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Ben Leichtling, Ph.D.


 
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Imagine that you have a new boyfriend who seems wonderful and you’re looking forward to a romantic Valentine’s Day.  But in your past relationships you were harassed, bullied, controlled and abused.  It is at that point that you finally come to the realization that you have a tendency to pick the wrong guys or even girls.  Do you know what you should look for with this new one and what should you do if you see any warning signs? Our next guest will try to help you with those answers. Please welcome back to Your Life Matters, our very good friend, author and psychotherapist Dr. Ben Leichtling. Ben has written and discussed here on our show his books “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids” and “Eliminate the High cost of Low Attitudes.”

Step back and take a look at how he treats people now.  Don’t listen to any of his reasons, explanations or excuses.  Look only at his actions.  Everyone can blow up once a year under extreme pressure, so count how often he behaves that way.  Look for patterns.

Test him now … before it’s too late.

Does he harass, bully, abuse or control you?

  1. Does he push boundaries, argue endlessly and withhold approval and love if you don’t do exactly what he wants?

  2. Does he make the rules and control everything – what you do, where you go, who spends the money and what it’s spent on?  Does he think that his sense of timing and rules of proper conduct are the right ones?

  3. Do his standards rule?  Is your “no” not accepted as “no?”  Is he always right and you’re always wrong?  Is sex always when and what he wants and for his pleasure?  Is his sense of humor always right?  Does he say that he’s not abusing you, you’re merely too sensitive?  Do your issues get dealt with or are his more important so he can ignore your concerns or wishes?

  4. Does he control you with negativity, disapproval, name-calling, demeaning putdowns, blame and guilt?  For example, no matter what you do, are you wrong or not good enough?  Does he cut you down in subtle ways and claim that he’s just kidding?  Or does he control you with his hyper-sensitive, hurt feelings and threats to commit suicide?

  5. Are you afraid you’ll trigger a violent rage?  For example, do you walk on eggshells?  Does he intimidate you with words and weapons?  Does he threaten you, your children, your pets or your favorite things?

  6. Are you told that you’re to blame if he’s angry?  Do you feel emotionally blackmailed, intimidated and drained?  In this relationship, has your self-doubt increased, while your self-confidence and self-esteem decreased?

  7. Does he isolate you?  Are you allowed to see your friends or your family, go to school or even work?  Does he force you to work because he needs your money?  Are you told that you’re incompetent, helpless and would be alone without them him?

  8. Does he need your money to make his business schemes work?  Does he have a pattern of not keeping jobs, even though he blames his lack of success on other people or bad luck?  Is he looking for someone to support him like he thinks he deserves?

If you answered yes to most (or even any of these questions), pull out a piece of paper and write, in big capital letters, “Bully” and “Control-Freak” and “Abuser.”  Now you know what you’re dealing with.  Post these signs on your mirror, car, computer and work space.  Put them in your purse.

When you protest, does he promise to stop?

  1. Whatever his reasons, if he isn’t convincing when he says he’s sorry, run away real fast.

  2. After he promises to stop, does treat you nice for a while before the next incident?

Remember, apologies, excuses, reasons and justifications count only one time.  After that, only actions count.

While bullies are courting you, until he gets you, he’ll treat you the best he’ll ever treat you.  For bullies, it’s all downhill after he thinks he’s got you.

How does he treat other people like: 

  1. Servers – waiters and waitresses, clerks at the movies and retail stores, people who work for airlines.  Does he harass, bully and abuse them?  Does he try to get something for free?

  2. Supervisees, coworkers and vendors.  Does he think they’re stupid, incompetent and lazy?   Does he jerk them around?  Does he retaliate viciously if he feels offended?

  3. Acquaintances and friends?  Does he keep them only if he’s the boss or center of attention?  Does he have friends who have lasted?   Are the relationships brutal or are they like those you’d like between equals?

  4. His former girlfriends or ex-wives.  What would they say about those relationships?  Does he claim all those women were bad or rotten?  Did he retaliate in the end?

  5. His parents and siblings?  Does he abuse them because they deserve it, or has he simply walked away because they’re impossible to have a good relationship with?

Don’t think you’re unique, different and safe; don’t think that he’ll never treat you that way.  That’s magical thinking.  A person who has mastered harassment, bullying, controlling and abusing these people, especially the helpless servers, supervisees and vendors will eventually get around to you.

What does he wish he could do to those other people?

  1. Does he wish he could have had the strength, courage and opportunity to retaliate without bad consequences to himself?

  2. Is he itching to take his anger or rage out on someone else (like, maybe you)?

He probably will do those things to you once he thinks you’re under his thumb – after you’re married, have children, or become dependent on his approval, permission or money.

Ignore your overwhelming feelings of true love.  Don’t waste your life trying to fix him.  Get rid of him now before it’s too late; before you live together, or he slowly gets you to give him control.  He’s only a boyfriend.  Find a better one to have all those feelings of true love with.

You’ll need an expert coach to develop specific tactics to get away while keeping your money, car, home, family, friends and job.

Spend this Valentine’s Day alone and work with your therapist or coach to prepare for a loving Valentine’s Day next year.

Of course, women harass, bully, control and abuse men just as much in their own ways, but that will be the subject of a different article.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Ben Leichtling, Ph.D. is author of the books and CDs “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids” and “Eliminate the High cost of Low Attitudes.” He is available for coaching, consulting and speaking.  To find practical, real-world tactics to stop bullies and bullying at home, school, work and in relationships, see his web site (http://www.BulliesBeGone.com) and blog (http://www.BulliesBeGoneBlog.com).

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, bullying is the most common form of violence in our society. In a national survey of students in grades six through ten in 2001, 13% reported bullying others, 11% reported being a victim of bullies, and another 6% said that they both bullied others and were bullied themselves. These numbers mean that over five million children are affected by bullying.

Here are seven of the early warning signs of a stealth bully:

  1. They make the rules; they control everything – what you do, where you go, who spends the money and what it’s spent on.

  2. They push boundaries, argue endlessly and withhold approval and love if you don’t do exactly what they want.

  3. Their standards rule – your “no” isn’t accepted as “no;” they’re always right and you’re always wrong; their sense of humor is right and they’re not abusing you, you’re merely too sensitive.  Your issues generally don’t get dealt with – theirs are more important so they can ignore your wishes.

  4. They control you with their disapproval, name-calling, demeaning putdowns, blame and guilt – no matter what you do; you’re wrong or not good enough.  Or they control you with their hyper-sensitive, hurt feelings and threats to commit suicide.

  5. You’re afraid you’ll trigger a violent rage – you walk on eggshells; they intimidate you with words and weapons; they threaten you, the children, the pets, your favorite things.  You’re told that you’re to blame if they’re angry.  You feel emotionally blackmailed, intimidated and drained.

  6. You’re told you’re incompetent, helpless and would be alone without them.

  7. They isolate you – they won’t allow you to see you friends or your family, go to school or even work.

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