Bullying isn't just something that occurs online, at school or at work. Although love is not supposed to hurt, many girls get involved with guys that leave them blindsided. Instead of experiencing the love they desire, they feel afraid, badly about themselves and put down. Because bullying doesn't always involve physical or sexual abuse, some women may not even realize there's a problem.
Signs You're Being Bullied
Bullies will manipulate you to get what they need as a response to feeling powerless, insecure and out of control. In addition to these six signs, NoBully.com lists a few patterns to look out for.
- Do you constantly blame yourself for your partner's rage and anger? Maybe it seems like nothing you do is good enough. You can't cook, clean or even speak the right way. No matter how hard you try, you just can't please him.
- Have you been feeling bad about yourself lately? Everyone has a bad day, but if bad days are frequent, you might start to feel like something's wrong with you. You feel lucky to have your boyfriend even if he teases, criticizes or puts you down relentlessly because who else could love you?
- Are you always on edge? You don't feel relaxed and comfortable when you're with your boyfriend because you never know what mood he'll be in. He's unpredictable, one moment loving and the next minute full of rage.
- Are you afraid to speak up? When you don't do what he says, he threatens to leave or take something away from you such as your kids or money.
- Is he the only one you can talk to? Your friends and family have expressed their concern multiple times, but your boyfriend doesn't want you to spend time with anyone else, but him.
- Does he make up for his behavior by saying, "I'm sorry," "I love you," or showering you with gifts? While this temporarily improves the situation, it's actually a sign of control and cycle of abuse.
If you feel depressed, anxious, and struggle with low self-esteem as a result of your relationship, you may already be exhibiting the negative effects of being bullied.
What to Do If You're Being Bullied
You may feel stuck and helpless. However, you have several options that can help put you on the road towards healing. The first step involves reaching out to your friends and family. Once you feel supported, you will have the confidence and courage to take the next steps to change your situation for the better.
Ending Your Relationship
If you feel like your life or well-being is in danger, complete this safety plan created by the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence to help you leave. The National Domestic Violence hotline also has different plans according to your specific circumstance. You can call them at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). There is also helpful information and resources at The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline (1-866-331 9474), and Break the Cycle.
Confronting Your Partner
If you feel safe and comfortable in doing so, being honest with your boyfriend about his bullying can be healing for him as well. Experts suggest that you express appreciation for what's working in the relationship and continue to communicate honestly about what's not working. You can avoid sounding defensive or accusatory by using, "I feel" statements in response to bullying behavior. Setting boundaries and discussing what is okay with you and what is not is also important in repairing your relationship.
Bullies usually don't want to be bullies, but sometimes need and even desire help. Therapy can provide support if you both want to change patterns in the relationship. An effective counselor can teach your boyfriend healthier ways of getting his needs met. If you are in a physically abusive relationship, however, the National Domestic Violence Hotline recommends Battering Intervention and Prevention Programs (BIPPs) instead of couples counseling. Counseling, they believe, can exacerbate abuse when abusers manipulate therapy sessions by blaming victims, minimizing the abuse, and trying to win the therapist's favor.
Taking Time to Heal
Being bullied, especially by a loved one, can wreak havoc on your self-worth. Whatever you ultimately decide to do with your relationship, make sure you don't neglect yourself in the process. Self-care is vitally important for you and your relationship. This may involve individual counseling, reflecting on what you need or deciding to be single for awhile.