Home > Abusive relationships, Borderline Personality Disorder, Marriage, relationships > 10 Signs Your Girlfriend or Wife is an Emotional Bully

10 Signs Your Girlfriend or Wife is an Emotional Bully

mood-swingsDoes your girlfriend or wife yell, scream, and swear at you? Do you feel like you can’t talk to anyone about your relationship because they just wouldn’t understand? Is your relationship making you feel like you’re slowly going crazy?

If so, you’re probably involved with a woman who is an emotionally abusive bully. Most men don’t want to admit that they’re in an abusive relationship. They describe the relationship and their girlfriend/wife using other terms like crazy, emotional, controlling, bossy, domineering, constant conflict, or volatile. If you use words like this to describe your relationship, odds are you’re being emotionally abused.

Do you recognize any of the following behaviors?

1) Bullying. If she doesn’t get her way, there’s hell to pay. She wants to control you and resorts to emotional intimidation to do it. She uses verbal assaults and threats in order to get you to do what she wants. It makes her feel powerful to make you feel bad. People with a Narcissistic personality are often bullies.

Result: You lose your self-respect and feel outnumbered, sad, and alone. You develop a case of Stockholm Syndrome, in which you identify with the aggressor and actually defend her behavior to others.

2) Unreasonable expectations. No matter how hard you try and how much you give, it’s never enough. She expects you to drop whatever you’re doing and attend to her needs. No matter the inconvenience, she comes first. She has an endless list of demands that no one mere mortal could ever fulfill.

Common complaints include: You’re not romantic enough, you don’t spend enough time with me, you’re not sensitive enough, you’re not smart enough to figure out my needs, you’re not making enough money, you’re not FILL IN THE BLANK enough. Basically, you’re not enough, because there’s no pleasing this woman. No one will ever be enough for her, so don’t take it to heart.

Result: You’re constantly criticized because you’re not able to meet her needs and experience a sense of learned helplessness. You feel powerless and defeated because she puts you in no-win situations.

3) Verbal attacks.This is self-explanatory. She employs schoolyard name calling, pathologizing (e.g., armed with a superficial knowledge of psychology she uses diagnostic terms like labile, paranoid, narcissistic, etc. for a 50-cent version of name calling), criticizing, threatening, screaming, yelling, swearing, sarcasm, humiliation, exaggerating your flaws, and making fun of you in front of others, including your children and other people she’s not intimidated by. Verbal assault is another form of bullying, and bullies only act like this in front of those whom they don’t fear or people who let them get away with their bad behavior.

Result: Your self-confidence and sense of self-worth all but disappear. You may even begin to believe the horrible things she says to you.

4) Gaslighting. “I didn’t do that. I didn’t say that. I don’t know what you’re talking about. It wasn’t that bad. You’re imagining things. Stop making things up.” If the woman you’re involved with is prone to Borderline or Narcissistic rage episodes, in which she spirals into outer orbit, she may very well not remember things she’s said and done. However, don’t doubt your perception and memory of events. They happened and they are that bad.

Result: Her gaslighting behavior may cause you to doubt your own sanity. It’s crazy-making behavior that leaves you feeling confused, bewildered, and helpless.

5) Unpredictable responses. Round and round and round she goes. Where she’ll stop, nobody knows. She reacts differently to you on different days or at different times. For example, on Monday, it’s ok for you to Blackberry work email in front of her. On Wednesday, the same behavior is “disrespectful, insensitive, you don’t love me, you’re a self-important jerk, you’re a workaholic.” By Friday, it could be okay for you to Blackberry again.

Telling you one day that something’s alright and the next day that it’s not is emotionally abusive behavior. It’s like walking through a landmine in which the mines shift location.

Result: You’re constantly on edge, walking on eggshells, and waiting for the other shoe to drop. This is a trauma response. You’re being traumatized by her behavior. Because you can’t predict her responses, you become hypervigilant to any change in her mood or potential outburst, which leaves you in a perpetual state of anxiety and possibly fear. It’s a healthy sign to be afraid of this behavior. It’s scary. Don’t feel ashamed to admit it.

6) Constant Chaos. She’s addicted to conflict. She gets a charge from the adrenaline and drama. She may deliberately start arguments and conflict as a way to avoid intimacy, to avoid being called on her bullshit, to avoid feeling inferior or, bewilderingly, as an attempt to avoid being abandoned. She may also pick fights to keep you engaged or as a way to get you to react to her with hostility, so that she can accuse you of being abusive and she can play the victim. This maneuver is a defense mechanism called projective identification.

Result: You become emotionally punch drunk. You’re left feeling dazed and confused, not knowing which end is up. This is highly stressful because it also requires you to be hypervigilant and in a constant state of defense for incoming attacks.

7) Emotional Blackmail. She threatens to abandon you, to end the relationship, or give you the cold shoulder if you don’t play by her rules. She plays on your fears, vulnerabilities, weaknesses, shame, values, sympathy, compassion, and other “buttons” to control you and get what she wants.

Result: You feel manipulated, used, and controlled.

8 Rejection. She ignores you, won’t look at you when you’re in the same room, gives you the cold shoulder, withholds affection, withholds sex, declines or puts down your ideas, invitations, suggestions, and pushes you away when you try to be close. After she pushes you as hard and as far away as she can, she’ll try to be affectionate with you. You’re still hurting from her previous rebuff or attack and don’t respond. Then she accuses you of being cold and rejecting, which she’ll use as an excuse to push you away again in the future.

Result: You feel undesirable, unwanted, and unlovable. You believe no one else would want you and cling to this abusive woman, grateful for whatever scraps of infrequent affection she shows you.

9) Withholding affection and sex. This is another form of rejection and emotional blackmail. It’s not just about sex, it’s about withholding physical, psychological, and emotional nurturing. It includes a lack of interest in what’s important to you–your job, family, friends, hobbies, activities–and being uninvolved, emotionally detached or shut down with you.

Result: You have a transactional relationship in which you have to perform tasks, buy her things, “be nice to her,” or give into her demands in order to receive love and affection from her. You don’t feel loved and appreciated for who you are, but for what you do for her or buy her.

10) Isolating. She demands or acts in ways that cause you to distance yourself from your family, friends, or anyone that would be concerned for your well-being or a source of support. This typically involves verbally trashing your friends and family, being overtly hostile to your family and friends, or acting out and starting arguments in front of others to make it as unpleasant as possible for them to be around the two of you.

Result: This makes you completely dependent upon her. She takes away your outside sources of support and/or controls the amount of interaction you have with them. You’re left feeling trapped and alone, afraid to tell anyone what really goes on in your relationship because you don’t think they’ll believe you.

You don’t have to accept emotional abuse in your relationship. You can get help or you can end it. Most emotionally abusive women don’t want help. They don’t think they need it. They are the professional victims, bullies, narcissists, and borderlines. They’re abusive personality types and don’t know any other way to act in relationships.

Life is too short to spend one more second in this kind of relationship. If your partner won’t admit she has a problem and agree to get help, real help, then it’s in your best interest to get support, get out, and stay out.


Dr Tara J Palmatier_Shrink4Men_02Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries.

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Photo credits: Mood swings on ccmbuzz.

  1. Fletcher
    February 8, 2011 at 2:46 am

    Yikes…verbally abused and spiraling downward for nearly 22 years and never tried to understand the emotional chaos and dysfunction. I will always love my wife, but to visit a site like this for the first time and believe everything I read is just plain scary and sobering. Ten minutes ago, I discovered the term gaslighting – this is my life. I enable a strikingly beautiful, highly intelligent, chain smoking, borderline anorexic 54-year-old woman who has not touched me in 16 years, yet who I gave nightly one-hour massages up to about two years ago, when I moved to the couch and out of “her” room. She won’t work (she could volunteer – do something), she has IBS, but no test has ever shown any cause, she eats percoset, sleeps 14 hours a day and can still be quite charming and sophisticated when needed. One week out of every month she gaslights me – every nasty word and scream and put-down that is never remembered by her just days later. She attacked my son when he was 14 (junior at Cornell now) after he defended me against one of her tirades, when she was threatening divorce and calling me a loser etc…She broke his glasses, ripped his shirt and now he has anger issues that are my fault, according to my wife. His only anger issues are directed toward his mother – very sad. So, yesterday, before going back to school, he finally said it to me – Dad, why do you allow mom to treat you so badly. You deserve to be happy.” I get it, but at the same time, as her enabler, I can’t just walk away. Who will take care of her? Her siblings fear her. At least, it all rolls off me now. I do not walk on egg shells any longer. But she is still upstairs, behind closed doors, brooding. It’s crazy…

    • Cal-Dad
      February 8, 2011 at 6:16 am

      Wow, I can relate to giving massages too! I used to do that too, but if I ever wanted a back scratching or something and then asked her to rub my neck too she’d complain and tell me if I ask for something then I’ll ask for more and more. Geezz, I’m sorry for wanting a little intimacy! Never mind the other kind of intimacy…that was like trying to figure out a Rubik’s cube. At least the Rubik’s cube didn’t yell at me and give me the cold shoulder!

      Fletcher, your situation sounds crazy. Get some help and start your healing tomorrow. You can’t take responsibility for what happens to her after you leave.

  2. sm
    February 6, 2011 at 3:26 am

    Going thru a brutal divorce with STBXW. In the process, child support is a very sensitive topic..I am willing to pay according to statutes…but she wants more. So her lawyer orders a financial deposition of me to see what he can establish and uncover. Went fine…got nothin to hide. Next it was her turn. My attorney ran circles around her. She couldn’t even get past her name without stumbling and mumbling. Totally unprepared..couldn’t even recall her own salary!! The facial expressions of indignation were a thing to see. What entertainment!! Funny thing…she approved her attorney to depose me and I was prepared. But when it was her turn, totally clueless couldn’t answer the simplest questions. This went on for 2.5 hours..we had to stop and finish another day because my wife can’t admit to anything or answer a simple yes/no question. The waffling and wavering is amazing. At one point my lawyer asked her if she even bothered to prepare for the deposition? She replied “not really, spoke to my lawyer briefly.”

  3. Cal-Dad
    February 3, 2011 at 4:16 pm


    First, I know it is very painful to watch someone you love destroy herself and her family. The boundaries you are enforcing – allowing her to live the consequences of her own actions, not taking ownership of her emotional insecurities regardless of what she hurls at you, seeing things as they really are, keeping her out of your house, protecting your children, etc – are necessary steps for both of you to heal properly.

    From what I’ve seen in addicts in my family and in others, addiction recovery is a long process. They can be humble when forced into difficult situations like jail or hospitalization where they don’t have access to the drugs, but once they get out they can’t stay away from them – that is the nature of addictions. Recovery does not happen in a moment of humility. Recovery is a long process of introspection, facing her fears, taking ownership for the problems she caused and developing a support network to help her, AA and NA can be excellent support networks.

    I have a dear friend who is currently in rehab for the third time in his life and he is in his 40’s. He was sober for 8 years and accomplished many great things in his life during that time, but for whatever reason he relapsed. Relapse is not uncommon for addicts.

    You mention you are “torn” because you fear she will end up on the streets. I understand this is painful. However, you can’t take ownership of the outcome of her decisions. Unfortunately, the only way for the addict to make changes is to live EVERY consequence their addiction causes. It is painful to watch, it is sad, but you must understand that when you bail her out before she fixes herself, you only delay her recovery. This is the paradox of recovery – in most things in life when you “do something” for someone you are showing compassion or love. In recovery the best thing you can do for someone is to let go. It’s a complex principle to understand and I encourage you to find and attend several Al Anon meetings close to you to find one you feel comfortable in. The principles they teach really work and it’s dirt cheap too!

    I also recommend you speak to Dr. Tara on this site to get her perspective. I’m not professionally trained – I’ve only learned from the school of life. She can help you work through the difficult process.

    Justin – please protect your children – I’ve seen many adults of addicts who have struggled their entire life because of their emotional scars. Nobody can help them avoid this except you.

    Good luck!

  4. Justin
    February 3, 2011 at 6:23 am

    Hello all, I’ve posted in the past but things escalated to the point of my wifes arrest Sunday night for domestic violence, I wont get into details but I got a emergency protective order and didn’t bail her out, she is scheduled for pre trial on feb 10th, 1 day shy of our sons 5th bday (we have a 2 year old as well which has made this all a big mess)..I’ve been in the mode of filing for extended restraining order and child custody as I just CANT risk taking the chance of thinking this is her rock bottom (which she has had to hit as she is addicted to Ritalin, Marijuana and I have enabled her in every aspect both drug and daily living. She has been an unfit mother, I have practically been raising the kids by myself while owning and operating a business while she has ruled over me and become completely dependent (not in the good way) on me to meet her every way and if it wasn’t right then hell broke loose and she would refuse to take care of herself and family if conditions weren’t to her liking and most of all not contributing to the marriage just to give some back ground. Obviously I cant talk to her because of the EPO but her dad visited her tonight and said she seems to have changed and hes never seen her like this (although he hasnt been active in her life that much and hasnt seen how shes grown more and more into the person I DIDNT marry even though when i married her she was still controlling and somewhat showing signs of BPD) and it just pierced my heart and the wall ive been building to get through this mess now that I have finally had a chance while shes away to get my head back on straight. Everyone says she needs to hit rock bottom and I dont believe this is rock bottom but it BREAKS my heart thinking i have to let her get out of jail and NOT come back home and learn the hard way and NOT support her and force her to get a job and NOT pay her fees (probation, mandatory 52 week anger management) which would also force her to get a job to pay those. Im fuled by the thought of her options which she will be forced to accept such as joining a womens home for recovering addicts which would get her a free place to live AND support and better chance of getting a job because she already has a place to reside at. Im so torn because if i refuse to let her in and go through with the legal separation she might end up on the streets, using again and in and out of jail caught in the vicious cycle of street life..From anyones similar experience out there what is best in this situation, has she “changed” or is she just manipulating again?

  5. Kenny
    January 27, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    I found out too late that I married a Borderline. Spouses with Borderline Personality Disorder exhibit many of these same characteristics. The main indicator for Borderlines is a lack of “sense-of-self”. If you suspect your SO is a Borderline – get help today. Not tomorrow, today.

  6. Todd
    January 25, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    How does this txt message strike you? BTW this came while I was reading your article above.

    “Wow. It’s always about you. This is about ME being saddened by lack of love. I never said anything about having a low opinion of you, and you are paranoid to assume that.”

  7. Cal-Dad
    January 24, 2011 at 4:59 pm


    First, my heart goes out to your girlfriend for the traumatic experiences she had. Those are very difficult and deeply painful experiences nobody should have to face. Going through therapy is difficult because it requires people to recount painful experiences in detail and to take ownership of their own behaviors, both of which bring up pain.

    Since she is currently unwilling or unable to go through therapy to begin her healing, she is not capable of having a healthy relationship, and her behaviors will likely continue in one form or another. Feeling like you’re losing your grip on sanity is common feeling because you can’t explain why she treats you like this and the normal rules of relationships don’t apply.

    My biggest mistake in my marriage was that I didn’t put my foot down to let her know when things were unacceptable. I didn’t want to leave the marriage because of kids so I never used the divorce card as a way to get her to change. I felt that was manipulative. In retrospect, I should have let her know what my boundaries were much sooner. The problem was that I didn’t know what my own needs were and I didn’t understand the concept of boundaries. It’s a good thing you’re not having sex anymore so you don’t have the risk of having kids…once you have kids things are way more complicated! It’s much easier to to address the issues now because your choices are much more clear-cut.

    I urge you to understand what your needs are and to let her know what isn’t acceptable. She can choose to meet your needs or not, and then you can choose to accept her response or not. You need to commit to personally being healthy and allow her to make her decisions. If you don’t confront these issues now they will only get worse because you’ll be empowering her fears, and you’ll sink into despair. I highly encourage you to speak to a professional therapist like Dr. Tara or someone you may know.

    Good luck Mike!

  8. Mike F
    January 24, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Hi, I happened on this site by chance. I’ve been going through a very lengthy and extremely rough patch with my girlfriend. I’ve been looking all over for advice, and so far this has been the best yet, as some of the responses I’ve gotten on other sites have amounted to “She’s a woman, deal with it”

    She gets angry, very easily and very frequently which then causes fights. She always chalks it up to being tired or stressed out from work. When she starts to yell or get angry, she says that she’s “venting.” I have no problem listening, but her “venting” is borderline abusive to me. She also gets some major, major road rage, swears worse than me (and I was in the Army!). I don’t know why it upsets me, but it does. Also, when she isn’t “venting” (i.e. yelling for some reason) I feel like I’m walking on egg shells so I don’t piss her off and start a fight. Also, if I forget to call her or don’t pick up right away, she practically is accusing me of doing something bad (i.e. cheating). Also we’ve for the most part stopped having sex for about 4-6 months now.
    Some background on her, she’s had quite a few boyfriends cheat on her in the past, and I have no doubt that this is why she accuses me of being untrustworthy. Also, when she was younger (late teens I believe) she was what can only be described as sexually assaulted/ raped (she performed oral sex on someone who she really didn’t want to.) Also when she was slightly older (with a different guy) mid twenties I believe she had an abortion that she told only like 3 people about (including me) she never told her parents or never gotten any counseling for it. One time around Halloween of 2009, she did start going to see a therapist, after a really huge blow up that was in front of her parents, and began taking some sort of anti-depressants/hormones and it seemed to definitely help, even her co-workers noticed she seemed to have a generally better attitude. Then after a while she stopped going. The therapist had an emergency one day and had to cancel and then my girlfriend never rescheduled. I’ve since asked her to go back, but she tells me she felt like she could never talk about herself (she would always talk about other people and never herself directly) and that nothing seemed to change personality wise to her (which I disagree with). I understand she’s had some pretty f’d up experiences and that might be part of the cause of her anger. I love her, more than anything in this world, but the constant yelling and fighting is starting to make me get touchy and angry too and then I take it out on my parents ( i live at home for now, job market hasn’t been to kind to me the past year or so, she also lives with her parents for the same reasons).
    I think she might have some depression ( I was treated for it myself took a while for me to work through some things but I feel like I’m better and that I can notice the signs in others). I mention that to her sometimes when I ask her to go back to see a therapist/psychiatrist, that just seems to piss her right off. It’s gotten so bad that I feel like I’m starting to lose a grip on my sanity, and Ireally have no idea what to do…

  9. damo
    January 22, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    I have been dating a girl for the past 4 years at first she was the love of my life i went out of my way for change.
    the past year she has been out of control im finding my self in hot water more and more as the day pass’s on.
    i was yelled at on friday because it was her time of the mth i didnt know ill explain, in the theatre room we was watch a comedy with her younger sis and brother [on the other side of the room] i was laughing and i put my hand on her hip and then brushed her bum as my hand rested on the couch, turning point she gets up and out of the blue yells at me calling a sick freak due to her sis and bro. calling me a loser she even said my sis and brother are in the room and your try to get some, i didnt say anything i was in shock, they left during the movie but they left me been yelled at over and over about the same thing, she always say’s man up be a man, if it wasnt for the house i would had pissed her off but still we dont have kids a house can be sorted in time but kids are for life.

    tonight ill rest, tomorrow ill sort, the day after ill be a man.
    after all life is short

  10. M D
    January 22, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    After reading the article just recently i can relate to the majority of the behaviours outlined in it. My wife, who i honestly love dearly, will also not talk to me when i bring up the fact that i am going mad. I can’t take anymore of the sarcastic comments about my flaws, how i have had financial trouble in the past and how i have gained a sunstantial amount of weight over the past 4 years. I am with her for 10 years and we are married 3years with a two yr old and a baby due in 1 month which makes everything so difficult.
    Whenever i raise the fact i am a shadow of the fun-loving outgoing guy i used to be, with no self confidence and becoming more and more depressed she laughs it of as my fault and i really don’t know what to do. She won’t sit down and talk about it to try and help the situation.
    I must admit that after reading the article i do need to look a bit at myself as in an argument situation i tend to see myself in some of those examples – not a nice feeling when you read this and parts of it also makes you think it is you. I never was like this. I used to be very close to my family and had quite a few friends – now i have 1 friend and see my family (who live 10 miles away) about once every 2 to 3 weeks.

    I don’t know what to think or do anymore

  11. Mellaril
    January 4, 2011 at 7:47 pm


    As an ex-military officer, I’d like to add a few things. First, when dealing with a Cluster B, you may not be able to “restore good order and discipline.” When I was in the Navy I saw a lot of passive-aggressive behavior among the personnel although it wasn’t based on personality disorder. It was how they could screw with Officers and get away with it. Unlike the military where you have actual power, in this situation your options are far more limited. You could attempt to rein her in but from what you described, I doubt it would work with her. Treating my exgf like an errant E3 often worked with her but her personality allowed it and we we weren’t married, had any kids or other co-mingled assets. It might be worth a shot but I would go in expecting it not to work.

    Another thing is that as a military dependent, she has the potential to make your life unusually miserable. From trash talking you to other spouses to wrecking your security clearance, she can wreak serious havoc on your career as well as your home life. She already has a chunk of your retirement. If you do decide to take some action, I recommend you speak to your CO and Legal Officer to give them a heads up that crap may hit the fan. If you ever did anything shakey and told her about it, it could be used against you. Tanking your career although it would cut into her slice of your retirement is not beyond possibiity.

    As military members, we are oriented to attacks by external adversaries. I think this kind of situation may actually be harder for people in the military because we have “can do” attitudes, hate to admit defeat and have profound senses of loyalty and trust. Betrayal hits us especially hard. We also have to accept that sometimes retreat is the only option. You have a daughter to consider.

    Good luck and be careful!

  12. Cal-Dad
    January 4, 2011 at 4:01 pm


    What Dr Tara describes fits my situation accurately. I always tried to satisfy my wife’s requests, which sometimes were demands. I was raised to treat women with respect and to “keep your woman happy.” However, she was often unhappy, regardless of how good we had it – and we had it good for many years. It became painful to live this way and I began to realize that I wasn’t responsible for all of her unhappiness, nor for all of our relationship problems. I learned that I needed to create healthy boundaries. As I began to do so it was difficult for her – I was changing. She wanted to go to counseling to “improve our relationship,” but what I learned was she was actually trying to use the counselor as a third-party to get me to see HER way. She was unable or unwilling to see my perspective on marital issues, let alone accept my ideas. The more counseling we got, the more enraged she became, as Dr Tara explained.

    If you don’t take the actions Dr Tara suggests you are at risk for developing your own emotional issues, so you must decide to choose a healthy path now.

    • shrink4men
      January 4, 2011 at 4:14 pm


      I would add one more item to Cal-Dad’s advice. If you are thinking of having more children with this woman: don’t. It’s not fair to raise children in these kinds of conditions and/or to expose them to a woman who, from your description, seems incredibly abusive and most likely has some pretty strong narcissistic/histrionic traits.

      If you ultimately decide to divorce, it will be painful and difficult to do with one child. Women like your wife use offspring as weapons/control devices/lottery tickets/financial insurance. Protect yourself and don’t give her anymore potential foot soldiers. When any parent turns a child against the other parent, it is beyond heartbreaking.

      I also recommend you do as much reading as you can on abusive women and what is currently referred to as Cluster B personality disorders as well as information on high-conflict divorce and high-conflict parenting, so you have an idea of what you may be up against. Difficult abusive wife = extremely difficult, toxic divorce. Prepare like you’re heading back to Iraq, but worse—if you decide to go that route.

      Dr Tara

  13. Greg
    January 4, 2011 at 8:39 am

    I am an American professional military officer (Lieutenant Colonel)and decently educated (Master’s Public Admin). I am saying this up front as I realize no one is automatically immune from an abusive/controlling wife. I am also not looking for the easy answer of divorce, as I regard this as a medical disorder, though that is not very comforting. Especially knowing it can get worse. I feel my situation may or may not have special cultural factors as I live in Thailand and my wife is Thai. There is an 11 year age difference between us, though I am very physically fit. I say there may be cultural factors as this behavior described is very often seen in Thai TV dramas. Though I doubt many Thai nor Amercan men would put up with this behavior (though I seem to). I am looking on advice on how to cope and help my wife’s condition, not run away from the problem. This problem started about 1 1/2 years of marrage andupon return from a one year tour in Iraq. She had an affair with a German man during this time, in which I told her to choose me or him, and she chose me. This seems to have ignited this condition for her to feel the need to be in control. And she knows I truely love her, which definately adds to her power.

    1) Bullying. My wife bullies our 5 year old daughter and constantly tries to bully me, with varying degrees of success … sometime I give in, sometimes not. But she will throw a temper tantrum and even smash objects on the ground when she does not get her way. She does not physically hit our daughter, but overuses verbal punishment and what I really do call bullying. I do feel sad as marrage to me is about love and equality. I have never abused her physically or verbally.

    2) Unreasonable expectations. No matter how hard you try and how much you give, it’s never enough. I can lead a Battalion in Combat, but cannot do anything around the house good enough. Ironic. She expects me to drop whatever I’m doing and attend to her needs. Everything from “Honey bring me a glass of water” from the kitchen (when I am studying and she is watching TV to whatever else she needs help on… OK, yes I usually get up and give her a glass of water. She does attack my being smart enough to do things (which I feel is her need to make up for not graduating high school). I have neevr once brought up her lack of education. She is smart and does have good common sense, and owns a small business, which I often tell her I am proud of.

    3) Verbal attacks.Never in front of other people, but often attacks me with foul language whenever she does not get her way. Yells, screams, etc.

    4) Gaslighting. Doesn’t really do this.

    5) Unpredictable responses. When she is content, she needs my support. When she doesn’t get what she wants, anything I do can set of a terrible arguement. That usualy means threats of divoerce, silence treatment for two or three days, rejection, sleeping in different room, no touching, no kises — She definately uses rejection techniques in retliation or punishment for me not catering to her every need.

    6) Constant Chaos. She’s addicted to conflict. I think she sometimes is out for an arguement to set me up for future demands or things she wants.

    7) Emotional Blackmail. If I don’t play everything by her rules, she loses her temper or gives me an icy shoulder.

    Yes, deffinately. I feel manipulated, used, and controlled.

    8 Rejection. Yes.

    9) Withholding affection and sex. Used as a way to control me.

    10) Isolating. She does not isolate me from friends or family. I get along great with her family, and has threatened divorce / seperation if I ever take any problems to her mother/sisters.

    Again, I realize I am in a deteriorating situation and would like advice on how to cope/improve my wife’s condition versus running away. Should I be more sern and call her bluffs? And if that results in a real divorce, so be it? Should I try to make up after an arguement or let her come around to making the situation normal?

    One other thing – Infidelity while am on a deployment … When I was in Afghanistan for 6 months, she had 6 boyfriends (all at once) profounding their love to her. I found her secret cell phone, and its like she has a need to make men fall in love with her (six different men in the same time period). Of course they all thought they were the only one. She is 33 and thinks she needs botox (not just a shot around the eyes, but a whole face job of about $700 in Thailand) two times a year.
    When I found out about her affairs, she said she did not want to lose me, loved me, and would try to change.

    I have been back from a second tour in Afghanistan (1 year) and the first month has been OK. She is starting the abusive behavior and threats again though. What should my response be? To call her bluffs?

    Thanks for taking the time to read, I do know of several military men with an abusive wife.

    • shrink4men
      January 4, 2011 at 3:45 pm

      Hi Greg,

      If your wife won’t admit that her behavior causes problems in your relationship, hold herself accountable and genuinely seek help, there’s not much you’ll be able to do to change her behavior. You can’t do the work for someone else. You can become her doormat and take it—don’t challenge her, don’t criticize her, let her call all the shots and let her blame you for everything or you can start putting your foot down and setting boundaries. The first approach may satisfy her at first, but then she will find new ways to create conflict. The type of person you describe is never really happy—even if you give her everything she thinks she wants. If you begin to set boundaries and stand up for yourself—it will no doubt enrage her as she will feel she is losing control. However, if she sticks around, she may grudgingly tone her behavior down after awhile or move onto a more malleable target. It depends on how severe her needs for control and admiration are.

      Divorce is not an easy way out. It can be an incredibly difficult, painful and courageous decision because men often lose most of their assets, time with their kids, friends and have their reputations damaged when high-conflict exes begin smear campaigns. You need to decide how much more you’re willing to put up with from your wife and plan accordingly. If you stay, I recommend you start reading about detachment techniques and figure out how, if at all possible, you can protect your child(ren) from your wife.

      As for the cultural explanation, there are narcissistic, entitled, abusive women all over the world and they’re often portrayed on television and reality shows. This neither makes that kind of behavior normal nor acceptable.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr Tara

  14. Dave
    December 30, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    I’ve been in my marriage for over ten years now and have several children with my wife. I can say that she exhibits all ten of these signs to some degree. She seems to cycle up and down too.

    It’s funny at times she says she wants me to make more decisions, like about what to do on an outing, but then slams all of my ideas. It’s also hard for me to make any decision that costs money because she has control over the finances and has made a complete mess of things to the point that there are well in excess of 20 bills to pay and keep track of every month. She’s constantly missing payments and at least two companies call every month wondering what has happened. Yet she still plans vacations or purchases that cost in excess of $1000 a few times a year. If I make a purchase without clearing it through her first I get questioned on it down to the penny. She then threatens to unload it all on me when I bring up the topic of sharing control of the finances. I don’t even have an allowance and I can’t save for anything. From what I’ve read it is called financial abuse. Money makes things go-round and it is a major form of control.

    Another decision we had talked about was getting a pet. We already had a cat and she wanted a dog. I didn’t want one, because I knew that she would end up doing nothing to look after it. That it would chew things and urinate/defecate in the house. So then one day I came home and there was a puppy running around and the kids and my kids friends were all running around excited and happy playing with the new puppy. At that point I would have been a real bad guy in the kids eyes if I took the dog back to it’s breeder. Lose lose situation.

    Then there is the sex, or lack thereof. Most of the time she has some excuse, or strategically has one of the kids in bed with her. Other times she guilts me into thinking that I don’t show her enough affection and that all I want to do is have sex. That might be true to a small extent, but it’s a two way street. She never initiates affection (ie: hugging, kissing, caressing) or sex. When we do get the chance to have sex, about once every six weeks or so, it’s all about me pleasing her. If I don’t do things the way she likes then I get criticized. It takes her a long time to climax, 30 minutes or more even with her using a vibrator. I think she has multiple orgasms and just waits until she’s satisfied. Meanwhile she does nothing to make it good for me before or afterward and just wants me to hurry up and finish. I’m to the point where it’s just not enjoyable any more.

    Then there is the fact that she treats me like a servant. A good example is that she’ll go up to bed after I am already in bed, then ask me to get something for her that’s downstairs because she forgot. If I put up a fuss she guilts me into doing it. When I get down stairs to get what ever it was I’ll notice she has left all the lights on, the TV on, the door unlocked, etc, etc. All shut everything off and then head back up stairs and she’ll complain that her back or feet hurt and wants a massage. Again the guilt if I put up a fuss, and remember I was already in bed before. So then a 10 minute massage turns into a 30 or 40 minute one. Doing the massage, and talking to her during it, I am being intimate and loving. I dare not try anything sexual afterward though because she’ll either say it’s too late, she’s too tired, that all I think about it sex or that I just want sex as a reward for the massage. Guilt again.

    She also only works one day a week outside of the home. I’ll still come home and have to do the pile of dishes in the sink, make supper, tidy up and put the kids to bed after helping them with homework. I’m also responsible for laundry, vacuuming, cutting the grass, etc. Her justification is that she makes all the decisions, takes care of the finances, and makes and takes the kids to appointments.

  15. Alreadylost
    December 27, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    The saga continues. She called work this am in a rage screaming about how she was putting all my stuff on thevporch and she never wanted to see me again. 2 hrs later she calls all nice and sweet and wanting my opinion on some trivial matter. 4 hours later she calls back and it’s the beast act again. I get off my second job at 12:30 am. I wonder what I will find when I get home I did call the sherrifs office to alert them in case the excrement strikes the ventilator. Told them all about it. They said I was on my own since they don’t escort any one in cases like this any more. I dont know what she is capable of so if you don’t hear from me again you will know I guessed wrong. At this point I don’t really care any more

    • Cal-Dad
      December 29, 2010 at 1:15 am

      Hopefully this experience gives you complete clarity about the reality of your situation and what you need to do next.

  16. Derick
    December 27, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    My girlfriend does all of this to me and seems to have all of these signs and yet I seem to not be able to end it, idk why after I look back at all she has done and said to me not to mention she is a drug addict.

  17. Alreadylost
    December 27, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Well Christmas was a real bitch. I spent the entire weekend shut in the bedroom. Not “allowed” to enter into her presence. Sunday turned into a real bitchfest with her rehashing every insult real or imagined. I had to really bite my tongue to keep from laughing at her. I told her she was a narcissist and abusive and I wasn’t going to put up with it any more which really set her off for hours. Anyway she told me to leave by the weekend. I guess I will see a lawyer this week if I can get time off from work. Her version of reality is creative to say the least. When I challenged her about hitting me she first tried to change the subject then tried to ignore me then finally screamed that it never happened. I’m sure this will be hell but don’t know what else to do. Since she is acusing me of “cheating” on her I’m sure she will have some tall tales to tell. Having no support network I just hope I can survive.

  18. Jonnevi
    December 27, 2010 at 6:59 am

    Hi Dr. T

    I am having extreme problems with parental alienation but I think I need to start from the beginning.

    A friend of mine did the Russian mail order bride thing I ended up doing the same with a Ukrainian women who was about 11 years my junior. I put an ad in a magazine called ———-. I received about 300 replies and I corresponded with about 5 of them. My ex sent me a photo of her and she was dressed up like a model trying to look sexy with hair blowing and a sedative look. I wrote her back telling her I was not interested in a city girl and she wrote me back telling me she is a country girl and was very kind hearted. I do not remember telling her of my plans to visit Ukraine to meet some of the other correspondence but I must have told her the date of my arrival to Kiev. Upon my arrival to Kiev, I found her waiting for me and she told me she waited there for 6 hours. I was so flattered that I we hooked up. I was loved bomb really hard and I came back to visit a month at a time for about 7 or 8 trips to Ukraine.

    On one of the trips she got mad at me since I did not want to go to a high to do concert. I was having mouth pain and I eventually gotten a root canal. Anyways she got upset and kicked me out on the streets with hardly any money. I could not book my flight out right away so I went to a town where I knew a few americans where I could feel safe. She eventually found me and was able to convince me to forgive her.

    My ex was able to get a work visa to the UK and asked me to help her get there and pay for plane tickets. I did help her and she was having problems there with bosses and other employees so I flew to UK to support her and visit. Well, she ended up getting pregnant and she flew back to Ukraine.

    One thing I should add is that after the second visit I was sending her $200 a week to every other week as much as I could afford. I was really stupid, but I felt I was taking care of her and her family. Every time I would leave any sum of money for emergency, she would blow it on a $500 coat or video camera.. Now, the average wage in Ukraine at that time was $400/year.. She was living very well.

    The time I came there for my child’s birth. Her and her parents took me to a place to get married. Without the proper translated documents, it was not going to happen. They were very upset. They tried to bride the officials but that did not happen. This is when I saw the first bit of intense manipulation and anger and it gave me a feeling I was making a mistake but she was pregnant.

    I eventually got her and my boy here to the United States on a K-1 visa. When she came here, she was a totally different person. I was feeling I made a big mistake after the second day but I wanted it to work. I thought it was cultural differences.

    This is were the controlling begins.. Hugh fights all the time out of no where. I did not know what the fights were about and I would ask her why she is attacking me and she could not tell me. Every thing she ever said had an underlining tone of that I was not good enough or she is better than me. She did not like my friends and did not want me to know hers. I felt as if she was always undermining me with our neighbors and her friends. She never like my hobbies and would never do anything together as a hobby even if it was her choice. She was never happy with her gifts and never said thank you. Nothing was never good enough and I felt she expected me to keep trying to buy her stuff or let her shop freely. She wanted to control how I dressed or who I worked for..

    We had a second son about 2 years later and he does not look like me but he has my mannerisms.. I kept my mouth shut. Eventually, she was so miserable with having fights and threats to divorce me if she did not control the money.. I gave in to get some relief thinking I would fix it later. I ended up getting really busy and making a lot of money and it all went into her account and I was gone working away out of town and coming home for the weekend. Well, this went on for two years and during the last year before I was laid off due to the economy.. she started a really badly devaluing me. It was really miserable and I did not know what to do. I was very conditions into giving into her and living with these nice and mean cycles.. giving in to avoid the mean cycle, I really would do anything for her at this point.

    After being home for a month and not being able to find work.. I put the large house up for sale and in two weeks she wanted a divorce. A month later I found out she was having an affair. In the mean time she sold off what she did not want I was going to look for work in California to see if I can make money for my family. When I had a contract on the house and we had to move out. She kept all the money and told me the money was gone. I did go to California to look for work and to get my head on my shoulders with my first ex wife. We are still very good friends. This time was near thanksgiving and I did not want to me alone for the holidays since I was so broken hearted. She would not let me talk to the boys when I was gone and I was not allowed to talk to them over christmas. I found a lawyer and went back to Colorado to file for divorce. She would not let me see or talk to the children.

    During our first 4 way with lawyers, she wanted me to have supervised visits for only 15 minutes.. The lawyers told her no way including hers. She agree for me to see them for a hour the next day. The next day she asked me to meet her at mcdonalds to drop off the boys. After I get the boys out of the car.. she started a fight and said I will never see the boys.. She started yelling assault and called 911. The cops did not arrest me but the following day she went and filed a restraining order and I lost all rights to the boys.

    Eventually, I was allowed to see the boys again twice a week for a hour. This is when the parental alienation started. The boys who I watched while she ran off on dates while we were married started to hate me. They said I was stupid and I am not their father any more.. go away we don’t want you. they told me mama loves Jason and Jason loves mama. They told me that Jason is now their father and I was to go away.

    My lawyer was able to get her to stop having the boys verbally abuse me however, the alienation turned passive. She manipulate the boys to bad mouth any one I was with. To run away.. To call me by my first name. My boys would tell my friends that I am not there father and they are to make me miserable so I would go away.

    I would only pickup the boys at the police station because I did not want to get accused of assault again. The man she had affair with was now coming with her and transfer the boys directly to me. The more I asked her politely to keep her boy friend away, the closer he came.. I exhibited her affection for him in front of me and he exhibited his fatherly role in front of me. This was really wonderful, while my wife was devaluing me we lived together while she was having an affair when I did not know she was.. she kept telling me she would find a new father for the boys and a new husband and apparently she was not lying.

    My ex does not have any fear of the courts or police station.. she never obeys the court orders and she one day kept approaching me very close at the police station and I kept asking to keep distance. I had my boys hands and I was exiting the police station.. She said something and the boys instantly ran away and hide behind her. The police had to make her transfer the boys.. Then she turned the incident into my fault with her lawyer and submitted to the court. She is always trying to set me up and I don’t know what to do. I am almost done with my fathering classes as order by the court. I was labeled a run away father.. I wife and child beater. a drug addict.. and now that I am about 3 weeks from finishing these fathering classes.. all the buffering she did to keep a relationship between my first son and myself from developing was now understood by these classes. She always told me I was dysfunctional as a father and now I know what I did was natural.. she was always disrupting the bond.

    This last pickup, my son came back into the police station and asked me to find his hat. I went out to the car and my ex stayed back and follow from a distance. As soon as the door was open, she ran up and inspected my car and started yelling at me. the next thing, her boy friend pulls up quickly in his car and startled me.
    I just got in my car and drove before she got any closer to me. Her boy friends car block the path back to the police station and the cameras. I just went home confused and did not try to go back into the police station.

    I just don’t know what to do, I am not working since construction and cant afford a lawyer any longer. I blew both knees out during the divorce and had surgery 3 times for bilaterial patellar tendon rupture and I am not even allowed to work until it heals.. the surgery fail once already and it I get into a fist fight.. I will probably blow my knees out again and be a cripple per my surgeon. during my down time I did decide to go back to school and carried a 3.86 gpa on my nursing requirement for entry into a RN program at a local college since I cannot work.

    I see no end to the parental alienation and we do not talk or have any communication. There is no co-parenting at all and she does not want anything. She has moved the boys from two schools since the divorce without telling me. She list her boy friend as the father at these school and I never know how they are doing in school.

    I really don’t know what to do.
    Thank god I have a great girl friend now who is supporting me through school.

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  1. February 2, 2011 at 7:38 pm
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