Male Arrogance, Abuse and Intimate Relationships

by Ras Tyehimba
October 17, 2006

Recently, I read in the media of the incident involving Anita Lutchmepersad, who was forced to leave her home because of the threatening abuses of a ‘close male relative’. After she left, he burnt down the house and drank detergent in an apparent suicide bid. According to one newspaper report, the male relative had seen a text message from one of Anita’s co-workers and misinterpreted it, getting in to a fit of rage. Another newspaper report told of Devica Mahabir who survived being poisoned, beaten and burned but was left horribly disfigured by her husband who killed himself after murdering her lover. What are the factors at play in such scenarios? How do so many relationships which SEEM to start off so good and which are supposedly based on ‘love’ be filled with so much mistrust, pain and abuse?

Such incidents of jealousy, insecurity and abuse (verbal and/or physical abuse) with the context of intimate male/female relations are common place, although only from time to time does it reach to such proportions as to reach the attention of the media. This is usually when someone gets killed or badly physically damaged. Often abuse is conceptualized in terms of physical abuse, but many times abuse in relationships may not be physical but will be verbal and/or emotional. This abuse is no less damaging than outright physical abuse. The many cases of persons who experienced so much trauma and pain from the circumstances of their intimate relationships that they had to seek psychological or psychiatric help are less heard about.

Notwithstanding the ignorance and complicity of offending partners, the deep and persistent problems that people encounter in the context of intimate relationships can be traced to poor ideas and attitudes, and while these may provide temporary ‘feel-good’ feelings, the end result is enslavement, rather that FREEDOM and UPLIFTMENT.

Despite the good intentions of partners, insecurity, jealousy and enslaving possessiveness are inherent in the mainstream model of male/female relations. “You are mine and I am yours,” as the saying goes. Placing one person at the center of one’s universe, and depending on that person to supply attention and bring happiness is not a healthy thing to do. If that person decides to leave or pursue an intimate relationship with another, then the blow of having the ‘center of your universe’ gone is enough to send one in a fit of jealousy or cause a nervous mental breakdown. Just the very threat of a break-up can do this.

All the good intentions or pronouncements of ‘love’ cannot make the ill effects of such flaws in the way people conceptualize relations disappear. The dramas and issues that have not been worked out by the individual will inevitably block him or her from being able to move properly with their partner. The disconnection that individuals suffer because of poor social conditioning will affect the nature of their relationships.

Many of the love songs that play on the airwaves contain sentiments such as ‘you are the light of my day’ or ‘without you I can’t go on’ or ‘I cannot live without you’. Following from this type of thinking, a male may kill his spouse (and himself) if he suspects she is having an affair or is wishing to leave the relationship, all because, in his mind, he cannot live without her.

How people construct relationships are a result of the attitudes and values that they learn and are taught. The basis of which people generally interact with each other in the context of male/female relations is more on the basis of this social conditioning rather than on reasoning or understanding of some truth. Nor is the mainstream model for male/female interaction the only way persons can interact, rather it is the only way most people have been accustomed to behaving in their existence. The male Eurocentric biases that are inherent in social institutions and processes are also very present in the values that underlie how males and females interact with each another.

As such, male/female relations are often very patriarchal in nature. In other words, male domination is very present, especially in terms of the ideas and values inherent in relationships. Males are generally expected to take the lead and dictate the pace of the relationship. For many persons, the male is automatically the head of the household, regardless of how foolish and ignorant he is. The male takes satisfaction in possessing and controlling his partner and conversely the female gets satisfaction at being possessed by her mate. The nature of this possession may range from being overt in some cases to be being very subtle in others. Since the relationship has a strong male bias, females receive the brunt of the poor ideas and values underlying the interaction, even though males will themselves be trapped by such.

Quite often the female will be bound more strongly to the expectations and desires of her partner than he will be bound by her expectations. For example, I have observed instances where males generally expect their partners to tell them where they are going, who they are going with etc., but those same males are not required to tell their females partners where they are going or who they are going with. Such is the nature of male hypocrisy within a society based on male constructs.

Recently, I got into a discussion with a friend of mine, who related that she had always wondered why females in abusive relationships do not just leave, but it was only when she got involved in an abusive relationship herself that she gained a greater insight into the emotional and psychological issues involved in such scenarios. After some time and after really digging into her inner strength did she find the courage to end the relationship. It would have been harder still, if she had had children with the male, was financially dependent on him or had their relationship institutionalized through legal marriage.

The emotional ties are highlighted in the experiences of one female who experienced physical abuse at the hands of her husband on a number of separate occasions. After each incident he apologized and made it up to her by doing such things as taking her out to dinner and buying flowers. Although she is still very unhappy with such incidents, she hopes that the relationship will get better. After all, they have been together for 5 years and he promised to never hit her again. She spoke with such hope and belief in the relationship working out that I did not have the heart to tell her that it is likely that he will hit her again. If the root cause of such behavior is not addressed, it will manifest eventually, even if it is suppressed temporarily.

Many feel stifled and unhappy within the context of their relationships but stay in it for a number of reasons. Some may have a financial interest in continuing the relationship, have a biological interest (a child) or may be afraid of navigating life’s challenges without an intimate partner close by. Insecurities about one’s own self-worth and attractiveness by both parties give rise to unhealthy relationships, and even make it harder to leave such relationships. The longer the duration of an unhealthy relationship, the more a person is compromised and the harder it is to break free.

There has been some limited exploration of how the processes of history has affected our social and economic development, but there has been even less attention paid to how the circumstances of history have affected how males and females relate to each other. The lack of understanding as well as the denial of history has contributed to the self-weakening relationships that many find themselves in. On top of this are the poor evaluations, which people make in choosing intimate partners, which are responsible for their problems. People’s biases in choosing partners inevitably reflect the biases seen in the wider society, so it is no surprise that these choices, which are not based upon the character and integrity of the individual do not lead to happiness. Addressing all these factors can give individuals, both males and females, the courage and opportunity to break free of conditioned male arrogance as well as their deep insecurities, reaching a greater level of understanding and confidence that is needed to form healthier relationships.

8 thoughts on “Male Arrogance, Abuse and Intimate Relationships”

  1. As soon as I completed reading this piece, I bookmarked it and sent it to all my adult friends, in the hope that they will send it to their friends.
    A strong piece on unreal expectations and folkloric attitudes to relationships. Perhap it may create a small dent in the cycle of abusive behaviour. Perhaps too, small groups of people may begin to gather and use this seed to plant the idea of relationships based on mutual respect and not ownership. We live on hope.

  2. it is very sad what is going on in my country to day the police is very
    is very slow in acting on a matter when a woman go to report that ther spou beat them up if ever i return to my country i will not date a man in
    in t&t it is sad to hear how people discribe the land of my birth i love
    my country whit all my hearth God know the truth i will return eny day


    Not everyone who looks mature are mature in mind. Growing up and being an adult comes with a lot of experiences. For example: We have a lot of BIG BABIES walking around in society today, that do not know what it is to be A MAN or A WOMAN.
    The word LOVE is a misunderstood term in the world today. LOVE flows from principles and not only Emotions.
    When someone tell you that they Love you, don’t fall for this Cheap Crap from Hollywood and Bollywood. This have to be expressed in a lifestyle, that is based on principles.
    It cannot be only spoken, but lived out. To much people are being trapped within their feelings and emotions, seeing this as Love.
    SEX is not Love, it is the fulfillment of Love between two persons, how can someone say they are in Love, yet they keep looking for this in others, apart from their relationship.
    The way people sometimes dress, conduct themselves, “Flirt” around and yet seek to stay in a relationship. This cannot work. This is for Male and Female. No side is being taken here.
    Relationships comes with responsibilities and commitments, don’t be fooled in the Fast Lanes, with the Fancy Cars, Clothes, Houses, Finances etc. These would come with responsibilities down the road. Right now deal with Character and Maturity.
    What parents did not learn, they could not past on to their Children. This problem goes a long way. People need to be more in control of their own minds, before trying to have someone else control it. Relationships is not about controlling, but mutual sharing, qualities, traits, development- with each other. The strong helps the weak, if relationships don’t provides for growth, GET OUT !!!
    Arrogance and abuse comes from ignorance, If you see someone you become attracted to search for these things, if the person is ignorant, but ap to learn, work with them, have them get involved. Always walk with your EYES WIDE OPEN. Eventually you might see.

    Peace- Sampson.

  4. Sampson, your article is right on, but for women who live in a perfect world. The factors that drive women to date these type of men are desperation and the thought that once they become involved in a relationship, that they have what it takes to change these men into the type of partner they want them to be. Unfortunately, this is not always the result.

  5. We need to educate women to be self-sufficient first, and then seek relationships from a position of strength. Education is the key factor. What are we doing in our education system to prepare women for a world in which singleness is OK. what are we doing to teach them that thay do not need to define themselves by whose arm they are hanging on?

    Our women have mastered exam-passing wonderfully, but what of learning that their self-worth is important? What are industries doing to pay women a living wage so that they will not need a man to supplement a meagre income?

    In terms of Ist and 3rd world politics, I have often drawn the parallel that if one is negotiating with a gun, and the other with a digging stick, they are not negotiating from positions of equality. The same is true of man-woman relationships in the Caribbean. Women need the gun of econiomic stability- If I can buy all the things I need: housing, food transport, medical care, recreation, and the things I want, travel, jewelry,then I do not have to settle for the first man I meet. I can enjoy life, and marry when the right person comes along. Women need to be educated to think for themselves.

  6. The issue needs to be dealt with from childhood. parents need to pay closer attention to their actions and be more observent to the child’s attitude, behaviour and aggression. More time has to be spent with kids get to know them and discuss social issues so that you both know how each other feels about a situation, the childs path has to be guided so that when he becomes a man the values taught will be instilled in him. look at how he treats his sister or his mother and that should give an indication whether he respects females.
    trinidadian men are spoiled by their mothers and with an increase in female headed families the male child tends to act as the man in the house (gets carried away) and the mothers often seeks approval from him in decision making. all of this contributes to his attitude that he is “the man when he leaves his mothers home, he still has the mentality that he is the man and has the final say.

  7. It’s all well and good to say the women should be educated to become self sufficient, but that will not solve the problem at hand. Educated independent wormen are also abused by thier partners. Men who abuse women should be made to take mandatory sensitivity classes with a certified therapist to help with their abusive nature. We all know behind that kind of behavior lies serious psychological problems. If they refuse the help that is being offered then, they should have to do some time in prison. Granted they may become more spiteful and abusive upon release, the thought of having a cooling down period in prison may deter their destructive behavior next time.

  8. It is sad to know that there are males in our society who think that they own a female. And it is even sadder to know that 72 years after slavery has been abolished there are females who allow themselves to be victims of abusive relationships. But the saying goes “train up a child in the way he should go and he will never depart from it.” Such issues need to be addressed from childhood so that people do not become adulds who have just never grown up.

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