How To Tell If You're Being 'Bulldozed' In A Relationship (And How To Handle It If You Are)

Until the honeymoon phase is over, it can be easy to overlook the challenges and red flags that your partner might be showing. Or, worse, they may act one way, then once more time has passed and you're more emotionally invested, they start letting their toxic traits show. This can be especially challenging if their toxicity have heavily influenced you. Once you realize they're not the right choice for you, you have to work much harder than normal to reclaim your life and independence.

Some of us are naturally more assertive, while others are shier or more easygoing. There is nothing wrong with having an opinionated and forthright partner. However, there is something wrong if this is coupled with aggression or manipulation. If their approach to disagreements and decisions is to take control and dominate, you are dealing with a "bulldozer." If you can spot this trait early on, you can stop your partner from ushering you into choices that don't align with your best self.

Signs of bulldozing

You might have already made the connection, but a mechanical bulldozer is a great metaphor for the behavior of a partner who is considered a bulldozer. They will clear aside your suggestions and preferences to ensure they get what they want. Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and specialist in abuse, describes the experience of being bulldozed in her LinkedIn article. King writes, "you seek to comprehend their suggestion/request, and before you can process it — much less formulate your reply — their eagerness percolates."

In many cases, a bulldozer is not as obvious as the cacophonous machine itself. Bulldozing can be made subtle and hidden under what appears as good intentions. For example, after you try to politely decline a plan, they insist you don't know what you're missing out on and make arrangements anyways. Or maybe they repeatedly ignore preferences you've made clear to them, choosing to "forget" these and do as they please. However, other times, bulldozing can be outright aggressive bullying. King describes this experience writing, "before you know it — in their bulldozing effort — you are flooded with punishment, demands, and threats for compliance."

What to do if you're dating a bulldozer

If you realize your partner is bulldozing you, it's imperative for your mental health that you address it. If your partner's controlling habits are less frequent and come in milder forms, you don't necessarily have to immediately take them out of your life to regain your fair say. This is where the buzziest of relationship buzzwords come into play — boundaries.

Licensed senior therapist Sally Baker mentions to PsychCentral that your first step to setting boundaries is taking note of what makes you feel intimidated or overlooked by the other person. Baker remarks, "so often stuff happens to people and they feel uncomfortable, but they're not sure why. The first step in having healthy boundaries in any situation is spending the time to explore what's happening to you." Once you have clarified what you need to make yourself comfortable and seen, it's time to talk about them with your partner.

However, if you're partner's forceful behavior is causing you serious psychological or physical distress, letting them go is your best option. While it can be immensely difficult to leave an abusive relationship, the pain it inflicts is never acceptable. If you or someone you know is enduring domestic abuse, help is available. Reach out to the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224.