Is He Teaching Our Son To Be A Bully Too?

Our childrens' characters, personalities and behaviours are heavily influenced by their early experiences with their 'role' models.

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Q - My husband has always been a dominant man, and I’ve accepted that over the years. I’ve got used to his put-downs and criticism of me, my cooking, how I look, my family, and how I take care of the house and our son.

What worries me now, is that my teenage son is speaking to me just like my husband does and I’ve now got two of them having a go at me all the time.

I’ve spoken to my husband about it and he just tells me not to be so sensitive, that it’s my problem and to just toughen up and get over it.

I can’t. I feel useless. I’m thinking of leaving them to it, but I only have a part-time wage and can’t afford to leave and live on my own. I fear for any partner my son will have in future if he turns out like his dad.

A - I’m wondering when you first noticed this happening with your husband and son, and what has prevented you from dealing with it much sooner. 

I’m not suggesting that you’ve brought it on yourself, but it is easier to nip something in the bud than to try and change what blooms from unhealthy soil.

As you have been emotionally bullied for years I suspect that you haven’t felt strong enough to stand up to him, or to change this pattern before now. 

I’m also curious about why your husband treats you like this, and what attracted you to one another. Were old family patterns playing out between you that are now being passed on again?

Your son will have been heavily influenced by his male ‘role model’ and internalised this way of speaking and relating to women. He may have come to believe that this dominant-v-subservient type of relationship, which he’s grown up with, is normal.

Your husband is ‘invalidating’ you as a person – and that is emotionally abusive. He has taught your son to do the same.

I hope that your son has some different influences from other family members, his peer group’s families, and from the media – which show him a more respectful and considerate way to relate to women.

If you have a good bond with your son you should speak to him alone, and make it clear to him how you feel about the way his dad treats you. 

He is old enough to understand and feel empathy, and this, along with consideration and compassion, will help to stop his emerging tendency to become a bully who's following in his father's footsteps.

Admit that you have allowed it to go on for too long, and that you really do want to make changes now.

Ask that he treat you as he’d like to be treated - and that in doing so he'll be much more likely to become a good partner, and perhaps husband and father, himself later on.

Whenever your son is rude to you, ask that he reflect upon it. His teenage brain should be able to make sense of that and change his behaviour if he sees the reward in doing so.

He may feel disloyal to his dad, and this might create conflict for him – and maybe even the need to protect you from his dad.

You must show him that you will now protect yourself and clearly assert what you are no longer willing to tolerate.

You have a choice about whether to get professional help. Firstly for your own self-esteem and self-empowerment, and then for you both as a couple – if he’s be willing to commit to that. Then for family therapy for the three of you; which would help to expose those toxic patterns of relating and help you all to make changes.

All options need to be carefully considered and for you to be clear about the outcomes you want and are willing to work for.

It’s never too late to change… it starts with the awareness of the problem and how it has evolved. There is always an underlying reason... on both sides.

Then - with whatever help is required - comes actually making the changes one step at a time. If your husband wants the relationship with you to continue then he needs to put in his share of the effort to make that happen. 

If your relationship does come to an end you will at least know the standards and boundaries you will need to set with any future relationships. 

You will also be showing your son that women deserve respect, and that relationships must be based upon mutual respect, kindness, trust, and safety.

Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR – where you’ll find a page of FREE RESOURCES and an online self-help course called'3 Steps To Sort Yourself Out - without therapy!' and one called 'How To Sort Out Your Relationship - without couples counselling!' (which is best used after having worked on yourelf first.) - Therapeutic self-development helping women to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviours, and to make peace with the past to stop it messing up the future! - 10 online self-help workshops - Psycho-Emotional-Education - to help you to help yourself to understand and manage anxiety, stress, depression, anger, self-esteem and confidence, mindful living, body image and weight management, how to be happier, understanding yourself, and understanding relationships - a 'new paradigm in therapy' which reveals and edits unhelpful sub-conscious beliefs - or your S.C.R.I.P.T. (c) Sub-Conscious-Rules-Influencing-Present-Time

Maxine Harley