In their seminal work on domestic violence, “When Men Batter Women, New Insights into Ending Abusive Relationships.” Drs. John Gottman and Neil Jacobson defined battering as
“physical aggression with a purpose to control, intimidate, and subjugate another human being. Battering is alway accompanied by injury, and is always associated with fear and even terror on the part of the battered woman.”
This compelling research examined the two types of batterers, nicknamed Pit Bulls and Cobras, and included data showing that, unfortunately, violence rarely reaches an end point in abusive marriages.
Research into how batterers think can help a therapist tease out whether not an abusive relationship can be salvaged, or whether it is beyond the reach of therapeutic intervention.
Gottman and Jacobson describe two categories of batterers; Cobras and Pitbulls. I will discuss Cobras in a future post.
Pitbulls are men whose emotions tend to explode quickly. They are fundamentally insecure and have an excessive and unhealthy dependence on their long-suffering partners. The research confirmed that there is nothing a battered woman can say or do that can effectively stop the physical battering. Once battering starts, it rarely ends, even if the batterer went through a treatment program.
Typically even if physical battering does decrease or even stop, it is merely replaced with emotional battering. This abuse leaves no scars and is not illegal. It is, however, for a previously physically battered spouse a highly effective constraint. It is as effective as physical assault. Verbal abuse is a “sweet spot” for these abusive husbands. They quickly learn that verbal tirades can control their spouses without running afoul of the law.
Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He currently sees couples at Couples Therapy Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts, three seasons in Cummington (at the foothills of the Berkshires...) and in Miami during joint retreats with his wife, Dr. Kathy McMahon. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.