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Battling the Bully: Dealing with a Bullying Spouse

Bullies exist in all areas of human interaction -- including marriage. Men and women alike can find themselves married to a bully who undermines their confidence, destroys their self-esteem and makes them dread getting up in the morning.

What can you do if you're married to a bully?

1. Recognize that you (and your children, if you have any) deserve the right to live in an environment where you aren't subjected to condescending, belittling, passive-aggressive behavior. Accept that it isn't a healthy situation, and it isn't going to change until you take action. The bully has no incentive to change things as long as everything is working to his or her satisfaction.

2. Decide if your marriage is something you want to save. You may not have given up hope -- and that's okay. Just keep in mind that the bully is the person who has to want to change the situation. However, you have to speak up and insist that it's time to get help from an outside source. If your spouse refuses, it may be time to accept that there's no hope of salvaging the relationship.

3. Find a therapist. Whether you ultimately decide to try to save the marriage or end it, you need a therapist to help you change the dynamics of your relationship. Your spouse's bullying tactics must be successful on some level and feed some need that the bully has or he or she wouldn't keep doing it. You need to learn how to disengage and stop participating in the game.

4. Find a lawyer. If you decide that divorce is simply the better option, you need an attorney who can understand your situation. It's likely that you've developed some unhealthy reflexive habits -- like backing down at the first sign of trouble. You want an attorney who can help you prepare to react to the bully's tactics from a position of strength.

5. Keep a record. Some bullies back down when they're finally challenged -- others may escalate their behavior to try to force you back into "your place." Document any threats, intimidation tactics or demeaning behavior in case it becomes necessary to bring up the issue in court.

For more divorce advice or help leaving a marriage, seek out an attorney today.