Patricia Redlich

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Nasty-In Law Brother

15th November, 2009


I am becoming increasingly frustrated with my brother-in-law. I feel obliged to act, but am fearful of making things worse. The issue is the way he treats my sister. They have been married five years, and he constantly tries to control her. Part of this involves throwing a temper tantrum if she expresses any desire to spend time with our family. He doesn't care who is present, and often makes me feel very uncomfortable.

I know all relationships have bad times, and that things often look different from the outside, but my sister has confided in me that she fights a constant battle against this attempt to control her. Her husband is sulky, moody, and much worse, cruel to her. He plays mind-games with her. She is so loving and gentle, she forgives him.

I want him to realise that I will not stand by and watch during cruel manipulation of my sister. Are my hands tied?

No, your hands are not tied. Your approach, however, needs to be tactful, wise, and intelligent.

There are two distinct scenarios here. One is the private relationship between husband and wife - the one you don't witness, but only hear second-hand from your sister. The second is the situation where your brother-in-law is nasty while you are present. Let's talk about that one first.

If your brother in law harangues your sister when you're there, then it's important you register your disapproval. If you don't, you are effectively condoning what's going on, giving him tacit permission to proceed. How you register your disapproval, however, depends on the circumstances - and the possibilities are too numerous for me to make any kind of list. The bottom line is that you should not witness nastiness and simply sit tight. That said, your only option may be to withdraw from the scene. There's no child to protect. Your sister is a grown up woman.

Tread carefully when your sister tells you her troubles. Certainly, you can listen to her sympathetically, and you should, of course, your piece, in terms of how you see things. But always remember, your sister not only chose this man five years ago as her husband, she continues to choose him as her husband. Yes, she may be gentle and loving. That's not the reason she forgives and forgets. Perhaps she believes that this is a battle worth fighting, for the sake of her marriage to a man who has other qualities she values. Or perhaps she is truly living out the victim role, allowing herself to be bullied. Either way, she believes her marriage is the place she should be. Rescuing her is not an option. It's her choice.
Irish based professional therapist and journalist. Website By : Deise Design