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Has anyone ever dealt with a family member suffering from emotional domestic abuse? (1 Viewer)

phandango

Footballguy
I'm not asking this for myself. I have a brother who's two years younger than me (mid-40s). We've never really been close as adults. For about nine years we lived just a couple miles from each other south of San Francisco but saw each other only a few times a year. I have two kids and he has twins, a boy and girl who are close in age to my oldest (8th-grade daughter). We also have a younger sister who lives in Brooklyn. Our parents were married for 40-plus years but my mom died in 2016, and since then my dad has lived with us (me, my wife and two kids). We live in San Diego. I'm not a very public person, so it feels strange posting this on a fantasy football message board. But the reality is that I'm ready to try anything to help this situation. 

I'm going to try to keep this as brief as possible because I don't want this to be a "woe is me" post/novella. The reason my brother has been so estranged from the rest of the family is his wife. I'm not going to sugarcoat it: She's the worst person I have ever known, by far. Over the years, we've been able to keep things civil. She has always been someone none of us liked dealing with, but we viewed it as a necessary evil if we wanted to see my brother and his kids. However, over the past nine months, things have escalated, to the point that I believe my brother suffers from emotional domestic abuse. Last October, my brother reached out to my sister and me because his marriage had severely deteriorated. Over the course of a few weeks, these were some of the things she did:

  • When my sister emailed my brother a link regarding emotional domestic abuse, it was his wife who replied to my sister, using my brother's account. It was then we realized that my sister-in-law monitors my brother's texts and emails. My SIL proceeded to repeatedly email and text my sister, mocking the domestic abuse claim. 
  • When my brother was due to leave for a business trip, his wife repeatedly threatened to call the cops, citing "abandonment" and other things. I convinced my brother to consult a lawyer. He never retained one, but he did call a law office, which assured him that leaving town for business isn't abandonment. Still, each day was a never-ending litany of calls, emails and texts to him from her about how he wasn't allowed to leave town because she hadn't agreed to it.
  • The night before his trip, his wife took his license and passport and hid them, and took all of his dress shirts and tried to hide them outside. The next day she went to their scheduled marriage therapy appointment by herself. My brother called in to the appointment and said he couldn't attend because his wife took his license, which his wife apparently admitted to the therapist. My brother did get his license and passport back, but before leaving on his trip, his wife grabbed his iPad, ran outside into the street and smashed it.
Through all this, my brother remained with her. Not only that, but everything I discussed with him -- the possibility of domestic abuse, draft emails to lawyers (none of whom he ever retained) -- he ended up sharing with his wife, which she then used to convince him that I was trying to undermine their marriage. I did not hear from my brother for six months, until late April.

For the following six weeks, we corresponded regularly, and things at his home were again a total disaster. I was at first angry because I had previously dropped everything to help him, only to see him go back to her, and I didn't want to do that again. But we cleared the air, and it seemed that he was truly serious about getting legal help, which is what I encouraged. During this time, my dad and I received repeated hateful texts and emails from my brother's wife, who dredged up perceived slights from 15 years ago as "proof" that we've always hated her (example: my wife wore a white pantsuit to my brother's wedding in 2003, and my SIL has always believed my wife chose white in an attempt to upstage her, the bride). My brother also said his wife had taken to abusing opioids, but I have no proof of that. Whenever I would text him, he would immediately delete the message from his phone so that she wouldn't see it. He began asking me not to say too much over text or email. Finally, over Memorial Day weekend, he called me on speaker phone to say that he believed I was the cause for all the problems in his marriage. (His wife was with him, listening on speaker phone.) He sounded like a hostage reading from prepared text. He texted me shortly after to say he was lying to appease her. But whenever I tried to reach out after that, I didn't get any replies.

A few weeks ago I told him I'd be in the Bay Area for a week. I asked if he wanted to get together, since we hadn't seen each other in 18 months. He declined, saying he wanted to focus on his family. While we were up there, I texted him again but got no reply. This past weekend, my dad also texted him to say he'd be up there and asked if he wanted to get together. Instead, my dad got a reply from my brother's wife, angrily berating my dad. I found out my brother had blocked my cell number so he didn't receive my text while I was up there. After repeated harassing texts from my SIL, my dad blocked her because he couldn't take it anymore. I sent an email telling my brother I love him and that the rest of the family didn't want to lose contact with him. I got a rambling response that seemed to echo all the grudges and resentment his wife had spewed to us over the past months, basically demanding that we apologize to her to repair the damage we'd done. I replied with: "My email was simply meant to be supportive. We'll always love you and we'll always be here for you." That was the entirety of my reply. He called me in a rage, yelling and crying for about a minute before hanging up. Then I predictably got the berating emails from his wife. I didn't respond. I don't plan on trying to contact my brother anymore unless he initiates it.

All of this is to ask if anyone else has ever dealt with a similar situation. I realize this is just my side of the story, and for all anyone on this board knows, I could be equally as big a monster. All I can say is I've been with the same woman for 23 years and happily married for 20, for what that's worth. It's my firm belief that my brother's wife has broken him down like a dog, and that she got fed up with our advice that he seek legal help, so she has isolated him from the rest of us. From what I gather, she also has likely told him that he will never see his kids if he leaves her, along with whatever else to convince him that his life would be a living hell should he seek divorce. My dad spoke with my brother over the weekend, and everything out of his mouth was the opposite of the truth. You would have thought that my parents made my brother sleep outside growing up while their other kids were nice and warm indoors. (I should also say that there have been times when I've later found my brother failed to be completely truthful with me, so there could be things he has done to her that I don't know about. I maintain that she abuses him, however, based on patterns I've seen that match with descriptions of abuse I've read about.) I've begun asking around where I live to see if there are divorce/family law attorneys who might be able to give consultation on similar cases they've handled, but other than that, I'm at a loss on what to do, or even if there's anything to be done but wait. I worry about him constantly, as well as his kids.

TL;DR: My brother is married to a she-devil who I believe abuses him emotionally, and I'm wondering if anyone else has gone through something similar and what happened.

 

GroveDiesel

Footballguy
I think there is a STRONG likelihood that she is severely mentally ill. And it certainly sounds like she is emotionally abusive and manipulative. 

You basically have zero shot at convincing your brother of either of those two things.

It's horrible, but with as crazy as she sounds, if he left her it wouldn't surprise me if she went the murder-suicide route.

I think your best bet is to break off all contact and just be there if he reaches out.

 
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Nathan R. Jessep

Footballguy
Unfortunately, this sounds like a situation one might liken to dealing with an addict of some sort. Until he decides he has had enough and is ready to stand up for himself and his kids, there is not a thing any of you can do for him. If you tried to do something behind his back, he would probably resent you for it at this point, due to the further abuse he'd receive.  And yes, it is definitely abuse. 

I don't have an answer for you, but I hope he comes to his senses and you (and your dad) can rekindle some sort of relationship with your brother. 

 

pats3in4

Footballguy
www.bpdfamily.com

The target audience is for spouses and other family members of someone who suffers a personality disorder.  Your SIL is a textbook case.  This site can help you understand her better and give guidance on how to deal with her moving forward as well as help your brother.

Good luck.

 

Joe Summer

Footballguy
At this point you should consider yourself lucky that you get to have ANY contact with your brother at all. Most of the time, the abuser is able to successfully cut off contact with the victim's family.

All I can say is that you should do whatever you can to keep up the lines of communication. But maybe lay off the "you're a victim of domestic abuse" stuff. HE KNOWS HE'S A VICTIM OF DOMESTIC ABUSE. Just be the best brother you can be, and let him know that you'll be there for him.

Also, document EVERYTHING. Especially as it relates to the SIL. Because you may need it for future police and/or custody reasons.

 

jerry jones

Footballguy
I am a survivor of a marriage very close to this...I ALLOWED my wife to alienate me from my family and friends for 16 years. She cut off her family also. She was/is a control nut with a drinking problem. 

I was married in a Catholic Church and we had kids...thought I was supposed to stay.

finally woke up and divorced...went thru hell to get that done, her even threatening me to take my kids away. They went to court and chose me as their custodial parent. 

Been free of the crazy insanity for 18 years now....so thankful to feel normal. 

It’s in his control he’s just got to finally reach his limit and get away....be there for him when he does! 

 

Joe Summer

Footballguy
BTW, if the kids are in 8th grade then her threats about him never seeing them again are pretty weak unless she's actually the type who would kill them.

 

phandango

Footballguy
At this point you should consider yourself lucky that you get to have ANY contact with your brother at all. Most of the time, the abuser is able to successfully cut off contact with the victim's family.

All I can say is that you should do whatever you can to keep up the lines of communication. But maybe lay off the "you're a victim of domestic abuse" stuff. HE KNOWS HE'S A VICTIM OF DOMESTIC ABUSE. Just be the best brother you can be, and let him know that you'll be there for him.

Also, document EVERYTHING. Especially as it relates to the SIL. Because you may need it for future police and/or custody reasons.
Thanks. We stopped bringing up abuse after the first round in October. In fact, I stopped suggesting anything to him and tried just to listen and let him know he could call or text anytime, because I didn't want him to think I was judging him or telling him what to do. I was basically trying to be the opposite of his wife. 

The biggest reason I haven't blocked his wife is because I save everything she sends. Originally I suggested that my dad not block her for the same reason, but the guy's 82 and a widower, and he couldn't take her rage texts anymore. I don't blame him.

 

phandango

Footballguy
I am a survivor of a marriage very close to this...I ALLOWED my wife to alienate me from my family and friends for 16 years. She cut off her family also. She was/is a control nut with a drinking problem. 

I was married in a Catholic Church and we had kids...thought I was supposed to stay.

finally woke up and divorced...went thru hell to get that done, her even threatening me to take my kids away. They went to court and chose me as their custodial parent. 

Been free of the crazy insanity for 18 years now....so thankful to feel normal. 

It’s in his control he’s just got to finally reach his limit and get away....be there for him when he does! 
Thanks. I have a good friend who's older than me who was married for 17 years to someone similar to my SIL. They divorced when their son was 2 and he looks back and he can't believe he tolerated that for so long. (They shared custody of their son, who chose to live with his dad when he turned 16 because of the way his mom treated him.) The truth is my brother was already self-centered and carried an enormous chip on his shoulder growing up. If I had to bet, I would say he is too weak to leave her on his own. If the marriage ends, it'll be because she divorces him and takes everything she can.

 

GroveDiesel

Footballguy
Thanks. I have a good friend who's older than me who was married for 17 years to someone similar to my SIL. They divorced when their son was 2 and he looks back and he can't believe he tolerated that for so long. (They shared custody of their son, who chose to live with his dad when he turned 16 because of the way his mom treated him.) The truth is my brother was already self-centered and carried an enormous chip on his shoulder growing up. If I had to bet, I would say he is too weak to leave her on his own. If the marriage ends, it'll be because she divorces him and takes everything she can.
My uncle went through a similar situation. Drank himself to death within a year of the divorce finalizing. He never heard from his ex or his son (who the mother manipulated and has relying 100% on her) once after they left. 

Some people can be horribly awful people. Sometimes just because, sometimes due to undiagnosed/untreated mental illness.

 

GroveDiesel

Footballguy
Any chance your brother would get therapy by himself? Someone who is willing to put up with that and won't just leave likely has some depression and/or self worth issues. (Not to be a dimestore psychologist)
I seriously doubt his wife would let him go to therapy on his own.

 

CurlyNight

Footballguy
Sounds scary dangerous. She could reach a murder suicide level, including the kids. Is she abusive to the kids? If so, cps should know. I would make time during the work day to see a counselor about domestic abuse, which this is, for advice on how to proceed. Wife wouldn't know because it's work hours. He can't go on like this for the rest of his life, and with hormones changing (starts in your 40s), it could become worse.

As for you, be there for your bro. If fam leaves him, he may not survive. Be careful though. She may create delusions about your family and you don't want that. 

Hoping for relief for you all. Xxx

 
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phandango

Footballguy
Any chance your brother would get therapy by himself? Someone who is willing to put up with that and won't just leave likely has some depression and/or self worth issues. (Not to be a dimestore psychologist)
He did see a therapist on his own. I don't know how often he went or if his wife knew about it. There were times when he would tell me about an upcoming therapy appointment but when I'd ask him later about it, he'd say "something came up" and he couldn't go. 

 

flranger

Footballguy
While not as severe or as long as this case, I just got out of a marriage very, very similar to this.

Bottom line is she may have anxiety issues, and they manifest themselves in a thousand different ways, thus the personality disorder.  And when someone gets in this "manic" mode, it's near impossible to get them out of it and there is no reasoning when they get there.

I'm sure there are examples out there where things worked out and everyone became happy, but I'd bet they are extremely far and few between.  

My advice:  run

 
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irish eyes

Footballguy
This is why there are so many of those dateline and ID channel stories. This is one crazy b@@@@. He needs to get out now or something really bad is going to happen. 

 

belljr

Footballguy
My niece is pretty much gone from the family. Her husband is very controlling.

tried tons of interventions.   

 

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