"Dealing With Intimidators"

From St. Peter's Support Group

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by Fred Zurofsky

If you look around and observe the relationships of your close friends, you will see that some husbands play the role of the intimidator. Perhaps you can see this is your own marriage if you shift your focus just a bit.

You can't change what you don't acknowledge!

1. As an intimidator, he controls you and the children by making you fear him. This keeps you from requesting anything from him or controlling him in any way. He does this by using a variety methods like shouting, accusing, and even threatening physical harm. He can use these control techniques because they play into your own fears and self doubts. In some cases, men will use intellectual intimidation.

2. He has to be "right!" For him, everyone else is always wrong. His thinking is that if you  don't shape up, he have every right to punish you or the kids. He is simultaneously the police, judge, jury and firing squad.

3. Another benefit he gains from playing this role is that he never has to look at himself or make personal changes, as "I am perfect" and the others are all wrong.

In a sense, this husband acts as both victim and interrogator. The interrogator role is usually a reaction to his awareness of his own vulnerability which he can't handle in any other way. He is 'wounded' and lashes out in the only way he knows how.

As scary as it is when being intimidated, you can learn how to cope with the intimidators in your life. All of us need to overcome our different fears which have their basis in childhood when a shouting (giant sized) and threatening parent was a real threat for a number of many reasons.

Most of our current reactions are based on the 'former similars' that I discuss in another article, "What Runs Your Life?"

1. We were small and unable to offer much resistance to any physical punishment there might have been leaving us with a sense of our own vulnerability and inadequacy. I can't speak for everyone, but you can be sure that many young children have made decisions at some level that will determine their path in the future. Some submit and become docile, ineffective, resentful victims. Others vow to never allow this kind of treatment when they become adults and may also develop into intimidators themselves.

2. Being small and incapable of operating in the world on our own, we are aware at some level that we are dependent on this intimidating, shouting person for all our security and survival.

3. Since we don't have the capacity to analyze and understand what's happening (and may not have any basis in our actions) at the moment. If they're shouting in a belittling way, we may conclude that we must have been doing something wrong, evil, bad children and therefore, are not worthy of love and respect.

Even as full-grown adults, a shouting person may trigger off our subconscious reaction to a 'former similar' we experienced as young, overwhelmed children. "Wait 'till your father comes home," or some similar form of intimidation can result in your current reactions of fear and self-doubt. Even adult males can be intimidated by small sized women half their size because these threats trigger off their reactions to earlier threats from their own mothers.

Isolated events do not create these feelings unless the event was very traumatic. However, repeated events can cause a young mind to be reminded of earlier events and reinforces them. This adds some substance and reality to our feelings.


You need to gain an understanding that his shouting and intimidations represent his own unhappiness. By recognizing this, you can understand that he 'owns the problem,' and it has nothing to do with your actions. This will help you to sit calmly until his rage has subsided. Keep focusing on this thought so that you think, "the more he shouts, the more unhappy he is."

Being outside of your own reactions, can allow you to seek to understand what is causing him to react as he does, what are his fears and need are and how you can help him through and understand these episodes.


This is the hardest part to manage because you're never sure of his reactions. It's best allow him to calm down. Then in as calmest way possible, let him know that you don't   intend to be a threat to him, but if you don't fulfill your needs, you will be unhappy and will have fewer positive and more negative feelings towards him. Building a higher level of trust is very important at this point and your calmness will help a lot.

Let him know clearly and strongly that you will no longer give in into his shouting and attempts to intimidate you. When he has calmed down, suggest that the two of you try again to discuss the subject. Suggest an easy way for him to express his wants and needs by making a list of them and how you can go about creating a much better future based on these and your expressed needs. Some men feel intimidated when asked to express their feelings "right now," and respond better when given a little time, space and privacy to explore and respond to a request like this one.

Let him know that you are willing to make compromises if he would just express his needs, honestly and clearly.

Try to remember that he's living a life that may not be very satisfying and might welcome an opportunity for change.

Your I-message to the Intimidator

As first presented in the book, "Parent Effectiveness Training", all workable communications starts with one person speaking with an "I Message" rather than the "You Message" which is judgmental and threatening.

You know your situation better than anyone else and these suggested messages are general in nature. If they are not appropriate in your situation, use them as guides to creating your own, effective messages. An effective "I Message" will cause a shift in your husband state from one of defensiveness to a bit more open and should do the best to enroll him is finding a solution to the behavior that causes you grief. This may require practice and rehearsal because you probably want to lash out in retaliation.

You may find that the best way is to start with a short message that established your new way of being and then add to this message with each future instance of attempted intimidation. He may not take an in-depth declaration of independence easily.

An effective message might be as follows:

"I need to discuss something with you. When you raise your voice in a threatening way, I become afraid of you. This stimulates the fears created in my childhood years which cause me to back down from you. This causes me to suppress my own needs and I lose my self-respect and become angry with you."

This in turn diminishes my feelings of love for you. There are times when this anger has me thinking about revenge.

"When you act in this manner, you may get what you want from me at that moment, but at the cost of losing my love and respect."

"I have decided to try to overcome my fear and be more honest with you and this may seem like a threat to you. I am going to do express my needs and values in such a way to try and limit any threat to you."

"I would like to ask for your help with this effort."

"While I'm interested in getting my needs met, I'm also very interested in helping you fulfill your needs as well."

"If you're willing to express your needs in a non-threatening way I believe we both can get what we want together. If we let each other know what our needs are for ourselves and from each other, I believe we can find solutions that will help us grow closer together."

"Does this idea make sense to you? How do you feel about this idea?" About the author
Fred Zurofsky is an author internet publisher who writes ebooks covering topics ranging from investing strategies, self help, personal transformation and internet business development at his web site: www.divorce-survival.com

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