The difference between Workplace Bullies and Intimate Partner Abusers

What is the difference between an intimate partner abuser and a workplace bully? Some people think they are the same. But all bullies do not fulfill the criteria for intimate partner abusers, even though they indulge in and enjoy relationship abuse. 


How Are Bullies and Abusers Alike? 


In my work with bullies and abusers, I’ve recognized that they both use battering to establish and maintain a relationship atmosphere of unequal power. Now this battering can be psychological, emotional or verbal abuse. And, as you know, it can escalate into physical and/or sexual abuse. 


Both bullies and abusers will fail to show authentic empathy toward the object of their abuse. They both will seek to control at all cost, and they will externalize blame to accomplish their end. 

How Are Bullies and Abusers Different? 


Where they differ is in the dimensions of possessiveness and isolation. Abusers are known for their need to posses their partner as though she/he was their property. They will exhibit excessive jealously, bordering on an inappropriate obsession. 


And lastly, the partner abuser will seek to isolate the victim from all sources of support outside of his/her control. This may be financial, physical, emotional, spiritual… 


The bully, on the other hand, doesn’t seek to isolate his/her victim in the same fashion or to the extent that the intimate partner abuser isolates their partner. And clearly, the bully will be less likely to cling with possessiveness. To the contrary, the bully doesn’t need to own the other person to experience their empowerment. 


A Final Distinction between Bullies and Intimate Partner Abusers 


Intimate partner abusers will bully their abuse partner and may not bully outside of “love” relationships. Whereas, a bully is a bully is a bully in relationships unilaterally. 


If you encounter a bully or an intimate partner abuser, proceed with caution. Seek to understand the dynamics of abusive relationships, so as to avoid becoming an abuse victim or a causality of bullying.


For more information about abuse dynamics, see Domestic Abuse Dynamics. Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps people recognize, end and heal for domestic abuse and bullying. Copyright 2009 Jeanne King, Ph.D.

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