Love and Relationships

[Two Pronged] My husband needs to hurt me before he can get aroused

Margarita Holmes, Jeremy Baer

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[Two Pronged] My husband needs to hurt me before he can get aroused
'It is not every time we have sex but he hurts me enough times that I now hate having sex with him. I, too, wanted to leave him.'

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in three continents, he has been training with Dr. Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.

Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer:

My skin crawled when I read the Golden Rain letter last week. I felt I had written it myself. My husband also has a problem, but it is not like Aida’s.

My husband needs to hurt me before he can get aroused.

It is not every time we have sex but he hurts me enough times that I now hate having sex with him. I, too, wanted to leave him. But where would I go? I have two children with him, will I find another man who will want to provide for another man’s children? This is what he told me when I told him I was leaving.

Other times he just cries, and begged me to stay. He said that, after all, he doesn’t really hurt me. But it does. His slaps hurt.

I want to leave him, but I think I love him. I cannot bear it if he cries. Please help me. Is it true that no man wants to take care of another man’s children?


Dear Magda,

Thank you for your email.

Perhaps the first thing to clarify is that your husband’s behavior might well be a fetish if there were mutual consent but it is probably a criminal act (see Republic Act no. 9262, The Anti-Violence against Women and Their Children Act of 2004) if there is coercion rather than consent.

Leaving aside the legalities, you say that he needs to hurt you to get aroused but not every time. This may mean that his condition would be susceptible to treatment so perhaps you can persuade him to seek therapy.

Whether or not he is willing to do so, you also need to take a close look at the nature of your relationship. You are married to a man who hits you even though he knows that you do not want to be hit and who taunts you when you threaten to leave, saying that no other man will accept you because you have two children.

He clearly has little respect for you as an individual, is unwilling to accommodate your feelings or needs if they challenge his, treats you as an object, a plaything to be trifled with at his pleasure.

Now, despite painting a very ugly picture of your husband, you go on to say that you love him.

Unfortunately, you do not give a single reason for this unexpected stance. Of course, the world is full of examples of spouses who settle for less than the ideal and thus tolerate infidelity, drunkenness, drug abuse, gambling addiction etc. for reasons that are understandable or otherwise.

Typically a list of these might include social status, financial stability, the ‘good’ of the children, religious beliefs, sex. Every relationship is unique and each individual has their own view of what is tolerable.

The factor that seems to weigh heaviest in your consideration of whether to stay or leave is your belief that a woman with two children is incapable of finding a man who will care and provide for her. Yet the world is full of blended families containing men supporting stepchildren, just as it is full of single mothers bringing up their children without the presence of their biological fathers.

Your stance begs at least two questions: has your husband’s treatment of you eroded your self-confidence to the extent that you believe that life without him is inconceivable without the care and support of another male or is there some other reason e.g. lack of financial resources?

Please write again if you would like to explore this further.

All the best,

JAF Baer

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Dear Magda:

Thank you very much for your letter.

At this point, there is so, so much to unpack in your letter. We cannot do it in just one column, and perhaps it would be better if you did it face to face with a therapist.

The therapist need not be an expert on sadistic behavior. But they will need two things: they need the training/expertise to encourage people to explore what it is they truly feel and what their current strengths are (or baby strengths they can nurture to be more forceful) to withstand the difficulties in life. They also need “heart.”

“Heart” cannot be learned in school, but you will know when you have met the therapist for you. With him/her, you will feel safe exploring the issues and circumstances that led you to this point in your life. Also, in a rose-tinted way, to help you believe life will be worth living (if not even more so) when you decide to act on the realistic options you have when dealing with your husband.

Among other things, it would require asking yourself questions like: 1. What was it that drew me to my husband (let’s call him Jim) in the first place? 2. Were there any red flags I could have picked up on that I didn’t? 3. Was there any trauma, abuse, neglect that I suffered in the past that increased my attraction to him because being with him was so familiar?

These questions are not to blame yourself for the past, but to help you understand it more deeply, so that, now and in the future, you can be more careful and discriminating about people you choose as friends and confidantes in the future.

You can also explore the following: 1. Why do I stay with Jim despite his cruelty? 2. Is it because of his tears? Do those times when he seems he needs me make up for all the pain he causes?

Many women find tears (and other signs of needing the partner) enough to convince them not to leave, which is not good for a mentally healthy relationship. I hope that Jim does not use his tears to get you to stay.

Staying despite his hitting and humiliating you is not a sign of true love, Magda. What he is doing is not BDSM where both partners want and enjoy it.

Staying despite his hitting and humiliating you is not romance of the highest (or even lowest) order. It is cruelty – cruelty that will numb you and possibly even your children unless you find a way to deal with things.

Does this mean you have to leave your husband? Not necessarily. As Mr Baer suggests, maybe there are ways to minimize his slaps (in frequency and intensity) and limit his need for inflicting “pain” to the bedroom. Therapy may help you (with, ideally, your husband) discover if, indeed, finding ways to channel his needs will be sufficient for him and you to stay married. Stay married because you both want it to work.

Usually, there are many reasons women stay with husbands they know are abusive; in addition to the more obvious and valid ones like worrying how you can feed the kids, etc. there are usually deeper reasons that keep you from leaving. When you feel safe enough to explore such reasons, you might also get to understand if these reasons still exist or if they are paper tigers – if not easy, then definitely not impossible to overcome.

Then there’s the future. What is the future you have for yourself and for your children? What do you need – both external, like training and internal – to help you get it?

Dearest Magda, I know your life now, or even answering these questions, isn’t easy. And when you find the answers, it doesn’t mean it will get any easier either, BUT it will help you realize what it is exactly you are fighting for.

All the best,

MG Holmes


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