“Words can hit like a fist,” a psychologist we’ll call Devon said. “Macho men yell phrases such as these: ‘Did you not hear me the first time?!’ or ‘Are you deaf?!’ They’ve become expert at intimidating those around them. What’s worse, they feel no shame. They feel the universe put them in charge. It’s really disgusting from many standpoints.”
The hurtful disrespect such a man’s family feels often boils down to this: He makes them feel inferior and, often, worthless. His employees may shrink back and never contribute much, for fear of being criticized.
“My daughter and her three children were living with her macho husband,” a minister we’ll call Logan said. “My daughter and her kids were living in a lot of pain. When he started getting physically violent with her and the kids, I felt helpless. I own a gun, but God, I didn’t want to go over and start an altercation. What could I do?”
Here are techniques that can help:
Get advice from a domestic violence expert. Verbally abusive people are often verbally violent. Their tirades can go on for hours. Diffusing the tension will require having emotional support.
State one or two clear boundaries. You might say, “We won’t having yelling in this house. We’re not going to disrespect each other.” If you’re afraid of speaking boundaries, it’s time you planned to escape the relationship. Do this secretly with the help of others.
Ask the perpetrator if you can have a calm discussion with him. Logan finally met with his son-in-law. Logan found out his son-in-law was worried he was going to lose his job. This fear exacerbated the son-in-law’s inner anger.
A family therapist we’ll call Phillip says he dreads dealing with macho men in counseling. “It takes me months and months to improve a tough guy’s approach to relationships,” he said. “These men don’t think they are doing anything wrong. They see themselves as rulers, when no one died and left them boss, as the joke says.”
Phillip said he teaches this in marriage classes: “Let someone else’s daughter marry a macho man. Educate your daughters about sensitive males. If a woman wants to be heard, respected and treated well, that husband must act out this behavior before you walk down the aisle. The man has to have a soft side, or your marriage is already in a lot of trouble.”
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Judi Light Hopson is the executive director of the stress management website USA Wellness Café at usawellnesscafe.com. Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.