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How to Stop your Husband from Killing You

TLDR; take jealousy seriously

So, I went down a bit of a murder-crime YouTube hole the other day, and ended up thinking, as you do, “man, a lot of men end up killing their wives.” And, because I have a stalker and this is relevant to my interests, I got this book on why men end up killing their intimate partners.

And what I learned was both expected and infuriating.

In the vast majority of cases, men are prompted to kill their wives out of jealousy. In fact, really extreme jealousy is the the most major risk factor in someone becoming a batterer or murderer; things like social class, race, economic status, etc. just paled in comparison to the impact of jealousy. And, this jealousy usually took the form of the man being jealous of his wife having a sexual relationship with someone else.

The author of the book, David Adams, conducted his research by interviewing a bunch of men convicted of killing their wives, and also a bunch of women who had been nearly killed by their husbands but survived (obviously, it was impossible to interview the victims who had been killed.)

And, you know, one takeaway impression I got was that for some men, the idea of their wife having sex with someone else — or even their ex wife, if they’d broken up — was so torturous to them that it essentially drove them into something like a murderous psychosis. And, it doesn’t end — Adams actually made a comment that he was still shocked by how much rage some of these convicted murderers still had towards the women they’d killed, even years later. Whatever jealous anger had drove them to kill, the murderers generally felt justified with their actions; few seemed to feel remorse.

Adams describes a man, “John” on his decision to kill his wife “Debra”:

Explaining his decision to kill Debra in his sleep, John said he was determined “this time not to let Debra talk me out of killing her.” John said that he’d told Debra before they were married that he would kill her if she ever left him or became involved with another man. He added that he had often reminded Debra of this, particularly after she left him and began seeing an ex-boyfriend. “The idea that I could always kill her,” said John, “was just a comforting thing for me to say to myself; kind of like a safety valve.” John stressed that no one could have talked him out of this since “I was convinced and felt morally in the right. And I’d gone to great lengths to explain the situation to Debra. That’s why there’s no feelings of guilt or remorse or anything.”

Why do They Kill? By David Adams, p 167–8 (Note: Affiliate link¹)

In the case of John, you see he justified his behavior based on his emotionality; he felt so jealous of Debra being with another man, he felt completely justified in murdering her. This seems to be a common trait with abusive and murderous men; their own difficult feelings with jealousy allow them to justify horrific behavior to other people in order to escape the difficult feelings for themselves.

And so, what this means when you are dating someone, is if they are feeling strongly jealous towards you, they will likely use this feeling of jealousy to justify cruelty toward you. Taken to the extreme, this emotion of jealousy can be used to justify murder without remorse in the eyes of an abusive man.

It’s also worth noting, jealousy often justifies murder in the eyes of the American public as well. The first ever “temporary insanity” plea was given by a man who killed his wife’s lover, arguing that seeing them together had caused him to become temporarily insane and shoot the man. In fact, up until the 70s it was actually legal in Texas to kill your wife’s lover if you found them in bed. I can’t find any evidence that it was ever officially legal to kill your wife in such circumstances, however, I expect that juries would be lenient on cases of men killing their adulterous spouses given that it was actually legal to kill the other adulterer.

However, in most cases of extreme jealousy, there’s actually no evidence that the wife is cheating. Rather, it becomes more like a crazed obsession on the side of the husband, who legitimately believes his wife is cheating on him, while she is just off trying to work or whatever. Often in these situations, these women have to give up their jobs and visiting friends and family to appease their husbands who simply refuse to believe they’re not cheating. However, this emotionality — the fact that the man thought the wife was cheating — is often used to justify more lenient sentences even though there was no way the wife could have escaped these accusations.

Conversely, women killing their abusive spouses tend to get longer sentences than men who kill women they were abusing. And, it’s hard to say exactly why this is, but I suspect that it’s because — to some degree — we justify the emotional reasoning behind the male killers. When we think of someone killing in a fit of jealous rage, we might think it’s “more ok” because that person probably doesn’t act like that all the time. It seems like, it was just a one off event and he’s not a danger to society.

Only thing is; it’s not a one off event. I think that the cognitive error many people are making, is they assume that for someone become so jealous they kill that they must have been triggered by something severe. However, for people with compulsive jealousy problems, they’re actually just going to be jealous all the time, and this is very likely to be a recurring problem with people they date regardless of their behavior.

It reminds me of when I began talking to people about my stalker (who was an ex) many people expressed sympathy for him, remembering times in their own lives when they had had trouble getting over a partner. And I had to explain to them, this isn’t the same. I know it looks the same superficially, but someone who can’t get over a 1 year relationship after 10 to 15 years is psychologically very different from someone who can’t get over a 5 year relationship in 2 years. And, people who have experienced jealousy before and know how painful it is may be tempted to sympathize with these abusers, but it is different to feel jealous when you are triggered by an event vs when you are so obsessed with your wive’s sexuality that you don’t let her leave the house because you think she’s having an affair with her own brother.

So, my number one takeaway of this book was — take jealousy seriously! Take it seriously with your partners, with your friends partners; it is the underlying basis of so much spousal abuse. And, if you are actively dating, take it extremely seriously with new partners. For real, if you start dating someone jealous, it will only get worse the deeper in you get — so if that’s triggering you GET OUT FAST. I remember, once, I had a neighbor who used to flirt with me. He was cute, so I went by his house to chat one time; nothing sexual happened. When I was there, he started joking with me that he used to be so jealous in his last relationship. “I was constantly calling her,” he said of his ex, “asking, where are you? where are you?”

He laughed about it, but I made up an excuse and left on the spot. I refused to see him again after that, and his behavior toward me escalated. He would keep stopping me in the hall, and I’d always laugh and say I was busy. At night, he would pound on my door loudly — at 1 or 2 am — demanding for me to let him in. I would just hide in my room, hoping he’d go away. Eventually, I actually ended up staying with my friend in a communal home for the summer because I was so afraid to stay in that apartment. Even the tiniest thing on my behalf, my willingness to have a 20 minute conversation with my neighbor inside his house, opened up the door for possessive behavior.

The inability to control behavior in the face of jealousy is a *huge* red flag, and sometimes you only get small signs — like I did, with that one comment my neighbor made — and you have to act on them quickly.

There are other warning signs, however, that make jealousy more likely to be a problem:

  1. If a male partner has few other friends or no active social life, he is more likely to be emotionally dependent on his partner and more likely to experience extreme jealousy
  2. If a partner has severe substance abuse issues, he is not more likely to be jealous, but he is more likely to kill or seriously injure in an intoxicated state. In fact, substance abuse problems and jealousy are a very deadly mix and you should be very careful if you end up dealing with that.
  3. If a man has a history of jealousy, and becomes very depressed — especially suicidally depressed — this is a common precondition for murder-suicide. In fact, 1/3 of the time women are killed by their partners, the male partner takes his life as well — this is a very hard demographic to study, because both witnesses end up dead. However, if you are with a jealous man and he becomes suicidally depressed, this is very dangerous for you — and, sadly, leaving will make it even more dangerous (definitely seek out help in this situation — links at bottom.)
  4. Moving in together fast is linked with higher rates of abuse, and femicide. Part of the reason for this, is many women willing to move in quickly are coming out of difficult living situations, and their male partners feel like they’re “rescuing” them — which, in turn, leads these partners to feel entitled to things like sex.

And then, finally, there is one situation where jealousy actually doesn’t play a very big role in a man killing his partner, and that’s if the man is primarily motivated to kill out of a desire for material benefit in the relationship. For example, if the couple owned a business together, and the man doesn’t want to split the business during a divorce, he may feel justified killing his wife. A very common event that can instigate this type of murder, is a man beginning an affair with a new woman. Often, when a man begins an affair, he may want to go start a new life but feel resentful about having to split the family assets with his (soon to be) ex. Often, men like this will not exhibit violence or jealousy before hand, so it’s important if you find your spouse cheating that you are very careful if and when you choose to confront them on it.

Anyway, obviously this is a complicated topic that doesn’t have any simple answers. Additionally, leaving an abusive relationship is one of the most dangerous times in an abused woman’s life. If you are in an abusive relationship and would like to leave, please seek out help from professionals if you can (links below.)

And, if and when you do leave, don’t look back. A significant number of men managed to kill their partners after talking their exes into one last meeting with them; it is a very, very dangerous thing to do.

US Hotline:

International Hotlines:

¹ I’m experimenting with affiliate links, to see if eventually I can have more time to write without full time work. I’m only using them in areas where I would have organically quoted and linked to the book anyway.




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Emma Lindsay

Emma Lindsay

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