My sister is in an abusive relationship
My sister and I were very close as children and I really missed her when she went to university. Within days her flatmate latched on to her – he was besotted with her. She suffers from low self-esteem and went to a Catholic school. Almost ten years on they are now married but he is as controlling as he was when I first met him. His mother also undermines my sister’s confidence with underhand comments. He can be verbally aggressive and is lazy and unkempt. When my sister shares her opinions he talks over her. Now she lives miles away and I rarely see her. Her husband has tried to turn her against her family. As her brother, I have tried talking to her about him but she ends the conversation, takes it as a criticism of her choice in life and says she doesn’t give up on anything. I don’t think she is happy but she makes constant excuses for his behaviour. How can I make her see that leaving him would not be a failure? This is a very sad situation. The problem with controlling men (or women) is that they often alienate their partner from their family and, as the years go by, the controlled spouse finds it increasingly difficult to break free. On top of this, her mother-in-law is further undermining your sister’s shaky confidence. Do you know how much influence her Catholic upbringing has had? Was she taught that divorce was wrong, or even a sin? As she says she never gives up on anything, it sounds as though she may be too proud to admit she is unhappy. It can be very hard to help someone to leave a controlling relationship. When you next see her, explain to her that you know she loves her husband but that you feel she is very unhappy and ask whether she would like to talk about anything. Read Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship by Lisa Aronson Fontes to help you support her to leave. You could get her a copy, too, but make sure that she agrees she will be careful to hide it from her husband and his mother.