Bullying can range from the relatively mild to the downright abusive.
Here’s how to identify the signs. Human interaction is always complicated. And when two people with separate agendas share a life, you can expect some less than perfect behaviour. While certain personality types are naturally more dominant than others, it is important for a healthy relationship to maintain balance between both parties’ emotional and physical needs.
Your partner may not even realise that they are bullying you. Or you might be the bully in the relationship without even knowing it! Fact is, it’s very easy to slip into negative behavioural patterns, so it’s always a good idea to periodically stop and take stock of your conduct.
So how do you identify an relationship bully? Here are five tell-tale signs:
They punish you if you don’t comply with their wishes
This is bullying in its simplest form. Do what I say, or else… Unlike schoolyard bullies your partner might not beat you up if you don’t give them your lunch money, but if they don’t get what they want, they will find a way to punish you. This punishment can take many forms. Do any of these sound familiar?
• Withholding sex
• Threats of leaving or breaking up
• Silent treatment and sulking
• Fits and tantrums
If you find yourself doing what your partner wants because you are scared of what the fallout will be if you don’t, then you are being bullied.
They belittle and disrespect you – both in private and in public
Does your partner make disparaging remarks about your looks, your job, or your intelligence? Do they make fun of you in front of other people and tease you about things that you are sensitive about? Bullies have an amazing knack to find weak spots and pick on them. This is doubly harmful in a relationship, where you have confided in your partner about your insecurities and they then use them against you.
They make unreasonable demands
Does your partner expect you to spend all your time together? Are you expected to be home every single night by a certain time? Do they tell you what you can and cannot wear? Do they expect you to be happy with the frequency, duration and type of love-making they prefer? Do they try and control your behaviour and punish you (with the methods in point 1) when you don’t comply?
These control freaks make all the rules and are never in the wrong. They use emotional manipulation and make you feel guilty if you do not meet their ever-escalating demands.
The worst thing? They will never be satisfied, no matter how much you give them, or how much you sacrifice.
They isolate you from friends and family
This is a tactic that all abusers use. If your partner prohibits or discourages you from seeing friends and family, or controlling who you talk to or what you’re allowed to say, you should hear alarm bells ringing. They do this intentionally to sever you from support. This way they can manipulate you without fear of discovery or input from others who might shed light on the situation.
These bullies often tell you they are the only ones who care about you and that other loved ones don’t know what’s best for you or have their own agendas. Be very careful when this happens. We have support networks for a reason, and don’t let someone cut you off from yours.