The 4th – 10th March is Domestic Abuse Awareness Week, otherwise known as No More Week. In light of this, drawing parallels with the Netflix film ‘Fair Play,’ this article examines the troubling trend of relationships unraveling and domestic abuse emerging when women achieve professional success, a situation that finds resonance with a wide audience.

Introduction to the Issue

Beneath the facade of success in the workplace,  a disconcerting occurrence often exists: the mistreatment and subversion of relationships when a woman attains success. This problem brings to light a troubling interaction that warrants awareness. Here, we will take a look at the underlying motivations driving some partners to engage in abusive conduct and relationship undermining when confronted with a successful companion. By delving into the complexities of this issue, our aim is to raise awareness and cultivate a culture of respect and equity in relationships.

It is crucial to underscore that this perceived threat to masculinity results from societal conditioning and is not a reflection of the woman’s achievements. Blaming a woman or man for their success is never acceptable and should not be endorsed. It is imperative to acknowledge that not all men fall into these categories, as secure individuals also abstain from abusive behaviour.

The Paradox of Success and Relationship Dynamics

Conventional societal norms have historically linked masculinity with authority and domination. When encountering a successful woman who challenges these norms, some men might perceive it as a challenge to their own authority, supremacy, and self-esteem. Failing to reconcile their own insecurities, they may resort to abusive behaviour as a method to regain control and assert dominance over their partner.

Understanding Abusive Behavior: Insecurities and Control

Abuse frequently originates from deeply rooted insecurities and low self-esteem. Men grappling with their own self-worth and feeling inadequate compared to their successful partners may resort to abusive tactics to belittle their partner’s accomplishments and maintain a sense of superiority. Psychological abuse, continual disparagement, humiliation, and undermining of their partner during social events, or thwarting special occasions organised for or by their partner represent just a few manifestations of abuse. It is essential to remember that abuse does not need to be physical; psychological abuse can be equally detrimental.

Success and empowerment in the workplace can challenge conventional gender roles, causing some men to fear emasculation and a loss of control within the relationship. Their partner’s achievements might serve as a constant reminder of their perceived shortcomings. Instead of finding inspiration, they may feel inhibited and threatened. In an effort to regain control and reaffirm their masculinity, they may resort to abusive behaviour to exert power and dominance over their partner. Recognising that true empowerment should never be construed as a threat but rather as an opportunity for growth and mutual support is crucial.

Abusive behaviour can also be rooted in entitlement and jealousy. Men with possessive inclinations may view their accomplished partners as possessions rather than equal partners. Perceiving their partner’s success as a threat, they may become envious and resentful, leading to controlling and abusive actions aimed at diminishing their partner’s achievements and maintaining control over their lives. In some instances, they may even seek out relationships with women they perceive as less successful to restore their self-esteem.

Abusive conduct is often acquired through socialisation and exposure to unhealthy relationship dynamics. Men who have witnessed or experienced abuse in their upbringing, such as witnessing their father mistreating their mother, may be more inclined to perpetuate the cycle of abuse. Unaddressed trauma or learned behavioural patterns can contribute to their inclination for abusive actions, particularly in relationships with successful women who challenge their established belief systems. Breaking this cycle necessitates addressing the root causes of abuse and offering support to both survivors of abuse and individuals who exhibit abusive tendencies.

Abusive individuals often employ manipulation and control tactics to maintain authority over their partners. In relationships with accomplished women, the abuser may utilise strategies like gaslighting, isolating the woman from her support network, or undermining her confidence and achievements. By exerting control over her personal and professional life, they aim to maintain dominance and control within the relationship. Recognising these manipulation techniques is vital to dismantling the cycle of abuse and providing assistance to those affected.

The Psychological Toll of Domestic Abuse

When a woman experiences abuse, she confronts two potential responses to cope with her suffering: internalising it, leading to anxiety, depression, and self-loathing, or expressing her distress through reactive behaviour, such as outbursts. Unfortunately, these outbursts are often unfairly dismissed as “crazy,” “irrational,” “delusional,” or “overly emotional.” In reality, what she endures is psychological abuse, which transforms her into an unrecognisable and disconnected version of herself. The relentless exposure to abuse takes a toll, causing anxiety, depression, and impairments in various aspects of life, including work. Furthermore, societal expectations often demand that women juggle multiple roles despite their mental health struggles. This added pressure exacerbates their mental well-being issues and perpetuates the vicious cycle of abuse.

The abuse and sabotage of relationships when a successful woman is involved is a distressing reality that requires awareness and action. It is imperative to acknowledge that abusive behaviour is never justified, regardless of the circumstances or the success of one partner. By comprehending the underlying motivations behind such behaviour, society can work toward dismantling harmful gender norms, promoting healthy relationship dynamics, and offering support to both survivors of abuse and individuals who exhibit abusive tendencies. Through education, open dialogue, and the cultivation of a culture characterised by respect and equality, we can strive for healthier and safer relationships for all.

Workplace Indicators of Domestic Abuse

In addition to the psychological and emotional signs mentioned earlier, there are often observable behaviours and dynamics in the workplace that can signal the presence of domestic abuse in a person’s life. One significant indicator is a sudden decline in work performance and productivity. Successful women who are victims of abuse may find it increasingly difficult to concentrate on their tasks due to the constant emotional turmoil they experience at home. This can lead to missed deadlines, errors, and an overall decrease in the quality of their work and a change in temperament. Colleagues and supervisors should be attentive to such changes and offer support rather than judgment, understanding that the root cause may extend beyond the office walls.

Another workplace sign to watch for is isolation. Successful women who are victims of abuse may become more withdrawn and less engaged in social interactions with their coworkers. They may avoid office events, lunches, or team activities, making excuses to keep their personal life hidden. Isolation can be a coping mechanism to protect themselves from judgment or to hide visible signs of abuse, such as bruises or emotional distress.

A Call for Awareness and Action

Colleagues and managers should encourage open communication and create a supportive environment where employees feel safe discussing their challenges without fear of reprisal.

Workplaces should respond to colleagues experiencing domestic abuse by fostering a supportive and empathetic environment, offering education and resources, respecting confidentiality, and ensuring compliance with UK legal protections and obligations. Encouraging open communication, providing flexible policies, and involving HR in assisting victims are crucial steps, while colleagues should be encouraged to offer practical support while respecting privacy. Awareness of specific UK resources, laws, and safeguarding procedures is essential to effectively address domestic abuse in the workplace and protect the well-being of employees.

Danielle Baron
Danielle Baron
Therapist at Danielle Baron | Website

Danielle Baron is a diversity and inclusion expert who founded DIVEINC, a platform dedicated to providing training in this field. With a background as an educator and assistant head, she has experience as a teacher, mentor, and coach for individuals of all ages. Additionally, Danielle is a skilled therapist proficient in various modalities. She is also a finalist for multiple prestigious awards, such as The Great British Entrepreneur Awards and SME National Business Awards, and holds the title of Ms. Great Britain.