A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Thursday Thought — Looking at His Anger Problem

When a man chronically mistreats his partner, his anger is often his most obvious quality.  The result is his partner is likely to believe that his anger is the problem, and therapists or other professional (and church leaders) who get involved tend to jump to the same conclusion.  Many judges order abusive men to attend “anger management” programs, which won’t help.  Why not?  Because his rage has little to do with how he behaves.

His problems isn’t that he’s angry; it’s that he’s abusive. Let’s look at the difference.  Angry behaviors are things like speaking loudly in a resentful tone of voice, waving his arms around, pacing back and forth, or storming out of the room.  Abusive behaviors are things like call you names, twisting your words around, throwing things or punching walls, treating you like you’re beneath him, not letting you say your side of the argument, or cheating on you.

Compare these lists with respect to your own relationship.  Are you partner’s angry behaviors the main reason why you are feeling bad?  Doesn’t the problem actually have much more to do with his abusive behaviors? A partner who is too angry can cause you stress, but abusive behaviors are far more destructive.  Almost every time a woman complains about her partner’s anger, it’s really his abusiveness that is harming her.

This is why “anger management” doesn’t do any good for an abusive man.  If he learns techniques to lower his anger level, he simply shifts to being abusive in a more calm or calculated way — in other words, his abusiveness continues, it just gets less angry.  What good does that do?

An abusive man can’t change by dealing with his anger, his drinking, his childhood, or any other issue in his life.  He can only change by facing up to his abusiveness, and dealing with that problem head-on.

[Entry from Lundy Bancroft’s Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?* pp35-6]

***IMPORTANT NOTE:  While we endorse Lundy’s writings about the dynamics of domestic abuse, we do not recommend anyone attend the ‘healing retreats’ Lundy Bancroft offers or become involved in his ‘Peak Living Network.’ See our post, ACFJ Does Not Recommend Lundy Bancroft’s Retreats or His New Peak Living Network for more about our concerns. 

*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link


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  1. LH

    Plus, abusive men are totally in control of their anger displays and turn them on and off at will. I’m pretty sure my ex never displayed his ‘anger’ at his boss as he has always done well at air with advancement.

  2. Gothard Survivor

    What?? If a man is abusive isn’t there usually a reason behind it? Everyone who has worked with my husband has called him passive-aggressive, using me as a person to oppose to express hidden anger and rebellion. If the person with anger would have their eyes opened to see what they are doing to another, they would stop their actions. Otherwise an abusive person would be someone without a conscience, and not everyone with an anger problem lacks a conscience. Right?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Only of course if he WANTED to stop his wicked actions. The reason behind an abuser’s anger, in fact behind everything he does toward his victim and even others, is his plain old sinful mindset of entitlement to power and control. Self-idolatry. How he got that way? Who did what to him when he was a kid? I really don’t care and actually neither does the Lord. Think of it. On that Day when Christ comes to judge all, what will His response be to the abuser? “Oh, man! You had it really bad as a kid. No wonder you treated your wife so horridly. I’m going to cut you some slack.” Wrong. Not. Nope.

  3. Stronger Now

    My husband had zero problem “controlling” his anger. None whatsoever. He was never angry away from home, except when driving with his family in the car. Everyone else knew him as a great, friendly, happy guy.

    He apparently didn’t have an expectation of being able to control people outside of his family. So when they didn’t do as he wished, he showed no anger. However, if he was inconvenienced or frustrated by the real world away from home, his family paid the price for it. In his convoluted logic, “somebody” had to pay for him not getting his way. His family was to blame, in his twisted mind, for him having to deal with the idiots out there. If not for us, he wouldn’t have to work at a job he hated. His bosses were always stupid. (He’s the smartest man in the room wherever he goes, you know.) So his disappointments and frustrations in the working world were our fault.

    And of course, whenever we failed to live up to his lofty expectations, we had to pay the price.

    Yes, GS, there is a reason behind his abusiveness. It’s his mentality of entitlement.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Stronger Now – nailed it. Abusers are in perfect control of their anger. They manage it exactly as they choose. To their benefit. For power and control.

  4. standsfortruth

    To the abuser, anger is just another tool manipulate the wife and family.
    After I read Lundy Bancroft’s book, “Why does he do that?”, I finally saw it clear as a bell.
    It was so obvious after that, I confronted him right in the middle of one of his “anger performance rages”, and told him to Stop it!, Just Stop it! And told him I knew what he was doing.
    He was so shocked that I could see through his mind game, that he stormed out of the room.
    Soon after that, his tactics morphed over to “pity performances.”

    • Jeff Crippen

      If you want to see what God thinks of the abuser’s anger rages, look up “revile, reviler” in your concordance and check out the listed verses. Reviling is using words to assault, demean, accuse, and attack. It is the fruit of that “poison of asps” that Paul says is under the lips of these fanged creatures. (see Romans 3 on that). This is why we automatically feel unsafe in the presence of an abuser even if we cannot verbalize why. Because they are a poisonous snake poised to strike at any moment.

    • Lea

      “After I read Lundy Bancroft’s book”

      I watched a video of a talk he gave, and he really got into how abusers never have these ‘anger problems’ at work, and how they specifically control how much they actually hurt their partners (not enough to go to the hospital/bruises in places that won’t show/etc) and I really felt that was when I kind of understood the point about this not being about anger. He explained it really well to me.

      >He was so shocked that I could see through his mind game, that he stormed out of the room.

      That’s amazing!

  5. LH

    You nailed it Jeff: “This is why we automatically feel unsafe in the presence of an abuser even if we cannot verbalize why. Because they are a poisonous snake poised to strike at any moment.”

    And StrongerNow also: “He apparently didn’t have an expectation of being able to control people outside of his family. So when they didn’t do as he wished, he showed no anger. ..
    of course, whenever we failed to live up to his lofty expectations, we had to pay the price.”

  6. Karen

    I remember. . . (Editor’s note: we have edited the details of this abuse to protect the commenter’s identity.) I was so traumatized by this whole charade, that I did not schedule another. . .appointment for seven years for fear of husband’s abusive angry outbursts. I just wanted to keep the peace in trying to please my abusive husband. He never admitted to me that he was wrong in losing his temper at me, nor did he feel convicted when he joyfully left the house that morning for his appointment…..abusers always put on a good show in public, but behind the scenes they are monsters.

    After seven years, I finally found the courage within me to schedule an appointment and the doctor asked, “Did you go somewhere else during those seven years?” I wanted to cry and speak the truth to him, but how could I? Most people would view the abusive I received to be “my fault” or rather “you deserve the abuse you receive because your husband must be justified in yelling and calling you names.” The abuse victim is never ‘right’ nor are they ‘worthy’ of being treated with love, kindness and respect.

    My husband never apologized to me over his abuse. And when I went to the doctor (I finally have gained the courage to find my own dentist, doctor and eye doctor, much to his abusive treatment), I came home with a report of having a growth that needed to be removed. He didn’t give me a hug, nor did he comfort me with words, nor did he even have a look of empathy in his eyes, but rather he said smugly, “Well, it’s all because of your sin you know.”

    I was stunned. And this man is asked to preach in our church some Sunday’s when the pastor is gone. How can I sit under this abusive man’s preaching when I know that he abuses me at home, and yet at church, he is so ‘nicey, nicey’ to people in making such a “christian impression?” I am in awe at what ‘great actors’ these angry abusers are and how they blame their wives for their anger, all the while proclaiming to be christian, and yet there’s no conviction of their own sin, no repentance, no apologies, no tears…….absolutely nothing.

    My husband’s anger has killed and destroyed any love that I have had for this man and I am not sure that it could ever be regained back. He is an evil and wicked man……and it never showed during the dating process, until we were on our honeymoon. It was then, that I became the recipient of his abusive temper………after the papers were signed.

  7. Karen

    Why are abusive husbands so nice to every one else, but their wives? I still don’t get it and hurt every day.

    Last year at the local public event, I began visiting with someone for a few minute conversation. I used to stand by my husband’s side when he visited with folks, and wait and wait and wait. But he left my side and when our short conversations was finished, he was no where to be found. I looked through the buildings, inside and outside, for him and he wasn’t there. I looked for him for over an hour and finally found him so I could get a ride home.

    Who does this to their wife…..what kind of man just walks away and leaves his wife looking for him in fear? He left me in a store at a shopping mall 400 hundred miles from our home while we were visiting his sibling. I had no ride back to his sibling’s house, nor did I have any money in my wallet for a taxi cab…..I had nothing. And when I called the house from the customer service desk, he wouldn’t even come to the phone to talk to me. Another family member finally came and got me three hours after I called their home. I waited by the mall door wanting to cry, but had to hold my composure.

    To this day when I bring up his abandonment, he cannot come up with a reason why he left me there, other than the fact that I went around into the next aisle to look at picture frames and he knew that I was there, but made the conscious choice to leave me stranded there. He said he looked for me all over the store, but like most parents who lose a child, he never went to the customer service desk to have me paged as to his location. So he did this to me intentionally. And when I arrived back at his sister’s home, totally broken and shaken up because my husband left me there all alone, not one single person felt bad for me….not one single family member! It was like I deserved this wicked and evil punishment for doing absolutely nothing wrong…..I did nothing to provoke this abusive husband’s anger….just simply existed for his abusing.

    What happens in a relationship when you know that you didn’t do anything wrong and yet, are the victim of your husband’s abuse? How can the wife understand so she try and avoid these types of unpredictable abusive behavior? How can I get people to understand that my husband IS THE ONE who is abusing me?

    • Onlymyopinion

      Oh Karen, I am so sorry for this. Your comment really impacted me as I too, have been left behind before to walk home (many times from church!) not even knowing what I did to make him angry. I try now never to be without my wallet with credit card so if I have to find another way I have at least that. When I recently revealed some things to my pastor about my husband (never before asked for help) he seemed concerned but still has not spoken to him about it nor stopped him from serving communion to the congregation. I would have thought that he would have at least spoken to him.

      • Omo, if the pastor does speak to your husband, it’s likely your husband will spin a whole lot of lies and half truths… to make you look crazy. So be prepared!

    • KayE

      My ex used to suddenly walk or drive away, always without giving any reason or warning.
      I can look after myself pretty well, but young children are more vulnerable and he never seemed too worried about their welfare in such a situation.
      I have no contact with him now. But because I live in a smallish town, recently I saw him do exactly the same thing to his new victim, who was visibly upset about it all. Very disturbing.

  8. Cher

    Wow….in the past my husband suddenly left our home before without an explanation as to where he was going or anything…when I asked him why he would do that, his response was “That’s me. That’s the man you married.” and I said, but that’s not an excuse. You don’t just do that to the person you’re married to. You communicate and tell the other person where you’re going.. That seems to be lost on him. I am in the process of deciding to leave him but still unsure…

    • Cher, he deliberately gives the impression that the truth-principle you stated ‘seems to be lost on him’. But that’s just another lie. He KNOWS FULL WELL that he is not behaving rightly towards you. He just acts as if he doesn’t know, doesn’t understand.

      It’s playing dumb on purpose, to make you think that you just need to explain it better, or explain it differently, or get someone else to explain it to him… If he can keep getting you to fall into the explaining trap, he can keep you on a thread, still with him, still pleading with him to change, still putting all your efforts into fixing him and correcting him. And the better he can do that, the less energy you have for focusing on YOUR planning and steps for your own safety and a life out from him and his abuse.

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