We all know bullying is an ongoing problem among children, but don’t be fooled into thinking it stops once you’re an adult. Military spouses can be victims of bullying by civilians, service members and sadly, other military spouses. Military spouse bullying is one of those occurrences that is relevant in the military community, yet very few people talk about it.
With the prevalence of social media, military spouse bullying has escalated to full on spouse shaming. With the onslaught of groups and pages that encourage such behavior, it gives bullies a platform and outlet to brazenly hurt others.
You’d think being military spouses living a lifestyle full of unique challenges, would implore us to have empathy for one another. Alas, this is just not the case.
So, what do you do when you find yourself the victim of bullying? The following tips should help.
DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
We explain to our children that people bully because they have personal issues and feel the need to hurt others in order to build themselves up. The same principle applies with adult bullies. The behavior the bully is exhibiting has nothing to do with you. Jealousy, insecurity, or attention seeking behavior could all be reasons for their bullying behavior. If you were not the target, they’d find someone else. It isn’t about you. It’s about them and their issues. They’re just projecting them onto you.
CONFRONT YOUR BULLY
This isn’t always possible, but if it’s applicable, do it. If your bully is someone you see on a regular basis, privately speak with them about the situation. This can be tricky in that you don’t want them to feel like they have power over you. Instead of saying, “You hurt my feelings when you said XYZ” you can say, “Your jokes are disruptive and I’d appreciate if you would stop.” Don’t wait until days after the incident to say something. Address the situation as soon as possible. Confront them about the specific comment as stated above, and the behavior will likely end.
DON’T BE THE VICTIM
Research has shown people who exhibit confidence and assertiveness are less likely to be bullied. Bullies are less inclined to tease or pick on you if they know you can defend yourself. If you use firm and assertive communication, it is very hard to intimidate such a personality. Equally, if you ignore them, e.g. avoid them in person or block them on social media, they will eventually lose interest. Bullies prey on weaker individuals they can exercise power over, so don’t give them the impression that you’re one to be easily victimized.
BE PROACTIVE, NO REACTIVE
It is easy to respond in anger or out of impulse, but refrain from doing this. A simple, frustrated comment (especially online) can be the exact response they were seeking, and only fuels the fire. Don’t let them bait you into an argument where you are reciprocating the bullying behavior. They can easily twist your words or even use words spoken out of anger against you, leaving you looking like the bad guy. Don’t fall for this trap! You are better than that.
DON’T SHUT DOWN
When you’re being bullied, it is easy to feel intimidated, helpless and alone. Don’t allow yourself to sink to that level of loneliness. Find someone you can confide in, whether it is a friend, family member, chaplain, or counselor. Express yourself and share your experiences and feelings. Don’t give your bully the power to dictate your emotions.
TALK TO SOMEONE IN AUTHORITY
I should note, this should be a last resort if other things you’ve tried haven’t been successful. In the military community, this could have detrimental effects if you’re talking about going up the chain of command. It is best to try to handle the situation between yourself and the bully rather than bring other people into the situation. However, if the behavior has reached a level that is having a severe impact on your life, or is particularly damaging, you should speak to someone in authority. Have evidence – screenshots of comments, copies of emails and texts, recordings of voicemails. Make sure you document everything and can establish a pattern.