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July 13, 2010

Women Who Bully…and the Men Who Take It

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There is endless information written on men who are abusive, intimidating or controlling of their partners.  There is much less written, however, about women who do the same.  Over the years I have worked with many women who fell into this same pattern of rage and control in their relationships with men. 

Although the women are fewer in numbers, the wrath they wield is intense, scary and damaging.

More often than not, I have found that men capitulate and duck in response to the violence of women just as I have found women to do the same in response to the violence of men.  (Note: Some also respond by returning rage with rage, but that’s a different post).  Not surprisingly, capitulating and ducking is no more effective when the men do it than it is when the women do it. 

Men and women duck, even though it’s ineffective, because of fear.  Women, not unlike men, are scary when they are highly reactive and prone to have fits of rage.  The male partners of these women believe there will be hell to pay if they do anything but give the women what they want.  Some of these men also try to avoid the women altogether, which only makes things worse.  Often, these men do indeed have reason to be fearful.  I’ve known several women to become physically violent, take extreme steps to get revenge on their partner or make threats about custody and financial ruin at various times in their relationships.  I have no doubt that these women meant what they said.  The men had no doubt as well.

Here’s the problem though:  ducking and giving in to someone’s demands due to fear, fuels the rage.  The more you cower to a bully the more you get bullied.  And although you’re not causing that person to bully…you’re not stopping them. 

The only effective way to stop violence is to not take it.  You don’t accept rage, threats and control by ducking, trying to give them what they want or standing there and taking it, hoping they will stop.  You stop it by refusing to stand there and take it.

If your partner becomes physically violent and puts their hands on you in any way, you need to shut down the relationship until your partner gets ongoing treatment for their violence.  Call a domestic abuse hotline for resources in your area to deal with physical violence.

If the violence is not physical, then begin to draw the line on the most egregious behaviors first: screaming, yelling, name-calling, swearing and any verbal assaults.  EVERY time your partner begins to rage or call names clearly state: “Stop yelling at me! I will not be talked to like that.  Until you can talk respectfully, I will not have this conversation.”  If they continue to rage, leave the room.  If they follow you, leave the house.  If they block you, be willing to call the police.  (Note: Do NOT do this if there has been physical violence in the recent past or if you believe it will become physically violent.).

The only chance for you to have a healthy, rewarding relationship is to stop the rage.  Although you cannot make your partner stop raging, you most certainly can stop yourself from standing there and taking it.  The only way to stop a bully is to not take the bullying.  Draw the line with your words and actions.  Doing anything else, will leave you with a toxic relationship that will chip away at you piece by piece.

 CHALLENGE: If you’ve been accepting rage, be determined to stop it:  draw the line.  Never accept name-calling, yelling, swearing, etc. from anyone—least of all your partner.  Tell them to stop in a firm, centered voice and leave the area if they refuse to stop.  Do this EVERY time. 


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I experienced a bullied relationship that resulted in a violent physical injury [ruptured both thighs off my knees], divorced and put into bankruptcy, threathen me and had the courts label me a "manic" and take my children away. To this day it is difficult to deal with this woman, due to child support. Still alienated with two of my children. Only blessing is my oldest figured out her mother's bullying of me, and has reconnected under cover. I want to see my daughter graduate, but advised not to show due to the unpredictable actions of the ex. My attorney indicates to stay away since she would do something to harm me at the graduation for sure. My ex has many issues of anger, and control. Pray someday she gets counseling.

Dear PB,
First off let me commend your courage. You just completed the first step to changing which is acknowledging where you're off. My suggestion is that you start working with a good professional to help you see where you learned to bully, how to stop bullying and who is not afraid to give you difficult feedback in a compassionate way. I also am giving a teleclass starting next week that talks a great deal about how to step into life with a Grounded Powerful Strength rather than an aggressive or meek one. This is your work, so I think it would be a great first step for you. Either way, I would get some good referrals from people you trust and start working with a professional.
Best of luck and nice job with acknowledging your edge!
Warm Regards,

So.. What if you're the woman who bullies? I yelled at and used cruel words with my (now-ex) boyfriend on Saturday and eventually became physically violent. I don't want to be that person. He did the right thing by separating us indefinitely, I know this. what I don't know is where I can go to get help to stop this behavior. It has already cost me him and I don't it to get worse.


"Although the women are fewer in numbers" I've only ever met couples where the woman bullies and controls the man. We are more aware of and concerned about abusive men, but I really doubt your statement is correct.

My wife is an emotional bully. She opposes everything I initiate and then berates me if I don't initiate. She undermines me, disagrees, blames, shames, criticizes, ridicules, badgers, berates, manipulates, deceives, is self righteous and superior. The only way that I can deal with her is to have a huge wall between us and not give a rip about her. Once I start showing that I care, she uses that to begin taking control. It is so sad. If she treated me like she treats everyone else in the world, we would have an amazing marriage. Instead I am married to a person that everyone thinks is a dream but to me she is a nightmare.

My man is nearing the end of his divorce from his abusive Wife. He is just now after 20 years and a solid year of counseling coming to realize she is abusive. He has had no support from his attorney or mediator and has been completely ravaged financially and was denied custody because he is "manic" which he has never been. It has been a loosing battle (the divorce) and very discouraging as she is being given license to continue to abuse him (and me as well thru accusations though she has not even met me). Sadly the children show similar behaviors. Where are the resources for men???

I am married to an abusive wife. She is never wrong, knows everything and will never admit that she is wrong or apologize. She goes out of her way to pick a fight and very quickly reached 412 degrees F at which time the verbal 'F' word is used nonstop..you are a FA or an f'n jerk etc. I usually just walk away and give her the silent treatment. There is never an 'I am sorry' and is usually silent until she wants something. If she does something wrong, it is always someone else that did it. She has a huge ego that is driving me out the door.


Thank you:

'Toxic and poisonous is the new cool'

... a great summary of modern day moral corruption and self-righteousness (such as the celeration of people like Simon Cowell and Anne Robinson). What a hateful society it is when we reward such reductive behaviour as theirs!

It's amazing how when you first meet and fall in love you miss the signs. I have been married over forty years and have been dealing with the at first moods then anger. The four children have dealt with it also. Not knowing what to expect when they came home from school each day. I always looked forward to coming home, but it wasn't always a good time.
We have had a pretty good life together in between. The bigger problem is the past fifteen years the anger and moods are worse. Meds and counciling over the years never lasted. Part of the problem seems her upbringing in a very negative atmosphere.
The anger is very abusive in words and feelings.

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