Sometimes, even successful women give up their own identities and slowly accept boyfriends controlling their lives. These women give up their independence and become willing victims. A mild example was described by Dr. Irene S. Levine. The bullying may start immediately, but usually there’s a step-by-step process of boundary pushing and giving in. The bully’s harassment is relentless, no one incident is worth a huge fight and if she refuses to do what he wants, she’s wrong and he becomes more abusive or threatens to leave.
What happens in a more extreme case and what can these women do to get away?
In one case, when Kate met Carl at work, she was successful with her own goals, place, money, car and an active social life. At first, Carl was very charming and confident, and they became good friends. Kate says they were two peas in a pod. How wrong she was!
After they actually moved in together, Carl changed. He knew that Kate had tattoos on her arms, but after they became a couple, he said that she needed to wear long sleeves when she was with him. He wouldn’t be linked to a person with tattoos. Kate thought that he was a jerk. Now she thinks that she should have said goodbye right there, but she did what he said. After all, she thought, it was only one small thing.
Carl wanted to move to a new town to start his own business. Kate was reluctant because she’d also have to quit her job, but Carl insisted. Before they lived together, Kate was a member of three coed gyms, but in the new town, Carl insisted that she go to an all-women's gym. She gave in because she didn't want the headache of disagreeing with him, but she kept feeling like she was the one who was making all the changes.
There were many more areas that Kate willingly let Carl control. After a while, she realized that she:
- Sat in the home office for six-ten hours a day working for Carl.
- Sold her car so he could get one he wanted, in his name.
- Was never allowed to talk or go out with her friends.
- Had a credit card that she was allowed to use only for household purchases, which Carl monitored.
- Cooked, cleaned and took care of the dogs.
- Was 20 pounds overweight and flat broke – he gave her only enough for household shopping and his errands.
Carl was always in a bad mood and yelled at her all the time. Every thing she did set him off. He said that his nasty moods were because he was stressed and she wasn’t helpful enough, so she had to put up with them. He didn’t communicate with her; he just blew up at her. He never said that he was sorry; he acted like it didn’t matter.
Kate finally realized that she’d become his slave! What I say in, “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” she eventually understood in her gut. “What’s the price of tolerating bullies? Slow erosion of your soul.”
Looking back, she realized that bullies and control freaks don’t take your kindness, reasonableness and tolerance as decent behavior they should reciprocate. They take it as an invitation to grab for more. They won’t stop until they have everything, which is never, or until they get bored.
There’s no point going into great analysis about why Kate did what she did. Her tasks were to forget trying to change him and to stop listening and acquiescing to him. She had to get away as soon as she could, find allies and supporters where she lived, go to coed gyms and lose weight, and get a money-making job again. She also needed a coach to bolster her resolve, perseverance and resilience, and to plan effective tactics.
Early on, she had been independent and could have left, but she didn’t. She had to struggle a lot to dig herself out of the pit she was in, but it was worth the rest of her life to become independent again.