Being married to a bully can lead to stress, anxiety and may be an early sign of abuse. That said, bullying does always manifest itself with physical violence, although this, too, can be a sign you are married to a bully. Some partners live in denial of their spouses’ bullying tactics, because “they don’t want to confront the issue,” states marriage and family therapist Carin Goldstein, in an article for YourTango. However, without intervention, this behavior will likely not improve.
A bully's motivation is "to coerce or force someone into compliance," states marriage counselor Aaron Anderson, in the article, "Are you a bully in your marriage?" on RelationshipRx. If your partner is a bully, he may try to intimate you, your children and others with an aggressive tone or threats. Further, Goldstein explains that your spouse might react “as if everyone is out to get him.” In other words, your spouse may go on the offensive and overact verbally or physically to minor mistakes, constructive criticism or remarks that challenge his point of review. Additionally, in the context of a relationship, partners can bully by withholding sex or demanding intimacy against your will.
Although occasional rude remarks during arguments or rough patches in your marriage may be normal, patterns of disrespect may indicate bullying. If your spouse continually curses at you or calls you names, this may be a bullying tactic. Likewise, if your spouse frequently disparages your career, parenting skills or other abilities, this may be a sign that she is a bully, explains psychologist Anne-Renee Testa, in an excerpt from her book, "The Bully Inside Your Relationship." Such partners may also make disrespectful comments to your children, criticizing their grades, appearance, social skills or intelligence.
Bullies often have difficulty forming effective partnerships with their spouses because they refuse to take responsibility for their actions. In a marriage, a bully will frequently dismiss his mistakes and blame his spouse for the problems in the marriage. As a result, the couple may struggle to make decisions, communicate or reach mutually agreeable solutions to problems. In other words, if you notice that you often feel pressured into giving into your spouse to avoid an argument, this may be a sign that you are married to a bully.
In its most extreme form, bullying in a marriage can take the form of hitting, slapping, shoving, kicking or other forms of physical abuse. This abuse may be unprovoked or may be in response to criticism or any other remark that challenges the bullying spouse’s power. A bullying spouse may also act violently if you try to find work outside the home or assert autonomy. In many situations, the bully will also show little or no remorse for his behavior -- both they physical and the emotional bullying, explains marriage counselor David B. Hawkins in the article, "Is Your Spouse a Bully?" on Crosswalk.com.
Stopping the Bullying
In some situations, the bullying spouse may not realize the extent of his behavior because it has become such an ingrained pattern in his behavior. While some bullies may be open to changing after they begin to see the effects of their behavior on you, others may still refuse to acknowledge that their behavior is unacceptable. That said, Hawkins states that bullies are often predictable " Because we know of their antics, we can anticipate how they will behave and can become unfrozen, determining how we will choose to respond to their next outburst. This knowledge can help balance the power continuum," he explains. If a bully's behavior crosses into the line of abuse -- that is -- where you or your children are at risk of physical or emotional injury, stopping the bullying may mean leaving the bully and seeking a safe place to live, such as a women's shelter or relative's home. In such cases, law enforcement and your local court system can also help protect you against retaliation and further intimidation from your bullying partner.
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Anna Green has been published in the "Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision" and has been featured regularly in "Counseling News and Notes," Keys Weekly newspapers, "Travel Host Magazine" and "Travel South." After earning degrees in political science and English, she attended law school, then earned her master's of science in mental health counseling. She is the founder of a nonprofit mental health group and personal coaching service.