom has pictures of him having marks or scratches from long a go that i did to him (a lie) to use against me in case they need to. Actually, a year ago after i had our baby he pushed my head on the floor and shoved my face in so hard my eye was swollen and totally messed up like a black eye barely able to see and my eye blood red, i lied to my job n missed work saying i got hurt in some accident…well my pics got deleted, my only witnesses who saw me afterward were my parents. At first his mom acted like she understood and would talk to him then she told me “at the end of the day he’s her son and shell always believe him”. She even forcefully took my baby out of my arms that day. Now they both say i lied about it, he says i went to the bathroom and slammed my face in the wall, and when my mom was speaking of the incident to his mom, his mom responded saying “oh you mean that day she fell”. Yea i should have called 911 then but didnt. The cops have since been called and basically say cant do anything inless he hits me and he can destroy anything in the apt beeak windows, equipment, destroy walls do any damage he wants and said ill just get sued by my Mngmt for damages if i dont pay for it. REALLY!!! Last time they came because he was blocking the door with the couc not letting me leave and smacked me away when i tried to push him out of the way. Well that time will be my last call i make to 911 because not only did i say exactly just what i explained here but he admitted to “pushing me away” to them and still he got to just lay there smiling. All that ended up happening was being read my rights before issuing me a citation for 911 abuse. The officer was same officer that came last call being upset because he came to make arrests not waste his time . Everyone says dont go through the courts for custody because she might end up in the system with all the fighting history n with the comments from him and his mom of me being emotionally unstable so ill have to get supervised visits. Im just so broken and scared. I feel like i cant trust anyone so im in my own twisted emotional prison and cant even be happy and enjoy my time with my daughter being so depressed and miserable. Im sick of being manipulated, taken advantage of, used, unappreciated and disrespected . I pay for everything, even his ohone on my plan, and today…i felt something hard inside the couch cushion, n it was a cell phone id never seen, so hes been also hiding a secret 2nd cell phone! I dont even want to go throgh all that drama and find out what he has been using it for or who . Im way past the point of being hurt n feeling betrayed that him having a setcret phone that he admitted to is not surprising, i just want to be free of him, however with my daughter i feel trapped and have fallen into mental anguish and despair.

  9. Thank you so much for this article. I left an abusive marriage and I am currently trying to heal from the abuse that I had to endure for too long. I was really struggling with this idea of mutual abuse and I am so glad that I stumbled on this. I felt like I was the crazy person with “anger issues” and was really battling with myself on whether or not I was still a good person. It was hard for me to put into words how I felt that this article helped me articulate the problems I had with my marriage.

  10. Hi Me Again,

    Thank you for reaching out and sharing your story with our blog community. His behavior is excruciating cruel and there is no excuse for it. I am deeply concerned for your wellbeing. Reacting to his abuse with violence isn’t healthy but that doesn’t make you abusive. His abuse is very upsetting and traumatic. Abusive partners are skilled manipulators who often go out of their way to have power over their partner. Regardless of what he says or tries to make you think, his abuse is never your fault or something you caused. It is human nature to hope for positive change in those we love and abusive partners use this to further manipulate their partner with false promises of change. Changing abusive behavior is possible and we have an article on it at this link however the vast majority of abusive partners never change. Many of them promise change as a way to keep their partners in the relationship. Suicide threats are another form of emotional abuse to control their partner. The hard truth is there is nothing you can do to make him change. That is entirely up to him. What you can do is control how you move forward and what you do. You have a right to make yourself a priority and to do what you need to be safe. If you would like to talk about your situation with an advocate, we are always reachable. We are on chat everyday from 7am to 2am CST and reachable 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233.

    Take care,

    Advocate LC

  11. I HAVE A 38 YR. OLD SON WHO HAS BEEN BEAT 3 TIMES ONCE WITH 2 BLA CK EYES AND 9 stiches. Over a period of 8 years I wondered every night when I went to sleep if he was going to be a lie the next. This affects the whole family , in many ways. People this does happen to me n and I have searched and research there is nothing out there for men. I wish and pray someone one day someone will do something about this. I feel very sorry for men that are stuck in this same situation but are so ashamed so ashamed to speak up because of a woman beating them I do agree with what everything you’ve said is true as a mom I have watched my 38 year old son get beat down so many times I just wish someone would help the man. Thank you for listening let’s all help our men

  12. I’m in tears reading these posts! I also saw red flags prior to marriage. The day I was to marry him, pregnant with my 5th child, I locked myself in the bathroom and begged him to leave me alone. I told him I never wanted to marry him and be under his control more than I already was. He did his usual begging telling me how sorry he was and to please just come out. I don’t even remember what or why I ended up locking myself in the bathroom…it was another fight or attempt at control. I seem to always break down and tell myself to give him a chance, we all make mistakes and need to work on a relationship. To this very day, 23 years later, I STILL try and tell myself to try harder, be a better mother, wife, support….but nothing changes with how I still get abused. I read these posts and cry because it’s exactly what I go thru! I’m a recovering alcoholic, been sober for a year and half now and it has been such a rough road living with someone who uses my inner most secrets against me. I know I’m a strong person, but I don’t want to keep living this abusive life. He doesn’t respect me or anything that might make me happy. I tell him how My dream vacation is Africa and going gorilla trekking and hot air ballooning over the serenghetti and he just laughs….telling me how ridiculous I am. I get excited watching the Bulls and he laughs at me! I tell him what kind of a job I’d like to work and he always has an excuse of why the job isn’t good for me and it’s stupid! He tells me I need to be there for the kids and I can’t get a job because how would the kids get to and from school, they don’t need to be taking a bus! I’m lost, scared and I ask why do I keep feeling like this? Yesterday, my older son needed my help to jump start his car….I told my husband (I have a hard time calling him my husband because I don’t think a husband that loves and respects you would call you names or cut you down) I was going help my son and he flipped! Claiming how I don’t care about money or wasting it! That we don’t have gas to drive back and forth. No one knows or cares about the bills only he does because I’m lazy and don’t want to get a job! I forgot to mention, I graduated school and went on to a vocational school prior to children. He dropped out of school! I’m completely capable and educated to get a good job…..only it has to meet HIS approval. It has to be the perfect hours and I can’t ask for help with our kids….Iike maybe them taking the bus. I have applied to many jobs and received phone calls for interviews….only for him to get jealous and begin the cut down process all over again! “You don’t need a job, I know I bitch about money but our kids need you. They like you being home for them.” My kids are in school all day!!! I volunteer at school, but I still want to work and I can’t! I ask why, and I don’t even know why except for that whenever I go on interviews, I’m told how stupid I am as I walk out the door. That’s alone hurts HUGE because in one instance he tells me how no one cares and all the bills are on him…I tell him I do care and I want to work!! So the process begins again…..send out my resume….get calls for interviews….even get hired and asked to come try the place out. I do, but again, as I walk out the door I’m told how stupid I am and all I’m doing is pleasing myself because the kids don’t want you to work! You don’t need that job! I go anyways, but once again, listen to him say how sorry he is that he bitches and says I don’t care but please don’t work! We will get thru these
    Times he claims. I ask myself, WHAT TIMES? Bills aren’t the problem here. It’s him calling me stupid, dumb ass, mother fucker, whore, cunt, fucking bitch, lazy ass….on and on. When he does this I usually walk away and cry in a room so he can’t see he has hurt me….because if he saw me crying he would just make fun of me telling me how riciculous I am to cry over something so stupid! He has called our children names. He has called our daughter a fucking cunt, fucking bitch, just like your fucking mother is! Our youngest son has cried to me saying he wishes Dad was dead. I feel so hopeless here. I’ve filled out divorce papers only for him To tear them up and throw them! I’ve filled them out 3 times now! I’ve been living like this way too long and I need help escaping. I’m not looking to hide…I just want peace and for my children to experience love surrounded by them instead of all the Anger and hate they see! I beg my husband to stop swearing and teaching them it’s ok to cuss! I beg him to be a parent to our children! I don’t let our children swear, I give them consequences when they do! I ask him what I do to be called the horrible names he calls me and there’s always some twisted answer. I pray everyday for things to change and I know it will never change as long as I stay dependent on him. I pray for strength to be better and do what’s right by leaving. I need a plan…help following thru….but most of all, someone other than my children to believe in me and be there for me as support. I’m also recovering from ptsd and depression…I’ve stopped almost a year ago going to a therapist because that too would be thrown in my face….that I’m a psycho who’s messed up! I’ve been trying to stay strong but feel myself becoming weak….so I’ve turned to here.

  13. I am a battered husband. not only women gets battered. i admit the i have hurt my wifes feeling emotionally, but physically I have never and God knows it, her parents knows it. She knows it.

    In every fight we do we shouted in each other I always ended up with wounds and concussion somewhere on my body. I want her to report to the authority. But I dont know what to do. I dont have a family here. I am on a 2 year conditional greencard. This time of writing (February 12, 2016 2:42am) I have concussion on my right forearm coz she hit me with her phone and some abrasion on my biceps noticeable caused by fingernails. And the fourth time she threatened to kill me. I dont know what to do anymore.
    Last time somewhere in September 2015 I do run on her parents to show the wounds Ive got and concussion on my head because she hit me with her phone on my head and a lot of abrasions. I dont know if I can still live with her or start a new life here without her. She is becoming antisocial and I noticed sometimes manic and depressed. I dont know what to do. I dont want her to go to jail cause she have a son

  14. Hi Angela,
    We are unable to approve your comment per our community guidelines, which can be found here. Every situation is different, and what worked for one survivor might not work in another’s situation. We’re always available for support if you’d like to discuss your situation and find out if there are any local resources available. Our phone number is 1-800-799-7233, and we’re here 24/7. Thank you for being a part of our blog community.


  15. Hi Sam,

    Thank you for sharing some of your experience with our community. Abuse is never justified, and I am glad that you were able to leave that unsafe situation. The myth of mutual abuse can be such an eye-opener for those who are experiencing/have experienced abuse from their partner. You are a good person, and you deserve to feel safe and respected in any relationship that you are in. If you’d like, you can always reach out to us to talk more about your situation, possible resources for further support, and/or your healing process. We are on chat every day from 7am-2am CST, and can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233.

    Take care,
    Advocate GP

  16. Hi Teri,

    Thank you for reaching out and sharing how DV has affected you and your family. At the Hotline, we know that abuse can affect anyone – regardless of gender. You are right that men are often socialized to not express their feelings or like they won’t be taken seriously if they speak up, and any survivor of abuse should not have to go through that on top of what they are already experiencing. Through our work, we aim to emphasize that all victims deserve to have resources and support available to them. If you get a chance, you can also read more about this specific topic in another post from our blog here. If you’d like to talk about your situation with your son further, please do not hesitate to reach out to us so we can help create a safety plan with you. We are here via chat from 7am-2am CST, and reachable 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233.

    Take care,
    Advocate GP

  17. I want to use the chat feature Bc I have kids & it’s hard to talk on the phone but it doesn’t seem to work. Does it not work on an iPhone? I need some support to keep me from going back.

  18. Hi Angela,

    Thank you for reaching out to our blog community. Your partner’s abuse is very abusive and unacceptable. There is nothing you could ever do to deserve any abuse and you have a right to be safe. Pregnancy can be one of the most dangerous times in an abusive relationship which makes your emotional and physical safety a priority. I want to let you know about our posts on safe pregnancy at this link. Every abusive situation is different and there is no set way to navigate an abusive situation. Leaving isn’t always an immediately safe option for someone however our advocates are always here to talk with someone about staying safe whether they are leaving or staying in the relationship. You are also welcomed to reach out to an advocate 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 and we are reachable everyday from 7am to 2am CST on chat.

    Take care,

    Advocate LC

  19. Hi Angela,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story of strength with us. What you have had to survive is unacceptable and something you never deserve. For him to choke you is terrifying, that is a potentially lethal behavior. You have a right to a fulfilling life free of abuse. You should be able to count on those in your community for support. For the police officer to respond the way that he did was not only something you didn’t deserve but it was something that no domestic abuse survivor should ever have to go through. If you would like to reach out to an advocate to help you plan being safe, we are always here. We are reachable 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 and reachable on chat everyday from 7am to 2am CST.

    Take care,

    Advocate LC

  20. Hi Melissa,

    It is incredibly to have someone do this to you. There is nothing you could ever do to deserve his abuse. What you have described is emotionally and physical abuse. For him to involve in his mother is very cruel. There are resources our there for survivors of support who want to ask questions about custody and other legal processes. An advocate would be able to connect you with resources in your community. The fact the police responded to you in that way is very frustrating and it is crushing. You should be able to trust the police to keep you safe, not have them try to criminalize you needing support. If you would like to reach out to an advocate, we are here 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 and reachable everyday on chat from 7am to 2am CST.

    Take care,

    Advocate LC

  21. Hi Feelhopeless,

    Thank you for reaching out and sharing your story. Abusive partners are skilled manipulators who often use the fact that it is human nature to hope for change in those they care about. False promises of change and remorse are often use to keep survivors of abuse in the relations and make it a confusing situation to navigate. It is important to note that the abuse is not your fault or something you change. The fact that he is still choosing to be abusive is not your fault and something he is only to blame for. No matter how hard you work, there isn’t a way to make the abuse stop because you aren’t causing it. It is his choice and he is the one that is making this relationship abusive regardless of anything he says or tries to make you think. If you would like to reach out to an advocate to talk about your situation and explore your options, we are always here. You can reach us 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 and reachable everyday from 7am to 2am CST.

    Take care,

    Advocate LC

  22. Hi Rolando,

    Thank you for reaching out. You are completely right that abuse affects people of all genders including. Your gender doesn’t change that what she is doing is abusive and not your fault at all. You have a right to be safe and to be able to have a life free of abuse. There are legal protections for immigrants who are survivors of abuse that can help you. Also, there are legal advocate and resources to help you decide how to move forward. If you would like to talk to an advocate and be connected to your local resources, we are always here. We are reachable 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 and reachable everyday on chat from 7am to 2am CST.

    Take care,

    Advocate LC

  23. Hi Lulu,

    Our mobile chat should be compatible with iPhones; I’m so sorry that it doesn’t seem to be working for you! I would suggest trying again when you’re able, by clicking the “chat now” button that appears on our mobile website. It may also have a chat option pop up from the side of your phone’s screen. If that still doesn’t work, we’re always happy to chat with you over the phone if you find some downtime, or through a computer/tablet if you have access to such! In the meantime you can also check out our survivor series to get inspiration and reassurance that you’re on the right track!

    Stay strong, you did the right thing. Leaving is worth it! We’re here for you to chat from 7am-2am CST or over the phone 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233. Feel free to reach out at any time when you’re able to do so, we’d love to hear from you.

    Advocate JL

  24. I find your Power and Control Wheels download document to be very anti-male. Look specifically at the “Using Male Privilege” section. You are indicting several world cultures that have been around for thousands of years. For example, in many cultures, the man is the head of the household. This type of hierarchical relationship is also a religious-cultural value. This shoots a torpedo straight at cultural roles. Why do you villainize men and traditional roles? I came here as a victim of female physical abuse and I am leaving now as an extreme victim because even the “resources” are anti-male. I really haven’t even been bitten by the system but I now think this. I also just learned about the “Primary Aggressor” policy where several states require the bigger more scary appearing person in a domestic dispute to be arrested, which naturally means the male gets arrested. It is really sad that your website is so slanted against the evil-male but doesn’t have a section where women are not held to the same standard. Very often women commit acts of violence against men because they lose arguments or “feel” they are victims of some other nebulous category of abuse. Then, they feel justified to physically abuse a man. Thank you for making things worse.

  25. Hi Keanu,

    I am sorry that you have not found the support you need from us. Abuse is something that crosses all gender lines and someone’s gender identity never makes them immune to abuse. There is nothing you could have done to deserve abuse and you identifying as male a man doesn’t change that. We have a page on male survivors of abuse at this link. Unfortunately law enforcement doesn’t always respond to abuse in a way that supports the survivor of abuse. This can come from a variety of issues including the fact that law enforcement responds to incidents of abuse and does not investigate abuse as the pattern of abusive behaviors. Our power and control wheel includes male privilege because for many survivors of abuse, this is part of the imbalance of power in their relationship. Stereotypical gender roles can affect those in a variety of relationships and including same-sex relationships and male survivors of abuse. If you would like to reach out to an advocate about your experience and talk about sources of support to reach out to, we are always here. We are reachable 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 and we are on chat everyday from 7am to 2am CST.

    Take care,

    Advocate LC

  26. I am confused. I know you have plenty of comments to go through and many people who need your help more than I do. But I am confused. I no longer know what situation I am in. If I should pack up and leave or stay and hope that eventually things will change.

    You see, I have been told that the reason why I would be beaten is because I fail to follow to simple instructions. That my behaviour is so frustrating there is no other way to feel better than to hit. If I have made a mistake, how big of a mistake does it take before it becomes justifiable? No, I am not cheating, stealing money, or causing grievious hurt. All my mistakes are work related. Am I completely irrational for feeling like it’s wrong? Are the beatings and threats of beating justifiable because I really am useless? Do you think it’s my fault and I should be less frustrating? I keep swinging between this being my fault and this being his fault. I still love him, but I am not sure it’s going to be any different even if I stay. Maybe he would be better off with someone else?

  27. Hi Rachel,

    You deserve to reach out for help if something feels wrong. No matter how many comments we get, we’re so glad you reached out today.

    It’s ok to be confused, it sounds like a really frustrating situation for you. You’re not irrational for feeling like that is wrong! Nobody ever has the right to harm you in any way, no matter what you have said or done. Nothing will ever justify abuse. Abuse is a choice made by someone who wishes to gain power and control in a relationship, instead of building a healthy relationship with trust and respect. No mistake, even cheating or the other offenses you mentioned, justifies abuse. It sounds to me like you have had to deal with quite a lot of gaslighting in this relationship.

    It’s ok to still have feelings for your partner, that’s very normal. But you don’t deserve to be treated the way you’re describing here, and it’s definitely not your fault. Since abuse is about power and control, not right or wrong, you could do everything he wanted you to do and this behavior would be the same. I encourage you to engage in self care and I definitely invite you to come chat with an advocate about this further if you’d be comfortable doing so; we’re available 24/7 by phone at 1-800-799-7233 or by chat from 7am-2am here on our website.

    Take care,
    Advocate JL

  28. I have been with a man for almost 8 years. I have had a few attempts of leaving but have always gone back. We are currently separated/working on things. I needed a lot of help on the whole mutual abuse because I was always told it was my fault for his actions. I’ve never been hit but he’s bucked up to me with closed fists blocked me in a room took my phone away so I couldn’t call for help broke countless items has choked me out and spit in my face and held me down on the bed so I couldn’t leave The room during an argument. The time he spit in my face was the only time I hit back. He claims my attitude and my anger make him act this way and that he’s not the only one doing the abuse. He says I’m crazy and that I am not mentally ok but I def know he’s not either. We have just recently separated 2 months ago but he claims he loves me and that he wants to work things out. I know I love him but I don’t forsee this getting better without dealing with our issues at hand. I at least want a good direction as to where to get help since we have two kids so if I don’t go back I won’t have to worry about anger. He is a good dad just not a good s.o. and I don’t want our boys to see us fighting.

  29. Hi A.,

    Thank you for sharing a part of your story with us. I am sorry to hear that you have experienced such violence and physical harm. It is very common for abusers to shift the blame for their actions onto their partners, and it is actually seen as a form of manipulation to maintain control over the relationship. You are never at fault for his actions, simply put – they are HIS actions alone. Sometimes we are in love with the memory of the person that our partner used to be, and not actually with the reality of the one that they have turned into. You are right that someone can be a good parent, but not necessarily a good partner. Ultimately, he has to be genuinely willing to take responsibility for his actions and work on changing his behavior in order for anything to become healthy. Please contact us at anytime to talk further about resources near you, ways to keep yourself and your boys safe, and your personal healing process. We are here 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233, as well as on chat from 7am-2am (CST). You deserve to be safe.

    Take care,
    Advocate GP

  30. I just got out of relationship that I thought was abusive on both ends. My partner would tell me that I just wanted revenge because I’d defend myself whenever they’d hurt me. Whenever they’d say things I’d get upset and hurt over they’d tell me, “I didn’t mean it that way.” Or comment how I was taking it the wrong way. And then my reactions to the mean things that were said was “abusive” to them. This article really puts things into perspective for me. I’ve always thought that I was abusive and a horrible irrational person. But my partner was gaslighting me into thinking that I had no right to be angry with them for all the mean things they’ve said to me.

  31. Hi Tryingtofindpeace!

    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us! It sounds like you’ve been through so much. No one deserves to experience abuse of any kind, and your partner’s choice to minimize your feelings and Shift Blame onto you, and make such hurtful choices is not okay at all.

    I’m so glad that this article was helpful for you. You deserve a healthy relationship, and you deserve to be happy. Processing what you experienced is something that can take time, and you absolutely deserve support through this. If you feel like it might be helpful, we have a few pages on our site, like Life After Abuse: Helpful Books to Check Out and Finding Closure After Abuse that can be useful when transitioning out of an abusive relationship and looking at those early steps toward healing.

    Please know that we are always here for you, whether that is talking through the abuse, exploring options for support, or addressing any other questions or concerns you might have. Our advocates are here 24/7 by phone at 1-800-799-7233 or from 7am-2am CST through our chat in the top right corner at

    Take care!
    Advocate GR

  32. My ex was a skilled gaslighter, shifter of the blame, and twister of words. For example, when I confronted him about his cheating, he would say “I never did anything”. He was also living with the girl he cheated on me with, and he said that “It was what she wanted, not me”. This was one of the last interactions I had with him, nearly a month ago.

    However, I admit that I said things that I regret, and I worried and still worry if I was just abusive, too. This article helped me come to terms of what was said in the relationship, out of self defense and defending my name. No matter who started a fight or said a hurtful comment, somehow I ended up apologizing. There were times I tried to walk away from a fight/confrontation, and he would yank my wrist and “hug” me and apologize. He was my first boyfriend, so I did not know what was “normal” and what was “unhealthy”. Nonetheless, I want to say I grew into a stronger person and like Carl Jung once said, “I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become”.

  33. Hi AJ,

    Thank you for sharing this with our community. We’re glad that this post was helpful to you; you always deserve to protect yourself, emotionally or physically. If you ever need additional support as you heal, we are here for you!

  34. [From admin: This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines]

    I have to agree with the last guy on some level.
    I’ve had quadruple bypass surgery at 42 and before surgery my wife and I would argue and as soon as I brought up something she got uncomfortable with or she didn’t feel she needed to answer she would call me loser , scumbag, prick, etc. tell me the terrible role model I am for our 2 great boys because I haven’t worked or contributed enough finances to keep our family together or just plain out punch me or slap me and I have no respect for her then say that I was the abusive one for even bringing up such a question.
    Now I’m not saying some of my inquiries and questions were not warranted an angry or a defensive response. But I’m a big guy for someone to believe me … That I let my wife do this. Please!!!
    I’ve lived with it for years now because she is the contributing bread winner.

    My boys love their mother! And as a father I’ve always had to take a backseat I couldn’t reprimand or ground them for anything!
    I tried to show my son there would be consequences for his dumb action and told him I was grounding him from his car for a week. My wife called me every name possible and threatened to say I slapped her and she would call her cop acquaintances and have me thrown in jail.
    Needless to say no consequences!!!
    I’m not saying bad things Don’t happen to women from asshole men.
    But I adopted her son at 3 years old. I helped her gain full custody from her alcoholic ex-husband.
    Damn I wish there was a woman that could advocate for guys like me. But I know that these days and times society says “it must be the abusive husband”
    I have even been threatened with her going to the police with bruises she got from roughhouseing with the boys.
    I love my family and not all is bad but the combination of me being told I’m a terrible role model and that I’m the one abusive because she doesn’t approve of the questions I inquire about. Or just the fact that our boys find out I let their mom hit me because I’m afraid they’ll think less of me.
    It’s really not a good sense fatherly responsibility or masculinity I try to to instill in our kids.
    I fell in love with this girl and her son!!! And later fell in love with the son we made together and the family we have. I’m just so confused and beaten down!!!
    I completely understand his frustration.

  35. Hello RM,

    Thank you for sharing your story here. I am so sorry to hear about what you’ve been through with your wife and family. You do not deserve to be treated this way, and you deserve support. We often hear from male survivors who face the same stigma that you have faced from people who don’t believe men can be abused. We know that anyone can experience abuse, and anyone can be abusive. We would be happy to speak to you about your situation if you feel ready to reach out. Please call us any time at 1-800-799-7233 or chat live here on our website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central.

  36. I don’t know where to begin. It doesn’t matter that you are a man or woman. I hope you have found resources and courage to stop this pattern. Unfortunately as it sounds in your situation, abusers use positions of power of friends in important places to manipulate and control . I wish you peace strength courage and wisdom. I hope the resources here will guide you to a happier place.

  37. Thank you for your words of encouragement, Rising Phoenixx. It’s true that abusive people will do anything to maintain power and control, and it’s not easy to escape or end the relationship.

  38. Hi — I think I am in an emotionally manipulative relationship, but I can’t tell if it is mutually toxic. I know I have done things that have hurt this person, but I have looked into resources on changing this behavior. I can’t tell if it is in response to manipulation or is the root of how they are acting towards me. I have been journaling a lot and write down instances of what I think could be emotional manipulation for myself — I think this is so I am not gaslighted, but is it also fact-checking and “keeping score” ? I have been reading a lot about self-help and empowerment (especially in instances you desire to maintain a relationship with the person and have it grow and change) and something I have tried to do is name behavior when it happens. But am I manipulating the scenario into being something that it is not? I wrote this person a letter naming some things as manipulative (they wanted me to talk to some one I wasn’t ready to talk to and said “if you really cared about this person you would do something to stop them hurting) and describing how I needed time and space to locate my emotionality. I think this is emotionally intelligent — or at least, am internalizing what I have read as that being the case. I was told that they were overwhelmed and devastated by the language used and that our relationship was mutually toxic. I don’t really think this is addressing the letter and feels like side-stepping, but also those feelings are valid. I do not want to be non-accountable for how I have hurt them, but when I ask and give them space to voice those problems, they say “I have forgiven you for everything you have done, really, because I love you.” When I say “there are things you have done that have hurt me” they state that “you have done things to hurt me too.” I am not sure what this means and feels like gaslighting, but also that maybe they are afraid of me? I don’t know but I do not want to create patterns and cycles of abuse. I have read this article and ones like it many times, but I don’t want to be dismissive of their needs and feelings. Are there ways in which calling out manipulation is also manipulative? Am I trying to convince myself that I am not the one that is manipulative and that I have to be “right” on this? Can steps to be self-empowered be a negation of other people’s needs?

    Thank you. I want to learn from this and disengage with oppressive structures that I also may be enacting while being emotionally responsible to myself.

  39. In addition, they also have ADHD and have vocalized this as an explanation for some problems. Sometimes it is difficult because they remember some things so clearly that I have said or done but forget when I am bringing up my own issues or say it didn’t happen. They forget that we had plans. They don’t show up to my college graduation. They put off a conversation we needed to have for a month saying “I don’t have a calendar like you do so I lose track of time.” We used to process and it never seemed to grow or change anything. To other people, they feel like they are constantly talking to me and I am utilizing all their time. To me, it was said “I am tired after work and can’t make plans” and also “weekends are the only time I have to myself” so I feel where am I in your life as a priority? Am I abusing and discrediting the manner in which their brain works? Is it that we are experiencing levels of deep miscommunication or is it manipulation? Is it mutual? I can’t tell where reality is anymore but is that on me and not on them?

  40. I’ve been with my tormentor for 20+ years and married for 5. There has always been something odd but I didn’t know what. I always knew I couldn’t count on him for anything. He was dismissive of my feelings yet was very easily hurt and needed constant praise. I don’t understand why I was there. It wasn’t love because I don’t love him. He understands that he can make me feel sorry for him and that I can’t handle “being the bad guy”. He’s used that to his advantage. Then for some reason I married him. Really the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. Last year I inherited a great deal of money. That’s when things got really got bad. He calls me terrible names has stolen >$100,000 from me. He is very violent. He had a knife to my throat 2 days ago. After these events he denies they ever happened and I’m crazy. He rewrites history all the time. I am just so afraid he’s going to kill me.

  41. Hi Emily,

    Thanks so much for sharing your story here. It sounds like a lot is going on, and I’m glad you’re reaching out for help. I would encourage you to get in touch with us directly, either by calling 1-800-799-7233 or chatting here on our website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central so that we can discuss your situation confidentially and possibly provide some options and resources that work best for you. Please get in touch whenever you feel safe and ready to do so.

  42. Hi Scared & confused,

    I’m so sorry that your husband is choosing to treat you this way. You don’t deserve any of it, and it really concerns me that you are afraid he might kill you. I encourage you to get in touch directly whenever you feel safe enough to do so. Please call any time at 1-800-799-7233 or chat here on our website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central.

  43. [Admin note: This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines.]
    You see this all the time. A victim defends herself and officer “moron” arrests her without spending time investigating the full scene and considering all information. Police are overpaid and uneducated. Most male police abuse their partners at home so it shouldn’t be surprising that they side with the male.

  44. Hello Swim!
    It sounds like you have some concerns about your relationship. We cannot provide crisis support over blog comments, but if you’d like to talk about what is going on with one of our advocates, we’re here 24/7 via online chat and phone (1-800-799-7233).

  45. This is so, so spot on. So important. The years are flowing here. I just don’t know how to get out. He’ll kill me and have evvvverybody believing that I asked for it before I can get out of this…

  46. Hi Mary!
    It sounds like you might have some questions about how to leave a relationship safely. To discuss options with an advocate, you can reach out to us via phone or online chat. Our advocates are here 24/7.

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