Dear Neil: My new husband, for 8 months now, can fly off the handle at me for something I said, and the next two days turn into turmoil. I’m not used to this bullying type of fighting. He’s pretty protective of what I do, and doesn’t let me go on trips with girlfriends, even if they are married. But yesterday he started talking about a high school road trip reunion he was going on. I said, “So you have no problem with me going on a road trip with my friends, right?” He went crazy, saying I don’t care about him because he was excited about doing something that was near and dear to his heart. He proceeded to be mad at me because of what I said. He told me to #%! myself and kiss his @#$!, which I find very insulting. He wants me to apologize, and I feel I was being fair. Your opinion?
Bullied and Shaken
Dear Bullied: You are describing a controlling, insecure, jealous and threatened man with a severe case of the double standard, which conveniently restricts and controls your actions while allowing him to be able to do whatever he wants. In addition, your husband is taking his gloves off when he fights with you, and I agree, he’s getting insulting, demeaning and disrespectful toward you.
This is not loving behavior. He is attempting to assert power over you through intimidation, bullying and insults, and apparently doesn’t know that there are better, more humane, more loving ways of resolving differences and asking for the reassurance he so desperately seeks. As long as you have to be sensitive to his feelings, desires and insecurities, but he is under no obligation to be sensitive to yours, your husband is operating under the double standard which allows him entitlement to things that are forbidden to you.
The question you have to decide is how OK are you in being controlled, bullied, insulted and dictated to by a man who sometimes acts as a tyrant? Are you OK in agreeing to this arrangement long-range?
If not, tell him that what’s good for the goose is also good for the gander, and that you require two changes in your marriage. The first is respectful treatment—no matter how angry he gets or how sharp a disagreement becomes—you are entitled to be treated with decency, respect and common courtesy. The second change I would recommend is about equality and fairness, with no double standard, intimidation or no bully tactics allowed as a vehicle to get one’s way.
People attempt to assert power over others when they themselves feel disempowered, insecure or threatened. The purpose of their controlling or intimidating behavior is to make them feel secure, strong, powerful and in control. Unfortunately, such behavior sabotages intimate relationships, because if you don’t feel a sense of equality, mutuality and respect from your partner, you won’t feel very close and intimate with him either. Mutuality is bases on the assumption that you are equal partners to one another, and that both partner’s needs, feelings, opinions, beliefs and desires are taken into account and given equal status. In other words, your husband must value your happiness, feelings, desires and sense of personal empowerment if your relationship is to remain intimate and mutually satisfying.
Your husband needs a different set of conflict resolution, problem solving, negotiating and compromising skills. Find a marriage counselor that can offer the two of you those skills. If you don’t, you are agreeing to this type of behavior indefinitely.