Question about family abuse
I emailed you in May about my sister being in an abusive situation and how it was bothering our family(my mom, brother and me) when my father died in Feb. My sister and I are now e-mailing and it is very pleasant. My immediate family went to see her and her children this summer and that seems to have helped her. I have questions to ask her about the relationship with her husband that you e-mailed me. She doesn’t talk about him right now. My brother now seems to be experiencing the same thing with his wife. She told him not to talk with his mother on the phone. She’s very controlling with their money. My mother does not have much money and my brother’s wife is afraid they will have to use their money. She doesn’t want any part of this. His wife(Laura) interfered recently with the relationship between my brother and me. He hung up on me after we got in a disagreement concerning his wife and my mom on the phone and has not spoken with me since. My mom says this is water under the bridge for him now and he has moved on. I’m devastated because he has always been there for me. I’m afraid if I called him he might chew me out again. I don’t know how to handle these kinds of people. Do they just need love and acceptance? What do I need to do or say?
Thank you. J.Answer:
Dear J, It’s very difficult to see your family members going through control and abuse issues.. and of course it’s hard to be rejected by your brother.
Two things are very clear – there are abuse issues and you can’t do anything about it.
These issues have to do with in-laws and their behavior which makes it even more difficult for you to intervene.
Codependency: Might I make an observation? Maybe your family situation is similar to the issues of dealing with an addictive person in the family — everyone becomes codependent around that person. In other words, the spouses – who are closest – work around the objectionable behavior in denial of the behavior and thus, enable the behavior (control and abuse in this situation) of that person to continue and even escalate.
Most likely, the conversation you had with your brother hit a sore spot. He is not ready to deal with it – the controlling behavior of his wife and certainly not going to take your comments or advice on this situation with his wife.
My opinion: Your brother has to see the light and begin to confront the issues in his marriage in his own time. You and no one else can try to fix it or hurry it up. He actually may realize what is going on – feel helpless to do anything and even though it has caused serious problems with your mother and you – he is going to keep the peace at all costs. In fact, he will displace anger on you because he feels helpless to work this through with his wife even if he knows she’s got a problem.
So, what should you do?
First of all, pray. You need supernatural help. You need God’s courage, peace and strength to help you move forward and accept this situation. If you don’t have a personal relationship with God – consider this article: on faith.
Secondly, you need to consider your role. Are you the Savior (I only know of one – Jesus) that can fix the family issues with in-laws? No. Your brother and sister need to step up to the plate and confront the behaviors of control and abuse in their marriages. Read all about domestic abuse at the Safe Relationships site.
Be there: Your sister may open up more to you as you talk with her. When she directly reveals her fears and the abuse in her marriage –encourage her to contact the National Domestic Violence hotline at: 1-800-799-7233. Let her know that she should pack a bag in case she feels her life is threatened or she can call 911 whenever her husband is abusive or violent. She can also obtain an order of protection from the court to prevent her husband from having any contact with her.
Encourage her to read more about abuse and control and the help that is available at the Safe Relationships site. This will raise her awareness and give her options when she finally decides to take a step to protect herself and possibly remove herself from the situation.
For you – I encourage you to purchase some books on which will help you with codependency and boundaries such as: Codependent No More by Melodee Beattie and Boundaries by Henry Cloud.
It’s difficult to see your family members dealing with this abuse. You want to help. But, your siblings need to make the choice to help themselves. You can pray for them and ask God to intervene and give them wisdom and courage to handle their spouses.
Pray. Try writing a nice note to your brother apologizing in general for anything you said which may have offended him. Then, wait for him to call. Don’t go chasing after him. He needs time to cool off.
Take care of yourself. Move forward with your own life, with God, relationships and goals. God is able to help. These situations can cause people to grow in faith. May God bless you!
Lynette J. Hoy, NCC, LCPC
Lynette J. Hoy, is a Marriage and Family counselor at CounselCare Connection, P.C., speaker, writer.
Order her newly released book, What’s Good About Anger? book co-authored with Ted Griffin! Turn anger into faith, assertiveness, problem-solving andforgiveness!