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Two Types of Physically Abusive Husbands

Two Types of Physically Abusive Husbands

By J. Bailey Molineux, Ph.D.

Men who physically abuse their wives are not alike, according to Neil Jacobson, Ph.D. and John Gottman, Ph.D., authors of the book, When Men Batter Women(Simon and Schuster, 1998). In their research, Drs. Gottman and Jacobson found there were two types of batterers which they called Cobras and Pit Bulls.

These psychologists examined sixty three battering couples and compared them with other couples who were unhappily married but not violent. After their initial study, they interviewed the same couples two years later.

Two factors which made a batterer especially dangerous were spousal rape and alcohol or drug addiction. Surprisingly, only 6 percent of batterers faced legal consequences for their behavior because many of their wives were afraid to report abuse, often for good reason, or didn't realize what their husbands were doing was a crime.

Twenty percent of the batterers Jacobson and Gottman studied were Cobras. Although the smaller group, they were the most dangerous. Thirty eight percent of them had threatened their wives with guns or knives compared to only 4 percent of Pit Bulls.

Most Cobras - about 90% - were anti-social personality disorders, the type of men who are selfish, without guilt or empathy and often criminals. They were usually aggressive outside the home also, in contrast to Pit Bulls who were violent only with their wives.

Cobras were not strongly attached to their wives. They preferred to be left alone most of the time, occasionally wanting their wives for sex, money or someone to get high with.

Pit Bulls, by contrast, were insecure and excessively dependent upon their wives. They were needy, empty people who desired love but feared abandonment. Unfortunately, they acted in ways which prevented them from getting their needs met.

Physical abuse was designed to control batters' wives but for different reasons for the two types. Cobras controlled their wives so as not to be controlled themselves; Pit Bulls controlled their wives so as not to be abandoned.

In their two year follow-up, Jacobson and Gottman found that half of the wives of Pit Bulls had divorced their husbands but none of the Cobras' wives had left for two reasons. It was initially more dangerous to leave a Cobra because he was more violent. Also, Pit Bulls were harder to live with because their insecurity and dependency made them constantly controlling and checking on their wives.

If it was more difficult to leave a Cobra at first, it became easier with the passage of time. Not being strongly bonded to their wives, Cobras soon detached from them and usually found another partner.

By contrast, it was easier to leave a Pitt Bull in the short run but more difficult in the long run. Because of his excessive dependency on his wife, the Pit Bull was less willing to let go. As a result, he was more likely to stalk his wife after the divorce.

The wives finally left their Pit Bull husbands when they realized the abuse was not going to stop without the involvement of the criminal justice system and mandatory counseling which is not effective with Cobras. Whenever a wife finally does leave her physically abusive husband, Drs. Jacobson and Gottman advise that it is imperative she gets professional help to develop a plan to leave as safely as possible and to recover from the trauma she has suffered.


About the Author: J. Bailey Molineux, a psychologist with Adult and Child Counseling, has incorporated many of his articles in a book, Loving Isn't Easy, Isbn 1587410419, sold through bookstores everywhere or available directly from Selfhelpbooks.com. Copyright 2002, J. Bailey Molineux and Selfhelpbooks.com, all rights reserved. This article may be reprinted but must include authors copyright and website hyperlinks.

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