When we consider the idea of a ‘bully’ the first thing that comes to mind for most of us is that kid out on the schoolyard, taunting and belittling others out on the playground. There is no arguing that incidences of bullying throughout childhood can have a significant impact on our lives both when it occurs, and well into our adult years if they are left unresolved, but bullying isn’t restricted just to childhood.
In the adult world, bullying may come in a slightly different form, but they are incredibly harmful to even the strongest and most independent of us. They may come in the form of a neighbor that goes out of their way to tear us down, a co-worker that actively demeans and belittles us to destroy our confidence, preventing us from rising up and beating them for that next big promotion, or, surprisingly for many, your own spouse.
Being in a relationship with someone doesn’t automatically mean that they will always treat you with the respect you deserve. Instead, many bullies will put on the charm to draw someone into their web before flipping the switch and allowing their true personality to be seen. This isn’t restricted to just men or women either. In an effort to maintain control over everything in their lives, they will tear you down and leave you vulnerable, asserting their dominance and expecting you to fall in line. Does this sound familiar?
Are You Being Bullied in Your Relationship? Watch for These 9 Important Warning Signs:
#1 – They make rude or judgmental comments relating to your physical appearance.
Regardless of how long you have been together or what stage of your relationship you are in, they do not have any say in your appearance unless you choose to ask for their opinion on something. Even then, it is your right to ignore any advice given. It’s YOUR body. If your partner is making comments about your hair, your clothing choices, the way you do your make up, etc. try not to take these comments to heart, as they aren’t meant to help you be better in any way. Any comments made relating to your appearance that are demeaning or judgmental are a sign of a toxic relationship – a sign that shouldn’t be overlooked or ignored.
#2 – You downplays your achievements and accomplishments.
If someone truly cares for you and wants to see you succeed, they will be proud of you for all that you achieve in life. This isn’t the case for a bully. Rather than bragging about your latest award, raise or promotion, they will downplay your achievements making you feel as though they don’t matter, or they aren’t worthy of celebration. If you feel strong and empowered, you are more likely to fight back and rise up. Instead, they will go out of their way to tear you down and keep you feeling as though you are ‘less than’ them to maintain their role on top.
#3 – They regularly resort to such petty attacks as taunting and name-calling.
If you have a disagreement of any form in your relationship (which will happen in even the healthiest relationships) pay attention to how they respond. Are they willing to discuss the situation and ‘fight fair’ or do they resort to childlike attacks including taunting you (‘what are you going to do about it?’ or ‘go ahead, call your best friend, do you think they are going to side with you?’) or name calling (‘idiot,’ ‘weakling,’ ‘useless,’ or more derogatory terms like ‘bitch/bastard’)? If they jump to using these techniques to belittle you and put you down, they aren’t actually interested in reaching a resolution. They simply want to maintain their control and dominance.
#4 – They are rude to those that they consider to be ‘beneath them.’
Pay attention to how they are treating people outside of your relationship, especially to wait staff, doormen, retail workers, coffee baristas, and cab drivers. Often in their need to feel dominant, bullies will last out at anyone that they consider to be ‘beneath them,’ treating those in the service industry poorly. They may snap at them, berate them or attack them for no reason or over the smallest of mistakes. Don’t be fooled, if your partner is treating someone else this way, it’s only a matter of time before that temper will turn on you as well if it hasn’t already.
#5 – They tell you that you have ‘let them down’ for not keeping up with something as small as a chore on the to-do list.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t situations in a relationship capable of triggering feelings of being immensely disappointed or let down, but if you notice that your partner uses that phrase over the smallest situations, take note. It could be something as simple as failing to empty the dishwasher because you were preoccupied throughout the day, and your partner will go out of their way to make you feel as though you have massively disappointed them and let them down. They will highlight your flaws and mistakes and may even go as far as insinuating that you’re lucky that they still with you. This is merely another method for tearing you down and eroding your confidence so that they can maintain the dominant role.
#6 – They compare you to their ex.
When you enter into a new relationship, there’s a certain amount of baggage that needs to be checked at the door in order for it to survive. Feelings, thoughts or opinions relating to your ex is one of these. If your partner is making comments comparing you to their ex, whether it is your physical appearance, the way that you act, how you handle situations or the way that you make them feel, take note. Often these statements aren’t even made because they miss their ex that much, in fact, the statement that their ‘ex used to’ may not even be true. When you are in a relationship with a bully, these comments are used to make you feel less about yourself, effectively tearing you down and leaving you vulnerable. It’s one of the ways that they maintain their control.
#7 – They go out of their way to undermine you.
It’s not that you don’t have good ideas, or that you aren’t knowledgeable in some areas. However, he will go out of his way to tell you that you don’t have anything useful to share or that your ideas aren’t realistic to try to tear you down. The truth is that he feels the need to be the all-knowing one in the relationship, so any attempt by you to share your knowledge or expertise is an attack on his ego. He isn’t tearing you down because you aren’t good enough, he’s tearing you down out of fear that you may know more than him.
#8 – They humiliate you or degrade you in public.
While many of the items on this list are certainly a concern when they happen behind closed doors, this isn’t to say that the effect they have on your is any less important, pay attention as well to how they treat you in a public setting. Unlike the other points, this one may be less obvious. Pay attention to signs that they are degrading or belittling you. This may happen through undermining your opinions, sharing stories that paint you in a negative light with others or publicly humiliating. They know that in order to maintain their dominance that they need to keep you down and under their control. Degrading you in public not only tears you down, but it will leave you feeling as though you are ‘less than’ in the eyes of all those that entertain his actions.
#9 – They fail to accept or acknowledge the value of anyone else’s opinions.
It’s not just your opinions that they aren’t interested in hearing, they will brush off or steamroll anyone’s attempt to share a different opinion, thought or point of view. This serves two purposes in their world. First, it allows them to avoid any possible threat to their dominance by refusing to allow anyone to gain any ground on them. Secondly, it works to help maintain their all-knowing image within your relationship as they continue to act as though they know best in every situation. They do it with such confidence and conviction, it can be hard to see past what they want you to see and realize that this is going on behind the scenes. If your partner can’t respect your own thoughts and opinions, this is definitely something to be concerned about in a relationship.