Written by: Steve Hartline
How does bullying show up in your relationship? Do you shame or feel shamed by your partner? How about criticizing your looks, how you dress, or your physical limitations? Do you find yourselves ignoring each other when it is convenient? How about every thought or opinion being dismissed without even being considered?
Truthfully, I encouraged the bully because I laughed. I stood by and watched the bully gain power. I didn’t speak up for fear of becoming the next target. I was complicit with the bully to gain acceptance. I also gave up my power. I allowed myself to be bullied because I felt I couldn’t do anything about it.
So where did the bully’s power come from? It was from me and perhaps you. We willingly handed over our power. We gave away our ability to think, to speak up and act for ourselves.
Bullying and being bullied changes us. It desensitizes and dehumanizes how we see others. With or without using words. It implies superiority. It conveys a message that I am different than you. There will always be a power imbalance between us.
The bully clothes himself or herself with Criticism, Contempt, Blaming and Stonewalling. “The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse” as renowned marital therapist John Gottman refers to them.
I use the term “clothed with” because that is the visible part of the bully. The part that is abrasive and at the same time, protective. It is under this facade that fear and insecurity often resides.
Calling out the 4 horsemen for what they are can be as transformative as the old fairytale “The King has No Clothes”. No longer will there be a pretense of seeing what is not real. The bully can no longer hide behind the power that we once gave to him.
All we need is to have the courage to take back what is rightfully ours. To call out attitudes and behaviors that will no longer be allowed. To define what honor and respect will look like in this relationship. To become clearer on what is acceptable and not acceptable in our relationship. Speak up, define your personal boundaries. Bullying in either direction is not healthy for your relationship. Deal with the fear and insecurity now.
Where will the bully get his power? The power will have to come from inside of him. The power to change is within everyone… everyone who chooses it.