While almost all of us enter into a relationship to have companionship, positivity and support as we go through life, not all relationships lead along these lines, many are painful, barbed and emotionally draining. It’s not uncommon to see instances where one or both partners are aggressive, jostling for control, putting each other down, manipulating themselves to the detriment of the other partner. Relationships are meant to be enjoyed and not endured, unfortunately many are enduring it!

The painful part is that, there is the widely accepted patriarchal model of relationship abuse – indeed many of the studies, support groups, advocacy groups and public policies have always been tilted towards the male dominated source of abuse rather than looking out for whoever is abused. Physical/sexual abuses are often viewed to be manly, that is, abuse only emanate from the man but indeed studies and researches have shown that women also do engage, instigate and perpetrate violent acts against their partners (not only in response to violence or in acts of self-defense but as instigators to achieve negative intents).     

In fact, a study published in the journal of Men and Masculinity recently showed that men are often not the aggressor but both gender can become victims or perpetrators depending on the balance of role in the relationship. Meaning that either of the gender can fall into a pattern of repeated violence against each other depending on who wields the balance of power. The balance of power/control can be monetary, sexual, social appeal, communication – ‘manipulatory’ skills etc. Unfortunately, there are many reasons these repeated acts of violence are being kept under the carpet for a long time. Such reasons include but not limited to shame of being under the control of wife, loss of self-esteem due to being beaten or controlled by a lady, economic emasculation etc. Other behaviors that women engage in that can breed violence without striking include and not limited to controlling physical movement, restricting finances, name calling, gaslighting, emotionally disconnecting children from partner etc. These situations, if not well controlled early often eventually lead to death or significant bodily harm and other mental health problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, somatic symptoms disorders, insomnia, anger problems, and post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.

However, physical abuse is rampant but often covered up due to shame and public view of the man as a weakling or a failure. Such were the situation of some court cases in the news recently, especially a case where a particular woman was arraigned for stabbing her husband to death; the man was stabbed multiple times which according to the police was premeditated. One of the witnesses in the case said the convicted woman had on several occasions threatened to chop off the husband’s sexual organ, engaged in heated emotional abuse, holding of the man’s neck and many more before it led to the gruesome murder.     

In summary, it is important that we start changing our beliefs about abuse in relationships as only titling to female abuse alone. It’s not absolutely true that men are more aggressive (as both gender can be), also not true that women are too weak to challenge their male counterpart as abuse is not only physical but can be psychological – emotional – sexual. We should start thinking about violence, intimate partner violence as a symptom of mental illness which can affect anyone (any gender, irrespective of affluence or influence, race, education etc.).

More importantly, men who endure intimate partner violence require urgent help and therapy. They need more support to come out for help because most of them often deal with this alone, enduring anguish from a partner with a mental health problem thereby inflicting mental health problems on themselves too. These men suffer from mood disorders especially depression (like the female survivors too), low self- esteem, personality disorders and when they get into new emotionally rewarding relationships, unfortunately destroy it by what they have endured in the past toxic and abusive relationship(s).

Our attitude and views about gender based violence must change and it starts with you! If you or any loved one is currently going through this, do not walk this tortuous road alone – Contact [email protected] or 081 2827 6962, +234 2291 4084 to book an appointment with a licensed therapist.