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Is this what they call emotional abuse? Re: a family member

(64 Posts)
Namechangeyetagain Fri 12-Oct-12 15:14:56

This is about my brother.

There is a large and complicated backstory involving my brother and his 'victim' status. He suffers from low self esteem, anxiety and cyclical depression. I won't go into now as this post would be an essay! However, he is very loyal and 'proper'. He He wouldn't dream of laying a finger on a woman, believes in equality and is a bit of a romantic. He met his wife about eight years ago and she turned his life around. She helped him with his debts, he became happy with life for the first time, they married and very soon after had a child.

At first we all got on with her although she would sometimes behave oddly. She could be quite negative and critical of my brother, even doing it in front of our mother and friends and family. When mentioned to my brother he would just shrug and say 'that's just her'. After sometime he admitted that she herself had past struggles with depression and it affects her self esteem.

As time has gone by, her behaviour can be very inconsistent and frustrating. She can switch from being lovely to being moody and outright rude. She can also be quite self-absorbed e.g you can spend quite a bit of time with her without her once asking how you are. She is also very controlling, she controls the finances, all the decisions regarding the children and the house. 321We all put this down to this just being her.

She decided to move the whole family to the other side of the country, my brother didn't really have a choice in the matter, as it was a case of she would take the kids and go without him. I think he has always tried to convince himself he wanted to go. Being so far away makes it tricky for any of us in his family to know really whats going on. After a few long conversations with him recently, it seems her behaviour has become intolerable and controlling and he dreads going home each night.

It seems that over the last year she has become quite down and takes it out on my brother. He has started calling me to ask me if this is 'normal' behaviour between spouses.

Examples include her telling him she doesn't respect him due to him earning less than her. She can't bear the idea of spending the rest of her life with him
She wishes she never had children with him
Telling him he should be moving out. Then changing her mind because it would upset the children. She does apologise but as my brother said, this comments ring loudly in his head and makes him feel like shit.

She has very strict rules in the house which can often make visiting quite uncomfortable for family. If he deviates from these, she has certain sanctions in place which if he challenges it usually descends into an argument which he admits ends up with her throwing things then disappearing out of the house for hours leaving him with the children. He said he wouldn't dream of doing this and if he did, she would go ballistic. She has a social life and insists on going out quite a few nights a week yet creates my brother wants to go anywhere.

He also told me that he feels like he is a visitor in the house and like he has no claim over anything. He feels violated by her family who regularly come in and out and breach his personal boundaries. I don't think his name is on the mortgage as she purchased the house. I think this is something he has only recently discovered although may not be sure about this.

She does have counselling, so does he in fact and I believe they are attempting marriage counselling but I don't think it is going well.

I know my brother is hard to live with. He can be a pain when he gets miserable. He is not great with money (he has none) and he is not very responsible and can be forgetful, but he is a great father and adores his kids. He constantly feels insecurity as she holds all the cards. He is terrifed of losing his kids.

What can I do to help? I am rapidly beginning to dislike her and want to call her up and challenge her. I hate, hate her behaviour and when I saw my bro the other day he looked terrible. He is on medication and overeating compulsively, and is in danger of losing his job. I know she is largely at the route of this, yet he often makes excuses for her behaviour.

Any constructive advice or action he can take? I know he is going to call me tonight and talk more about it.

Mayisout Fri 12-Oct-12 15:28:44

Is he contributing to the mortgage. If he is can he should insist on being included as a part owner or he should stop paying his share. He should speak to a solicitor and find out what his position would be if they split. Perhaps she would have to pay maintentance to him. But he needs to know where he stands so he can make decisions about any future possibilities.

Namechangeyetagain Fri 12-Oct-12 15:31:07

Yes you are right. I feel rude asking him questions like this.

He literally has sod all money. She controls it all.

ChooChooLaverne Fri 12-Oct-12 15:44:44

If she was your sister I would suggest she phones Women's Aid. I don't know what the equivalent is for men, but I assume there is one? I will go and have a look...

ChooChooLaverne Fri 12-Oct-12 15:47:31

Men's Advice Line is available Monday to Friday in the daytime.

Mankind Initiative has a helpline that is also open for a couple of hours in the evening.

ChooChooLaverne Fri 12-Oct-12 15:48:34

The Mankind one says they welcome calls from mothers/sisters etc so maybe you could call them for him if he can't phone from his house?

Namechangeyetagain Fri 12-Oct-12 16:30:53

That is really helpful everyone. Thank you!

wheresmyheartat Fri 12-Oct-12 16:44:05

I think whatever is going on, this is a toxic relationship and he needs to get out.

Is he main carer? Does he work?

Namechangeyetagain Fri 12-Oct-12 17:44:01

He works full-time, she is self employed so works in fits and starts. Children are at fulltime school and childcare. She has time during the day to go to the gym, see friends, follow her hobbies yet when my brother comes home, one of the 'rules' is he has to clear up the living/kitchen area and put two of the children to bed and do his laundry.

He says he is happy to do this but resents the fact that his whole evening is taken up with this whilst she goes out or 'catches up on work'. She goes utterly mental if he doesn't clean up. Think walking out or not talking to him/banishing him to the sofa etc, and it really is a mess. She is not really a housework person and has a rule that dishwasher can only go at night. I have fallen foul of that rule when I was trying to help once!

When asked by him if perhaps she could do a bit during the day so he could grab some downtime or maybe go out, her excuse is she is working. This division of labour worked when she was at home looking after the kids but now she isn't. I pointed that out to him and he admitted he felt it was unfair now. He is up til really late catching up on chores then he has little sleep and ends up being late to work - two flashpoints for his wife.

Apologies for all the detail and typos. It is just pouring out of me at the moment. I have kept my mouth shut for so long and put up with her being rude and unpleasant at times so as not to upset my brother.

Namechangeyetagain Fri 12-Oct-12 17:48:16

Sadly I think he has picked a woman very similar to our mother.

ChooChooLaverne Fri 12-Oct-12 18:12:04

In that case it might be good for him to have specialist counselling - although you did say he's having counselling already. Again, one of those DV organisations might be able to recommend someone who specialises in the area. He shouldn't go to couples counselling with her - it's not recommended in cases where there's abuse.

It does sound a horrible situation he's in but I'm glad he's got you to talk to and I hope he will try and get himself out of it.

I don't think you should call her up by the way (though I get why you would want to), she will probably punish him by trying to stop him speaking to you.

Namechangeyetagain Fri 12-Oct-12 18:32:21

Precisely the reason I won't contact her, it would make things v tricky!

Thank you.

longjane Fri 12-Oct-12 18:42:28

well he should be helping in house
but surely it is his fault that it take him all night to tidy up
can he get a cleaner
he could get the kids to help
as for money
you said he was rubbish with money
maybe he mess up with family money?
as for the rules
maybe she has ASD
but if he not happy why does not leave her
he could always move in with you

Namechangeyetagain Fri 12-Oct-12 18:48:32

Maybe she does have ASD or something similar. It would help understand her behaviours.

Cleaner is not an option due to money issues. He doesn't want to leave his kids. I think this is the problem. He really wants to remain a family, even if it means putting up with toxic behaviour.

He can certainly stay with me until he gets his life back on track. He is not living with me though!

kiwigirl42 Fri 12-Oct-12 18:48:57

wow. what a nutjob. no wonder you are concerned. he is lucky to have you caring about him. I hate to think how the kids cope with all these 'rules'.

If he was female, we'd be baying 'leave the bastard' but its not as easy the other way round is it, as he probably lose the kids and have hell trying to negotiate with her for visitation, especially if her family are as involved as you say.

I've not useful advice I'm afraid, just adding my support to you and DB.

Namechangeyetagain Fri 12-Oct-12 19:02:18

It is a horrid situation. This is supposed to be a person who loves him.

Some of the things she says are horrid. If I said them to my DH or him to me, it would be marriage over!
I think my brother has somehow normalised the behaviour, or is at least minimising it to himself.

And yes, if this was a female friend/sister, it would seem more clear cut.

Namechangeyetagain Sat 13-Oct-12 12:55:19

Well he didn't call me, and I haven't heard from him in the last few days. Getting a tad worried about it all.

Does anyone else have any experience in this kind of thing? I think the problem is, we as a family, have been a bit ignorant of it for a long time.

HissyByName Sat 13-Oct-12 13:22:26

He can't leave the kids with her.
Please contact Mankind, please help your brother.

There is no difference between genders where abuse is concerned, if you're standing back because he's not a woman, you know that's not right.

As a survivor of dv myself, I would think getting help for a male victim, for him to allow that help has to be somehow harder.

He's got a long journey ahead of him, bur he has to get his dc out of this situation. Ideally, she has got to go.

Snorbs Sat 13-Oct-12 13:32:37

A man who is the victim of domestic abuse is often in a very dificult situation. Men are rarely seen as the victims of abuse; they're usually assumed to be the perpetrators. Hence at every step there is a greater onus on him proving himself

If there are children in the relationship then things get even more difficult as the man is often faced with the choice of either putting up with the abuse or leaving in the full knowledge that, at best, he's likely to be an every-other-weekend dad. At worst, his ex might attempt to move the children away or otherwise make contact very difficult.

There are no easy answers I'm afraid. One-on-one counselling for him may well help. As others have said, Mankind and the Men's Advice Line are good. It might also be worth him giving Families Need Fathers a call to see what, if they did split up, he could do to maintain contact with his children.

I was lucky. I'm a man who was the victim of domestic abuse but my ex is an alcoholic so it's easier for others to (sooner or later) see where the issues lie. Nevertheless it took a long time for me to prove to Social Services that I was the better parent. If I was the drunk and my ex was the one trying to raise our DCs, I wouldn't have got nearly as many chances as she did. That's just the way it is.

That being said, splitting up with her was still the best thing I ever did. One day I realised that I was trying to cling on to a dream that simply wasn't real. Everything that I held dear was in ruins - my relationship was deeply dysfunctional, my DCs were desperately unhappy, I was so stressed out by it all it was affecting my health... I realised that I had already lost everything I was still trying to cling on to.

But in that realisation there was freedom - I had nothing left to lose. I couldn't face continuing to live that way. Therefore anything I did to change things would likely be a positive result; it's not like it could've got much worse. And by hard work, a bit of luck and a hell of a lot of grim determination, things have worked out better than I could ever have hoped.

HissyByName Sat 13-Oct-12 13:42:11

Snorbs, I am SO glad you saw this! I was thinking of you!

DinosaursOnASpaceship Sat 13-Oct-12 14:04:53

I am going to sound like such an awful person now but she reminds me of how I ended up when I was in a previous relationship. And it wasn't down to me being emotionally abusive, it really wasn't. It was pure frustration and end of tether type situation.

He was useless with money, to the point that the bills were going unpaid as he was frittering it away on nothing - he had no idea what he was spending it on. A fair amount on fast food probably as he used to eat and eat, he was messy to the point that I had enough and said fine - his mess, he can sort it out. Which he did, slowly and painfully taking hours to do something that could have taken much less time. But I didn't see why I should do it after being at work all day and taking care of my children (we had none together) it got to the point where I had to take his money to keep our heads above water and we resented each other as he felt I was controlling and I felt he was an extra stroppy teenage child that I had to mother. We did nothing but snap at each other and I can just imagine what he could have said about me to people.

We split up in the end, and are good friends now but our relationship was just unhealthy for us both. He's not had a relationship since where these issues haven't come up. He's in his mid 30s living with his parents being taken care of the way he was used to being. He's also lost weight as he has been happier. Maybe he was just meant to be single. He was amazing with my dc and they adored him. Some differences were that he had a great social life and friends, of course there were no punishments but I suppose me being angry when I came home yet again to a tip would've been hard for him. Thinking back, I think he was depressed, he would wear dirty clothes rather than do his laundry - I used to have to nag him to wash.

Your brothers situation sounds awful and I can sympathise. It's difficult as you can't approach her and you also only have one version of what's happening. You want to protect your brother and must feel very useless. I don't know what to advise but I really hope for both their sakes they are able to either work through it or seperate as their children must be affected by it.

wheresmyheartat Sat 13-Oct-12 14:22:07

"one of the 'rules' is he has to clear up the living/kitchen area and put two of the children to bed and do his laundry."

I expected DP to do most of these things when he was working. Consider the amount of work involved in looking after children. Homework, laundry, packed lunches, hoovering, tidying, planning, paperwork, there are a million and one others yet you feel that your brother is doing too much.

Putting his children to bed - a privilege in my book, not a chore
Doing your own laundry - probably easier than having someone else do it so you know where you are, especially if there are work clothes involved - my DP did his own, still does.
Clear up the living/kitchen area = one room? Doesn't involve washing up? How hard can it be?

You fell out that she only wants the dishwasher on at night in her own house. Has she perhaps got economy 7 electricity bills? It costs twice as much to run during the day, so I think she has a fair point.

Perhaps you need to look at the details before jumping to conclusions here. If DB needs to manup and confront her you could help him with that, but get the full picture first.

You say you think he married someone similar to your mother. Is it perhaps you that has the problem with your mother and are transferring your issues onto him?

Snorbs Sat 13-Oct-12 14:43:21

wheresmyheartat, imagine you knew a woman who was being repeatedly verbally abused by being put down and insulted in public and private, whose views on childcare and where they live were completely ignored, and who was subjected to her partner throwing things around when he was angry.

Imagine that woman in that relationship with so many red flags; would you advise her to "man-up and confront" her abuser?

Lueji Sat 13-Oct-12 14:43:31

I do wonder as well.

know my brother is hard to live with. He can be a pain when he gets miserable. He is not great with money (he has none) and he is not very responsible and can be forgetful, but he is a great father and adores his kids.
This last is something a dv victim would say of an abuser...

I'd try to look at it from a distance and try to figure out how much is true or bias.
You know his side of the story.
Hers may well be different.

But it looks like a bad relationship, and perhaps it would be best if they split amicably before it gets worse.

duffedup Sat 13-Oct-12 14:50:16

my bf lived in a marriage very similar to that. he was an abused man his confidence was destroyed. lived in fear of what her next reaction would be. he was ridiculed in public and at home and was treated like an employee. your brother needs some help.

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