Long-Term Abusive Relationships
When Mature Women (and Men) Are Abused
by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.
Many people think domestic abuse is something that affects the young. We see images of domestic violence illustrating bruises and injuries to women in their twenties and thirties. The stories covered in the media look at young families afflicted by family violence. Women being hit, thrown to the ground, ragged and raped... with bruises, welts and scars.
What about the masses of women* in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s? Do you think as people mature, they outgrow the chances of being in (getting in or remaining in) one of these nasty relationships? I don’t.
In fact, I know from 20 years of working with these women (and men) that they suffer just as their younger counterparts. Only thing different is that they may have been in the same abusive relationship for decades…and their bruises remain dormant for years within.
Domestic Abuse as the Norm
Their courtship may have been Cinderella-like. She fell in love with prince charming and he swept her off her feet. He was kind, caring, witty, smart and someone she thought she could count on...
Then, shortly after the commitment to one another, things changed. In the beginning it was subtle and difficult for her to identify even in the context of gross displays of disrespect and violation.
These episodes were few and far between, becoming buried in the business of the day. Early on there was a child and a house... another child and more house... maybe even another child or two, along with all that life brings.
In the busyness of it all, she notices something is not right. There is no clear name for it...until the day comes when the police are in the house. They give it a name and a wake-up call begins.
Who Is the Victim?
He wants the police to believe that he is the victim. Sometimes he can be successful in pulling this off, but more often if he is playing a charade his efforts will fail...at least with law enforcement.
Now the marriage counselor, on the other hand, may get confused as he is so convincing in making his case. He even has his own wife’s head spinning as to what the heck is actually going on. What remains undeniable to her is that she is becoming more and more unhappy in her long-term abusive relationship.
She is chronically controlled and repeatedly violated. She feels oppressed, anxious and depressed. She knows she cannot please him, though she keeps trying. Then, one day she tires of walking on eggshells, or something may happen that shakes her awake into the danger that she lives.
In this moment, she becomes a survivor as she seeks to shift the dynamics of her abusive relationship. She steps out of herself and looks objectively at the violating interaction that colors her day.
Ageless, Timeless Intimate Partner Abuse
For some of these women, decades have gone by. The children leave…and these mature abused women realize that they are tied to someone who demeans and diminishes them. They long to be honored and respected.
This becomes their inspiration for change. It occurs to them that their life moving forward in their relationship is like living with one foot in the grave. They feel dead inside. Their numbness spurs on their desire for happiness in addition to peace in their lives.If you are living in a long-term abusive relationship, you can still break this cycle. For information on ending domestic abuse, visit
© Dr Jeanne King — Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention
*Men are abused too, and also remain in long-term abusive relationships.
Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.