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Are you in a bullying relationship?

Article by Dr Lynda Shaw 

Playground bullying, work place bullying, cyber bullying and teenagers bullying their parents, there are many types of bullying, all of which are totally unacceptable.  This article however, is going to address relationship bullying, the type that goes on between an adult couple.

bullying relationships image

It is important to note that bullies are both male and female.  It’s hard for a man to admit that his female partner is bullying him, but it happens as much as the other way round and is nothing to be ashamed of (unless you are the bully).  Equally we need to remember that a lot of bullying leaves no visible marks; verbal and emotional bullying happen behind closed doors and can be devastating.

What is the psychological profile of a bullying partner?  Often they are narcissistic, they lack empathy for others, are egocentric and totally self-centred.  They wish to control and put others down to help them feel stronger within themselves.  This means that the bully is often insecure.  Some even become addicted to the adrenaline rush of arguments, especially if they perceive themselves as more intelligent than their partner and can use complicated words that confuses the other.  The desired result is to reinforce their own illusion of superiority.

Being made to feel ‘not good enough’

Other tools a bullying partner may use is making the other feel ‘not good enough’, no matter what they do, give or how hard they try.  This can lead to a different type of abuse whereby they ignore the other as if in a ‘huff’.  The rejection serves to make their partner feel inadequate and undesirable thus weakening their confidence.  Perhaps the next stage from this is emotional blackmail whereby the bully threatens to leave or uses sarcasm about vulnerable aspects of their partner’s personality.  They may even put down their partner’s friends and family, which can lead to isolation and a dependency on the bullying partner.  These behaviours are not necessarily step-by-step, but serve as an example of the types of strategies bullies employ, which result in manipulation, control and serious abuse.

If you are a target of a bullying partner, it is a good idea to consider why you remain in this relationship.

Are you afraid to leave perhaps because they might become violent or you worry no one will believe you?  If this is the case, no one should live in fear and it’s a good idea to seek professional help as soon as possible.

Do you feel they might change?  If you have tried your best you probably know in your heart that they are just an abusive type of person who needs help themselves.  If they refuse to acknowledge their behaviour, or have no desire to ‘fix’ your relationship by seeking help, then it may be time to leave.

Or do you believe that they might be right and you are indeed all those dreadful things they say about you?  If this is the case they have done a good job in eroding your self-belief.  Think of all your successes, all of the wonderful things you do and dwell on how happy you can feel.  It is vital for us all to remember how fantastic we are.  Seek out those who can support you and help you feel good.

Whether we leave an abusive relationship or try to fix it, there is one thing for certain.  Bullying is totally unacceptable in all circumstances.

It’s a cliché, but life is incredibly short and we all deserve to live it in the best possible way.



Dr Lynda Shaw

Dr Lynda Shaw has lectured in Psychology and Neuroscience at Brunel University and conducted research on brain function and impairment, specialising in consciousness, emotion and the effects of ageing

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