Causes of Wife Battering and Why Does a Battered Wife Stay?

What causes wife battering? Why does a battered wife stay with their abuser? And if there anything you can do to get a battered wife to leave?

What causes wife battering? Why would someone beat their wife?

Battered wives are often from homes where they are taught to be compliant and not voice their concerns and this leads them into a similar adult relationship. Men who have been in homes where wife battering occurred as children are more likely to grow up into wife batterers themselves.

Wife battering is a huge problem in the United States with millions of cases of battering occurring yearly, although one doesn't have to be married to be a victim of battering. Same-sex couples can also experience battering. A battered wife can be of any race, socioeconomic status or educational background – anyone can be a victim of wife beating. (Wondering if you're a victim of wife battering. Take the Battered Woman Test.)

Causes of Wife Battering

As wife battering is an organic behavior, there is no direct cause. No wife or any situation can cause a person to beat another. It's important to understand this, as victims often blame themselves for being battered when it is never their fault – no matter what the batterer says.

Within a relationship, though, there is typically a pattern to wife battering (read Cycle of Violence and Abuse). The phases are typically:1

  • A tension building phase
  • A wife battering episode
  • A "honeymoon" phase where there is a respite

During the tension building phase, the wife often "walks on eggshells" around her batterer and is aware of the fact that the tension is building. Little things may make the batterer mad such as a meal he doesn't like or his wife being late. These minor infractions produce unreasonable tension in the relationship.

This tension eventually explodes in an acute wife battering episode. The battering may be a more minor push or slap or may be a major beating leading to broken bones or worse. The batterer may prevent the victim from receiving healthcare for their injuries and threaten the victim or others if the victim threatens to tell anyone about the abuse.

Once the acute battering is over, the batterer often tries to charm his way out of what has happened; promising to never to do it again and attempting to make amends by doing things like buying flowers and being extra attentive. Typically though, the wife batterer has no intention of stopping and is simply trying to manipulate the victim into not telling others, believing "it's not that bad," and that it's "all in her head."

Why Does a Battered Wife Stay?

A battered wife may stay in a relationship for a variety of reasons. Battered wives often:

  • Feel the abuse isn't "real, " or "isn't that bad"
  • Think they can change the abuser (Help for Batterers)
  • Believe it will never happen again
  • Believe that help won't work or that no one will believe them or that they deserve the abuse
  • Don't want to break up a family
  • Stay with a batterer because she feels sorry for him as he often comes from a history containing abuse
  • Are economically and psychologically dependent on the batterer
  • Are afraid to leave
  • Are afraid for the welfare of others (like their children)

But, of course, any level of wife battering is not okay and any wife who has suffered battering should get help for it immediately.

Persuading a Battered Wife to Leave

Often convincing a battered wife to leave their batterer is about convincing them that their false thoughts about the abuse are wrong. For example,

  • "Just because he only hit you once, that doesn't make it okay. Once is one too many times."
  • "You cannot change someone else; only they can choose to change themselves."

In addition, a battered wife often also needs someplace to go, such as a friend's house or a battered women's shelter. Taking care of the needs and safety of the wife as well as any children, and sometimes pets (which may also be abused), involved in the situation can help a woman decide to leave her batterer.

It's important to be non-blaming and non-judgmental in any scenario of wife battering, as the victims often already feel guilty and more guilt may make them believe that they deserve the abuse. This may make them even more reluctant to leave their wife batterer.

article references

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, December 17). Causes of Wife Battering and Why Does a Battered Wife Stay?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 14 from

Last Updated: January 2, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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