Divorces are hard enough even in the best of circumstances. But when the partner you’re divorcing is a bully, things get even more complicated, and the path to freedom is full of potholes and obstacles that can trip up even the savviest individuals.
What’s a Bully?
In this context, the kind of bully we’re talking about is the control-freak. The partner who carries an unhealthy dose of disdain and superiority aimed at his or her soon-to-be-ex-spouse.
Generally speaking, this kind of bully makes him- or herself known well before the first pleadings are served. But divorce itself can also bring out the worst in folks, turning relatively easy-going people into grown toddlers insistent on having “their way.”
Protecting Yourself From the Bully In Divorce Proceedings
If you know you’re going to be dealing with a bully, you can take some steps to protect yourself before the case is filed.
But you’re not just threatened financially by a bully. Your self-esteem and your psychological health can also take a beating at a bully’s hands. For that reason, I’d also add the following suggestions:
- Gather your support network early. Tell them what’s going on. Some of them may need to testify on your behalf about controlling behaviors they’ve seen, so make sure you’re surrounded by emotionally supportive people with your best interests at heart.
- Do not let the bully use the children. It’s a horrible idea in any divorce to corral the kids into the parents’ disagreements, but especially when a bully is one of the parties. Talk to the kids in a neutral, non-accusatory way about the behavior, if it’s reported, and whatever you do …
- Refrain from “defending” yourself to the children. If the other parent is a bully, they already know it, and it’s important to be the solid, stable parent with appropriate boundaries if custody will be an issue.
- Get therapy if you need it. It’s no longer the case that a divorcing spouse’s attempt to seek psychological health services works against him or her in divorce proceedings. In point of fact, courts routinely order counseling when there are contentious issues between the parties impacting the litigation and the resolution of the issues.