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Sat, Aug. 17

Dear Rhonda & Dr. Cheri: My husband is an emotional bully

Rhonda Orr and Dr. Cheri L. McDonald, PhD, LMFT

Rhonda Orr and Dr. Cheri L. McDonald, PhD, LMFT

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

Your columns validate that my husband is a bully. Bullying isn’t just for kids.

He says he’ll hurt someone before they hurt him, assuming people will hurt him — even me. How does he know? He makes up things in his mind.

He controls our conversations and cuts me off before I can tell him I’m in emotional pain. He just shuts me down. He starts talking about how he feels and ignores my feelings. It’s all about him. He blames me, if someone hurts my feelings, and says I did something to them.

He has no compassion for me, ever. I’m not overly sensitive, but he blames me for everything and says I think very highly of myself.

My husband says he’s a great team player. He’s not — not in work relationships or any that I can think of. He does everything himself and doesn’t have friends. He’s offensive and has a bad temper.

I can’t confront him, because he doesn’t think anything’s wrong with him.


Hurt Wife

Dear Wife,

An emotional bully is often someone who is “emotionally unavailable” and that’s the problem here. It’s horribly painful not to get close to the one you love.

The anger, criticism, and shaming may be used by your husband to create distance, so he doesn’t have to take responsibility for his inept ability to communicate or work together as a team.

Shutting you down means he never has to look deeply at himself or listen to your needs or desires. It’s easy to blame and shame others. It’s unacceptable to use you as an emotional punching bag. He needs to become vulnerable, to connect with you emotionally.

Bullying and abuse have the same descriptors, according to Bobby Kipper, executive director of the National Center for Prevention of Community Violence. Emotional abuse is usually worse than physical abuse, and it lasts longer.

A person who’s insecure may also be narcissistic. A self-absorbed person wants you to pretend he’s more powerful, so he may feel supreme. If you don’t play along, then you must be the problem. He has low self-esteem and he’s using you to build himself up.

We understand you don’t want to confront him, but you both need professional counseling. If he refuses counseling, take a break from him to assess the quality of your life. Remember, you can change only you and your circumstances. You are entitled to stop his abuse by having private time to remind yourself that you are worth it.

You are the one who decides not to stay a victim, and keep working on the hardest part of your life.


Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

Rhonda Orr is the president and founder of the Prescott-based Rhonda’s Stop Bullying Foundation. Dr. Cheri L. McDonald, PhD, LMFT, is a crime-victim specialist. Listen to Rhonda’s podcast:


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