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psychlady, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 6893
Experience:  Psychotherapist specializing in the treatment of a variety of mental health issues.
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I have a bullying husband. I want him to stop telling me

Customer Question

I have a bullying husband. I want him to stop telling me what to do a treating me like a child. It is hard for me to believe this is happening. I am a cofident person, I have a good job. I am not finacially dependent and don't have children with him. This is my second marraige--we have been married 8 years, three were very good, but the last two have been terrible. I try to approach this problem in different ways. He is kind of childish--if I tell him how something he did made me feel, he will almost always come back with "well how to you think I feel" or "you shouldn't feel that way" or "you do that to me." If I ask him to please not yell, he will always respond "I am not yelling" and will yell it. It feels hopeless, but I do love him (I am no
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  psychlady replied 6 years ago.

Your best solution is to attend marriage counseling. He obviously does not understand that his behavior is out of line. Sometimes people will behave inappropriately and now qualify this as hurtful and some people will be aware of their behavior but not know how to handle this any other way. An inpartial professional can help you as a couple resolve conflict differently. You can also look up the rules of fair fighting in the Mars and Venus series but he has to want to argue differently. Both of you have to learn them. This will lay out helpful boundaries for arguing including of course no yelling. If he won't acknowledge his own behavior then you are in need of a professional. To explore self help techniques he must be willing.

If this has been helpful press accept

psychlady, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 6893
Experience: Psychotherapist specializing in the treatment of a variety of mental health issues.
psychlady and 2 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

This is not the answer I am looking for. If I wanted counseling, I would make an appointment. I can also pick up a book. I am not choosing that route. I am choosing to ask here. I am asking what I can do--what specific techniques do you have for me.

Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 6 years ago.
Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue.

You have considerable emotional power and financial strength in this relationship, probably more than you realize; I suggest this because you describe your husband as being somewhat childish (and, i would probably add, self-focused, a bit narcissistic, emotionally immature). You FEEL he bullies you, tells you what to do, but I think one skill issue is, Do you acquiesce to his bullying, back down; give in to what he asks you to do, etc.? First step would be to stop doing this and assert your personal power in the relationship. Your husband will likely escalate his bullying, trying to regain control and power in the relationship, because your 'disobedience' signals to him that he hasn't acted strongly enough with you and so, he will try again. But if you are consistent in this, e.g., simply telling him 'no', and explaining that you insist on being an equal partner in the relationship----do this over and over again, he will adjust to it and you won't feel quite so controlled or bullied. The real, underlying issue however, is your fundamental problems with communication; you feel your husband doesn't' really listen to you and most importantly, can't empathize in any way with what you experience or feel. You can approach this problem in your conversation by suggesting that you BOTH follow one new rule when you talk about a problem, issue, conflict etc. That is, before either of you respond as you might wish to, each of you must explain what they think other person just said to them and what they believe the other person is thinking and feeling in the moment. This rule would disrupt the normal, highly defensive and self-focused responses he is offering up to you when you talk. I suspect he won't want to do with with you or will try it, but immediately fall back into his old modality of conversing with you (because the old modality serves him so well). But you can persist with it if he does this e.g., "I simply won't converse with you as we have in the past about any conflicts, problems or issues; we have a communication problem in that we don't listen to one another and tend to immediately respond from our own needs or wants. Until we break this pattern, i don't feel I can communicate with you or work on problem whatsoever and so, unless we can both agree to try this, I have nothing to say to you as no problems or issues really get settled; so before you respond to me as you normally feel you want to, I need to hear that you understood what I said to you, and that you have a clear understanding of what I think and feel right at this moment." So you would try to coach him and persuade him to try this preliminary step in communicating, so as to disrupt what you've done up to this point point in your marriage.

The problem you face is that you don't need the skills you seek----but your husband has huge skills deficits, or he doesn't really care much about your relationship and your emotional needs in it (one of these two). For HIM to pick up the skills he needs, you are thus, faced with trying to persuade him to communicate with you differently (as for example, offered the one idea I suggested above), or find a marital coach or relationship coach who can work with both of you, teaching you this stuff in real time. I suspect this was the basis of the last expert's recommendation to you. NOW if your husband simply won't cooperate, or won't put any effort into changing the role he plays in your relationship, you may have to create an emotional crisis in the relationship by moving out for a time, or asking him to move out---a period of trial separation---to communicate to him that this is pretty much a do or die, deal breaker issue for your marriage, in your mind.

So this would be the first, fundamental skill for you to try to get him to cooperate with and try i.e., each of you talks, but then takes turns communicating to the other person what they THOUGHT they heard them say, and what they think the person is thinking and feeling in the here and now; then, they can proceed to respond as they normally would if they wish. If your husband won't even try this, won't cooperate in such an experiment for a few days or a week, then no other skills you possess will matter, because as I said, you don't need the skills, HE does, and your skills can't 'fix' him and his deficits, if he won't cooperate with you in improving your relationship. So he has to admit to the notion that the two of you have serious problems, and he has to be willing to try out some new forms of communication---he has to say to you, o.k., I'm willing to try to change a bit, if it will improve our relationship. I'm going to pause here and solicit your feedback. I may not be able to get back on line with you for a few hours or possibly, tomorrow a.m. early, ; but I will get back to you as soon as I can, o.k.?
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

I think the ideas you listed are good and certainly worth trying--I have tried similar things like repeating what he said back to him. He has not been willing to try anything I have suggested. I suggested the idea of a talking stick--only the person holding the stick gets to talk, and then passes the stick for a response. He won't do it--he continues to interrupt me. In your response, you asked if I backed down--I know how to stand up for myself. I don't usually back down. I have tried backing down just to see if it ends the episode, but it doesn't. He continues to bully, even when he does get his way. I have tried walking away, I have tried calling the police, I have gone to counseling with him (he refuses to continue), I am so very tired of standing strong. We will have an "episode" about once a month. Somehow, we get through it. He quickly forgets about like it never happened. In the past, I have either felt hurt and sad, stomping mad, or ready to divorce him. Hurt and angry doesn't go away quickly for me and really does me no good. So now, when we have an episode, I pull myself out of it emotionally. I just state my points and feelings, tell him what I am going to do (not threatening), and follow through. I feel numbed by the experience, but at least I don't feel hurt, sad, and angry. This he really dislikes; he says I have a bad attitude and he doesn't like it when I act like that. I really don't know what to do. I don't want a divorce--we enjoy each others company most of the time. Please respond back..I will accept your answer.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Please let me know if what I am doing is healthy or harmful.

Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 6 years ago.
You are handling these situations quite well (as outlined in the last lines of your post). The fact that you stand your ground, remain assertive and FOLLOW THROUGH on what you feel you must do does help to undermine his bullying. That is, it renders his attempts to control your expression and actions ineffective. This frustrates him but it actually helps empower you. So it is a very good thing that he dislikes your assertiveness and independence because it means you are every-so-slighly regaining more power in the relationship, but more importantly, you are standing up for your own rights as a person in t his relationship. He doesn't want you to be able to pull yourself out of conflict situations emotionally because this means he can't influence or control you emotionally. All he can tell you is that you have a 'bad attitude'----meaning actually, that he doesn't like the fact that you are able to deflect his attempts to bully/control you.

Another thing you can do is if he acquiesces EVER or doesn't bully you during a conflict or disagreement, or doesn't raise his voice, be sure to COMPLIMENT him and tell him that this approach he took with you is much more constructive and reflects what healthy conflict resolution is about.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Thanks for the reassurance. The reality is that I can't make him be who I want him to be and need to concentrate on myself. He is a bully, and I married him, so he is my bully. I will try to stick with it and respond appropriately. It's kind of like raising a child, responding to bad behavoir in a matter-of-fact, natural consequences way. My son grew up to be a good man, husband, and father. Maybe my child-husband will turn out fine too.

Thanks again for your comments.

Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 6 years ago.
It was gratifying to read your last post because I think you have the ideal perspective on your husband i.e., you can't make him be the kind of person you want him to be. He is a certainly treating you in a very disrespectful and dysfunctional way. You MUST be doing something right, because you helped model healthy behavior for your son and he has probably learned how NOT to treat women from watching his father. So please take some credit here!

Please let me know if I have overlooked any aspect of your original question. Please click on the green Accept button at the bottom of the screen. Thanks.
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 5 years ago.
I notice that you viewed my last post but have not responded. Please feel free to respond. If you believe that you have some direction with your question at this point, please click on the green Accept button at the bottom of the screen. thanks.