People often wonder if they’re being bullied, controlled or abused by their spouses. They want experts to help them recognize the signs and give them an educated, experienced opinion so they’ll have a new weapon in the next round of the endless battle. That’s a useful tactic but the major benefits are not what most people think. In addition to overt threats and violence, some criteria that we’re facing bullying, controlling or abusive husbands or wives are:
- After marriage or kids, they changed from charming to controlling, sometimes step by step.
- They make the rules; they control everything. We feel emotionally blackmailed, intimidated and drained.
- Their standards rule – our “no” isn’t accepted as “no.” Their sense of humor is the right one.
- They isolate us.
- They control us with their disapproval, name-calling, putdowns, demeaning, blame, shame and guilt-trips. They use the opinions other people who agree with them – their friends, their parents – to justify what they do.
- They don’t take our kindness, compassion and sympathy as a reason to stop. They take our self-control as an invitation to bully us more.
- They’re willing to argue forever and never admit that they have to change. Whenever we make a good point, they attack on a different subject.
Or we might recognize the seven warning signs of bullying, controlling narcissists:
- They think they know best about everything.
- Their excitement is contagious and sweeps us along.
- They think they don’t have anything to learn.
- They’re more important than we are.
- They think their rules should rule.
- Everyone is a pawn in their game.
- They think their excuses should excuse them.
Both lists are phrased as “They,” but really – we give in; we let them win. We’re the ones who think good reasons or arguments, more understanding, begging, bribery, appeasement, forgiveness, unconditional love or the Golden Rule will work if we try hard enough. We’re the ones who think we’re wrong if we give up on someone.
- Indeed, many men women allow themselves to be bullied repeatedly because they don’t recognize and label the control and abuse as “bullying.”
- But when we label what’s happening as “bullying,” the unknown terror no longer seems so overwhelming; it’s reduced in size as the light of a strong label shines on their behavior. Our shame, guilt, doubt and hesitation decrease. Our self-bullying, negative self-talk decreases.
- Our spirit rises up; we feel energized and empowered to fight back. Our will, determination and dedication are strengthened. Our courage, perseverance, endurance and resolution are engaged. We won’t quit any more and temporary defeats don’t defeat us for long.
- We take charge of our attitudes and feelings, and increase our self-confidence and self esteem. In so doing, we take charge of our actions and our future. We gain clarity about our goals and seek personalized coaching to develop a plan and carry it out.
- Once we know what we’re up against, we look for information, skills and help. We feel more powerful when we re-enter the fight.
In the next article, we’ll talk about an even better tactic than taking the strength we gain from using the words “bullies” and “bullying” into battle as our shield and sword.