Note: Mumsnetters don't necessarily have the qualifications or experience to offer relationships counselling or to provide help in cases of domestic violence. Mumsnet can't be held responsible for any advice given on the site. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

Sister marrying an arse, is there anything anyone can say or do?

(46 Posts)
babysaurus Wed 10-Jul-13 18:15:50

This may be more of a vent than a question as I strongly suspect that nobody can do or say anything but I'd value any other opinions or viewpoints all the same.

My sister, 34 going on 17, has two kids (2 and 6 months) with a man she'd only been with for 6 months when she found out she was pregnant. He seemed ok at first, bit rough and ready but generally alright, but has since started to show true colours. I am wary of giving too much detail so will be as vague as I can - he's a tradesman but has had no proper work for over a year. He did some for us, then some other members of the family and it was a nightmare. Think attitude, lateness, unprofessional and unreliable. Between us this overpriced 'work' cost just under £10,000. He also seems to fall out with all the suppliers etc too from what I can gather. Add to this he lies to my sister about why things have gone wrong which then causes problems as she gets arsey with whoever it involves (as he would do anything for anyone apparently - haha!)

To cut a long story short, she is determined to marry him. More so after attending our step sisters wedding (think they are just thinking of the big day rather than what they are actually doing tbh.)

Nobody in the family likes him with the possible exception of my mother, although I strongly suspect she isn't really that keen but tries more due to the kids. I think he's on the make myself (he clearly doesn't make himself employable and has previously made badly disguised comments about what our parents house us worth along with numerous other examples.)

I am sort of, with increasing reluctance, going along with their wedding plans (of which he appears to show minimal interest, its all via my sister) as I think telling her what I, and everyone else, think would simply push her away. She has to realise herself I think, but if anyone can think of a way to speed up the process id be hugely grateful!!

lalalonglegs Wed 10-Jul-13 18:30:28

I think it depends how close you are and how likely she is to write off any warnings as jealousy/interfering/not underestanding what a smashing chap he really is etc. If you've always had an open and close relationship, then you should definitely try to be frank about your feelings (the chances are she won't listen) but anything less than that and she definitely won't take any notice and it could cause a rift.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 10-Jul-13 18:33:08

Having been there, done that and got the t-shirt... I would say something. Say it reasonably rather than in a heated argument and say it the once rather than harping on about it. But, whatever happens next, whether it pushes her into his arms, she stops talking to you or whether they split up, your conscience will be clear.

SecretSix Wed 10-Jul-13 18:40:07

My mum asked me a fortnight before my wedding if I wanted to cancel, was I sure I was doing the right thing? She was very calm and non judgy about it. I didn't take the advice and the 'out' (how much now do I wish I had?) but didn't resent her for it.

She waited until we got divorced to tell me that she wept when we got engaged sad.

Bogeyface Wed 10-Jul-13 18:44:37

Sadly I think you are right that if you say something then she will just cut you off. She clearly cant or wont see this man for what he really is, and as you say, is focussed on the big day rather than the marriage.

I think that all you can do is plaster on a smile and be there for her when he buggers off.

BinarySolo Wed 10-Jul-13 18:45:37

I wish my family and friends had told me how much they disliked my ex, it would have made it much easier to leave him. I was unhappy for ages. We had a house but no kids (thankfully). Everyone saying what a nice chap he was made me think I was unreasonable to not want to be with him.

Looking back now I can see he was emotionally abusive, but didn't really know about that at the time.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 10-Jul-13 18:48:43

Wouldn't it be better to be cut off from this train-smash?

schobe Wed 10-Jul-13 18:50:21

Ooh spooky, my sister did this down to the dodgy workmanship, but fortunately no kids. She was also his cash cow with an excellent job herself.

Just had to wait until they got divorced tbh. I think they lasted about 10 years but marriage only lasted about 4.

I'm not helping am I? I just really don't think there's much you can do. She knew deep down I couldn't bear him I think. Verbalising that would have just caused a rift I suspect.

babysaurus Wed 10-Jul-13 18:51:54

Thanks everyone. Some very helpful viewpoints.

I get on well with her but we are not especially close. Very different types of people I suppose, interests outlooks etc.
I think telling her will just make her implode rather than be remotely sensible or rational (I do appreciate however that it would be a hard thing to hear though.) As I mentioned, she doesn't behave like a 34 year old professional who's also a mother of two, she's more like a teenager who flies off the handle and / or bursts into tears. However, can I sit there and watch them get hitched...?! (And why the fuck did I offer to go dress shopping - what an idiot!)

babysaurus Wed 10-Jul-13 18:52:52

cognito do you mean me cut off from the train smash...?

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 10-Jul-13 18:56:06

Bogeyface's concern was that if you say something she might cut you off. I think that's a risk worth taking. Plaster on a smile and keep lying to the poor cow and, in some small part, you're responsible for the blood & snot-filled train-smash that is inevitably going to happen. Say something and she'll probably still be in the carnage... but at least you can say you were honest with her.

babysaurus Wed 10-Jul-13 19:10:16

I wish I could work out if she suspects he's taking the piss / rude as everyone says he is and so on or not. I suspect she would be all defensive about him and ratty with everyone else.
Talking would DEFINATELY cause a rift unfortunately. I am now wondering if it would be possible to get her to realise things by herself (I wondered about this before when she kept asking me - I used to work at a wedding mag - what invites and so on I liked, I kept asking what HE thought but it turned out each time he wasn't interested.)

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 10-Jul-13 19:17:06

Once it's said, it's said. That's the beauty of the truth. No matter how defensive, ratty and rifty she gets over it, it's out there. She won't wake up to this chancer by herself because she's got her desperate bridal goggles on and she's not listening. But one day, like a lot of us up-thread, she may not actually thank you for your honesty, but she will be less annoyed with you than with all the simpering, lying, confetti-throwing, so-called friends that said ... 'he's a lovely bloke, babe!!!'

babysaurus Wed 10-Jul-13 19:19:23

Very true.

Hmmm.... Need to think this through

babysaurus Wed 10-Jul-13 19:23:01

Oh, and there are barely any friends coming to the wedding anyway as he falls out with everyone, and so subsequently she does too. It's mainly family but they are, I suppose, in similar quandaries as me. Makes us all sound like a lot of timid idiots doesn't it? I'd like to think we are not, it's just some things are harder to bring up than others. And what good would it do anyway (to bring things back to the original question.)

WonderingHow Wed 10-Jul-13 19:32:54

No wise advice, except that I am watching a similar train crash in front of me.

I feel too strongly to pretend. So I've had to take the only avenue open in my case: which is to say, quietly, that I do not endorse or support the relationship. I won't be participating in any weddings.

So he is persona non grata to me, but if my family member wants to go ahead and be wife number xx, she's free to do so, without any further interference from me.

I'm not suggesting what I'm doing is good or right, it is just the best I can do in my circumstances. In distancing myself it also means that, when she realises what the problem is, there is someone she can come to who loves her, and has not fallen for his 'great guy' act.

How you act though, depends entirely on your family, your nature, and how you read the situation.

Needless to say, some aggression has come my way for failing to toe the 'nice' line.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 10-Jul-13 19:42:12

"he falls out with everyone, and so subsequently she does too."

A feature of abusive relationships is that the dominant partner will gradually isolate their victim by offending friends and family, making themselves unpleasant, picking fights and setting up false 'me or them' choices.

When you tell her, therefore, make it clear that, even if she throws a strop and cuts you out of her life, you're available if she ever needs you. Keep that 'EXIT' sign lit for her.

babysaurus Wed 10-Jul-13 20:24:30

It's not as volatile as your situation sounds, this is more of a drip drip drip. He is making less and less effort but is, relatively, ok with my sister and the kids. He is cocky more often than outwardly rude, although he has had his moments there too.

babysaurus Wed 10-Jul-13 20:30:20

When he was doing work for us, for example, he said he was coming on, say Monday morning and wouldn't be there by 12. We'd text and ask where he was if he was still coming and get 'no ha ha' in response (not great when you're paying through the nose, or even if you weren't.) Then my sister would get her knickers in a twist as she'll hear we are being unreasonable and demanding.

ArtexMonkey Wed 10-Jul-13 20:38:39

I WISH i had useful advice, i really do. My own sister has dire taste in men too: one divorce to a twunt down, just had a baby with another nobber. She will not be told. It mKes me very angry actually as the last time she had a whole bunch of kids with a no hoper, my dparents couldn't stand to see her struggling alone so helped her out a LOT. This time they are ten years older and looking forward to their retirement, but no doubt will be pressed into service again. It doesn't matter though because my sister wants what she wants, and she wanted another cute lil bubba, never mind if the daddy is a thick sexist racist commitmentphobe who is shagging around behind her back while her existing dc witness strange angry men coming to the door saying 'your so and so has been shagging my mrs', or get his imessages to the ow speculating about whether my dsis will miscarry showing up on their new birthday ipod. But all is rosy la la la and if you say otherwise she blanks you.

Sorry, i needed a rant too. Er. Sorry. It sucks doesn't it? It really really does.

babysaurus Wed 10-Jul-13 20:50:17


ChangingWoman Thu 11-Jul-13 09:09:36

I agree with the pps who recommended raising the issue calmly and then not again. Sure, she probably won't listen but it may sow the seeds of doubt in her mind.

Apparently everyone in both families and all our friends knew or at least suspected that exH was a workshy alcoholic fantasist. No one even mentioned it. I certainly don't blame any of them for my own mistakes but I lost a lot of respect for everyone who knew and didn't try to warn me.

Jan45 Thu 11-Jul-13 10:40:59

You can't, she'll realise in her own time, it could take years. Your story pretty much describes what happened to my sister and I am so glad I never got too involved, telling her he was an idiot wouldn't have made any difference, she still would've have married him and I suppose so will your sister.

You just need to be there for her when it comes to an end and in the meantime be as supportive as possible without telling her how to live her life.


'Sistersaurus, rubbishfiance falls out with lots of people doesn't he? And there were all those repeated misunderstandings when he doing that work for the family... Do you think that's just chance, or do you think he behaves in difficult ways? If someone had doubts about him, because they love you and want you to be happy, would you want to know?'

I dunno, something like that?

ajandjjmum Thu 11-Jul-13 11:09:11


I think I would say something along the lines of 'DS I love you dearly, and want you to be really happy. I will do anything I can to help you, and that means helping plan your wedding, and trying to make sure it's the day you dream about. But you need to know that I think you're making a huge mistake in your choice of partner. I know you don't want to hear that, and hope that time will prove me wrong, but I don't believe it will, and I will always be there for you'.

Snazzyenjoyingsummer Thu 11-Jul-13 11:14:56

You've basically got one shot at it, and if she doesn't listen then you're stuck. Think vey carefully about how you're going to say it. I like Pannacotta's suggested wording above. After that you are going to have to have to keep quiet until unless they split up. Doesn't mean you have to accept rudeness from him though - still keep asserting your own boundaries.

horsetowater Thu 11-Jul-13 11:32:36

This man is exhibiting classic abuser tactics. He is nice to her because that's the only way he knows she will stay with him.

He is already segregating her from her friends by pissing them off and demanding her loyalty.

He will do that with her family (you) too. He knows that family stand by whatever, his 'haha' text to you was his test to see how far he can push you. He is playing you as much as he is playing other people around him. He may be doing this consciously, but it is likely that he can't help this - it is the only way he can survive in a close relationship - by maintaining total control and it's something that he developed in childhood.

You have to ask yourself a question -

Is your relationship with her more important than her own happiness and the future happiness of her children?

The thing with family is that you CAN fall out, you WILL come back together. If she cuts you off it will be temporary. But she will always remember that you meant what you said and you said it for her benefit and not for your own gain.

brokenk Thu 11-Jul-13 17:52:37

just try to tell her

garlicsmutty Thu 11-Jul-13 18:13:49

I married an arse. I was tremendously unsure I was doing the right thing. I still went ahead and did it, then, despite rapidly escalating twattery, tried pathetically to make a happy marriage of it. Once it was all over, I wailed "Why did nobody tell me??!" and they all said, predictably, we didn't want to hurt you. Turned out he had massively dropped himself in it with one sister and one brother, to the extent where they discussed having a serious word with me - but didn't.

Thing is, I knew I wasn't just having pre-wedding nerves, but the only person I could talk to about my fears was Twat. All the other people I trusted were jollying me along with suggestions to have a relaxing facial and/or another vodka, so I felt I'd be letting them down!

Also, OP, I have broken the news to a dear friend that her fiancé was both cheating on her and stealing from her. She didn't marry him. It did not destroy our friendship.

Tell her. Good luck!

ARealDame Thu 11-Jul-13 18:55:02

I think its really good to be open, honest and upfront about your concerns and opinions! I think you can really lay it on the line, in a totally sensible and clear way.

Then leave her to make her own decision. She will at least have another helpful reality-check, even if she discards it (for now).

Bogeyface Thu 11-Jul-13 19:00:40

My grandparents tried to talk my aunt out of marrying her bastard husband, but she did it anyway. 50 years later they are still together and she has suffered appalling abuse at his hands, but divorce was not an option sad

I am afraid that telling her wont make much difference apart from ruining your relationship with her, but staying on good terms with her will make all the difference in the world if/when she realises that she must leave.

Think of it this way, if you and she fall out because you tell her something that she doesnt want to hear and wont take any notice of, you are yet another little life line that her fiancé has succeeded in taking from her.

Bunznroses Thu 11-Jul-13 19:11:54

I could've written this- same thing, even down to doing 'work' for family members and ripping them off (and then gloating about it afterwards angry )
I did try and talk to my sister about it- told her how worried I was for her and that life doesn't need to be as hard as he makes it (she works her arse off and he continually negates whatever gains she's made with his irresponsible behaviour - parking fines, drink driving, writing hire cars off, spending the mortgage money etc. ) i calmly and factually stated what I though of him- she didn't speak to me for a year.

My advice would be to say nothing, just be there for her and hope she comes to her senses sooner rather than later!

garlicsmutty Thu 11-Jul-13 19:15:10

But ... If you have told her your concerns, and she ignores you but later starts to see your point, won't it be easier for her to talk to you?

ARealDame Thu 11-Jul-13 19:22:29

Like most things in life, I still think it depends what you tell her, and how, and when you shut up about it! I think clarity, rather that general "disapproval", tends to be more helpful.

(Also, your sister may have some understanding of his faults - but is prepared to overlook them e.g. for excitement, having a sex partner, or just needing a man around for her ego or even financially (though the latter sounds unlikely)).

I still think if its said clearly, briefly and with grace (and non-confrontational) it could be helpful. I wouldn't bother trying to convince her, as that would be pointless, just leave her to mull over it, as she wishes.

But (fingers burnt here) after that, I would agree about never bothering to comment/criticise again, it will probably backfire.

LadyFlumpalot Thu 11-Jul-13 20:06:44

Ok, if this were my sister I would:

Take her out to a neutral location like a park or cafe. I would say to her "I need to tell you something, I will only say it the once and I will of course support you in any decision you subsequently make - I think you marrying this guy is a mistake. I don't believe he loves you as he should and I think you will be unhappy very soon."

Then leave it there, do not mention it again unless she brings it up with you first, and just be there for her of and when she needs you.

tightfortime Thu 11-Jul-13 23:46:50

With benefit of hindsight, I wish people had told me. They all thought it was a car crash. Confused as to my 'choice' but I seemed 'happy'.

Only one who tried was my mum who gently asked before the wedding if I was sure, not too late etc. I of course assured her. But it did rattle me.

Had she pushed it, or others joined her, I think I would have stopped and listened to the voices in my head warning me off, more.

I would probably have hated them initially. I couldn't understand why my MoH acted up badly at my hen. I assumed jealously, all sorts. Turns out she was devastated she had agreed to be part of the farce.

All now tell me they wish they had said it, had me hate them, but maybe made me think. Same people who have been my rock during the split and I love them for it. But i wish someone had said 'I don't understand what you see in him, nice guy but not right for you and that is all I will say but know I'm there if you need to chat.'

I regretfully repeated same and stood by my very close friend as she married a twunt.

He has isolated her from me as he knows I don't like him. She ignores me but is devastated. All I can do now is be there when it does hit. But while I suggested my worries, I wish I had been straight.

Be the strong one here and say something and ideally, someone else should too in the family or circle of friends. I hate that everyone said it behind my back but was scared to say it to me. It might not have worked but it might have made me stop and think.

horsetowater Fri 12-Jul-13 09:12:04

It's a bit like having your label sticking up at the back of your jumper and nobody saying. Except far far far worse. Don't keep quiet to save your own discomfort.

Katisha Fri 12-Jul-13 09:21:52

Ages ago I had a friend who was marrying someone whose behaviour didnt seem at all right. But in those days I didnt understand about emotionally abusive behaviour.
However some sort of incident happened and we had a flaming row in which the fiance accused me and dh of appalling behaviour when it was actually him being the appalling one.
I was due to be best woman kind of role at the wedding.
The upshot was that I pulled out of being best woman but still went to the wedding.
A couple of years later they were divorced. We are still friends.
I think it's worth saying something and telling her even if she blows up at you, that you will keep the door open and not come back with I told you so.

NicknameTaken Fri 12-Jul-13 09:30:11

I did the disastrous marriage thing too. Nobody warned me, and to some extent I can see that my pride would have been wounded and I would have felt I needed to love him extra hard in the face of disapproval.

I do wonder if it would have helped if somebody had said "I'm sorry, but I don't actually think much of him". An itemized list of his faults wouldn't have worked, because I would have found ways to defend him.

I don't know. When you're in it, the momentum kind of carries you along. Have they set a date? A suggestion that they wait a bit longer so they can save and have a bigger splash might buy her a bit of time to change her mind.

Chocotrekkie Fri 12-Jul-13 09:34:03

I've been in the same situation. They have now split up.

To be honest the fact that they get married is the least of the problems now.

The kids are... He is quite frankly a terrible arse of a dad - he says he'll have them, they get all excited and then he doesn't turn up, brings them home when gets bored, promises them the world etc.

I didn't say anything - now that she has finally seen sense and ditched him we are closer, if I had gone in all "you can't marry him he is an arse" I could have lost her and the kids for good.

She admits herself she wouldn't have listened, been angry with me and would have gone ahead with the wedding anyway without me if necessary.

Just think of the wedding as a party - when you have kids with someone and split the divorce is the easy bit of the equation.

NicknameTaken Fri 12-Jul-13 09:49:34

That's a good point, choco.

CuChullain Fri 12-Jul-13 11:02:06

Most people get incredibly defensive when it comes to criticism of their relationship or their choice in partner. It is horrible to witness someone whom you hold dear making choices that you know is going to work out to their detriment in the long run. My mate recently married a women who I, and many of our peer group loathe, she treats this friend terribly, is manipulative, rude, selfish and a host of other things. We really struggled to see what he saw in her, but ultimately it is his decision. Any intervention on our part would probably have cost us our friendship. The best we can do is be there for him when the penny finally drops that he has married an abusive loon.

horsetowater Fri 12-Jul-13 11:38:59

I think you have to expect a bustup with your friend if you point out that they are marrying an abusive loon. Of course you will bust up, but if your friendship is a good one, you will reconcile and your integrity will make your relationship stronger in the long run.

Either way you've lost the person - you have lost them into a relationship that will drive them into a mental space that they shouldn't be in. And if there are children involved you are sending them there too.

I disagree that a wedding is just a party and a divorce is easy - to the minority it could be seen as that but to most people marriage is a one way ticket.

babysaurus Sat 13-Jul-13 20:45:25

We didn't have Internet yesterday, hence the late response.

Thank you ever so much for your replies, they have been really useful. I think that, however, my sisters fiancé isn't as immediately bad to call for me to collar her for a Serious Chat. That would undoubtedly cause an immediate, and probably dramatic, rift and due to pride, even if / when it goes tits up it wouldn't be easy to rectify. I also strongly suspect that as the wedding is booked for February there is not enough time for her to realise his freeloading etc ways herself, she is unfortunately to wrapped up with wedding planning. Saying all that, I am as sure as you can be they won't be together in, say, five years time. She is currently the only one working (she has a good job, 35k salary so supports them all) but will apparently (I asked her today) soon be helping Arse 're launch his business' - this is the second time for this along with her also paying exam fees and buying books for a 'change of career' he didn't even start. When, I don't feel as if its an if, this latest re launch comes to nothing she must surely start to smell a rat? If not then, then the next time. Eventually it will happen and things like the number of fallings out he has with people will ring bells too.

I think that saying something (bear in mind I've not passed much comment either way) now will cut us off and she will marry him regardless.

schobe Sun 14-Jul-13 23:06:01

All sound horribly familiar. Might be worth pointing out to her that if she marries him and they split, she will end up paying HIM for the privilege.

Oh how I enjoyed watching that for my Dsis (not). Thanks be that there were no kids or he probably would have been (nominally) primary carer and she would also have been screwed re custody.

horsetowater Sun 14-Jul-13 23:50:55

Also point out that if he's at home looking after the children more, it is quite possible that he will be granted residence if they split and she may only have them every other weekend. This will make it very difficult for her to separate even if she wants to and is the kind of thing that makes women stay in a terribly dysfunctional relationship.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now