By Baila Sebrow

Question

Is it true that a man can also be the victim of domestic abuse? I was introduced to a woman, and we get along great. But I heard that in one of her marriages she would throw things at her husband when she thought he wasn’t paying attention to her. Her husband left her when she pulled his phone out of his hand and threw it at him, breaking it when it hit him.

This woman is very needy and wants a lot of time. She gets upset if I don’t answer her calls and texts right away. She usually ends up calling and texting me a bunch of times, asking me where I am. If it takes a long time for me to get back to her, she gets mean for a little while till she calms down. But I think that’s because she never had real love and attention from a man.

I can’t believe that such a sweet, frum person can hurt anyone. How can I know if she has it in her to be abusive? Everyone I speak to tells me that it must have been self-defense and that women do not hit men.

She is very nice, and we have so much in common. I want to continue dating her and see where things go.

Response

You state you heard that in one of her marriages she threw things at her husband when he didn’t pay attention to her. Worse still, she allegedly threw an object at her husband, thereby hurting him while it broke on impact. How many marriages are we talking about here? And while we are discussing her multiple marriages, what does this woman say caused her divorces? Meaning, what is her version of her failed marriages?

You question the validity of domestic violence where the perpetrator is the wife and not the husband. Sadly, domestic violence is very real. Both men and women are victims, and it happens in all frum circles too.

According to statistics, there are more cases of women being victimized by their husband. But we don’t know how accurate those statistics are. It could be that the numbers for men being victims are greater than we know. In my opinion, there are two reasons why that would be the case. One is because a man is physically stronger (and usually bigger than the woman), so, in some instances, even if a woman strikes a man, he may have the advantage of being able to block her or shield himself. And the other reason is that men are typically ashamed to admit that they were victimized in such a way.

Those who work with victims of domestic violence know that it is not uncommon for the spouse to make excuses for unexplained bruises by claiming clumsiness, or to give some other explanation. And in the case of a husband being the victim, all the more so. Why? Because most men feel it is unmanly to admit that a woman was able to physically hurt him. Additionally, he also knows that society would question if he did something to provoke his wife. So the husband ends up not saying anything about being physically abused until the marriage is over.

What you heard about the woman you are dating should certainly raise your antennae of suspicion. Throwing objects at people is abusive. It makes no difference what she got upset over. She threw a phone at him with such force that it broke on him, which must have caused injury. She is lucky not to have gotten arrested for that act. It is possible that it was self-defense; it is possible that he may have tried to hurt her, and throwing something at him gave her a chance to escape. And so, it is also possible that she was the victim all along, and he chose to leave her when he had enough of abusing her. Surprisingly, that happens too. Abusive partners may be the ones to leave first when the challenge wears off or if they become disgusted with the person they are abusing.

I have given you some information to mull over where this woman is concerned. In most cases, I recommend that the person speak to the one they are dating to hear their side of the story. While I would tell you to do that, but if she was an abusive spouse, it is unlikely  she would admit the truth to you. That brings me back to my earlier questions. How many marriages did this woman have, and what happened during those periods? You are best off conducting a major investigation by speaking to as many people as possible who knew her during her marriages to gather as much information as you can.

Among the things you would need to find out is the number of marriages this woman had. How many failed relationships has she had? I am sorry to say that when it comes to multiple bad records, sadly, history often repeats itself.

Does her version of the stories always claim that she was the victim? Even if turns out that she was not the aggressor in her marriages, does she have the characteristics for passive-aggressive behavior? If so, that does not make her out to be a great spouse either. Those who behave that way know the buttons to push to aggravate their spouse and trigger them.

Let’s talk a bit about her neediness. I can appreciate that she finally met a man who might be different from those in her previous relationships. But it is problematic that she gets upset if you can’t respond to her immediately and becomes compulsive by trying to get your attention. Not only that, but the way she treats you when you do get back to her is unacceptable. It sounds like she is emotionally abusing you! It also appears that you don’t seem to recognize that as negative behavior. You might even think that it’s sweet that she goes through so much trouble to get ahold of you. Just so you know, those are the first telltale signs of an abusive partner.

How often does she try to reach you? If you are dating her, I imagine you are speaking to her and seeing her on a regular basis. So then what is the urgency of her needing you to get back to her right away? Do you think she is checking up on you all the time to see where you are, what you are doing, and who you are with, and when you don’t respond, she gets upset? What have you seen her do when she gets upset in general?

I always try to be fair, so I will also put this out for you. If she never had love and attention from a man (as you say) then her behavior of trying to reach you might be panic in that she is afraid of being deserted. If that is true, do you have any idea what it would be like to live with a person who always feels this way? You will never have personal space. You will always be on edge that she’s imagining you are doing something wrong when you aren’t. Such people are capable of emotionally suffocating their partner.

You are clearly very much enamored with her, and that is a problem in these types of circumstances because even if facts prove that she is a difficult person, you will not be able to accept it. From what I can see, you have the makings of being involved in a toxic relationship. There are so many issues and unanswered questions that I cannot advise you to continue dating her unless you manage to get her into therapy where you can be there, too. If she does agree to therapy, I am certain you will discover surprising things about her.

Moreover, you must find an objective third party who doesn’t stand to lose or gain anything whether or not you continue to date her. This person must be wise and able to scrutinize and analyze all her patterns of behavior while getting to know her, and view the two of you interacting with one another. Be receptive to his or her perspective on this woman and agree to take the beneficial advice you will receive.

Until you get the green light that you are in a safe and healthy relationship, it is best to slow down any progression with her. Additionally, you need to familiarize yourself with the facts about domestic violence in frum marriages. You do not want to become another statistic, G-d forbid.

Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to 5townsforum@gmail.com.

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