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The Psychology of Domestic Violence: Why Do Partners Become Abusive?

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Unfortunately, there are far too many relationships that are plagued by domestic violence. If you find yourself in an abusive situation or know someone who is, you may find yourself asking, ‘What makes a partner become abusive?’ There isn’t any one answer to this question, and for every individual, there are usually a combination of factors that go into the ingredients of an abuser. But let’s cover some of the more common psychological threads that can play a role with abusive partners.


Abusive partners often feel entitled to certain things. Whether it’s the right not to be embarrassed, angered or hurt, or the right to be treated or responded to in a certain way, abusive individuals will lord their sense of entitlement over their victims in order to maintain power and influence within the household. Abusers don’t feel that others have the same rights as they do, or that somehow their perceived rights hold more weight than others. They lash out whenever they feel their entitlement is endangered. It’s a good idea to contact family law in Sydney if you need help navigating this space.

Past trauma

It has been said many times before, ‘Hurt people, hurt people’. In many ways this old adage is very true. Far too many victims and perpetrators of domestic violence have experienced some type of trauma in the past. Either they’ve been a victim of abuse themselves or have witnessed it firsthand. Abusive relationships and households have lasting impacts on everyone involved. 

Lack of empathy

When most people put themselves in someone else’s shoes, they typically do so with some grace. Most people will allow for some leeway, generosity or grace – the benefit of the doubt. Abusers typically empathise with others without truly considering the other person’s position. They will almost always assume that the other person is purposely trying to wrong or injure them. They rarely consider that there are other factors at play. Real empathy will often force people to alter their attitudes, behaviours, actions and words. However, the feigned empathy of abusers will often create reason in their mind to continue their cycle of abuse.


Everyone’s life is important and makes a difference in this world, however, abusers tend to have an inflated sense of self-importance. They often believe that their feelings, lives and needs take priority over that of others. Abusers will convince themselves that they are indeed taking care of their families or their partners by doing certain things, like going to work, doing household chores, etc. But it’s usually a tool of manipulation that they use to bolster their argument for an exaggerated sense of self-importance.

These are just some of the psychology that goes into abusive partners. Of course, there are plenty of other factors that go into the minds and actions of abusive individuals, but being aware of some of the more common pieces to this puzzle can do a lot to help victims, families and abusers reconcile their experiences and heal.

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.


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