Home > Abusive relationships, Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder > 7 Things You Need to Know about Emotional Abuse and Bullies

7 Things You Need to Know about Emotional Abuse and Bullies


waste1) You can’t control anyone else. You can’t change anyone else. You can’t make an emotionally abusive person treat you nicely. Most emotionally abusive bullies are emotional predators. Do not make the mistake of feeling sympathy for them because they often use it to manipulate you into staying in the relationship.

2) It’s highly unlikely that you can make a bully understand that the way he or she treats you is abusive. These people won’t take ownership for their bad behaviors. They always have a justification and rationalization. It’s your fault. You “made” them treat you badly. In order for the emotionally abusive person to see their behavior for what it is, they have to be able to tolerate cognitive dissonance.

Abusive personalities often think of themselves as good, exceptional people who are above reproach (especially if they’re the NPD variety). Holding the mirror up to them and trying to get them to take responsibility for their behavior is usually a colossal waste of breath.

Even if you seem to be able to reach them and think you have gotten them to understand, the bully will often quickly retreat behind their favorite wall of distortions. These people are human propaganda machines who actually believe their own lies about themselves. If you threaten their fictitious self-image with the truth, they’ll defend against it tooth and nail, i.e., verbally and psychologically (and sometimes physically) attack you.

3) The bully wants you to sink down to their level. Bullies love to push your buttons until you react with hostility. They get you to lose control, then they flip the situation and say, “Ah ha! See! You’re the angry, crazy person! You need help!” This may also be evidence of a primitive defense mechanism called projective identification, which is often experienced as abusive by the person on the receiving end of it because it is highly crazy-making.

4) Figure out what attracted to you to this person, why you’ve stayed, and what your fears are about ending the relationship. If you’re too scared to leave this person or can’t stand to be without her, then you have to make your peace with the way she is. I repeat, you can’t change the emotionally abusive bully.

5) If you do end the relationship, keep exploring the same questions above. There’s often a secondary gain to remaining in an abusive relationship. Figure out what you want, need, and deserve in your next relationship. That will help you break the cycle of emotional abuse.

6) Learn the tactics of distraction and diffusion. If you can’t distance yourself from a bully, for instance, in a work setting or you’re not willing to end your personal relationship with one, learn how to distract them and/or diffuse tense situations. For example, you can:

  • Suck up to the bully. When she’s on the attack, appeal to her “better nature.” “I can see you’re really upset, darling. I’m so sorry. I know I was breathing too loudly. It won’t happen again. You’re right to be annoyed. I know someone as kind and generous as you can forgive me my many faults.” If you can do this without losing your lunch, more power to you.
  • Make ’em laugh. Use humor to diffuse their anger and tense situations. This won’t work every time, but it may give you a moment of peace. Make jokes about yourself or others’ inadequacies to demonstrate how “superior” the emotionally abusive bully is to everyone else. Jokes like this are usually sure fire winners.
  • Buy your way out. This especially works with emotionally abusive females. Buy her a trinket, real estate, a luxury vacation, or something she believes she’s entitled to. It’s like paying Pharaoh tribute so he won’t invade your country and slaughter innocent citizens.
  • Throw someone else under the bus. This isn’t a very nice tactic, but it works. When she’s starting to lay into you, point out how some other person in the office or at home has “screwed up” and it may take the cross hairs off of you for awhile. Although, if you go this route, you’re almost worse than the bully because you know what you’re doing is wrong.

7) Ending a relationship with an emotionally abusive bully isn’t “running away” or abandonment or admitting failure or anything to be ashamed of; it’s the sane choice. It’s the healthy choice. Living with an emotionally abusive person is like living next to a radioactive waste plant. You wouldn’t voluntarily choose to live somewhere where the air and water was contaminated and making you sick, would you? Same difference.

There is only one way to “control” or harm a bully: Take away her ability to control and harm you. The worst thing you can do to an emotionally abusive type is end the relationship. This tactic has the added bonus of getting you out of a toxic relationship.

Counseling, 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 or send an email to shrink4men@gmail.com.

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  1. January 29, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    Just want to say thank you for your article….

  2. Hass
    March 28, 2016 at 8:23 am

    I have been married for 13 years and have three beautiful boys 12, 11, and 10 year old. During this 13 years of marriage me and my wife have encountered many problems I try my best to make things work and try to build a future for us and our kids. I have been supporting my family financially for 13 with no help from my wife. For the last 10 years my wife has been attending GED classes 6 schools and 2 colleges with no success at passing the test. During this time I would help clean, cook, go grocery shopping, take kids to there doctors appointments, so she can study and focus on passing the GED test. During this she would avoid intimacy either because she is tired, sick, headaches ect. Eventually I presented her with an idea to go to a school to learn to be Nurses Aide which would only take her one month and she will be able to get a job in a hospital like she always dreamed. She loved the idea and attended the school and got the certificate. She got a job and things where great for the first two months until she started spending money wrecklessly. When I tried to explain to her that her spending in leaving us in debt she accused me of trying to control her. When I suggested she open her own account and we split the bills and whatever she has left to spend as she pleases she said I’m not a man and I should pay all the bills. She rarely sleeps with me and when she does she makes me feel like she is giving me charity and their is no intimacy. She would make comments like hurry up and get it over with, you’re taking to long, I’m not comfortable, I can feel you. Her words destroy my self-esteem and confidence. When we finish it feel worse than before we had Intercourse. When I try to talk to her she yells at me, says I’m not a man, that my father was a drunk, and my sisters are whores. She calls me a loser, threats to file for a divorce and kick me out of my home and make me pay child support. On Valentine’s Day I had a babysitter care for the kids and I took my wife out to a fancy restaurant and then an ice cream shop where I surprised her with a heart balloon, a gold bracelet, chocolate in the shape of a heart, and a card. While we where sitting there she said why did you do all this? Do you love me? Are you going to be with me forever? I said of course I love you and I want us to be together forever. She looked skeptical and when we got home she went straight to bed. I was angry, confused, and sad all at once. Recently she withdrew all our money from our joint account and for over a month now refuses to sleep with me and explain why she took the money. She takes our kids out from 10 am until 1am in the morning and doesn’t tell me where she is. She has been getting very aggressive, calling me names, threatening me saying she is going to make me pay, she will have people to beat me down, yelling in my face etc. She blames me for her not being able to get the GED and said I have been holding her back. She said it’s my fault she is not a Doctor, I’m a loser, a bad father, I don’t care about my kids. Also, she said she wants to destroy everything I built and make sure I start from scratch. She said she is jealous I am about to graduate from the University of Michigan and get my teaching certificate. She is going to make sure I regret. I have tried talking to her, suggested going to a marriage counselor, asked her to tell me what is bothering her and all she does is yell and make threats to take my children away from me. I don’t know what to do? I have been lazy lately, depressed and worried about what she might do. She has even made threats of cutting my penis off when I am a sleep.

    • onemeremember
      March 28, 2016 at 8:20 pm

      OMG, the woman has lost it. She has lost her boundaries as a human being. Mate, seriously, you are in danger. Go to some of the other threads on this site like 13 signs your wife or girlfriend is a Borderline or Narcissist; or 10 signs your girlfriend or wife is an emotional bully, and read the article and comments. You have lots of red flag alerts in your comment. There are things you need to address for yourself and your kids. Does she do any of this in front of the kids? Does she try to pit the kids against you? eg is she giving them a message that mummy will always stand up for them against daddy? These are real potential problems for the kids. Your wife appears to be in full blown manipulation mode. So, instead of you suggesting to her to set up a separate account, you do it. Put your money in a single account she can’t get at, if you want any control of your money at all, at least if you want to be able to pay your bills. Seriously, you need to consider leaving. BUT you need to put a plan into effect and not tell your wife. Get yourself a good counsellor (not feminist trained, there’s an article on this site on choosing a good one), or approach Dr T who started this site. She knows what she’s doing. Your wife is unstable. See the situation as you dealing with a disorder and try to separate yourself psychologically from the woman you married. This will make it easier. If you want to stick it out, that’s your decision, but I don’t think I’d take the risk. If she screams abuse at the cops, you will be arrested. Go to http://whiteribbon.org/ and the A Voice For Men Community https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/110922307279187224775 or their website, http://www.avoiceformen.com/ Read what is being said and educate yourself and seriously consider getting yourself (and maybe your children) out of harms way. I wish you well.

    • SeriouslyRunMan
      July 24, 2016 at 7:28 pm

      Dude, mine just left a week ago when I started calling her on her shit too. Luckily, I never trusted her enough with the bill info or a joint account. She actually used to ask for a joint account until she got her own job. Then, she magically decided that I should put mine in a joint account while her’s was in her account… (I was like seriously? Lol…) I started not trusting her, and eventually I have had to just leave and turn everything off. She is making up some story about how I was abusive, and I had to tell the police how she tried to stab me last month… I sent 3 emails with no response, and she is running around trying to find a new victim WHILE WE ARE STILL MARRIED. Do not ever trust that psycho again man! These women don’t feel like we do. They are manipulative and psychotic. I’m going to have to expose mine to the world at court even after I tried to tell her that I wanted a calm divorce. She is so narcissistic that she seriously believes she did nothing wrong, lol! I am going to therapy to start a paper trail of my being abused by her, and I’m going to write down every major abusive thing that she did. I also took screenshots (my family is. I blocked her on all social media.) of her insanity, wild accusations, and flirting with other men. I’m probably going to get a PI because she is probably cheating already. Trust me, YOU DO NOT KNOW THIS GIRL. She is just using you. She is a psychopath who does not know how to feel emotions like us. She can’t see the grey areas in life. You’re either a saint or evil, and she probably complains to her friends how evil you are already. They do this to get sympathy from their enablers. Goto court, and unload every sick thing that woman has ever done to you. Get her to rage in court. It will help you a lot. But whatever you do, GET AWAY FROM THAT SICK WOMAN BEFORE SHE KILLS YOU!!!!

  3. Jen
    October 15, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    My live in boyfriend is exactly what this article describes. He calls me cunt, whore, slut, lazy … basically everything name in the book especially when he does not get his way. He calls me hater and tells his friends that I “hate” on him. On weekends if I do not get up and make him breakfast, he calls me lazy and tells me that im worthless. Then when I am doing chores like laundry he will watch me and tells me how to exactly wash clothes and tells me how to separate clothes just to piss me off. I will just thank him for his assistance, but I think it gets him mad more. I dont want to be like him and be mean and he’s trying to get me to lose control of myself. He’s constantly broke and I have to pay for most of the cost of living like food, utilities, entertainment and when he wants to go on vacation. If I dont buy him what he wants, he becomes a huge jerk and its easier for me to just get it or I have to deal with him calling me names all day as well as him pushing me around. He says I get in his way so he has to push me.. even if im standing there doing dishes, he will push me. I want to leave so bad but I cant and he knows it. He ruined my credit and I cant get approved anywhere and I have no one because i have basically lost all my friends. I try so hard.. I work out, I clean, I massage his feet everyday, scratch his back, give him a mani and pedi, I keep myself up, I have an education and I have a nice job. BUT this is not enough for him, he still treats me like shit and he tells me all the time, how easy it is for him to just throw me out in the streets. I dont know what else to do but pretend to be happy and slowly die inside. Life isnt suppose to be like this.

    • shrink4men
      October 15, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      No, life isn’t supposed to be like this. If this is how your boyfriend is treating you, leave. If you don’t share children there is no reason for you to stay nor should you want to stay even if you do share children with him.

    • onemeremember
      October 15, 2015 at 8:02 pm

      Jen, I had one like this and in the end I used his own ego to “move on”. One day when he was verbally abusing me I turned around and said “You really don’t seem happy here and you deserve to be happy. You say you want kids etc and I can’t give them to you. Wouldn’t it be best for you to have what you want in life?” He left, but then tried to take me to court for support – he didn’t get anything because I again pulled the mat out from under his feet. Jen, these individuals are SO narcissistic that they can’t see the wood for the trees. Get rid of him. Don’t get pregnant, he’s not good father material. Imagine what he would say to your kids…..

  4. Richard Murphy
    October 9, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    I have a nightmare partner and can relate to a lot of the stories and incidents above. The worst time was when we had a disagreement about something trivial ( well it wasn’t a disagreement as far as I was concerned as I didn’t care and conceded totally immediately ). However she worked herself through her normal verbal abuse – I’m sick, I’m psychotic, I’m a bully, I twist everything etc. – everything which applies to how she treats me in fact – and then launched into her particular favourites that ‘everyone hates me’, ‘all my friends hate me and can only bear to see me for short periods’ etc. And then she completely lost it banging her own head against the wall 3 times, screaming at me to get out… and I fled. But I was worried about her so called her 30 minutes later. she was very subdued and said she wanted me to take her to the hospital, so I did. All resolved, or so I thought. The next day when I came home from work, 2 policemen came up to my car as I pulled in and arrested me for domestic abuse. A night in the cells for me – great. Thankfully case dropped as it was fiction, although they would have taken it further if they could have. However the arrest is now on my record. Which means potentially it needs to be declared for job applications and visa applications for overseas travel. Just great, thanks for that :( Anyway, we have a 3 month old daughter and I don’t live there now. I go back to see my daughter and that’s great but hate times with my ex. The same old abuse – ‘Her friends all hate me’, ‘my friends all hate me’, ‘I’m sick’, ‘I should be in a mental home or prison, etc. etc. etc. Bad times.

  5. October 3, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    MY GRndson is in a relationship with a girl who controlls every aspect of his life. she will not take responsibility for her bad behavior, she is always right, takes conversations out of contest and repeats them her way, plays mind games, like grandma said this or that and it never happened, doesnt want him to spend time with his family or friends with out her or the fight is on. if she is at work and he is home calls all the time what are you doing where are you ect. also goes thu the waste basket when she gets home looking for a mc donalds, burger king or and other wrapper to show he left for a while,she uses a smart a mouth on his mom and grandma when ever she feels like it and he won’t try to stopher or the fight is on, I just feel this isnt LOVE it is a bulling emotionally abusive relationship and he just agrees with her so she will stop yelling. Our whole family tollerates her but can’t stand her and wonder why he puts up with her and they both say they are in love. she clames the family don;t respect her.

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