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Continued: Society, family life shape men's ability to cope with a breakup

  • Article by: KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: November 1, 2013 - 5:29 PM

Some men also have been killed in domestic disputes, but not because they were trying to end a relationship. “When [homicide] happens around a separation,” Richards said, “this clearly is a gendered phenomenon.”

Last year, at least 18 homicides in Minnesota were linked to domestic violence. So far this year, there have been at least 37 such deaths, with Matula having been confirmed as a homicide.

According to the coalition, that number encompasses a range of deaths: 24 were women murdered by current or former partners. Six were men, four of whom were murdered by women. Seven were friends, family members or bystanders of women with violent male partners.

Safia Lovett, with the coalition, cautioned against looking for trends such as economic strains, hot weather, the holidays, whatever. “It’s happening year-round,” she said.

Likewise, she noted how domestic violence covers a spectrum, “with death at the end of that spectrum. We as a society tend to focus on the criminal side of things that might exist in relationships, but there are other forms of abuse that don’t result in a police call being made.”

Men grapple with emotions

Both Schmitt and Milgrom say that men who believe they have the right to control others aren’t born this way, but learn it from society. More than 80 percent of abusers witnessed violence in their own homes while growing up, Milgrom said. “It’s a family legacy.”

Just as damaging is another cultural message: Men shouldn’t cry, or admit that their feelings are hurt, Milgrom said. Further, our culture shames a guy who can’t hold onto a girlfriend or a wife.

“Women can take a breakup just as poorly, but they generally don’t become violent and murder their partners,” he said. If anything, the cultural liberation that women have experienced over the past several decades has made them less dependent on men.

“Women have become more interdependent on women, but there hasn’t been any similar growth for men,” he said.

In other words, women are developing more traditionally male traits to navigate society, but are we teaching boys any traditionally female traits to help them cope with life?

“The short answer is that men become emotionally dependent on a partner quite quickly,” Milgrom said. “That’s how men do emotions — through their female partners.”

So when a man’s emotional safety valve leaves, the pressure builds, sometimes to tragic levels.


Kim Ode • 612-673-7185

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