Bully Wives? Yes, But They Don’t Know It.

Powerful Impact: Women are depicted as the “weaker sex”; have been for centuries. And in so many ways the inculcation of that notion, along with certain biological and physical realities, has successfully rendered them so, a state many of us fight each day. Yet there are times when sitting in my office, or out socializing, I see quite the opposite force operating in The Coupledom. However the strength that I see is neither the good one nor necessarily what women take pride in, are conscious of, or own. For those who have the muscle and the cable to watch HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, the Larry David series, the character of Susie incorporates all the worst features of the “intimidating wife” in an exaggerated, hyper obnoxious format, the Larry David format. Everyone in the series, perhaps with the exception of the character of David’s former wife Cheryl, has a fairly obscene personality, meant to be so. But Susie is especially crude, pushy, judgmental and, for those who, as I have mentioned, have the muscle, hysterical. Though the Susie character is often right on with many of her accusations regarding her husband’s clumsy attempts at secrecy and his adolescent cast to pleasure, her methods are bullying, her reactions hellacious and her elbowing into people’s private domains egregious. She is one bad broad. Though not a shade worse than her male counterparts.

Role Clashes: The women I see in my office are not so extreme, and often innocent of intent to bully, intimidate or intrude. Rather, there appears to be a confluence of learned behaviors from their moms, the frightening pressures of child rearing, running a home, staying in shape and working against a backdrop of the specter of the preoccupied or illusive male, struggling with his own cultural job description of breadwinner, standard bearer of American masculinity, handy man, expert on the roadways, while he is attempting to retain a hold on that cocky adolescent boyhood, all ego, hormone and play. The perfect storm? You bet.

A Challenging Template: Women, raised by women for the most part, have a fairly rigorous template of family life to work from. They need their spouse to fulfill the requirements implied in the model which likely has remained in an unarticulated format. Hubby, not a mind reader, has no clue what’s in the contract and wife may herself be enacting it without forethought or conscious intent. After some months or years have passed, these folks stagger into my office, wondering what went wrong here. According to the men, the women are impossible to please, controlling and demanding. And for the women, men are dismissive, lazy, unappreciative and absent. (Though both may swear that their spouse is a great parent.) Yet it is often the man who seems most muzzled, provides few details as to his wife’s failings and cannot really locate any significant examples of her less-than-perfect behaviors except that for some strange reason, she is unhappy much of the time, and usually with him. On the other hand, the women have no shortage of adjectives to describe their spouses’ flaws and no idea that the man is intimidated by their unequivocal convictions, detailed memories (always far better than those of their men) and absolutes (he is always late, he never takes out the garbage, he never calls while away or texts or emails.) Are the men quaking in their shoes? Yes and no. Some quake in silence, some shrug and say, “No matter what I do I can’t please her.” These men seem bullied. Their wives seem shocked when I point out that hubby seems at a loss for words. That hubby actually appears borderline mute. She sees it as withholding or uncaring. I see it as fear.

Transference: Those of us who are the offspring of the psychoanalytic world attribute aspects of interpersonal perception and reaction to “transference”, the act of experiencing present relationships in terms of past relations. So the wife becomes powerfully good, bad, or mixed in some measure if the hubby’s mom or older sis was experienced in that manner. And vice versa. We experience our partners based on multiple factors: what they bring to the table and how we react to what they bring to the table. I watch men cringe when their wives speak of a minor disappointment regarding help with children, cleaning up, earnings or how they squeezed out the sponge. I have seen men have virtually no opinion that does not echo that of their spouse related to almost anything: decor, child rearing, friendships and restaurants. Though the man may have some island of influence and even respect, the voice of the woman in the home front becomes a military command, a force to obey, and someone with whom you do not cross swords. And what do the women tell me? They know better, do it better and cannot tolerate their husbands’ less than perfect interventions. The women are disappointed, bewildered and hurt and the men are cowed. Yes, cowed. And very reluctant to do or say anything that might stir the pot. Most admit, “I don’t like confrontation” which is male for “She scares the —- out of me.”

Shock: The wives are shocked to hear that their spouses are tip toeing around them, or hiding from them or submitting to them. Shock. Why is this the case? Because the women don’t hear themselves or if they do, and some do, they feel justified to nail their men on misdemeanors because of other hurts. Some unspoken. Some spoken but unheard by their men. Also, women mature into aspects of their own moms, women who had authority in the kitchen and spoke with authority and often self-righteousness on many subjects; food and children; behaviors and children; neighbors and behaviors; good taste, bad taste; good gifts, bad gifts; even world events. So the voice of the wife can mature over the years into that of an expert on all things domestic while the man, who is losing small quantities of testosterone with each baby diaper, may himself be transferring some of his little boy mom issues onto his wife. Not may be, will be. And the women are often aware and horrified that their husbands, who are suppose to be their lovers, are experiencing them in some measure “like his mom.” It is so insulting and unsexy. Yes, but normal. As is the woman transferring some of her daddy issues onto hubby or boss.

Owning The Bully Voice: I know from my hours of listening, that many wives are disappointed and hurt by their husbands for reasons that include dismissing their feelings, absent from home, or even just not being daddy. But what they may not realize is that they often become bullies when disappointed and hurt. That they use domestic weapons to get back at their spouses who often shrink further away from their wives, which intensifies the bullying tone. Powerless to get their point across the women descend into a bitter bath of recrimination and judgmental rhetoric about anything, missing a soccer game, forgetting when the cleaning lady takes her vacation, anything. My recommendation: listen to yourself ladies. What is your voice telling your spouse? Don’t be shocked to hear that he is intimidated by you. Take the conversation to a more open and vulnerable level and share the feelings, not the barbs. And find an expert to help you do that so you don’t become Susie. Curb your “enthusiasm” for the fight and you won’t end up like Susie, with a guy who leads two lives, one of them without you.

©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011

75 Responses to “Bully Wives? Yes, But They Don’t Know It.”

  1. Rob Rickard

    Thanks a lot for this. I’m not sure about the orgins of this type of problem but you describe my wife’s behaviour and my reaction very well. I have long since despaired that there is anything I can do to change her aggressive diatribes. Her own sisters are entirely sick of it too but she just can’t seem to get the idea of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Of course I’m a weak, flaw ridden individual in a number of ways – but having it pointed out ad infinitum really doesn’t help make any changes and kills our relationship. Good to get that off my chest!

    • jilledelmanlcsw

      Dear Rob,

      Glad that the post offered an opportunity to express these feelings. As risky as this may sound, try to share the post with your wife in some manner, and then be prepared that at first she will feel attacked and will certainly “react.” However, perhaps over time, and time is the key word here, she might glean something useful from it, with the understanding that these behaviors involve two people, and two people together can team up constructively to change their destructive interactions.

      Good luck.

  2. GJones

    I appreciate your rarely articulated, but accurately described portrayal of the “Bully Wife”. Unfortunately our society at large and the L.C.S.W. Community specifically does not give this behavior it’s proper label. It IS ABUSE. Plain and simple. The man is not being bullied, he is being ABUSED. Her rantings are not “aggressive diatribes”, they are ABUSIVE rants. The man is not “intimidated” by her, He is being ABUSED by her. Since we are still married to the notion that “Little girls are made of sugar and spice”, we remain hesitatnt to call their poor behavior and bad character what it is because we fear their female wrath (more abuse)! It IS simply abuse….it is highly prevalent and underdiagnosed in women and the male victims of this behavior suffer in silence.
    This will continue because we are not ready as a society to deal with this issue in the manner that it deserves.

    • jilledelmanlcsw

      I think that you nailed it. Many women get a pass on abusing their spouses because of our cultural biases and limiting definition of abuse. Thank you for commenting.

      • Nadine

        Wow! I am that bully wife, and I agree it is abuse! I grew up with an alcoholic father who physically, mentally, and verbally abused me and my sister, so I don’t know if that is why I am the way I am but I literally am now the bully wife. The very way you have described it, I am her. My husband is suffering this abuse. What am I doing, what have I done? Tonight, I ask his forgiveness and get me some help.

    • R.

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying the truth. There is also the issue of reaching a limit and fighting back,…to which we then are labeled as monsters or disgusting human beings and fear losing our children. We fight and suffer abuse or we don’t fight and suffer abuse. Either way there is no recourse.

      • jilledelmanlcsw

        You captured this profound dilemma which many face. Have you asked your wife to see a couples therapist with you? Sometimes it is useful to see an individual therapist for yourself, if your wife is resistant to couples’ therapy. If one loop in the chain gets some help, it can set off a “chain reaction.” You may acquire some new options and skills which might spark interest, curiosity or concern on your wife’s part.

        • CT

          Nope. Sorry.
          Hoping that a “chain reaction” is set off is like thinking “As long as I’m nice, l won’t get abused by her.” Nice try, but l call bullshit.
          The only ways to deal with this is, on a person level, is to leave it and get an attorney who is not afraid to fight for a man; a go Id escape tunnel isn’t made overnight, so plan and be ready. We need to stop tolerating and allowing women to get away with this Rosie O’Donnell meets Lifetime with The View behavior. Women should’t be expected to deal with abuse, so why should men? This must be addressed.
          Yes, l live this and have a bullying, abusive, narcissistic wife. She, with her mom who is the same way, gaslight and pound me until the receive my submission on the surface. Under the surface, however, l will continue “to make my escape tunnel” and flee this prison.

      • Hiwayman

        Finally the truth comes out. A whole lot of Domestic Violence in this country is provolked by abusive women who are bully’s. Abused husbands/bf in this country get it twice. If they stay their self worth goes to zero. And when they hit back they are concidered monsters. And if they leave they are targets of vengefull hatred that turns their kids away from them. There is no way to win.
        I’ve been thru it and quit having anything to do with women now for the past 25 years because of this underhanded and fully supported tacktic that some women use and society refused to accept.

  3. Sparks Mcgraw

    If I were to share something like this post with my wife, it would be the start of armageddon in my home, the beginning of the end. My wife does not deal in “good faith,” and has never had a shred of good faith in her dealings with others. If you give her the truth, she will abuse it and fold it into her extensive punishment-and-abuse toolbox, as I have so regrettably learned over the long and painful years we have been together. With her, it is all about dominance and endless verbal tirades about how this person is flawed and that person is flawed, and my family is flawed, and how nobody listens to her (good god what do I do but listen, and when I offer feedback or any form of input get slapped down verbally for it…), and how she was mistreated by this person or that person, when all I ever see is HER mistreating others.

    Yet not being a wealthy banker and being 59 years old, I can’t afford to split and start over. It’s too late. A few years ago I finally came to enlightenment and slipped out of the denial that has exemplified my entire married life, and came to terms with the fact that I am living a life sentence without ever having committed a crime, short of marrying somebody that I should have known better.

    I am, BTW, a gentle, intelligent, very giving and kind person, who basically get screwed. Now THERE’S a rant of hopelessness for this website, eh?! I’ll bet a lot husbands are in this boat — I just can’t help but give voice to it, the unvarnished truth. Have never done this in any forum before.

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      This was a brave move, to “out” your pain. And a good step toward beginning a process where you are not so alone. Do you have friends with whom you can confide? You need to be less isolated in your unhappiness, despite not being able to converse with your wife. And perhaps some day, seek out professional help for yourself. This life as you describe it, is not healthy on any level and will and has I am sure, taken its toll on you physically and emotionally.

      Thank you sharing your world with me.

  4. Sparks Mcgraw

    I really appreciate the permission to find a confidant. For some reason I felt that would be “talking behind her back,” and yet, why not, as long as it is discreet.

    I am a well-liked, high-level high-tech employee, but have grown a bit more reclusive than my former rather gregarious self. The reason is that I no longer am willing to expose my co-workers and friends to her bullying. She especially tries to dominate and bully the wives. I just can no longer bear the inevitable looks of shock and hurt on my friends’ faces when she zings them at the most unexpected moment.

    Once I came to terms with how outrageous her behavior is, and that it is not my failure but hers, I developed a level of detachment and objectivity that sometimes leads me to marvel at her antics. Lately, on occasion, she has seem me staring incredulously at her during these episodes (often just the two of us at home), and she finds it unnerving. I find the newfound objectivity liberating and sometimes almost humorous.

    And guess what, she is gradually starting to see her own faults, and is beginning to express regrets for things she has done in the past, especially things a few years ago. Turns out she remembers things rather accurately. The cause of her acting out is that she has an extremely high IQ and a large “emotional amplifier” in her head, such that if there is the slightest negative nuance in what somebody says, she picks up on it and feels it as if they have physically slapped her. So people’s clumsiness becomes as bad as ill-intent. She had emotionally abusive parents and I think this is what sensitized her and predisposes her to look for the negative in any social transaction and in people.

    So she is improving. I figure she’ll be capable of amiable and friendly relationships in about 100 more years. Oh well, I guess I’ll take any improvement I can get in the 20 or so of those years that I might continue to be around.

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      I admire your honesty and also endeavoring to put in place new behaviors on your part that are triggering improvements in the interactions between the two of you. Observing some mellowing on your wife’s part can also be reinforced perhaps and is possibly a result of your shift. Systems theory here. Change one thing in the system and the system changes. We are all a bit more powerful than we know.

  5. Steph

    I am guilty. I am the abusive wife. i read through this crying, realizing what my actions are doing to my husband, and our child.
    Now with that realization, how do i stop?

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      You took the first step which is owning your behavior, outing yourself in a sense. Now you need help to unlearn these behaviors and substitute healthy ones, which express whatever is at the root of them. Perhaps you had parental models for this behavior.

      Habitual behavior can be unlearned each day bit by bit. Can you see someone and get help, join a support group perhaps too. Talk to your husband and share this piece with him. Let him know how guilty you feel and how much you want to stop this. You may find him your greatest resource of all. This takes courage, taking down bad pride and replacing it with real courage, humility and intelligent choices.

      It is so worth it but you need that first few steps to get the rhythm of change going.

  6. Don

    Hi, I have known that my girlfriend was a bully for a while. I guess I just don’t know what to do about it. I have asked her to marry me, but with the behavior that she has, I just can NOT see me marrying her. We fight pretty much every weekend. She doesn’t want me to see my kids regularly yes they are older but I have a special needs 18 year old son. She regularly threatens me with abandonment, saying that she is leaving. She has told me to lose all of her information in my phone because it was over, this was because I said that it would be nice to take my 22, and 21 year old daughters out for a beer because I have never done that before. She was mad and abusive for the entire weekend. Even the next day there is no talking to her. If I say anything at all it is a immediate sharp nasty retort, like go back to your ex-wife, or something like that. I am a calm and reasonable person. The last fight we had which was 2 days ago, she had made a point and even thought it scared me (it was something financial), I thought about it and came up with a plan to address it. I presented it to her when we got home from work, in a calm and constructive manner. That didn’t last, she kept bringing up my past failings and even would ask why didn’t I think of this solution before, it should have never gotten to a point where I had to think of it now. When she starts arguing in that way, it is a complete loop and no way out of it. I apologized and told her that she was right, I did it over and over again, but it is never good enough for her. She wants her pound of flesh and will continue until she evokes a reaction. She does this as she tells me, “Because I want you to hurt as much as I do and then some”. Finally she made a remark, a joke if you will, that was so rude and crude that I blew up and told her to get out of my house. I immediately regretted that, as that is not how I am, but how she is. I went and apologized profusely, but that is what she wanted, she wanted me to be so mad that I would lose control and that means that she hit the appropriate button and was satisfied and calmed down after that and has been fine for the last two days. She knows no bounds in a argument and is controlling and manipulative, and I have had enough. I have totally started to withdraw from her, and I can NOT see me living with this for the rest of my life. I have tried so hard, I have tired with everything I know how, to make her happy and NOT get into these situations, and I am simply tired, I’m just tired. I want to go home tonight and tell her all of this, and know that it will be another war and all of her abusive behavior will be exhibited again. Although she has no degree in psychology she was a therapist for the homeless and she absolutely things that there is NOTHING a therapist can say to her because she knows it all. I have tried to bring home mountains of information about how to have a happy an healthy relationship and she passes it off as being unnecessary because3t that is “just common sense”. I feel helpless but not trapped. I want to confront her bout all of this, but, what I need to know is how to do it? How to confront her so that she will listen and not let loose her acid tongue? She knows how she can be she told me that she has had a problem with controlling and when she gets into a conflict she can’t stop herself and uses her tongue as a weapon, and she will say that “ you knew this about me”. Well that doesn’t make it right, and if something doesn’t change soon there will be no good feelings left in me towards her at all. I am sorry I have written such a book here but I needed to get this entire thing out so bad! Even if you don’t respond thank you so much for providing this forum, so that I know that I am not alone.

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      I learned years ago in my work that if being with someone means becoming someone you don’t want to be, then you cannot be with that person. The price is a loss of self, losing self-respect and eventually self hating. As for presenting any information, descriptive, conclusive or otherwise, your intent may be generous and healthy but will not carry weight – if the recipient’s interpretation is consistently the same, i.e. feeling attacked in some convoluted way, then they will attack back. I don’t know that you can have a conversation. Yes a therapist could be useful but it sounds more like your girlfriend feels threatened by so many things/people/your children/different ideas, that a “third party” option may need to be defeated at every turn. If you are looking to make her understand what you are experiencing, another’s point of view, you can always try again. But from what you have described, I think you will have to make an unilateral decision for your own sake.

  7. Stewart

    Hi I have been bullied from little school because I would not fight.i can see at times in my life there was a bully I’ve been with my wife 20yrs married 10yrs I’ve had health problems since I moved in with her I loved her so much lost my brother my dad stress and agoraphobia constant nothing seems to be working went back to work from being I’ll worked 2yrs then became so ill I could not work again I’ve got physical problems then reading everyone’s situation I’m going through this with my wife now divorced I had to go back to my mum because I could not cope with everything at home some times we wounder what are we doing I try and be my self and try and talk to her just trying to understand what is the write track to be on nice reading everyone’s comments thx

  8. Paddy

    Last year I made a serious attempt at suicide after my wife bullied me so bad I snapped, were over 20 years together with young kids, I’m so sad & depressed. I love her so so much. She says such hurtful things I’d rather be hit. Airs marital dissapointments about me on d Net. She refused counciling for couple of years, instead of me, she uses one of her brothers as Husband/type confident & hes a total know it all & hyper judgemental & critical. Now it’s starting to look like a lot of my chronic pain problems are psychosomatic from being eroded. I come from a broken home, & it’s breaking my heart that our kids might have to go through same. Honestly, suicide is very attractive option, not out of anger, but an end to the less than, the physical pain, broken heart & lonelyness. I’m broken & I just want rest, even just one day at a times to hard right now.

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Your suffering comes through. I am not clear if you are in therapy yourself? It is so crucial when one spouse refuses couples work that the other spouse seeks their own therapy. Having the option of finding ways of handling what seems to be an intractable situation is key and may lead to the other spouse agreeing to work on the relationship eventually as well. The psychosomatic symptoms will ease with your individual therapy as you learn not to internalize all the pain but share and learn with your therapist what you can do to heal and help your self. Don’t give up. Life changes, children grow up. Seize some power for yourself out of the suffering. Though you may “love her so so much” loving/taking care of yourself more is the best cure. Good luck.

  9. s.f

    I really need some advice on how to tackle my bully of a wife.

    We are a newly wed couple but as soon as we got married my wife changed like night from day, she transformed into a control bully which she never showed signs of this before we got married (9year relationship).

    she always yells at me for nothing, even if I ask her if ahe needs any help or something. She pretends I do all the house work every day I’m off from work as I work on shift base work .
    She does not care if I am feeling tired or had very hard days at work. She is employed with 2 jobs 1 full time other part time and is hardly at home, and when she is she either goes to sleep or does the only thing the laundry , other than that she does nothing except from bossing me around. All she wants is more money and to fill the house and live a high life . I font earn as much as her but she doesn’t understand that.

    I’m fed up with how she acts towards me as she shows no respect at all. Can anyone tell me how I can tackle her ASAP cause she’s driving me crazy by the minute

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Sounds to me like you two need a third party to figure out why your relationship has devolved since your marriage. My understanding from your note is that you have been together for nine years so it would seem unlikely that these are totally new challenges. But perhaps something is new, sharing a home or feeling the pressures of “permanence.”

      Nine years is not something to throw out. I would talk with her about getting some help to see if you can together sort out the problems and share the solutions. This conversation should not be “a blame game or “You are or You did or Its your fault.” Rather this is “our relationship and we are having some adjustment difficulties to our new life. Let’s see if someone can help shift us in a better direction.”

      Good luck.

  10. Dave

    Thanks for the article, very helpful. My main concerned are my children, I stay here and pretend to be happy because I’m afraid of the future for my children. I decided to put up with her crap because without me in the middle it will be very painful to them, I often see how she takes her frustrations on the kids, specially when I insubordinate to he wishes. In At least two occasions I had to intervene between her frustrations and the kids, and that became a whole spectacle in which of course I’m the villain. Frustrated, unhappy because it is always her way, very little compromise from, her side.

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      I am glad that you found the article useful. One piece of advice – if one person in the family system changes, the whole system responds. Have you asked your wife to see a therapist with you as a “we” will be better together?” If so and she has efused then I suggest you meet periodically with a therapist. Sometimes that simple action over time can move a partner to look at the relationship and even their own behavior differently. Takes a bit of action, a bit of financial investment and time. Good luck.

  11. JP London

    My wife and I married in 2012. We had been seeing each other for 2 years prior and were obviously very happy or I wouldn’t have and neither would she have got married. I am white male and she is an Indian female decent having grown up in a very westernised London. We were never living together before marriage and being old fashioned this was fine although I had lived with someone before meeting her. We moved in after marriage and things were fine. The house we bought is quite big for what we need but it is to be our forever home so we don’t need to buy another if we have a family.
    I read the article and almost every point hit home, painfully. In business I am a strong individual, quite dominant and confident. I know my arena and people know that too around me. So I was very surprised when I read this and found out that this was true about my situation. The ‘walking around on eggshells’ and ‘remembers all my failings and none of the nice things’ metaphorically slapped me around the face so hard I had to sit down. I just thought my wife was going through a bad moment at work and as she doesn’t talk to me I never know what is wrong. She doesn’t talk to anyone whereas I can be an emotional outlet for everyone as well as using my friends and family as my outlets.
    We have been arguing constantly recently and I can’t see the wood from the trees. It’s my fault it started and it was me being rude according to her, yet I’m so cautious I must have re-read the messages 10 times before I sent to her so it couldn’t be misread. She doesn’t reason with me, when we argue, she blows up, walks away and then I have to guess when she’s ok. I wake up the following day not knowing and hear those shells break under my feet as I get ready for work again. I may come home and things are fine only to realise they’re actually not and I’ve fallen in to a trap of being in the room to be ‘abused’ again.
    If I was mean or selfish I would understand. I’m actually very kind although I think I can be selfish, when it comes to helping others I’m at the front of the queue. I admit I don’t ‘see things’ when they need to be done but I’ll gladly jump to help if I’m asked. Things like chores are missed by me as I don’t look for them when I walk around the house. I do the laundry when the bin is full. I fill up the dishwasher, I empty when it’s complete. I cook a lot so do things I see. I’m not a good cleaner in that it takes me ages to do it as I don’t want to miss anything but it’s never good enough for my wife so she does it, then tells me I never do anything.
    When out my wife is the most beautiful person you could meet. Funny, cute and definitely a good person to have around. This is all an act as the second we pull up on the drive she transforms in to this other person who I live with.
    I’m actually going to front my wife with this tonight as I think it’s now at a break point for me hence why I went looking for websites on advice today. I do need to face up to her and explain, assuming she will sit still and listen to me.
    Thank you for posting this, I really needed it.

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      I have one suggestion for you as you approach this conversation – make this the “first” of many conversations. It is likely that your wife’s initial response to your description of what is happening for you might be very defensive and accusative. But I would ask her to think about what you are saying. And attempt future conversations. See if you can reach some point of agreement, such as, yes I agree, we are having some problems. Then perhaps you both can agree to go for a consultation and see if you want to and can work on the relationship. Good luck.

  12. Jimmy - San Diego

    I’m still unsure about what I’m experiencing. My brother thinks I’ve married a lazy, entitled woman, but I’m careful of other people’s opinions because my situation is very unique. I’m disabled, living in a wheelchair with chronic pain due to a work related injury. However, I accept my physical situation and fortunately I have a strong income from my injury insurance and investments to support us so that my wife doesn’t have to work. My wife hasn’t worked since we got married because we wanted to start a family, but it took three years to have our first child. (For the record, we met after my injury).

    My wife complained a lot prior to having children. She complained about our home, how hard it was keeping it clean, that she never had any free time, etc. It seemed a bit ridiculous but she always had a good or at least aggressive response to any criticism I dared offer.

    I have been building a start-up business for the past few years from home, which I knew would take years to succeed in and to finally receive a paycheck for my efforts. Luckily I have money already so we won’t go broke if I fail. But it’s still work which requires a hell of a lot of commitment if it is ever to succeed and afford the lifestyle we envision for ourselves in the future. Now that we have a child, and another on the way, it’s becoming impossible getting work done even with a nanny twice a week and a cleaning service twice a month. During work hours I end up spending about two hours a day with my child so my wife can accomplish things. After work hours I am involved right up until she takes him for bath and bed, upon which time I clean the dishes and then sit down to do more work or take pain killers and watch some TV.

    Now, to her defence, she does all the bathing, all the baby’s meals, and she has begun letting me sleep in until 8am since I often end up working at night to catch up. She cooks about once or twice a week, but usually I pick up take-out or we order in or fend for ourselves. I do my own laundry but she does all the other household laundry. I know she is now genuinely busy, but the level of complaining and nagging has changed little since life before having kids. Furthermore, I can’t help but wondering how other wives manage to complete houeshold tasks when their husbands are at work all day. Somehow it can be done without hating life, right? I have dared ask this question when I am fed up, but it always comes down to her life being so much harder because I’m disabled. A couple times I mentioned that I was providing the equivalent of twice the average income of our friends, which isn’t bad for a disabled guy, and that if we need more she could go back to work and spend her income on any more help I can’t seem to provide. Turns out money is a taboo topic even though disability is fair game.

    When I go traveling for work for a few days every couple months, it’s like I’m coming home to a woman who has been through war. Is it all that bad? When I’m working at home, she interrupts my work multiple times a day so I can hold the baby for 15-40minutes while she does something, and it drives me crazy because it really interrupts my progress. I’ve told her this, but she acknowledges it for about day. She’s terrifying to argue with, because her claws really come out – An offensive defence method. – She has said awful things that for many people would be relationship enders on the spot (I won’t mention them). I know that I have a high threshold for abuse and I hate conflict, but it’s starting to make me so unhappy being around such a negative presence in my life. I want to succeed in my work thanks to the support of my wife, not despite her. She has always said that her life is so much harder than normal wives because of my injury. But the thing is, I don’t require any physical care, I spend more time with my child than 90% of my working friends, and the money I brought into this marriage supports us at a standard greater than 75% of our friends. But whenever I state these facts, she always has arguments against them.

    Until I started getting some public accolades for my company, she treated my unpaid work as an unvalued hobby. It starts to feel like I’m a paycheck sometimes. She’s highly unaffectionate, minimally sympathetic to the pain I fight through every day to try get out and make more money for us, and frankly I’m starting to resent her in ways I worry I can’t come back from. When she’s sick or tired or in some for of pain, my natural tendency is to want to comfort her, but lately I just think of it as another complaint that’s probably exaggerated and why should I comfort her when she doesn’t do it for me? I hate thinking like this. It’s not who I am. I want to love and be loved. Not nag and be nagged. The crazy thing is, she puts on an incredibly kind face for everybody in public. My uncle thinks I’ve married a kind, sweet woman. Inside the home is an entirely different woman, she turns all her frustrations out on me. If I ever were to leave her people would be baffled as to why, probably assuming the worst about me.

    But here’s the thing… she can be sweet or fun about 20% of the time, she is a great mother to our son, AND I do still love her. I always have this hope that at the next stage things will be easier and therefor better. But I do have thoughts of divorce, which scare me, but I doubt I ever would because I love my son too much to be away from him and I would worry about my kids growing up with a negative outlook on life. I feel a need to be there for them to compensate with proactive examples. Life is not easy, but just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean it has to suck. I love life, and my life is very hard at times. I can’t seem to get that through her head and I worry it is because she is predisposed to being discontent with life. Or worse, entitled to more than the world owes her. No matter what stage of her life, she always has well scripted reasons for her struggles. I’m really concerned for our future and would love some thoughtful insight. Thank you.

    PS. JP from London’s comment also felt like it could have been written by me: “when we argue, she blows up, walks away and then I have to guess when she’s ok. I wake up the following day not knowing and hear those shells break under my feet as I get ready for work again.”

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Jimmy your situation is very troubling, something you know. With children in the home this kind of unhappiness and tension is contagious and you are right to face the facts now before all spirals out of control. What accounts for your wife’s unhappiness is unclear. One could speculate as to her underlying issues but that never gets you anywhere. She has to be on board with you to acknowledge the “shared unhappiness” (you are unhappy too) that could tear this family apart. This is always the first step – the conversation; we are not doing well together. Outing the negative will likely lead to an attack or defense – no matter. Step 2, after some of the dust settles, you point out that “we need a third party to help us understand what is making us unhappy and how to try to fix it.” It is “our unhappiness together” not just her seeming dissatisfactions with you or your life together. Step 3 – agree to find that expert, someone who both of you are comfortable seeing together.

      This process can take time – time spent staying on track – We need to bring our unhappiness to someone who can help us find a new direction. Over a period of months if this option is only met with resistance, than I would suggest that you see someone individually so that you can learn new strategies in coping with your life and eventually finding a new solution.


  13. Peter

    Hi everyone,

    this article describes my life. And I am completely aware of my situation. My wive and I married in 2007. We have two daughters (1 and 5 years). Our live is hell. We are constantly fighting.

    I try to get through to my wive that I feel abused. Ever since we moved in together we have been fighting far too much. Over the years it has become worse. Now we find ourselves in a tough situation. We started going to see a therapist and we make some progress but it is slow, very slow. My parents visited us for 1.5 weeks now and I am close to having a hard-attack. My wive keeps bullying me because she can’t stand my parents. To be fair my parents are not exactly perfect – but the way she reacts to (in my opinion) minor inconveniences – is crazy. I dont have aproblem calling it what it is. I am straight-out scared of her. She explodes on a moments notice. I can handle it well when I am alone but when my parents are around I need her to be nice to me – I dont know why? And it rips me apart. I want to leave but I feel responsible for my kids. I am looking for someone to talk to that is in a similar situation. Anybody interested in chatmailing? ( My kik is: “peterkrieg4”- I am located in Germany).

    All the best

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Good luck Peter. I hope that you find someone to chat with – sorry for delay in responding to your note. Of course it is particularly humiliating when your wife’s behaviors are seen by your parents. They are witnesses.

  14. Jon

    Awesome article…bringing light where once was darkness. I speak from experience..living a life sentence. Now to stay with someone long term who is such a bully..I feel we are talking codependency…the nicest guys getting pummeled by the increasingly irrational….and yes I see over time it gets worse..the man more and more down trodden more isolated…they stay for the kids sake. Those that do not stay ..how many snap and fight physically back…and their outcome for doing do?! Has some women found their voice but lost their hearts. How many women by percentage abuse?

  15. Peter

    Thank you for this article. I can see the comments stretch over several years, and I am the latest to add to them.

    Of course, I’m in the same predicament as most of the people here, and I’ve just booked counselling. I’d love to give this article to my wife, but her English isn’t good enough for her to really understand some of the subtleties of your writing. But in my case I can definitely see where she gets her behaviour from too – her mother (who spends her life telling everyone what to do)!

    In my case, there’s a lot of cross cultural stuff going on too, and although I have tried in the past to point out that she is abusive and bullying, of course she just dismisses it.

    Hopefully the counselling will finally provide a 3rd person to tell her to sort out her attitude, but in the meantime I just wanted to salute all the long suffering menfolk who have written here!

  16. Jonathan

    My wife and l have been married for almost 15 years. I believe she fits the criteria of a bully as outlined in this article and others l have read. I am exhausted from the abuse. There is a cyclical component to the mistreatment, however, with some days marked with gentleness and kindness. Such days cause me to question my diagnosis of bully, but cutting words return and my assessment is confirmed. I hear the recommendations for counseling, but my question is this: can a bully transform into someone better? Is this not a personality issue that is so ingrained in the fiber of who that person is, making “therapy” superfluous? For example, sarcasm is my wife’s daily language, and to point this out to her consistently leads to a sharp rebuke, coupled with an accusation of pathological hypersensitivity. This behavior is clearly evident in her father, so it was learned as normal. I don’t see this as something that can be undone. Further, defending myself in a calm and logical manner is not met with introspection and respectful consideration of my point of view, but rather with an accusation that l have attacked her. Additional attempts to rephrase prove futile, causing me to apologize as the ONLY way to deescalate the conflict. Following this, l feel angry at myself for “falling on my sword” when it is l who dererve the apology. In essence, my wife has zero ability to self-evaluate her behavior in terms of its negative impact on me. For this reason, l contemplate the option of divorce, but remain reluctant noting the hell that comes with such a move.

  17. Anyhony

    I see myself in almost all of the stories,walking on eggshells all the time. She is bipolar and will snap over nothing. Lately the bullying has gotten worse. She is going yhrough menopause which aggrevates the bipolar. She denies this and her friends all agree with her.i’m consideting divorce even though i would lose rverything.

  18. Carol

    My beautiful boy took his own life almost 3 years ago. He was 37 years old and a victim of psychological and physical abuse by his wife. He left behind his little 4 year old boy. We tried to intervene but to no avail. He was isolated from friends and family. We haven’t seen our little grandchild for over 2 and a half years. Our hearts are broken.

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Dear Carol,

      I am sorry to read of these losses of your son and of the vital relationship with your grandson. Nothing like this should ever happen. How toxic can one person be? I hope that your grandson finds you and that you find comfort in sharing in his life.

  19. mike

    Hi Jill,

    You used ‘sort out’ several times incorrectly.

    e.g., Have you sort out psychotherapy? /should be/ …sought out..

  20. Mick

    Dear Jill,
    My wife bullies me. She berates me for a litany of (some actual, most perceived) slights and minor crimes that are stored in her vast memory banks. I can never be free of any of them irrespective of whether apologies or changes of approach have followed. When she takes offence and the heavy storms inevitably come I batten down the hatches and hold on till it passes, which takes many hours, often till the early hours of the morning. If I try to move away from the torrent of irrational abuse my way is blocked and I am prevented from leaving the room or the house. I am told I am cold and I don’t care to understand her feelings and that I should listen and not avoid her – I try to, but it makes no difference. The situation of being penned against my will stresses me intensely, but my pleas to be left alone and for calm and space are mocked and ignored. When I try to move away she says to me that I ‘can’t handle it’ and that I have no courage and am running away. I am belittled terribly and there is no space for reasoning, no hearing when I try to talk, she continues to barrack me and shout over me repeating the same old tired phrases, as if by repetition and force they will be made true or by some peculiar alchemy they will make things better. I have lost my temper a number of times in the past after hours of intense and relentless pressure like this and forced her out of my way. She is of small stature but very strong when angry and puts up a hell of a fight when I try and leave, tearing at my clothes and shouting all the more. I used to leave and go to a country lane or somewhere else quiet and peaceful, but I’ve stopped leaving now as it does no good. When I eventually return the storm is more fierce and she has only extended her list of ‘crimes’ to accuse me. The following day she behaves as if nothing has happened and never shows any regret or remorse. She will even post messages on social media within a few days saying how ‘wonderful’ I am. Those outside of this situation would never suspect her of being like this. Sometimes I consider the only reason I stay is for the sake of our boys. I’m not especially seeking advice, I just wanted to share with other men in a similar situation. Thank you to everyone who shared, I read them all and relate.

  21. Richard

    I’ll start by saying that I am a strong-minded person with confidence, high morals, and strong beliefs. I generally see the good in others and like/try to take the high road when conflicts occur. I work hard and am generally thought of as a good man. Three months ago, I left home because I am married to a bully. The high road became impossible. Defending myself became the norm. Confrontation was daily. So I left, but one month ago, I returned after much communication, deliberation and resolve to work things out. I have known her for 35 years, been married for 5. In full disclosure, we were friends long before we were married and did live together for 8 years before getting married. I married a strong-willed woman. She is a fighter by nature. But the joke on me is that once we became married partners, I became a target.I started to secretly (internally) use the behavioral name “bully” toward her within the last year, but I see now that the behaviors that others have described here have applied to my wife for a long time. She loves but bullies her kids. She bullies her neighbors. She bullies her aging parents. Any small slight in public, on TV, in a chat room can result in the hate word coming from her. I retired last year and all I want now is peace in my life. She makes fun of that, and says that when I use the word peace, it makes her sick. All the while, she claims I am the one at fault, and my faults are enormous. We’ve both been divorced before, so neither of us wants it again. But this life is not peaceful, much less happy. Who wants to live their life this way? Its seems that the men who write here have all asked themselves that question.

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Dear Mick, You have one option that I am not aware yet, that you have utilized – seeking a third party to help you two out.If you wife refuses at first, she will eventually agree if you go forward.

  22. At last

    Finally someone spekaing the truth and don’t simply put the blame on the husband. Of course both parties have part of the blame. However, soooooo many articles out there exclusively keep blaming the man. Sadly, it is not necessarily simply with an article that a woman will change. Nevertheless, at least as a man i can find some comfort reading such article and knowing that there is at least someone who hears us. Thank you very much!

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      I’m glad that you find some comfort in this post. It helps to feel understood and hopefully if shared, it can help open up a conversation with your wife or with some friends and perhaps a therapist. Good luck.

  23. Shiela

    Gentlemen, there’s a thin line between perception and reality. Your perception becomes your reality. You have transferred your meekness onto your strong willed wives ( you were super attracted to them because of this quality). Now you perceive her strength as a fault. Only because you you:
    A) aren’t committed any more and need a narrative to justify your self and your own behavior ( basically immaturity and lack of growth into being a man ( which you find difficult as she is strong willed)). So you project your insecurity into her and the marriage.
    B) you are bored and lazy. Lazy to go the work required to find the fire in your belly to save your marriage because it’s easier to blame others.
    C) your narrative ( perception) is now your reality. And you well know , she had been doing all the “work” while you slither about in the back ground being an “ observer” rather thAn a participant . Therby confirming everything she does as your passive reality.

    D) she know this. She feels this. It pisses her off and she rages.
    YOU created the cycle. You sit back .
    Look into it.
    I can tell you this , your women are awesome . You just don’t see them as so anymore. You are bored. You prefer to sit back and take everything as a slight rather than looking at yourselves .
    Your perception is YOUR reality . Don’t blame her. She’s not a bully. She’s with a passive man who won’t make a partnership but rather play the victim .
    Tuff , I know. But it’s essier at the end of the day to blame and point than to take a good solid inventory and be an empathetic partner rather than Judgemental, poor me .. I’m the good guy.

    Takes two to tango babes! She is sick of you as well.
    She’s not a bully . She is unsafe with you. Emotionally and financially . And now she has children with you. That’s what she knows.

    she fights to feel safe.

    While you sit back and watch her and judge her.

    Xo s

  24. Marvin

    Loved the article!! This coming from a man whose been married 27 years and dated the same woman 7 years before that – I was looking for something to figure how I could cope with a know it all wife. After reading the artical bully wife seems acute. IMO when most ppl date they hide the dark side of themselves, so you don’t see all the anger, judging so on. That gets saved for after you say I do !!! Marriage is hard dam work!!! I’ll admit I have days I can’t stand her as I’m sure she has with me. Over the years she has become more and more her mom. A person whose only opinion matters, always has something to say, nothing is ever good enough, constant verbal gabs without the ability to / change or grow out of it. Even with our kids letting her know how she treats all of us it only entrenches her more. Woman / moms get a pass on so many things and being a bully is one of them. The perception that they can’t bully or abuse their spouse is ridiculous! I would also like to add they have the benefit of our culture, where men don’t like to talk about real problems and dam sure don’t want to tell anyone they can’t handle their wife. Guys get together and we talk sports, cars, house projects etc. most of us are not going to open up some deep emotional conversation. I don’t think I’ve ever heard or had a conversation with my buddies about my abusive/ bulling wife. I’ve spent a lot of years staying together because of our kids. So I can really understand the good parent comment. 27 years is a long time and not looking for a way out but would love to figure out a way for better understanding on both sides.

  25. Marvin

    Shiela, IMO it sounds like 1 or 2 things from you.
    1 sounds like you cannot “own your bulling” . It’s ok the article is written to spark a conversation but I get it – I live with a wife that sounds much like you. It’s always someone’s fault she’s mean or maybe we just need thicker skin. But it’s your opinion, the perception vs reality was way for you to justify your actions and or feelings.
    2. Or you feel you do all the “work” in your relationships and yet men can’t ” mature ” with you. So did you man or from the sound of it several men leave you for your being ” strong willed”? Or was it because you kept telling them they are lazy?
    Cant say men aren’t willing to put in the work, I’ve been married 27 years. Maybe men just can’t put in the work with you. Just sayin

    • Sheila

      Marvin, I have 2 kids. A great career. Waited to get married. Only married once. Asked him to leave last year. Zipping up the divorce. 13 years. Saving myself the next 13 to spend with a man.

      Money problems? Nope. Sex? Nope. Kids ? Nope.
      I married a boy child.

      I grew with the responsibilities of life. And boy am I good at handling them ! Might I add, enjoying every second of it from bringing home grade A bacon, cooking it up , cleaning it up and creating a safe and warm heath and oh so open to the bedroom! Always:)

      Looking in the rear view mirror, moms are only given the bully title by boys and men. Marvin, I like your brain. You have insight. Run with it. Talk to your buddies. Talk to your wife .Then talk to her like the girl you were dating . I bet you won’t have an easy time finding her ( for crying out loud neither can she… she’s just so busy !! )

      .. may take a bit . Another few years. But you seem to have the grit for it. In your own words “ it’s hard work”. You do seem like a man to me. But don’t lose the boy! Keep them both alive. With a little help from your loved ones..
      Cheers! S

  26. Sheila

    Marvin, MArvin! I have been busy but a response has been lingering for a while.
    Firstly, I find you respectful. And manly. Heck, relationships are hard.

    But also beautiful because once you are married and committed you fell “safe” to let out some traits. No , you were not duped. Your wife is a more complicated creature thN you. Women are. I’m glad I am a woman but I do understand a mans angst with their woman. My girl friends drive me nuts! I often wonder how their hubby’s put up with them ,
    That said, let me defend myself. A bit. I was married for 20 years. Currently going through a bitter divorce. All good feelings are gone. All respect gone. He cheated while I worked my ass off. Has a girlfriend. I’m just wowed! I married late in life. HAve an amazing career. Can rule a board room . Can be a total slut in the bedroom. Love to cook and clean ! I’m a happy person.
    In my marriage I kept everything mentioned above going but lost my happiness. I realized I married a man / boy child. No emotions. No deep thoughts. Heck after s while you wonder if you are dying emotionally. I am certainly not a walk in the park. But I am
    Essentially a happy person and felt oh so lost. I did not bully . I just got it all done with a smile and a wink. But he saw things differently. He resented my achievements, my efficiencies.. so he tried to take “power” with pseudo manliness. And I was the bully.
    Never lived with another man before I married. Had a few relationships but I never wanted to marry. It was in my late forties that I decided when I met my hubby. I mistook his shyness and quietness as depth. It was a ruse.. I had money , a home , and a lot to offer.
    I married potential . My bad. Upon his exit, I was crazy and a bully.

    So I have not given my heart to a man who would leave. I can’t say that men have left me. I can’t say I can’t own my “ bullying”. I’m just a doer.

    But essentially a man by virtue of his wife’s efficiencies may start to feel devalued. You see we women are just as arrogant as men . You can fix a car and fix a house , we can take care of details. But if you stop , we can do it all. If we stop, the train comes to sceaching halt or putters out. That makes us bullies?
    I donno anything anymore. My comments are not towards all men and my comments are jaded by my experiences so take it with a grain of salt. I’m hoping to find a man . In the interim , I bot myself a huge diamond and married myself as the divorce moves forward. He will regret it. I know. It will be the same old bullshit but with a brunette this time. I may have the same thing happen to me because we are now stuck in our ways and carry our historical associations and baggage on our back ( kids , x ‘s etc).
    Becomes a tuffer hike so why not steal her heart again. I guarenteee if you mAke her feel safe, she will be more playful.
    Happy new year !

  27. J. Allen

    I feel like I can’t not respond to this article. I have never seen Curb Your Enthusiasm, but I can imagine it from the description. The “dumb man” and “angry wife” scenario is so prevalent in television sitcoms and I have learned to dislike that we somehow find that kind of home situation acceptable let alone humorous.
    Anyway, I have read several help articles about my situation, and I can relate to at least a few things in each one, but I cannot adequately express how much this article EXACTLY describes my situation. I have been married for 7 years and it has been rocky pretty much the entire time. I have been bullied since childhood on the playground, by older siblings and even by some employers. Even in adulthood it seems I can’t escape it. At work I have sat in HR sessions where essentially the result is that while a boss being a bully is horrible, it is not illegal and therefore nothing can be done. I digress, but my point is that the helplessness is real, and to have the abuse coming from a spouse is just unspeakable. I can look past other people being jerks to me, but when it comes from the one person I want to trust, want to love, whose opinion I truly value, whose behavior has real personal meaning to me, I am beyond words to describe the pain.
    I saw recently a graphic saying that “if you are not capable of cruelty, you absolutely are or will be the victim of someone who is.” It seems that gender is not so much a factor as is personality in patterns of abuse, and I am glad this is becoming more widely known.
    One specific thing different about my situation is that I enjoy video games as a hobby, and I am usually reliable in making sure I have taken care of all household responsibilities before I sit down to play them. But being a gamer means being stigmatized heavily by those who are not. That includes my wife. To her I am just wasting my life and she disrepects me for it frequently, and belittles my sadness about it. I do not spend my time doing what she deems as important, and she looks down on me for that. I start to associate my hobby with the pain I feel, and then have trouble even enjoying it anymore and develop depression.
    It ia not like I am a deadbeat dad as the sterotype would suggest. I do a fair amount of the housework, and am willing to do it if my wife hasn’t already, but I am not as conscientious or have the same sense of urgency about things as she does and therefore I will miss things and she will either chew me out or do them herself and resent me for it. So I am never good enough and constantly afraid I am gonna bypass something and suffer for it. I can’t help but feel it unfair, especially when I am actively trying to be helpful, while I then see a friend who appears to be happily married and somehow has managed to have 2 kids and never even changed a diaper! But I digress. I try to get her to help me remeber or be conscientious by having a “honey-do-list” whiteboard where she can write stuff down for me to do when she doesn’t have time. She doesn’t like this because she prefers stuff be done more immediately, and sometimes I don’t remember to look at the whiteboard when I get home. She has also developed the mindset lately that she shouldn’t even have to ask me and that I should be just doing it myself, or would be “if I were an adult.” Credits to feminist blogs for that one. :(
    My wife is constantly trying to be productive and often bites off more than she can chew. She books herself solid and then expects me to jump in and make up the difference. Her ambitions overtake both our lives. Making time to spend with me or be a part of my life is out of the question. I have come to feel like if she had all the time in the world she would not allocate any of it to doing what I enjoy. She will say I only give her one option (playing games), which isn’t true, but admittedly it would be my preference, and so she doesn’t even consider it. I will always join her for something she wants to do, but I rarely if ever am given that privilege.
    I have tried discussing things with her about our relationship, but it never ends well. I have worked with therapists before and things never change. Any implication that my wife is in the wrong lead to her beating herself up and feeling worthless and even more distant from me. I will probably share this article with her, but I am positive it will lead to the same result with her.
    Anyway, I don’t want this response to go on forever (and I probably could). But just wanted to say this article perfectly articulated my experience. I don’t know how to proceed. I now feel like I recognize I am being abused, but lack the gumption to make it stop. I have been made to feel so small and helpless. The thought of divorce scares me almost as much as she does, but I feel that may be my only option if I am ever to return to truly being happy again.

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      I appreciate your honesty and clarity. You describe a cycle of alienation that I have observed in other couples. I wrote a follow up article on Bully Wives posted on January 29th – it might be useful to share it with your wife if you are able. Bully Wives #2: Am I a Bully Wife? You describe your wife as pressured and perfectionistic which tells me that she may be setting harsh standards for herself.This can lead to anxiety and stress which intensifies her need for you to help her and the subsequent negative and disparaging behavior towards you if she feels disappointed in your response. You, on the other hand, see her perhaps as unrealistic and unfair in her demands. If neither of you plays “the victim” but rather figures out how in fact you can assist each other and be a team, not adversaries, then the bullying you are feeling so hurt by could cease. But of course this takes two of you to achieve.

  28. Larry

    I’m just another man to be added to this list of abused husbands. I am suicidal at this point and every day the thoughts go through my head how I will end it: jump off the top story of my company’s parking garage, hang myself, pills, crash my car, jump off a bridge? We have been married for almost 17 years our anniversary is a few weeks away. We haven’t been intimate for 10 of those years. This is not my choice. It was hers to avoid me, pull away. She told me 2 years ago she wanted to separate but we’ve been living in the same house in separate rooms for most of that time. In fact, we haven’t slept in the same room for over ten years. Her excuse was my snoring but I know that is was more than that. I know she never liked me and probably has just been looking for reason to get me to leave so she didn’t have to feel guilty about being the one to kick me out or admit she was the “bad guy”. I feel like all she ever wanted was kids and as soon as we had them, I was kicked to the curb. She even told me it was her dream to be a mother and have many kids. I didn’t realize that meant me being ignored completely as all her focus and attention went to them.

    Nothing I do is ever enough, and it’s all about how much money I make, or do tasks, or help her out with her studio. I have lost jobs or put my jobs in jeopardy because she over commits herself to things and I end up having to help her out. I drive 2 hours to work and 2 hours back every day, 70 miles each way. She constantly finds ways of singling out minor things and forgets all the other things I do that are positive. She calls me narcissistic, small minded, points out all my flaws – she has reduced me to a pile of rubble because whenever she stresses out it gets taken out on me and very mean and cruel ways. And like a fool I let her. I have tried many times to listen to her and be there emotionally for her, but it is never enough, or the wrong way, and she then tries to school me on this and the way I see it, it wouldn’t make a difference anyway because no matter what she needs to feel like it has to be the perfect way of caring for someone. It has to be done and worded in such a way that she feels ok. It is part of her OCD I’m sure.

    I have no where to go. We have 3 young daughters who are growing up seeing how she treats me and she has manipulated them in a way that makes it seems like she gives them the choice to make their own decision about me, but when they hear her yelling at me it obviously has influenced them into always thinking I am at fault – because she blames me literally for everything. I am not saying this as some stereotypical thing. She actually blames me for everything. Her family wants nothing to do with her and she has lost many friends. She says how hard it is and basically puts all of her emotional mess on me and claims I have no empathy yet she leaves no room for being consoled because she gives me no time, evades me, uses the kids as an excuse not to talk with me when I do try to reach out or engage her…it’s very obvious and yet she denies any wrong doing on her part.

    I cannot go on living with like this and she’s kicked me out several times where I lived in my car or a hotel, but mostly my car because we couldn’t afford the money for a hotel. I told her I was in a hotel so my kids wouldn’t worry. But I stopped doing that when 2 people were shot 2 rooms down from me. She agreed to let me back into the house but the reality is that I never should have moved out. She always needs to be in control. My problem is that we cant afford a divorce, cant afford to live in two different places, and this is destroying my kids lives. I feel so bad for them and see how she is reliving her own childhood and projecting it out others. She doesn’t realize she is the one being toxic and her expectations are beyond unrealistic. I need to escape and she has beaten me down to the point that as much as I love my kids, I feel there’s nothing left inside me to give them. I never thought I would be in this situation and i am depressed. On top of this my father had a stroke and she has barely shown any compassion to me about, barely asked about it. She never like them but they are elderly and this is the kind of thing that will impact them for the rest of their days and mine as well. They were abusive parents to me and I have put that in its place for my own healing, but they are still humans. She says she cares but her version of caring for everything is to talk to me like we’re business partners. Everything must be logical. She hasn’t touched me in 10 years. Not so much a hug or hand holding. No kiss. No sex. Nothing. She has openly told me that the thought of me touching her makes her skin crawl. These are so hurtful feel like a knife gong in my chest. I don’t want to cheat but she has basically sentenced me to involuntary celibacy. I have told her that I love her and showed that through all the support I have tried to give her, emotionally and physically – and yet she just sees me as someone that provides financial and physical support. I just want it to all stop and be over. And the only option i see while I am alive is heading towards being homeless, and unable to support my kids because my depression from all of this is so bad I am just walking away from every thing and want everything to end. I need it to end. I love my kids so much and I wanted this to work. My oldest daughter has Asperger’s and one of my twins has advanced severe Crohn’s. She needs care and I struggle just to afford healthcare for her to make sure her feeding tube equipment and other medical is paid for. I don’t want to kill myself but I need a break. I need someone to show me intimacy and compassion and tell me I am worth more than what my wife has reduced me to. Even as I sit here and write this, my eyes are filled with tears and sadness for them because I know there is a high chance I will probably commit suicide in the near future because I cannot endure this abuse much longer. I’m past the numb point. So I know it’s not long before I just act. I don’t want them to grow up without a father but right now I’m not sure I have it in me to survive anymore of my wife’s emotional abuse and neglect. We cant afford healthcare and I know just me being admitted to a facility will put us further into debt that we are already struggling to get out of. I am a good person. I am human. I make mistakes like everyone. She makes me feel like I am the worst human alive, and has emotionally abused to point where I have lost all sense of my identity and question if I am worth anything.

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Dear Laurence,

      I am glad that you are reaching out. That is the first step. I urge you to follow up with a mental health worker in your area. What you describe requires attention, calling a suicide hotline is necessary as well if you feel unable to rein in these impulses. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

      I know that you feel trapped but you are not. It takes someone professional to help you see beyond the depressive thoughts that restrict your ability to make good decisions. Depression over time creates a spiral of negative reinforcement that distorts thinking and provides a limited view of options. Here’s where you need to speak to friends and professionals who can guide you to other possible solutions. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

      Don’t wait.

  29. Ashley

    I am so happy someone wrote this article. I see woman bulling men all the time. Husbands or boyfriend they they get treated like children. As a women I think believe men need to be treated with respect after all men are our protectors, lovers, best friends. I am sorry to all the men out there that have to put up with that.

  30. Marta


    I am 24yr old woman and I think I am a bully to my boyfriend. I have been bullied by my mother from the the early age. She doubts everything I do and keeps telling me that I can’t achieve my goals. I am used to hearing things like ‘she got an A, why couldnt you?’ or ‘see, your friend x has always been more successful’ ‘girls are so stupid, I always wished I had a son’.

    I am a pretty ambitious person and have big goals set ahead of me. The worst is that her bullying works and I keep doing things as I see it as a challenge. It feels like I’m not worthy if I don’t achieve it.

    My other, younger sister is anorectic and obsessed with her looks. I’m pretty sure this is due to very low self-esteem that is caused by bullying. She is the only person who knows how it was to grow up with our toxic parents. My father has mental issues (schizophrenia and depression) and barely functions in the society. He went to law school, but didn’t pass the Bar and since thwn gave up and his mental issues started – resulting in a suicide attempt.

    Many times my mother told me ‘you’re just like him’. I keep questioning my self and analyzing my behaviors. I am sure I have issues too.
    I’ve been with my boyfriend for 1.5yrs now and we moved in together. My bullying started when we met. I wasn’t very happy about his job situation. He has a job that he got pretty much through his parents connections. He keeps complaining about it a lot too, that the company is not doing well, that the boss is terrible, which drives me crazy. I know he could do much better, given his educational background and connections.
    I keep telling him to change the job if he wants something more challenging, but he doesn’t take any action. He just keeps saying that I’m so right and it’s his fault that he doesn’t do it and that he’s so thankful that I motivate him lol.
    And it goes on and on.

    I study and work now and I’m tired on a daily basis. I get angry, very angry when I come back late and there’s nothing done at home.
    Most recently I got angry when we was with his friends and we made a plan to go out after my work. I asked him where should I meet them and he told me the name of the place 30mins by tube away. So i went there. Waited another hour only to find out that his friend didnt check properly and the place is actually close to my work. I got furious and i went back home. I yelled for 15mins. He was apologizing, but was also trying to avoid me. I wanted to talk at night. He out of the blue confessed his love and that he wants to have children with me and other long-term plans.

    At this point I think he is terrified of me. We also have a snoring problem that greatly contributes to the frustration between us. I wear earplugs every night, but still wake up 1 or 2 times per night because of his snoring. It makes me hate him…I know he can’t control it, but I’m so busy, I cant afford not sleeping.

    I snap at other people too. If someone disrespects me, crosses the line,I won’t ignore it. I see people who avoid confrontation as weak and pathetic.

    I completely cut ties with my family 2 months ago. I live in a different country anyway, so we started drifting apart few years back, when I moved.

    I acknowledge that I’m a toxic person and I’m going to start a therapy soon.

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Dear Marta,

      Thank you for your openness – your battles with yourself are clearly painful. Your choice to enter therapy is the right step. You sound insightful and courageous. This is the journey you need to be on…good luck.


  31. Karoline

    I work with a woman who’s a bully to her husband (and he works with us too), daughter and grandkids. To hear her tell it, these people never do anything right, she calls them all kinds of names (stupid idiot, fat pig, etc ). And she’s forever complaining about other co workers. This occurs on a daily basis and I feel so bad for those people, she is so mean to them. She even likes to brag about how mean she is to them. And forget it if you have a political view that’s different than hers (anyone who likes the president is a ‘TrumpTurd’). She is truly the meanest person I’ve ever encountered. Oddly enough, Being around her has taught me to be more loving and accepting of myself and my family. We all have shortcomings, but there’s never an excuse for cruelty.

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Dear Karoline,

      Thank you for reading my post. It is hard to fathom what makes people behave so cruelly to their “loved ones.” Likely there are many reasons but unless the individual has some degree of self-awareness/discomfort in their behavior or their family takes a united stand to say – enough let’s get some help here – well they just keep the poison going unchecked.

  32. Scott

    This morning, I am sitting here waiting for my wife to leave. My 8 year old son has a stomach bug and accidentally puked in his bedroom. My wife yelled at him and made him feel terrible. I was in the shower and she came in to the bathroom yelling at me about it. Nothing new. She hates the way I fold the kids clothes. I can’t load the dishwasher right. I never do a good enough job cleaning the house. I have a side job earning decent extra income. She gets pissed at me when I have to work over the weekend and she has to take care of the kids.
    Every single time, I have tried to react in a way that calms things down. It never works. Never. Over the years I have tried different strategies. I’ve argued back, not responded at all, tried to make up for my deficiencies. Nothing ever works. I feel absolutely hopeless after 13 years of marriage. We have a couple of kids and I do not want to leave them-they are pretty much what is keeping me alive.
    I have very lightly tried to talk to a male friend about this (he’s single) and he made it clear that he just thought I was having light marriage trouble. It is not light.
    Since the beginning, my wife has tried to isolate me from friends and family. She acts like she hates my family. She never comes with me and the kids to visit. She always criticizes them. I just feel so alone and at the end of my rope. Thanks for letting me vent.

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Dear Scott,

      I am late in responding but thank you for your comment. I would reach out to more friends to reduce the isolation and share. Reality testing and support go along way. If folks minimize the seriousness of your situation, know that likely they don’t know what else to do. Denial and rationalization are defenses people resort to when they feel powerless or out of their depth. Seek professional help – or a support group of some kind. Don’t let your life be narrowed by your marriage. You are following the unfortunate trajectory of an abused spouse and it will only harm your family more by doing so.


  33. Frank


    This article was incredibly enlightening.

    I’ve actually observed some of the described bullying behaviours in my wife’s older sister and mother. Both tend to treat their husband/son like they were incapable idiots even though I know for a fact they are not. Far from it.
    In fact one of the things I’ve always loved about my wife is that she didn’t inherit the same traits and I’ve complimented her for it at multiple occasions.

    Unfortunately, since she got pregnant, my wife started acting differently with me. She became bossier, more judgemental. Our conversations – normally based on mutual respect, sharing and open-mindedness – started sounding one-sided. It got worse when my baby boy arrived. The importance of my opinion dropped from « to be taken into account » to « to be shut up without listening to the end ». Most of the things we discussed concerning education have been forgotten. Instead, she will take her sister’s recommendations over mine (note that, originally, we didn’t share her views about education). I literally lost my right to have an opinion when it comes to our son and home.

    I’ve tried talking about it with her many times but it always turns into arguments. As a result I’ve grown incapable of telling her how I actually feel most of the time by fear and laziness to get into a fight. Obviously, it’s not a good strategy over the long-term and we usually find ourselves fighting for the things I didn’t want to mention.
    At several occasions I made the decision to be straightforward again but in the end her judgmental and mocking tone discouraged me to do so and/or pissed me off.
    When I attempted to explain why I wasn’t feeling comfortable sharing anymore she victimized herself. Called herself a “bad wife, bad mother, a control freak, a castrating wife, etc.” I can tell she’s not doing it on purpose but that doesn’t stop it from being exhausting and nerve breaking.

    Lately I’ve been hearing about that “baby clash” young parents talk about. It made me consider the idea that, perhaps, I’m the one being impatient and/or intolerant.
    Our kid is 7 months now and she hasn’t returned to her usual behavior at all, which makes me enormously worried. In fact, she’s started saying that THIS was her normal self and asked me why I’d chosen her if I didn’t like her personality.

    Basically, I feel terribly trapped. She wants me to be honest about how I feel but when I am, she immediately feels insulted (even when I talk about things that don’t concern her directly). Then come the arguments which will always have three possible endings:

    1. She victimized herself so bad all I can do is try to reassure her.
    2. We cut the argument short, stop talking for a bit of time then apologize without mentioning it again.
    3. She goes completely dramatic and can go as far as to take off her wedding ring.

    I really don’t know what to do here and I can tell it affects my confidence as a person and a father. I’ve had thoughts of resignation of late and great fears of not being at my best as a new dad. I even wondered if my kid wouldn’t be better off if we split up.
    Worse, I’m doubting my feeling for her and wonder whether I want to keep trying or not.

    I really don’t know what course of action I should take at this point. Any advice, even the slightest one, would be more than welcome.

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Frank, you have ably described a pattern that can be so destructive to a Coupledom and rightly are alarmed and reaching out for advice. Since you have tried to share your feelings and concerns with your wife and this has triggered a negative spiral I think it is time to consider professional help. Of course the best option is for both of you to see a couples therapist. I would frame this as “we need to talk with someone” in the interest of bettering our communications and for the benefit of our son and this family. This is critical and may not be successful in the first go around. But I would persist in a caring tone but in short conversations. If your wife repeats behaviors you’ve described above and resists agreeing to see someone together for the long term benefit of your little family, then I would seek help for yourself. The toll this is taking on your self-confidence and self-esteem suggests that this is adding a depressive piece to your normal mood. This is a troublesome picture that for the moment raises alarm bells. It is important to be open, as you appear to be and share with your wife that you need to examine your role in these problems as does she to reach a better outcome. I would also add, if she remains convinced she is being blamed or victimized, that you need some help yourself as the toll this acrimonious situation is taking on you is interfering with you getting on with your work and other aspects of your life. This is not a threat, but an accurate description and an alert that things can get worse.

      Thank you for reaching out.


      • Frank

        Thank you very much for your reply.
        Everything you say seems right. Although, I was honestly afraid you might suggest to seek for professional help.
        It definitely is the right thing to do but I feel so tired now that I’m not sure I’ll find the strength to do so…
        I am to blame for waiting to Long and letting the situation get worse.
        Now, I’m wondering if it’s even possible to go back to an healthy relationship. Do I even want it?

        In any case, your comment was helpful and I will look for someone to help me.

        • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

          Dear Frank,

          The fact that you feel so tired underscores the toll this relationship is taking on you (all of you likely) and possibly a sign of its depressive impact – a reason to contact a professional for sure. You are feeling so alone with this and that component heightens the pain. Go for it…for so many reasons. Stress like this does a job on your immune system as well.

          Thanks for sharing,


  34. William Hickford

    Hit the nail on the head. Could I have been better? More caring? Neater? More successful? Yes, I am by no means perfect. I try so hard to say nothing, then get accused of playing the silent game. No matter what I do, I will be the bad guy. Everyone loves my sweet wife. I have not any friend from the past. (insane jealousy stopped all that) No work mates allowed. No wet sponges on the stone bench. Have I got the appropriate shoes on for this outing? It never used to bother me. Spoons on the left, knives on the right. I was a chef – but never in our kitchen. Put the beans in a glass jar, not a cup. Stack the dishwasher. I hear her rearrange it completely. I thought I had that plate in the wrong spot, I tried 3 different ones and knew it would be wrong. Important that. Leave the dirty plate on the bench. No, I will definitely get abused for that. I don’t care if she leaves it on the bench, would anybody? I dare not to cook! My outdoor shed is where I live. No one sees it. And none of my family would believe it. I still do things occasionally to try to please her, but really, I have given up. So now after having worked 50 years fathered 3 happily married kids many grandkids, made her relatively wealthy, I am useless and feel useless, worthless. Welcome to the perfect family.

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Dear William,

      There are so many elements to this description that inspire more questions. But I think your reason to write is simply to share – and I am glad that you have done so. Fifty years of hard work and feeling unappreciated is heartbreaking and painful. Hiding your pain in the shed is not healthy so share on. Don’t stay isolated. Share with “new” friends perhaps or a therapist. Your health depends on it.

  35. MScott

    I think you are misinterpreting the male behaviour to heavily as fear, when in fact it’s more likely anger.

    From my experience one of the reasons these types of bullying women are not at a loss for words or details is that they are revising the events.
    The men, with no proof of their recollection, sit silent.

    Also, the bullying women typically have no issues with criticizing their husbands to their friends, relatives or anyone who will listen. The men, conversely, tend to regard this as treason and are less likely to engage.

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      I think you have added some good insight here.I have observed that many male spouses or partners seem more uncomfortable voicing criticism publicly – in therapy – than their female counterparts.

  36. Lee

    Thank you for the article. My husband recently told me that I bully him. I thought he no longer had sexx with me because I gained weight. I thought he didn’t want to spend time with me because every day he came home and went straight to his room after dinner. I wasn’t aware that my complaints about his lack of affection for me were demasculating to him. My question is how do I ask for my needs from a man who is frightened of me? How do I change? How can I be loving without getting stepped on? If I make a meal, he’ll say a little digging remark like what’s this are you sick? I have thoughts of walking in front of traffic just to end the pain of my marriage the loneliness is overwhelming. But how do I get love? Where do I start? How can I improve as a person?

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Dear Lee,

      Thank you for reading this post and for owning your behavior. That is the first step. Now we get into the complication of the chicken and the egg. Where did this all start? That gets folks into who to blame but clearly both of you have felt hurt and have chosen defenses that have widened the gap. Can you seek out professional help, even online during this pandemic. If not I would ask your husband join you in looking into reading some materials that might help. Certainly you can both review the many posts I have in my blog. And each of you trying to own behaviors that have been destructive and be honest and open about your pain without blame. Love is a loop and if the loop is interrupted, both partners have played a role.

  37. Mike

    I’m disabled mentally ……

    My wife is a bully who spits and ca uses marks on my body

    She also puts down my epilepsy. Ptsd. Ocd and childhood abuse based on her mood.

    She refuses to acknowledge her triggers and responses.

    She refuses to accept my damaged brain is the result of my moods. She uses this to wash herself of sin.

    The next day she will be caring and I will explain how it felt. However it is always my disabled fault with abandonment following.

    Why am I being dismissed and dropped and bullied. What is it that makes ppl hate and bully the disabled. I see three therapists and other doctors.

    Her rebutted is her psychologist is dumb. Stupid etc…. then she quotes them when suitable.

    I’m scared for my health and safety. I cannot leave I come from abuse. I know abuse. This is abuse.

    • Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W

      Dear Mike,

      I hope this doesn’t sound lame but I would look for an epilepsy support group.One of the most healing and helpful options in life is to be with folks who experience what we do and understand what all of that means. Because of that, the bonds are strong and the resources are friendship, empathy and help that comes from experience.


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