We’ve talked about the first two important steps to stop bullying, abusive spouses:
- The first step toward freedom is to use experts’ checklists to recognize and label our spouses’ behavior as “bullying” and our demanding, controlling, narcissistic, abusive spouses as “bullies,” in order to generate our own power. We may use that power to re-enter fights with renewed vigor and a new sense that we’re right.
- The second step toward our bright future is to ask our inner expert. We ask ourselves, not if they’re bullying, but if we don’t like what they do. We know what we like and don’t like; we know how much we like or hate it; we know what we’re willing to compromise about or put up with and what we’re not. Begin with our judgment and act on that judgment. Since we know what we want, we don’t have to change bullies or get them to agree or get their permission. We simply test them to see if they’ll act the way we want.
Each step in the sequence gives us more inner power, strength and courage to do what we need to do; to stand firm on the standards of behavior we’ll allow on our island.
There’s a third step in which we take charge of our personal space and our future.
Yes, when we label them as bullies we stop forgiving, excusing, accepting justifications; we stop begging, appeasing, bribing; we stop thinking that reasons, logic, unconditional love, forgiveness or the Golden Rule will cure them; we stop hoping and pretending that they’ll suddenly see themselves as we see them and they’ll change; we stop negative self-talk and self-bullying. Instead, we fight to protect our emotions and spirits from further destruction.
But many bullies, especially stealthy, covert, manipulative, controlling bullies, love to fight. They win when they keep us engaged in fighting because they’ll never give in. For us, it’s a fight for our souls; for them it’s a fight to the death.
For years, Maria and Jean had tried everything they could think of to change their husbands. They’d tried every expert method, every friend’s advice, every magic trick, every way they could think of to become perfect wives, every form of therapy but their husbands hadn’t changed. Well, maybe those spouses had become little more tricky in their justifications. But their spouses didn’t change their behavior.
Through personalized coaching, both women reached the point of saying, “That’s enough!” Actually something deep within both of them shifted completely. They were released from the need for debates, arguments and therapy; from reasons excuses and justifications; from fighting about who was right about their husbands’ behavior.
You know how you can bend a paper clip back and forth many times and you can still make it hold paper. But one bend too many and it snaps, and you can’t ever glue it back together again. It’s broken irreversibly. That’s what happened. They snapped. The need to keep trying had snapped. That’s enough! They were done.
That happened to Maria and Jean. They were done with hoping their husbands would change, they were done with looking for exactly the right words to say or with trying to be good enough to deserve good treatment; they were done with debating, arguing and therapy.
They were now acting on their own gut standards and for the benefit of their hearts and souls. That’s real power. Gone were their begging doubt, hesitation, self-questioning, negative, self-bullying self-talk, insecurity, lack of confidence and low self-esteem.
Now they focused on behavior – and they took different paths that fit each of them.
Jean said, “I’ve gotten divorce papers. If you behave in that rotten way, I’ll file them. But if you behave in the nice way I want, I’ll hold off until the kids grow up and leave home. Then we’ll see what we’ll see. If you’re nice for a while but fall back into the old patterns, I’ll immediately file; no more chances.” Her study is included in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” available fastest from this web site.
Maria took a different path. She felt that her husband’s behavior was way over the top and he was setting a bad example for their son. Also, if she stayed, she’d be setting a bad example for her daughter. So she divorced him.
Both of their husbands tried to continue debating and arguing, citing experts and friends and family, who asked if the wives had done enough, if maybe they’d tried more or if maybe they fixed what was wrong with them, the men would finally change.
Both Maria and Jean had the same answer from their guts. “Those thoughts, ideas and possibilities don’t matter anymore. I’m done. I’ve had enough. I’m not wasting my time in talk anymore. I love him but I’m done with him. It’s over. Maybe I’ll find love somewhere else.”
They both felt a surge of power, confidence and esteem at having acted based on their opinions, gut feelings and desires. Both had taken charge of their personal spaces and their futures. Both worked hard to make their choice as good as possible for their children. Both were successful.
The hardest part for Maria was to deal with friends and family who, for their own personal reasons, tried to convince her of what they wanted her to do. They wanted to judge and debate in order to convince her that what they thought was, indeed, right. She finally had to tell them that the subject was off limits. They’d already expressed their opinions. Now, if they wanted to be with her, they had to stop.
The key to both successful lives was in following the internal shift – the gut that said, “That’s enough!”