My Husband Bullied Me For Leaving Him

The trauma I experienced at the hands of a grown bully: my own ex-husband.

Couple going through divorce, man with greed Comstock, Billion Photos, Karolina Grabowska, AndreyPopov | Canva

When my marriage was struggling I didn’t have friends who were experiencing the same thing. I didn’t have a lot of divorce experience. I naively thought I was leaving my best friend and my college sweetheart. I thought the whole divorce process was just sad.

No one said, "Oh boy, watch your back he’s showing signs of the kind of guy who will bully you." Or, "I got you, girl, let me tell you what a man who does this kind of stuff means during a divorce."


I was a babe in the proverbial divorce woods.

Looking back, there were signs of the punishing, cold aggressive moves of a classic bully. The kind of person who lacks core self-esteem and needs to make someone else suffer to make themselves feel good.

Bullies are compelled by their need to control and dominate.

RELATED: How I Conquered My Adult Bully Like A Grown Woman

Here are 5 ways my husband made it clear he was going to bully me for leaving him:

1. My husband threatened me

"If you leave me, I’ll make sure there’s no money and you work for the rest of your life."

Bullies threaten people — they rule by intimidation and fear.


But when I heard these words I believed they were coming from my best friend and college sweetheart. I thought the man I loved was saying ugly words in anger. I had certainly said the kinds of things even four walls shouldn’t hear. Sadly, that’s what happens when you remain in an unhealthy relationship for too long.

But my husband wasn’t recklessly throwing words around. He was making a promise. A threat.

One he would ultimately keep when I divorced him.

2. My husband refused to move out of the house 

"I’m not leaving my house, you wanted a divorce you leave."

The bully was guarding his playground.

This wasn’t our joint marital asset. At least, not in my husband’s eyes. This was his domain. It was his territory. He was unyielding.


This was technically the second time this had happened. I should have been more prepared. A few years earlier, I had attempted to separate from my husband. It took a year and a half and two of his family members on an email thread to finally get him to agree to move out. He kept claiming he was too broke to move out which was a complete lie. I knew this because we had built a business together and I knew the income.

RELATED: The Mistake That Made Me Extremely Financially Vulnerable In My Unhappy Marriage

3. My husband withheld food money

"You can’t withhold food money for our children," I said.

My husband didn’t care.

It was the classic bully in the cafeteria messing with someone’s meal. The sinister desire to degrade and humiliate and take away one of someone’s basic needs to torment and traumatize them. 


He watched my family and friends bring food into our house to feed our children. Worse, the man who wouldn’t buy groceries (I was a stay-at-home mother) and had made me financially vulnerable, ate the meals they brought. I told him he couldn’t eat the food that others had delivered for our children and me.

My husband's response? "They owe me," he said.

An apparent nod to the meal tabs he may have picked up over the years.

4. My husband hocked his wedding band and the watch I gave him

"You now have $267 for groceries because I hocked my wedding band."

What do bullies do? They hurt you by mistreating things of value to you. The school bully hides your books or lunch. They stomp on your phone. They break your glasses. They want to show a twisted bullying power over you.


My husband got rid of that ring to hurt and spite me. He was true to his word and that’s all the grocery money I got at that time, down to the exact dollar. 

Interestingly, the Rolex watch I had gifted him was also hocked. But I never saw those thousands of dollars.

RELATED: What Happened To My Husband’s Wedding Ring When I Told Him I Was Leaving

5. My husband stopped paying the bills

"You wanted a divorce, I can’t afford two different residences."

It was a lie. 

We had a great deal of money. But this bully had an agenda. Don't they all? Back to bullying behavior number one, he had promised to leave me with nothing. 

He spent five long years financially controlling and punishing me (aka, bullying) aggressively. I lived in terror of what thing he would do next. It was anything but a functional life and it seemed like he was hiding around every corner. He ruined our credit to make it look like our business wasn't doing well and that we had been living beyond our means. Both are complete lies. He left no financially abusive divorce stone unturned.


One day I sat with our marriage counselor.

"I can’t take anymore," I said. "I can’t sleep, I can’t think straight, I can’t remember things. I’m always distracted."

"Colleen," said my marriage counselor. "You haven’t slept more than three or four hours a night for the better part of five years. You are being aggressively, aggressively bullied by a man. You are strong."


These are the five ways my husband made it clear within those first few months after I initiated the divorce, that he was going to bully me for leaving him. 

I regret making myself financially vulnerable to a man — especially to a bully.

Bullies want to make sure they make you uncomfortable. They want to scare you. They want to make you feel unsafe everywhere. They want to make your life unpredictable. They want to control you. They want to dominate you. They want to make you feel as bad as they do about themselves.

Bullies are weak and they are ruthless.

I can't believe I married one.

RELATED: I Feared My Controlling Husband Would Harm Me If He Didn't Get All The Money In Our Divorce


Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She writes about love, life, relationships, family, parenting, divorce, and narcissism.