How Emotionally Abusive Men Are Like Six-Year-Old Bullies


She was a smart, articulate woman, but her husband called her pathetic, lazy, and irrational. After living with him for so many years, she could only see herself through his eyes. And filled with self-doubt and shame, she hated what she saw.

He was a circus mirror, reflecting who she was through a twisted, distorted lens. It lied. To see herself truthfully, she would need to stop looking at herself in his mirror.

She eventually left the marriage, but his voice was an ear-worm in her head, telling her how to see herself. Still successfully defining her through his sick perspective.

She told me that whenever anyone gives her feedback, including her husband, she considers it. That’s a good thing, right? I mean, we SHOULD be humble and teachable and open to feedback because others can help us gain wisdom and insight we might not otherwise get.

The Story of the Six-Year-Old-Bully

I asked her to pretend she was a school teacher having lunch in the break room with some of her colleagues. One of them offers her some advice about a student. Would she consider that advice? Of course she would. That’s valuable information coming from a respected, experienced source.

What if, when her lunch was over, she walked back to her classroom and was confronted by an ornery six-year-old who said, “Hey! You’re a lazy teacher! You’re stupid, and you don’t know what you’re doing! Get a different job!”

Would she take that advice seriously? Probably not. The source is an immature child with no life experience. His advice isn’t rooted in reality.

Abusers = Six-Year-Old Bullies

Abusive people may be smart, but they have low EQ’s (emotional intelligence quotient). Their development has been arrested somewhere back in childhood, and they are unable to see life through the lens of reality.

The world revolves around their perspective, and they simply can’t take in the perspectives and experiences of others. This should pose a serious problem for them. They should experience the social consequences of their refusal to get help and grow in self-awareness and empathy.

But they often don’t. Especially in religious circles. Because so many people think it is “mean” to impose social boundaries on these little bullies, they are enabled to continue to remain as immature children and never realize their full potential as adults with healthy, respectful, loving relationships.

So what’s really “mean?” Telling them the truth, holding them accountable for their behavior, and refusing to allow them to get away with lying, justifying, minimizing, blame shifting, and denying? Or is it meaner to let them continue living self-destructive, abusive lives by enabling them with our “nicey-nicey-sugar-spicey?”

See, an adult male doesn’t act that way. Little bully boys do. So if your man is acting like a little bully boy, don’t take his insults seriously.

By the way, don’t call your little bully boy a “little bully boy.” You’ll just disrespect yourself. (Ask me how I know.) Tit for tat is normal on a Kindergarten playground, but it’s “ew” in an interchange between two grown-ups. Let him act like a six-year-old, and you act like the adult. But you don’t need to take his feedback seriously.

Also, don’t send your bully a link to this. Don’t send your bully church leaders a link. They aren’t interested in learning anything. They already know everything, and you don’t have the right body parts.

You just tuck this little story in the back of your mind, and the next time someone treats you to a serving of accusations with a side of fresh lies, you hold your head up, dismiss the ridiculousness, and walk away.

Because you are an adult.

Fly Free,


P.S. Connect with me below!


  1. Avatar

    Great information! I can see my ex like that 6 yrs old bully. Unfortunately it took me almost 33 yrs of marriage to finally have the strength to divorce him. I am now picking up the pieces of my life and heart and have started to built both again with God’s help. But it is never too late to start again. My peace of mind and health have no price. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Avatar

    I loved this description!!!! Oh my goodness! You helped me so much look at this BIG BAD WOLF as the TRUTH OF WHAT HE IS AND WILL ALWAYS BE. A 6 year old in a mans body. Only a COWARD BULLIES A WOMAN. THANK YOU FOR THIS WEBSITE you have brought me out of a devastating emotional relationship that ALMOST killed me!!! GOD BLESS YOU

    • Natalie

      You are welcome!

  3. Avatar

    I remember feeling this way, that I needed to consider what he said about me, even if he did not say it in love. You know how they say to try and look past the anger and try to see their heart? I think that was swimming around somewhere in my motivation, along with the scriptural admonition to humble myself and be teachable. And there always seemed to be some truth to what he said. Like yes, I Could be lazy, and I Was disrespectful to him sometimes (nevermind that it was usually, if not always, when he had been nasty to me). I also did not want to be like him, as in, never giving consideration to My feelings about His behavior.

    It was somewhat reassuring that no one else in my life said those things about me (except the previous boyfriend would probably also describe me as disrespectful, and I confess that I was that way with him unfortunately often, and not always justifiably so, but I was not that way with everyone), but at the same time, I didn’t spend nearly as much time with most of the other people in my life, except my roommate, with whom I lived for about half the length of my dysfunctional relationship with my BF. Thankfully, she never attacked my character. We had a great roommate relationship and still remain good friends today. When I would point out to my BF that my roommate and I didn’t have the problems that he and I had, he would dismiss that as not proving anything, because it was a different kind of relationship, which was true, but still… I think it spoke volumes.

  4. Avatar

    Natalie, Thank you for this reminder. This holds true for all abusive relationships.
    “Also, don’t send your bully a link to this. Don’t send your bully church leaders a link. They aren’t interested in learning anything. They already know everything, and you don’t have the right body parts.” — So very true. It’s taken years for me to discover this … they just don’t care and yet are quick to add, “How can you call yourself a Christian if you aren’t ‘in church’?”
    My reaction now is that I need a true Church where Jesus’ healing touch of compassion and empathy are available; this Jesus is my Lord and Savior.

    • Avatar

      I know the degrading started with my family. That’s part of why I listened to my ex narcissist when he had nothing good to say about me. He complained bitterly about how lazy and pathetic I was. But he did nothing with the kids or the house. He worked but I had no access to the money and I was expected to pay the bills. He wouldn’t give me a divorce either. On my second overturned divorce. No I didnt remarry him. I saw a counselor who one day very plainly stated “if your so horrible to live with, why is he fighting so hard to keep you?” A light went on. The day I quit listening to lies of him and my family and believed I was awesome ,I found the man of my dreams and he never says any of that crap. Free your mind.

  5. Avatar

    I feel like I am absolutely losing my children to my bullying six-year old ex. The court proceedings haven’t even started and my children are constantly saying they’d rather be with dad. Dad, who has unlimited (it seems) income, has a super flexible schedule and can come and go from work or not go at all (I’m working 50-60 hours per week and looking at taking on another part-time job just to make ends meet), and who is still living in the big house with all the “stuff”. I’ve tried everything I can think of but my kids HATE counseling, are constantly fighting with each other and are angry with me because Dad told them it’s all my fault that we are getting divorced. I’ve spent 15 years with an emotionally & verbally abusive man-child and finally got the guts to leave about 7 months ago. It’s been 7 months of nasty texts, emails and emotional torture since my kids are hurting so badly. I’m in total self preservation mode and find myself completely frustrated by a man who was not even remotely present in their lives until I left. For 10 & 12 years I was the primary care-giver – if they ate, had baths, went to practices & games, did homework, etc. it was all on me. Now, he acts like he’s this super dad and always has been. It kills me to no end and I find myself closing off because it hurts so badly that the kids don’t remember the violent outbursts or the rages he would go into. Anything I even remotely say goes straight back to Dad and he peppers them with questions constantly to the point I’m afraid to say anything because I will be misconstrued, taken out of context and reported back to dad. Then that goes to the attorney.

    I am worn out, scared to death and just so frustrated that I can’t seem to get past the unfairness of it all.

    • Natalie

      I am so sorry – your experience is tragically all too common. On every count. It IS scary because you don’t know the outcome, and it’s so unfair, AND the lives of your children are at stake – along with your relationships with them. Are you getting counseling for yourself? I recommend that. If you can stay sane and stable – the damages can be minimized a bit. You can only control yourself and your own choices. Get help for YOU – and you’ll be able to help your kids.

    • Avatar

      I’m so sorry. It took my oldest child eight loooong years to see his dad for who he is. Hang in there. Of course you can’t criticize your ex to the kids, but you *can* refuse to say anything at all until you feel like you’ve got some perspective (“I will not have this conversation.”), and then you can just state the facts as difficult situations arise and let them figure it out. You can bet they don’t like being peppered with his questions, and they *will* remember the violent outbursts when they have been safe long enough to reopen those memories in context. Please take very, very good care of yourself! <– That's probably the hardest part. This will be a season of receiving rather than giving, and that's as it should be. I will remember you in my prayers.

      • Avatar

        Thank you for knocking some sense back into me. For a pretty short article, I gained a lot of insight. I was reading, thinking about how I was going to send this to him but you even addressed that. I can’t argue with your logic. 10/10

  6. Avatar

    Yes! I think the fact that I’m the type of person that will consider EVERYONE’s feedback as possibly more valid or true than my own reality is what got me into the mess that was my emotionally/spiritually abusive marriage in the first place. Finally, in my late 50’s, it’s no longer true. I now have a much clearer picture of reality…people’s feedback of me and my behavior is based on THEIR reality, which may include everything from a black hole of ego wounds to indigestion from dinner.

    • Natalie

      Lol! Many of us are just like that, and you’re right – it got us into trouble eventually. It’s wonderful to see clearly and be free of that drama. Thanks for your comment!



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