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.

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