Abuse comes in many forms. Especially abuse that men often don’t recognize.

Most men, like myself, are unaware that they are, or have been, abused. Many men have selective memories. They remember the good times, the sex and the moments when their partner told them they were good at fixing doorknobs. Men can be perfect whipping boys. Their greatest strength is endurance in the face of conflict and terror.

They learn, as children and adolescence, to push their bodies well beyond capacity in order to net a soccer ball, or, as men, drive hard into long hours at a desk even though their soul is screaming for reprieve. Tolerance runs sovereign over self-respect.

For most men to recall a time they were treated terribly, it may take more than throwing a shoe down memory lane. They just don’t think about being treated terribly, they think about how to fix something, or how to escape, but to recall and feel are the creeds of a foreign god.   

Men are most at risk for abuse when they have grown up thinking they have to please in order to be loved, have drug addicted or alcoholic parents, or if they’ve been abandoned by a parent or guardian and think it’s their fault. They become people-pleasing puddles of mush, mashed at the stroke of a disapproving gaze. This false core wound provides ground for any Narcissistic or Borderline individual to come creeping into their midst, keen on exploiting that wound for all its riches.

Narcissists and Borderline personalities, or the skilled victim as I call them, are those who have received the same type of wounding as the people pleasers, perhaps more severe/abusive, but have responded and developed in a different way. They can be men or women. These types become the opposite of people pleasing. They are never able to apologize, are uber critical of other people and are masterful manipulators.

The skilled victim needs someone, a whipping boy, to trim their hedges and turn on the lights for them, and the whipping boy will comply, because that is how he achieves shallow acceptance, and his own version of false love.

Skilled victims are the most prone to abuse. These are some of the ways I, and other men I know, have experienced abuse.  

The skilled victim will:

  • Seduce him with all the sex he wants until he has committed; then remove sex, off and on, infinitum, in order to keep him where they want him. The man will always apologize thinking he has done something wrong to have such boons retracted. This is abuse. Get out.
  • Develop impromptu “sicknesses” just before their man leaves to clear his head, spend time with friends, go on a solo adventure, or business trip. The expert victim will then shame him for leaving them in such a condition.
  • Will verbally abuse him, castrate him with their words and challenge his manhood and self-care. Skilled victims hate seeing people take care of themselves, because it is not something they have ever been able to do, and, quite possibly, were punished for trying to do so. A skilled victim is incapable of compromise, vulnerability, or authenticity. Either you do what they want, or they will do whatever they can to label you as an abuser.
  • Become an expert within the first few weeks around what the man will want to hear. They will build him up. He will be an emperor in his own skin. Once the skilled victim latches on, however, all of his strengths will, like a slow poisonous drip, be challenged and undermined, especially when they interfere with the victim’s need for self-soothing and attention.
  • Talk endlessly of wanting to be together for lifetimes, how they can’t wait for them to grow old together, and in the next instant they snap fangs at you for packing a box wrong. The man will be split into idealizations and degradations.  This is abuse. Leave the leaf of the praying mantis.
  • Empty a man’s bank account on the promise of love then blame him for a poor budget. When they are not getting their way, or if confronted, they will viciously attack a weak and tired man (who’s been working to provide) then berate his lack of energy.
  • Start fights with the man’s family members, friends, or other males, and if he doesn’t take their side, he will be stonewalled and questioned for his commitment.  Sometimes, they will provoke another man to the point of fighting, and demand that you defend their honor. This is abuse. Get out.
  • Initiate the cycle of abuse at night, keep him awake, or try to make him orgasm as much as possible so that he becomes weak and disoriented. If he likes to orgasm, they will pathologize his sex drive. Sleep and sex control are common tactics of abuse. The skilled victim’s main assault is on his ability to be present, think clearly, and pursuit of anything that does not involve the victim’s plans.
  • When a man finally stands up for himself, and refuses to take any more punishment, the skilled victim may become desperate, attack the man, and then tell the world they’ve been abused. They may take the children and use this false “abuse” as an excuse to keep them away from him; and then move to the next target (often the children).

This list is by no means exhaustive.

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As an abused man I complained and pleaded. The more I pointed out their behavior, the worse it got. Finally, after having left the Ferris Wheel of victim and abuser, I have uncovered the following essential treasures:

The abuse is telling you that you need to step more fully into your path in life, your passions, and take responsibility for your gifts.  The skilled victim will do anything to destroy them in order to feel loved.

Don’t give in. 

A healthy partner will respect your boundaries, feel more secure in them, and will have a chance to heal inside your firmness. 

The skilled victim is actually an external representation of the damage you are causing yourself by apologizing for things you shouldn’t, making waves out of your Yes’s and No’s, and folding your dreams for their satisfaction. Wake up. The only thing you should apologize for is not being yourself. Find a way to be You.

Learn about secondary gains. They provide the reason you keep finding partners like this.  You are gaining the benefit of not having to be your own hero – a massive responsibility.  Take out the IV, get off the bed and stand up. If they keep cutting you down, leave them.

  • Men that lead from their heart thwart all abuse.  Believe beyond reproach that what is good for you is good for the planet. It’s sexy.
  • Skilled victims don’t know who they are.  Their accusations and insults are actually how they feel about themselves and their self-appraisals are actually positive characteristics they have borrowed from you.
  • Leaving a relationship like this requires you to grieve.  Learn how to cry, join a men’s group (I have an online one), and start doing what you know all along you need to do – for you.
  • Being abused is not a reason to stay in victimhood and complain. If you remain like this you will turn into a skilled victim.  Please don’t.
  • If your children witnessed the abuse, your leaving and self-empowering will inspire them to rise above as well.
  • Expert victims should never be expected to change, but as the real victim, you should expect to change yourself.  Abuse, at some level, is a deep wake up call to spirited action.

If you or any man you know is struggling with these issues, please feel free to contact me at Prometheus Men’s Group, psychotherapy@jordankozey.com, Facebook, or Twitter