Ask Angela: My sister treats her husband terribly — I need to say something

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  • Hoss817 Queen Creek, AZ
    Aug. 13, 2013 3:14 p.m.

    We as a society have not addressed the abusive female. Much of the pop culture tells women that they cannot be abusers. Clearly this wife is a very serious abuser. These kinds of the abusers get very angry at anyone who dares to stand up to them and their abuse. If the goal of this confrontation is to bring this issue up to her without getting her mad, then don't even try, as no matter what you do it is not going to work. Since the author of the question is a sister to the abuser, I think it is fine if she confronts her sister with this. She just needs to understand that her sister will probably not react well to it. She could talk to her sisters husband, but he may be well into denial. You will see that he will be afraid that confronting her for fear that he will lose their relationship. In the end it's going to be his responsibility. If he chooses not to confront her, there's not much that anybody can do.

  • Scott Hoskins Palmdale, CA
    Aug. 13, 2013 1:13 p.m.

    We were friends with a couple, and the wife had no problem slapping the husband and then taunting him because he was not "man" enough to hit her back.A better man than me, is all I can say. I refused to go out with them, although I still talk to him. They later divorced, which was best.

  • Chieftess Ivins, UT
    Aug. 13, 2013 12:06 a.m.

    We don't know enough from this letter to "point fingers". When Angela says maybe this works for them, I think she means that they are using what coping skills they have for the time being. That said, criticism and fault-finding can be the result of many things. Sometimes people find fault to justify being mad at someone because they still haven't forgiven or let go of some resentment such as feeling overwhelmed or misunderstood. Maybe the wife is afraid that she can't rely on him in an emergency and it's causing her anxiety and insecurity so she is trying to get him to do things 'right' to ease her fears. Maybe he has a passive aggressive coping skill in that he messes up on purpose to make her mad, especially publicly, so that he looks like the innocent suffering victim. We just don't know, but one thing we know, the sister needs her sister to be supportive and a good listener. Maybe she'll figure out a solution on her own if someone listens long enough.

  • Moontan Roanoke, VA
    Aug. 12, 2013 4:39 p.m.

    I once had a neighbor whose wife was a tyrant. He was always dejected, didn't speak much, never smiled, gained a lot of weight. Neglect his house, yard. Well, the old girl fell over dead, early 50's. A few months later, he had a spring in his step, kind word for everyone, yelled 'hello' every morning going towards his car, did weekend work on his house and yard. Started jogging.

    There's a lesson there, but the Proverbs teach us a wise man keeps knowledge to himself. :)

  • Firefly123 Mapleton, UT
    Aug. 12, 2013 4:15 p.m.

    My cousin had such a nasty and disastrous tongue used against her husband, we all felt sorry for him. She constantly belittled him, had him "serve" her. She quoted scriptures about how we should all be her servants, as Christ called servants good. It was intolerable to everyone in the family except her husband, who "bore it with grace" and continued serving her.

    Later, she had an aneurism burst in her brain. Doctors determined it had been doing damage for many, many years which probably caused her to be so incredibly awful to everyone. So, perhaps this girl really does need her head examined?

    My cousin is much nicer now, but it took years of therapy for her to learn to walk and talk again.

  • J-TX Allen, TX
    Aug. 12, 2013 1:01 p.m.

    @ Moontan RE: (sic):

    Only IF you had quoted me, and IF I had made 4 errors or non-conventions. Neither is the case.

    Used in brackets after a copied or quoted word that appears odd or erroneous to show that the word is quoted exactly as it stands in the original.
    It is used to point out a grammatical error, misspelling, misstatement of fact, or the unconventional spelling of a name.

  • Moontan Roanoke, VA
    Aug. 12, 2013 11:25 a.m.

    @J-TX - Mugabe's response is one of the more intelligent ones here, so far. He/she is right. She should stay away from the mere appearance of impropriety. Many a sister is estranged from sister because of tempting fate.

    Btw... go easy on (sic)'s in comment sections. Could have done 4 on your response.

  • Moontan Roanoke, VA
    Aug. 12, 2013 11:10 a.m.

    I think a woman who'd treat her man like that is probably a bit too clueless to benefit from intervention, loving or otherwise. Both ways. I've seen too many men trying to explain abusive behavior to think they can reform. Was always easier to just cuff them and cart them off without wasting time talking.

    What bothers me more is that almost all victims of verbal or physical abuse tend to make excuses for the abuser.

    Pick up your bro in law and drop him at a lawyer's office.

  • J-TX Allen, TX
    Aug. 12, 2013 11:01 a.m.

    My wife is mean to me on a regular basis. It is not at all uncommon for me to fantasize about leaving her and finding someone who appreciates a loving, caring, affectionate good provider. But then she goes back on her meds and all is good for a week or so....

  • J-TX Allen, TX
    Aug. 12, 2013 10:59 a.m.

    Mugabe: Your post made me laugh. Judge much?

    "And, why are you picking him up from the airport, doesn't he have friendss (sic) or family members that could give him a ride?"

    Uh, last time I checked, a Sister-in-law IS a family member....

  • Sandee Spencer Longwood, FL
    Aug. 12, 2013 8:30 a.m.

    I think you should go directly to your sister. Tell her how much you love her. Tell her the many good things that you admire about her. Tell her that you always want to be there for her and support her. And then as gently as possible share your concerns about how it appears to others that she treats her husband. Reassure her that you are certain she is a loving and wonderful wife in a myriad of ways (many invisible to those outside her marriage) but that in this one area she seems to be falling short. And then perhaps you can explore together whether she is suffering from depression or other stresses that have led to her struggles. And then reassure her again that you love her and admire many many things about her and that you will do anything you can to help her.

  • Alpinefun provo, UT
    Aug. 12, 2013 4:15 a.m.

    You should absolutely talk to your sister about this. It is not OK to treat anyone that way and she needs it to be brought to her attention. Be loving and supportive about it and listen to her side but still talk to her. I have been on the receiving side of such a talk and while it was embarrassing, I am glad someone had the courage to call me out on my bad behavior.

    If this was a game for them AKA "works for them" then they need to keep it to themselves. otherwise outsider have the right and obligation to stop the perceived abuse. In all likelihood he has had his views demeaned so many times he has come to believe it is acceptable for her to treat him this way. I would be furious if that were my brother and no one said anything. (do not go to him though, that is a recipe for disaster.

  • caf Bountiful, UT
    Aug. 11, 2013 1:38 p.m.

    Also, be prepared for your sister to think you don't know what you are talking about. BUT, you really don't know what their marriage is like. Maybe there is a lot of stress that you are unaware of and your sister doesn't know any other way of dealing with it. Angela is right. Talk to your sister, don't go behind her back and talk to her husband. Show your sister that you love her and remember that we can't pull the mote out of our brother's (sister's) eye until we have pulled the beam out of our own.

  • Mugabe ACWORTH, GA
    Aug. 11, 2013 8:20 a.m.

    Mind your own business. If your brother-in-law is willing to put up with his wife, then it should be no concern of yours. It seems as though you have more interest in the welfare of your brother-in-law than you should. And, why are you picking him up from the airport, doesn't he have friendss or family members that could give him a ride? Or better yet, can't he take a cab?

    You are too much involved in the life of your sister's marriage and you should take a step back and perhaps develop a relationship with your own future husband, if you don't already have one.

  • GeoMan SALEM, OR
    Aug. 11, 2013 2:18 a.m.

    I agree with Angela that talking to the brother-in-law is a bad idea. I agree that doing anything needs to be approached very carefully. I don't agree that there are not certain ways of treating a spouse that are just fundamentally wrong. It doesn't matter if it "works for them" or not. There are eternal repercussions for mistreating another human being. I'm not going to touch the word abuse because it is such a loaded term that has ceased to have any clear meaning. Suffice to say that there are many wicked ways of treating another person that don't involve physically striking them. Not all do, or should, rise to the level of being illegal. That doesn't make them any less wrong.

    I think that our society has drifted to far in the not saying anything direction. We need to move back to having more societal norms that people are expected (by society, not the legal system) to conform with. It is fine if someone chooses to be a non-conformist, but there should be social repercussions.

  • Cnd140 Selma, OR
    Aug. 10, 2013 9:10 p.m.

    I would probably say something when I observed the behavior happening. i.e. "Wow, sis, that is SUCH a nice way to act toward someone you love." and leave it at that.

  • moniker lewinsky Taylorsville, UT
    Aug. 10, 2013 4:48 p.m.

    Of course, if it were a man browbeating his wife, screaming at her, and going on regular tirades, we would be up in arms.
    Yes, most people who are abusive bullies don't like being called on it.
    DH and I used to be friends with a couple and the wife would regularly rag on her husband in front of whoever was around. He never did it quite right though it wasn't for lack of trying. It got to where I just couldn't stand to hang with them anymore.
    Invite sis over for a Jon & Kate marathon. The later episodes. Then ask her if she's considered what her life as a single mother might be like. Because there are plenty of women who are looking for a decent guy and who wouldn't mind snatching one away from a meanie wife. And after years of being mistreated, right or wrong, it doesn't take much.

    If it were a man abusing his wife, nobody would suggest that maybe this arrangement "works" for them. Please.

  • Dennis Harwich, MA
    Aug. 10, 2013 3:59 p.m.

    Angela is right on this one.
    I have a very similar personality to this husband. My ex wife just like the mentioned sister. After 21 years, kids out of school, I left and never looked back.
    Best thing I ever did for myself. You may ask, why didn't you stand up for your self. I did once, and got punched in the face. There you go.

  • ulvegaard Medical Lake, Washington
    Aug. 10, 2013 3:40 p.m.

    I agree with Angela.

    I just think it is refreshing to remind us that men are not the only ones who do not treat their spouses good.

  • utah cornhusker NORFOLK, NE
    Aug. 10, 2013 3:09 p.m.

    That would not be good. I have 6 siblings and would not dream of talking to there spouses about it. Years ago, there was a peyton place type situation between 2 siblings and there marriage. I would maybe ask your sister if she is under stress and maybe she is suffering from depression anxiety etc that might be causing it.

  • Maureen Fepuleai New Zealand, 00
    Aug. 10, 2013 2:36 p.m.

    I would sit down together with them, tell them both how much I love them and then tell them lovingly what my concerns are, which they have every right to tell me to "mind my own business", but at least I have been open and honest with two people who I love and know that I love them too. I would never go behind my sister's back and talk to her husband about what is my perception of what is going on. We never know the full story, well intentioned observation or not. :-)

  • UtahnInCA Tustin, CA
    Aug. 10, 2013 1:35 p.m.

    Agree with Angela. Giving any advice to the husband will backfire. If this person were to do *anything,* it should be to point out to her own sister how lucky she is to have the husband she has. Even there, the writer needs to keep in mind that she has no idea what else goes on in their private lives.

  • language fan longview, wa
    Aug. 10, 2013 11:43 a.m.

    Your sister's behavior is your sister's responsibility, not your brother-in-law's. It is her job to control her behavior, not his. Express appreciation to him for who he is and what he does, but don't give him advice or tell him things would be fine if only he were different. Speak to your sister instead and gently share your concerns with her. She may have serious issues she needs to address with the help of a professional. Also, keep in mind that both spouses have said and done things in private that are worse than the things you have witnessed. This is true of all couples. Outsiders, even family, can only see the tip of the iceberg.

  • Random Redlands, CA
    Aug. 10, 2013 11:35 a.m.

    If the sister-in-law speaks privately to the husband, it's going to come back to the sister, who will then be pretty sure that her sister is hitting on her husband, and that will not end well. For anyone. If the sister needs to speak with anyone, it needs to be the sister, framing it as "I've been a little concerned about how and Brett. Is something going on that is stressing you out? I feel that we are all together, I want to leave to let you two argue it out, but it's at a family dinner and I want to see everyone."
    Sometimes it does take a neutral third party to remind people they aren't in their own world; others are watching.

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    Aug. 10, 2013 11:01 a.m.

    She should tell her sister off publicly if she speaks disrespectfully of her husband publicly, but should not express sympathy privately to the husband.

  • JonathanPDX Portland, Oregon
    Aug. 10, 2013 10:46 a.m.

    Don't forget prayer. Humbly seeking wisdom and help through the Holy Spirit can often have better and farther reaching results than anything we can do ourselves.

  • george of the jungle goshen, UT
    Aug. 10, 2013 10:30 a.m.

    I know better than get in the middle of a dog fight. because both dogs will go after you. It's not only a bad idea but dangerous one.

  • Steven S Jarvis Orem, UT
    Aug. 10, 2013 9:38 a.m.

    Letting him know you appreciate him is by far the best thing you can do.

  • Kinderly Riverdale, MD
    Aug. 10, 2013 9:23 a.m.

    My guess is that the husband is feeling pretty beaten down and could use some boosting up. I would see if you could find a way to let him know that you think he's a good guy and deserves to be treated well. It is also possible that your sister has depression or something and this harsh treatment is a symptom. Seek HER out and ask what's going on, see if you can give support.

    There's a good discussion on the blog Single Dad Laughing that begins with a post called Worthless men and the women who make them. I can't seem to post the link in a comment but you can google it.

  • Ruthey01 Bremerton, WA
    Aug. 10, 2013 9:22 a.m.

    I totally agree with Angela. As much as we love our families and want things to be good for them, it isn't our place to get in the middle of our siblings lives. Especially when it comes to their marriages or children. One of my sisters still holds a grudge after being given "unsolicited advice" over 20 years ago. It just isn't worth the chance of a family rift with members siding with one or the other sibling.

  • Charles.Reese FULTON, MO
    Aug. 10, 2013 8:01 a.m.

    As one that comes from a broken home it would do good for the sister-in-law to speak with the sister rather than the husband. But if she does speak with the husband perhaps her mother could join or even the father. In saying that, the best advice would be to suggest they sit down with their bishop and talk about what marital problems they are having if they are members of the LDS faith. If not, then their spiritual leader or a trained professional to handle situations like this.

    No husband or wife likes to be verbally abused. Marriage takes a lot of work and sometimes there is a dominate spouse. But if it continues as portrayed in this article it will drive the individual who is being abused to do certain things that would be deemed not appropriate. This type of situation is a double edged sword that will either benefit the marriage or destroy it in the end. No one likes to hear the word divorce, but on occasion it maybe necessary.

    The church does its best to keep couples together. The rest is up to us as individuals. Agency is very important to both.

  • Rule of Law Pittsburgh, PA
    Aug. 10, 2013 7:10 a.m.

    Agree. It sounds like your brother-in-law has a personality that is not very assertive. Trying to encourage him to be assertive at worst could backfire, and make him either unpleasant to be around, or self-conscious and withdrawn.