evolved. That pairing and birthing process involves massive investments of
time, work, and deep emotions. To keep the relationship healthy each partner
faces a major problem: (1) the male must keep other attractive males away
and (2) the female must keep the male from straying. Evolutionary
psychologists (Buss, 2003) call this human mate guarding. Whenever there
are competitors for your partner, these threats may trigger powerful reactions
of vigilance and, if necessary, violence. Therefore, certain actions by ones
partner can be useful forewarnings to females and males of possible violent
reactions. Examples: if your partner is overly concerned about where you are,
what are you doing, who you are talking to, etc. and if he/she declares he/she
would die if you ever left him/her and if he/she threatens to punish you if
you are ever unfaithful, all spell trouble. Other behaviors are also danger
signs, such as coming by to see what you are doing
or calling to see if you
are where you said you would be. These are all signs of over-vigilance which
have been shown to be associated with becoming upset and reacting violently
(Buss, 2003; Shackelford, Buss and Bennett, 2002).
Physical abuse follows a pattern
First, there is conflict and tension. Perhaps the husband resents the wife
spending money on clothes or he becomes jealous of her co-workers. The
wife may resent the husband drinking with the boys or his constant demands
for sex. Second, there is a verbal fight escalating into physical abuse. Violent
men use aggression and fear as a means of control (Jacobson, et al, 1994).
When the male becomes violent, there is little the woman can do to stop it.
Actually, women in violent relationships are as belligerent and contemptuous
as their husbands but their actual violence tends to be in response to the
man's aggression. Nevertheless, over half of abused women blame
themselves for "starting it." Third, a few hours later, the batterer feels guilty,
apologizes, and promises it will never happen again, and they "make up."
Sometimes, the couple--or one of them--will want to have sex as a sign that
the fight is over. The sex is good and they may believe (hope) that the abuse
will not happen again, but almost always within days the cycle starts over and
the tension begins to build.
Statistics about abuse of loved ones
The O. J. Simpson case stimulated interest in spouse abuse, including
death. About 1400 women, 30% of all murdered women (world-wide it is up
to 70%), are killed by husbands, ex-husbands, and boyfriends each year; 2
million are beaten; beatings are the most common cause of injury to 15 to
44-year-old women. The statistics are sobering and truly scary (Koss, et al,
1994). A 1983 NIMH publication says, "Surveys of American couples show
that 20 to 50 percent have suffered violence regularly in their marriages." In
1989, another survey found physical aggression in over 40% of couples
married only 2 1/2 years. 37% of 11,870 military men had used physical
force with their wives during the last year (Pan, Neidig, & O'Leary, 1994).
Walker (1979, 1993) says 50% of women are battered. Recent research
(O'Leary, 1995) shows that 11% to 12% of all women were physically abused
during the last year. Among couples seeking marital counseling, 21% were
"mildly" abused and 33% were severely abused in the past year. Yet, they
seldom volunteer this information; therapists must ask.