DR. CELESTE CATANIA-OPRIS, PH.D., LMFT
Every couple argues. It is impossible for two people to agree on everything, all of the time. There is a difference, however, between disagreeing and feeling coerced into agreeing with your partner. Some behaviors we experience with our partners can be considered “bullying behaviors.” Below are some signs to look out for when reflecting on your own relationship.
When communicating, do you or your partner frequently interrupt or talk over each other as one tries to speak? It’s understandable to be excited and want to add to a story, but it can appear rather aggressive if either of you have no regard for the other person’s input. This can make people feel invisible, ignored, and disrespected.
Perhaps you or your partner often tell each other, “You’re wrong,” “Shut up,” or mock one another when speaking. These actions can feel embarrassing and demeaning, especially if they are stated in front of a group of people. This can cause individuals to slowly push away their partners and may potentially impair healthy communication.
There is also a difference between a request and a command. Do either one of you come across as “bossy,” regularly telling your partner what to do instead of asking for things? People need to feel respected and appreciated, so the way you deliver a message may be too intense and sound like a command rather than a request. This may result in our partners feeling undervalued and overlooked. Saying “please” and “thank you” can help. Sometimes we get a little too comfortable with each other, especially after being with our partners for many years. Remember to talk to each other with the same level of respect and consideration you would offer a friend or family member.
By the same token, are you or your partner overly critical of each other? For instance, do you frequently criticize the other’s job, financial status, or make negative comments regarding their side of the family? Perhaps you have made multiple comments about their physical physique, such as weight gain, normal signs of aging, etc. This can cause people to feel insecure and unwanted. There is no need to repeatedly point out these observations. People already know and feel these changes, so perhaps display empathy and a sense of understanding as these changes can feel unfamiliar and sometimes too difficult to accept.
Question the roles in your relationship. Is there a bully present? If so, consider discussing these points with your partner. Remind yourselves that we are all human. Everyone makes mistakes, but we need to own up to them when they happen. Simply admit, acknowledge, and apologize when your words or actions hurt your partner. It will not make you any less of a person, even though being vulnerable can make us feel that way sometimes. That discomfort you may feel is simply growth; embrace it and be proud of yourselves. It takes maturity to admit our faults and integrity to continue growing as a person. Keep growing, keep learning, and never stop trying.
Celeste Catania-Opris, Ph.D., LMFT, offers therapeutic services to individuals, couples, and families. Visit www.TherapyForModernHousewives.com.