Reason #7 Women Stay in Abusive Relationships: He Lies

Reason #7 Women Stay in Abusive Relationships: He Lies June 5, 2009

(Update: All the posts of this series have been collected into one piece, Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships, and How to Defeat Each One of Them.)

(This is the next [and final] post in my series, 7 Reasons Women Stay in Bad Relationships. I have collected all my posts in this series into a 41-page document, entitled: “Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships (and How To Defeat Each One of Them),” and made it available here on for free downloading and/or online reading.)

A man who abuses his wife or girlfriend doesn’t have the same kind of relationship with the truth that normal people do. For him, the truth is entirely conditional. This rare quality is what renders the abusive man so confounding, so dangerous. No matter how messed up they seem to be, most people, at some point, come down to a truth that for them is a constant. Something for them, which is organic to them, is always true for them. You never betray your family. You don’t take what isn’t yours. You never hit a woman. Whatever it might be for any given person, for them it’s a constant. It’s a steady, inviolate part of their consciousness and behavior.

An abusive man has no consistent or immutable truth within him, because his entire life is a lie. He is a lie. When he goes out in the world, he does not go out as a man who beats his wife. He goes out as a man who shares the values and morals of all the men out in the world who don’t beat their wives. He is pretending to be someone he isn’t. He is pretending to care about things he doesn’t. He is pretending to believe in things he doesn’t. He is pretending to have nothing in particular to be profoundly ashamed of.

He is a lying. Not a little. Not about a particular aspect of who he is. He is lying, all the time, about the entirely of his life and character. And he needs you to be complicit in that lie. You are the nearby needle he needs to not pop his balloon, the stage manager (and co-star) who makes his play possible. He depends upon your shame at being with the kind of man he is to stop you from publicly acknowledging that you are, in fact, with a man like him.

Saying that a man’s relationship with the truth is grounded in nothing isn’t at all the same thing as saying that man’s feelings, when aroused, are not fully felt and utterly sincere. Part of what keeps a woman in a relationship with an abusive man is how deeply he clearly feels it when he is in the throes of his remorse. He really means he’ll never hit you again. His tears are real. He is profoundly, terribly, painfully sorry for what he has done.

For as long as that mood lasts, that is. Which, if you’re in an abusive relationship, you know is usually distressingly soon after you make it clear to him that you forgive him. That’s usually all an abusive man needs to start seeing green lights again. Your forgiveness is all he needs to know you’ll take more. Then it’s just a matter of time before he gives it to you again.

But yes, when the abusive man feels his regret, he feels it with all the passion and conviction that anyone ever feels such a thing. But he feels it in the only way he can—which, because he is broken, means in such a way that it cannot stick. It doesn’t go that deep; in doesn’t sink that far in. It can’t. That’s what makes the abusive man such a freak.

If you’re in an abusive relationship, what you must never, ever forget about your man is that he lies to you every time he looks at you. His whole life is a lie to you, himself, and everyone else in the world. An abusive man who is being charming or cute or funny or sentimental or sorry is like one of those wax hamburgers that restaurants use to illustrate their menus. They have virtually everything going for them—except that they aren’t hamburgers. They’re pretend hamburgers. They’re pretend delicious. They’re pretend nutritious. They have no more relationship to real food than a mannequin has to real people.

When it comes to your abusive man, ignore what your eyes, ears, mind, and even heart tell you about him. You can believe nothing about him. It’s like a nightmare: the best, surest, and quickest way to make one end is to simply open your eyes.

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  • Wow…….you blow my mind sometimes John

  • Thank you John, gonna download them now, know a few people who need to read them. Thank you so much for these posts, you have hit the nail on the head so many times, something I have to say I have never read/heard/seen a man do effectively on this topic before. I have been going through divorce as you have been posting these and with the my husband there has been a lot of manipulation to try and get me to come back. These posts have been amazingly helpful when I have started to doubt myself or wonder if he is worth it. You have no idea what an impact these have had on me. I am glad you liked the responses but all thanks does go to you

    (btw – I am currently writing my life story. Was wondering if you would ever be available to read through a chapter or two and give me pointers?? Only if you have time of course)

  • Christine: I'm afraid that from now until about the next two years I'm just swamped with work; basically, I have four (and maybe five) books due in that time. I won't be having time to read my mail. So I'll be useless to you for help. I'm sure what you write will be great, though.

  • All good I totally understand, hope writing goes well, finding it hard enough to write one while studying haha. So good luck with 5 🙂

  • Thanks, Christine. And thanks for all your great comments throughout this series. I’ve really appreciated each of them. Hey–as you probably know–I’ve gathered (and written/edited smooth transitions between) all of the posts within this series, which I’ve made available for free to download or read online here:

    If you know anyone whom you think might find something of value in the series, send that link along to ’em. And thanks again for your support.

  • Hjordes

    Just had to highlight this line: "An abusive man who is being charming…"

    Anytime I hear anyone say of anyone how charming they are my alarm bells start ringing. I always wonder if they're really a charming person or if they're trying to charm someone. Thoughts of sociopapthy start dancing in my brain.

    The most poignant truth in that blog, imho, was, "He is lying, all the time, about the entirely of his life and character. And he needs you to be complicit in that lie."

    It's the same with child molestation, domestic violence, dating violence… the victim – and those close to the victim – need to keep quiet. The abuser uses your own goodness against you by making you feel guilty. It makes me want to scream to the world, "Don't Keep Secrets!" "TELL!" And, "Tell In Front of Him, in Public, In Front Of His Most Important Friends, Family, and Associates!"

    Rats love the dark but run from the light.

    p.s. Is it "proper" to start a sentence with the word and? I'm trying to google this and all I've gotten is,

    "The word and can start a sentence if it adds emphasis to the previous statement." That sure sounds like common sense as long as it's not over-used. Or maybe there is a rule against it and it falls under the category of creative license? I'm sorry. I'm being a little OCD here.. But I really, really, really need to know this or I'll end up at the library, and that always makes me sneeze.

  • Hjordes

    John, why do you understand this subject so well?

  • That "rule" you've found for beginning a sentence with "And…" is a totally adequate answer. That works. It's a style thing. It's fine. (Great line about the sneezing.)

    Thanks for all your great insights here, Hjordes. As ever.

    I guess I understand it insofar as I do because … hmmm. Because I'm a man. And I know women. And … I see people, and how they act. I know how men are about power—how they crave and cultivate it. And I know how women are, sometimes, about too readily surrendering their power to men. Same ol' same ol, really. I'm … victim sensitive, basically.

  • Hjordes

    Victim sensitive. I like that. I'm sorry that bad things in your life gave you this sensitivity. I'm very glad that you have it, though. People see this type of thing over and over, but rarely do they seem to SEE it. You do, and then you do something about it. That's huge.

  • Well, that's kind of you to say. But of course on this issue I'm not doing one-zillioneth of the sort of work you do. I write a blog. I mean … you know. Whereas YOU are actually, physically teaching people how to fight, yes? You teach women's self-defense, right? Not THAT'S awesome.

  • lynn

    I’ve been in a verbally abusive and contact abuse… it was hard to get out… and you are right..