When your family bullies your partner

Thursday March 18 2021
By Bradford Kamuntu

Contrary to popular belief, bullying does not disappear along with the acne, driving courses, and standardised tests of the teen years. In fact, it continues into adulthood and can be found in just about any setting. Aside from online bullying, workplace bullying, and even sibling bullying, bullying also occurs in families among adults.

Sometimes, family bullying happens simply because the adult bully has never learned how to relate in a healthy way. Other times it occurs because the family bully wants to manipulate and control situations.

We do not discuss enough the fact that as families, we bully newcomers, especially if they come from backgrounds we are unfamiliar with. But when it comes at the cost of the wellbeing and mental health of another human being, where do we draw the line?

I know some of you have been bullied by your partners’ families in relationships/marriages. Some of you have done the bullying and in a contradiction of behaviour, some of you have managed to be both.

In this country, as an in-law outsider, you are criticised for the things that make you human. Your weight, your skills as a mother/father, your ethnic background/tribe, your educational background and more often than not your societal class.

I have witnessed relationships torn apart on the basis of “he/she is not like you; you will never understand each other because you were not raised the same.” Small tones of elitism to discourage you from pursuing love with someone simply because they are not from the same social class.


I do not blame many people of our generation, because sometimes we act very much in the key of ‘this is all I have ever known’. But as we grow it is prudent to unlearn many of the wrong things we picked up from those around us growing up.

As human beings, we have a way we desire to be treated with love and respect being at the top of that list. It is what we expect from our parents, siblings, extended family, partners and their family. We would absolutely hate trying to relate with the family of the person we love and only being met with micro-aggressions, gas lighting and unnecessary criticisms of our character.

We all want to look out for our family members and want the best for them, but we should not take it too seriously a job that we are willing to risk the wellbeing of another person for it. You can express concern without bullying, you can give advice (when warranted) without being condescending.

My biggest concern here (as I watched the events of the Royal family unfold) is that many are willing to let one of their own leave the fold because pride would not let them call out bullying, when they could have spoken up in support.

Let us start to shift the narrative. Let us not get caught up in the same vicious cycles the generations before us had to endure and allow people to love and love freely even when the person they love is not what we had imagined. Lead with kindness.