Here’s an email I received from an abused wife, hoping her story helps other women recognize and get away from their controlling, bullying, abusive husbands before it’s too late. “I hope my story might help someone. I have known my husband since I was 18 years-old. We worked together and his sister and I were friends. I was married at 16 to my first boyfriend, so my now husband was just a friend, although I always knew he had a soft spot for me.”
“Years later, when I was divorced, I went out with my now husband, but I didn’t have the feelings for him at that time that I do now, so I ended the relationship. Eventually we ended up back together and he won me over. He was a quiet man, very deep, didn’t say much, but was always very kind and nothing was too much trouble.”
“My sons who obviously had known him since they were little boys, but are now grown up and married, adored him. We ended up getting married and I thought I had met the man of my dreams, but it didn’t last. As soon as we got engaged it all started to change. He has hit me, nearly broken my fingers, but the violence has stopped since I called the police.”
“He had never been married before and never wanted to, that I know for a fact. He is very moody and often put himself in the box room for weeks on end and not speaking. I own my own home and have always worked full time. I am very bubbly person and have lots of friends, where he has always been a loner.”
“He told me that I needn’t work full time anymore, so I took a 2-day-a-week job. That’s when it really got bad. He often leaves in the clothes he stood in and takes all of the bill and shopping money. He would stay away for 3 weeks at a time. It wasn’t about him being with women or anything, that I know, but he goes on drinking binges which he never used to do. He spends all of the money and texts me all of the time, calling me names, putting me down and being very abusive.”
“I have started divorce proceedings as he is putting the home I have lived in for 25 years at risk, with him taking all of the money. Because the house is mine and in my name, he said that my sons should pay the mortgage when he is not there as it is their inheritance, as he calls it. Obviously I love him but cannot take anymore.”
“To anyone out there, these people will not change and are unable to change. They will grind you down, just as I have been and you will end up feeling worthless. I am a good person and I have a medical working background, so I have a pretty good idea what I am talking about. I also have friends in the medical field who have advised me that these controlling people will never change.”
“I am at the moment trying to keep hold of my home. He keeps sending me texts saying he is going to see me in the gutter. Please don’t let these controlling people to this to us. I hope my story helps in someway.”
- He changed from charming to abusive, sometimes step by step. When she put up with a step, he escalated to the next step. Bullies don’t stop until you stop them.
- Overt physical violence – they shove, slap or hit you; force you to have sex; force you to lie or drop the charges if the police were called. In this case, she stopped the overt physical violence when she called the police. Good. Now there’s a police record. But he then shifted to control and bullying, which wouldn’t get the police involved. When she stayed with him, she gave him a green light.
- They make the rules; they control everything – what you do, where you go, who spends the money and what it’s spent on. You feel emotionally blackmailed, intimidated and drained.
- Their standards rule – your “no” isn’t accepted as “no;” they’re always right and you’re always wrong; their sense of humor is right and they’re not abusing you, you’re too sensitive.
- They isolate you – they won’t allow you to see your friends or your family, go to school or even work. When she quit her full-time job and became depended on him, the control and abuse increased.
- They control you with their disapproval, name-calling, putdowns, demeaning, blame and guilt – no matter what you do; you’re wrong or not good enough.
Bullies don’t take your kindness, compassion and sympathy as a reason to stop. They take your passivity as an invitation to bully you more. It’s the same at work, at school and in romance.
A few suggestions for then and now
- Get away or get rid of him at the first sign. Notice that she had signs when they were engaged, before they were married and there were also no children at stake.
- Don’t think you can change him by staying. The best help you can provide is getting away. That may or may not be motivation for him to change on his own, but at least he’ll be far away from you.
- Don’t let him control you. Notice what happened when she quit her job. Don’t believe him when he says you’re worthless and the problems are your fault.
- Since he’s harassing you with text messages and has a history of physical violence, get a restraining order. Keep a record of all the messages (including the threatening ones). Call the police if he continues. Cut off all contact with him.
- Find allies and supporters. Remove any splinters – people who don’t support you.
- Be brave, determined and relentless.
Many women allow themselves to be bullied repeatedly because they don’t recognize and label the control and abuse as “bullying.” When you recognize and label these bullies’ tactics and tricks, you’ll be empowered to resist them. When you learn effective skills and techniques, you can resist them successfully.
Peaceful methods (understanding, tolerating, logic, reasoning, forgiveness, their sympathetic therapy) sometimes stop mild bullying. But you need firmer, stronger methods to stop relentless, determined, bullying husbands.
Of course it’s usually not easy to stop the behavior or to get away. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Tactics must be designed for each situation. Factors such as money, children, outside support, age, health, threatened increase in abuse to physical brutality and murder, and family of origin and cultural values can be extremely important in designing effective tactics.
But the first step is always for women to make an internal shift from acceptance or tolerance (even though you may hate him underneath) to a commitment and determination to end the abuse and bullying, no matter what it takes. Without that inner commitment, women usually end up begging the husband to change and waiting forever. The inner commitment is necessary to give strength and power to the right tactics in your hands.
You’ll find many examples of stealth bullies in my books and CDs “Bullies Below the Radar: How to Wise Up, Stand Up and Stay Up” and “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks.” You’ll also learn practical, real-world tactics to stop these bullies or to get away safely.