The Bully in My Bed
In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month I’m talking about bullying. Last week I wrote about My Bully Boss. Today, I am writing about being bullied in relationships. Come back next week for the final post in the bullying series, The Bully in My Head.
Years ago when I was in college I had a bully boyfriend. The interesting thing is that I didn’t realize I was being bullied in that relationship until I encountered my bully boss. My bully boyfriend would leverage his position as a man to intimidate and control me as a woman all the time. He would take my car when I told him not to. If I told him to leave my house he would reply, “I’m not going anywhere,” and he didn’t. He stayed. I would be so frustrated and agitated in my bedroom. He would be sitting in the living room laughing at whatever TV show he was enjoying with the cable that I paid for. One time he went in my inbox and deleted all my emails in a fit of rage. He was very vengeful.
I used to drive a red Mitsubishi Mirage. It was a 1997 and didn’t have a factory CD player. It did, however have a CD player that replaced the cassette player that was originally in the car. If you know anything about these CD players you know they have a “face” on them that serves as an anti-theft mechanism. People would take the face of the CD player off when they exited the vehicle so no one would steal the player. Well, my bully boyfriend would take the face off of my CD player so I couldn’t listen to any music. If we were in the midst of an argument I’d crank up the volume in an attempt to keep the peace and he’d take off the face. As a woman I was defenseless and I could never do the same to him. I could not remove his CD player. That’s the difference between a concerned boyfriend or husband who wants to hash things out and a bully using their strength to control you.
Whenever I didn’t agree with the bully in my bed or give in to his request I was a witch (with a b). That’s the way that bullies operate. They never do anything wrong and if you ever stand up to yourself you’re the problem. You’re a b-word. It’s similar to my bully boss telling me I was being disengaged because I didn’t answer her question the way she wanted. No woman, a black woman especially wants to be called a witch. No employee wants to be considered disengaged. By calling you a term that they know you don’t want to be associated with they are attempting to coerce you to give into their agenda.
My bully boyfriend loved to tell me that I think I’m “all that” and that I wasn’t. He always projected his own insecurities on me as if I was somehow guilty for the way his life had turned out. If I was playing with my dog, Ivy he would tell me that I was acting as though I was in love with her. In reality, he was just jealous and insecure about the dog. If I was on the computer he would tell me I was spending too much time on the computer. The truth is, he wanted to use it.
He would pick on the very part of me that I was the most insecure about it whether it was my hair or my weight. I questioned and then defended myself all the time. I wondered if my relationship with my dog was abnormal and if my computer habits were strange (although I was a college student at the time). I felt like the worst version of myself when I was dating him. I wasn’t free to just be me. I was embarrassed and ashamed for the relationship I allowed myself to get into. I should know better I thought. I never discussed my bully relationship with anyone (until now that is).
Whenever I broke up with my bully boyfriend he would beg me to come back. I would walk outside my apartment and he would be there waiting on me. I used to think that was endearing. He loved me. I realize now that dysfunction is not love. It is often bullying and manipulation wrapped up in something that looks like love to the person that doesn’t know yet what love really is.
Bullying is not something that should be ignored. Whether on the playground, at work, or in a relationship. We sometimes think that the problem will just go away so we try to wait it out. That’s what I did. I thought the bully in my bed loved me and wanted to be a better man. He told me all the time that he wanted to improve. I believed him and I didn’t want to give up on him. He told me that so many people had given up on him before. The problem is that problems don’t just go away. They get solved. Waiting on your bully partner to change is harming you.
Effects of Being Bullied
Bullying is a form of emotional abuse. We often think that because it is not physical abuse it’s okay, but it’s not. Abuse is abuse. If we were in a physically abusive situation we would know that we should leave. Being emotionally abused and subjected to bullying is harmful to us as well. Here are some of the common effects of being bullied:
Low Self Esteem and Confidence – You start to lose confidence in yourself, your gifts, and your abilities. Your not sure who you are, what you can achieve or what you deserve. You no longer believe in yourself.
Insecurity – You may have a lot of self-doubt which breeds insecurity. Insecure people tend to shrink and hide. On the opposite end of the spectrum they project their insecurities onto others, never taking responsibility for themselves. Insecure people have a hard time creating the life they really want.
Lost Sense of Self – You no longer know who you are or even like who you are (or rather who you think you are). When someone is constantly belittling you or insulting the things that you do you stop doing those things in order to stop the banter. Soon enough you lose yourself when you should be losing that relationship instead. (Download The Truth About You free workbook to help you regain your sense of self.)
Feelings of Shame – You blame yourself for the bullying. You should have known better or done something differently. You feel ashamed of your experience. You doubt your decision making abilities. This is a cycle that leads back to low self esteem and insecurity.
Anger / Bitterness / Distrust – Feelings of anger and bitterness linger. You start to lose trust in others and have a hard time maintaining relationships (even the good ones).
Depression – You lose interest in life and things you were once interested in. You may be reluctant to be around other people. Some people who have been bullied report suicidal thoughts.
Learned Helplessness – Related to a lack of confidence and feelings of insecurity. If you feel you’re not capable you will defer to others to do for you.
Bullying Others – You start to display behaviors of bullying, manipulation, control and emotional abuse towards others. You accept this behavior as normal or as signs of love. Conversely, you may bully others to cope with the bullying directed towards you.
Substance Abuse – You self-medicate or attempt to escape reality by abusing alcohol, drugs, and other controlled substances.
The long term effects of bullying can be devastating. It’s not just a bad relationship. It’s deeper than that. You’re entire life and future are being effected. The truth about who you are and what you believe about yourself is being compromised. If you’re being bullied your best course of action is to remove yourself from that situation as soon as possible. If you’re currently being bullied or have been bullied in the past and are experiencing low self esteem, a lost sense of self and increased self doubt as a result I encourage you to schedule a complimentary Transform Your Life Clarity call to help you get back to the person you are meant to be and create a life you love. If you are experiencing depression, suicidal thoughts or substance abuse problems I strongly encourage you to reach out to a mental health specialist, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or the Suicide Prevention Hotline. I can also help point you in the right direction if needed. To learn more about bullying in relationships visit http://nobullying.com.