The holidays are a perfect time to recognize and respond effectively to the early warning signs of bullying boyfriends, controlling girlfriends and domineering dates.  Whether these control-freaks are stimulated by holiday pressures and stresses, or they simply seize the opportunity to take charge of multiple events, their subversive, controlling tactics become more apparent during the holidays.

Many people need coaching help at this time of year to stop the Grinches who want to destroy their family fun.

Call these control-freaks “bullies” when:

  • They won’t allow you to continue family traditions you love.
  • They try to control the timing of visits to your family.
  • They insist that the holidays must be celebrated the way they want.
  • They insist that the holidays are merely foolish, commercial events and you’re not allowed to feel good cheer or to celebrate.
  • They insist on a hostile review your choice of presents.  They won’t allow the “Secret Santa” gifts.
  • They fight over every little arrangement.  They’ll harass you until you give in.

Some of these abusive bullies are overt – they threaten or use force or they simply block your way and won’t let you leave or they throw big fits and threaten to break up with you.

Some of the early warning signs of the subtle, covert, stealthy, sneaky, manipulative bullies are:

  1. They control everything; they make the rules – 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.
  4. They control you with their disapproval, name-calling, demeaning putdowns, blame and guilt.  Their negativity is depressing.  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 pets, your favorite things.  You’re told that you’re to blame if they’re angry.  You feel emotionally blackmailed, intimidated and drained.
  6. They insist that their values are right and yours are “silly” or “wrong” or “illogical.”
  7. They isolate you – they won’t allow you to see your friends or family, go to school or even work.

They use their ruthless logic to prove that they’re right and that you should do things their way.  To defy them means a war that would ruin the holidays.

The temptation for nice people is to find excuses for bullies’ explosive feelings and controlling actions, and to give in.  The temptation is to think you can give them the love they didn’t get when they were kids or that you can love them so much that they’ll become nice.  The temptation is to think that they’ll change with time.

Don’t give in to those temptations.  Don’t argue, debate or try to convince them that they should change.

While they’re still merely boyfriends, girlfriends or dates, vote them off your island.  Make the break before you move in, buy a house or have children.  No matter how much you think you love them, make the break immediately.

Enjoy a dateless holiday this year so that you can make space for someone better to come into your life next year.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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).

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