Post # 1
I realize that FI’s relationship with his parents is mainly his business, however they are very toxic people and they do put a strain on our relationship. FI’s parents are divorced, both remarried with new children, and they treat FI horribly and have for years. FI’s mother had custody of him and his sisters when they were young and was very abusive both emotionally and physically (starving them, hitting them, stealing their money, threatening them) and she has never acknowledged that this behavior was wrong and my FI insists that she just did what she needed to as a single mother. She did eventually lose custody of them when she remarried and he husband tried to strangle one of FI’s sisters and they took out a restraining order against him. FI simply cannot seem to minimize his contact with her despite the fact that communication with her always depresses him, and despite the presence of his stepfather who we both hate. We even visit his mother often. His mother still manipulates him constantly and will scream at him for hours because her daughters now refuse to speak to her or see her and he is there to blame. The last straw for me was two weeks ago when his stepfather killed my FI’s therapy dog and I reported him to the police which enraged his mother, at which point she refused to acknowledge her husband’s behavior and turned us into the villains. I told FI that at this point I feel it would be best for both of us if we cut off all contact with her for at least a few months beyond a few emails and phone calls. FI agreed, but then she called and convinced him to come visit her next week. Our resolution lasted literally a week and a half, and I know the reason she wants to see him is to punish him emotionally for what happened the last time we saw her and her husband. Given the couple’s consistently horrible behavior I wish FI would break things off with them completely for his own mental health and his safety, but he simply doesn’t see things the way I do. I know this isn’t uncommon for victims of abuse, and that a therapist could better handle this, but since FI is so in denial he would never agree to see one.
While I see his mother and her husband as the main issue, his father and stepmother are not helping things. They also constantly berate my FI but for other reasons. They hate that he has a college education and is pursuing a degree in pharmacy now, and they hate that he moved away from the small town he lived in to a city. They constantly lay on the guilt and anger about these decisions, calling him lazy for going to college instead of getting a job and growing up. The really rich thing is that despite the fact that they behave as if they are desperate to have him home, they ignore him almost completely when he visits. His father also denounced my FI and his sisters as bastards as part of his re-marriage, and so that has left lingering issues as well. Unlike with his mother FI acknowledges that this behavior is unacceptable and often threatens to address it properly or cut them off until they can communicate like reasonable adults. But he never goes through with it.
It is just so hard to watch someone you really care about put up with these things and even say he deserves them. Unlike him, I don’t become despondent when people attack or belittle me, I get angry. And so I often have difficulty understanding why he reacts the way he does on an emotional level as I feel impelled to action rather than passivity by these kind of behaviors. I honestly have no idea what to do about it: both sides of his family acknowledge that his parents are horrible but don’t seem to know what to do either. I know that if his relationships with his parents continue as they are they will put a huge strain on our relationship, especially after we marry. How do I help him break out of these unhealthy patterns of behavior?
Post # 3
You’re right to address this before you walk down the aisle – because no matter how much you love your fiance, if you marry into this situation as-is, you’re essentially going to be stuck with all of the toxic crap too.
My initial guess is that he was raised by a narcissistic mother and en enabling father (in those cases, the father sometimes ‘joins in’ on the abuse). The kid grows up feeling worthy of that kind of treatment – it’s normal. Defending the parents is also very normal. These are people who gave him the earliest image of himself…and also, to some degree, expected him to be the parent. The best way I can put it? The child becomes the parent. As an adult, your fiance is stuck pacifying the temper tantrums of ‘children’ and trying to keep them happy, though he’ll never actually accomplish that goal.
He may not go to therapy, but maybe you can. It could give you better answers about this dynamic and maybe give you the tools you need to minimize its impact on both you and your fiance. But, there are no guarantees.
Your fiance always says he’ll do something – but doesn’t. He gets mad about their behavior – but either justifies it or accepts it. Think long and hard about this, as it’s unlikely to change…
And you’re right that someday these people will be the grandparents of children you may have. If anything, I would solidify your stance on when and under what circumstances you would expose your children to these people…with your fiance before you have any.
I do wish you the best – this is a very difficult situation for everyone.
Post # 4
@Zyllem: he will be taking your children to visit mom–consider that. The fact that he justifes her abuse is a huge red flag. All wedding stuff would be on hold until he has some couneling
Post # 5
His dog was killed and that’s not enough to spur him to cut off contact?!!?!?
OMFG. If someone killed my pet i’d be LIVID! Holy crap!
You got to nip this in the bud now. Esp if you’re going to have kids. There’s no way i’d let my kids anywhere near those people!
Post # 6
@MrsVandykins: + 1
FI’s step-father killed his dog? Tried to strangle his sister?? OMG! Please, please get him to break off contact with his toxic Mum and her husband!
Post # 7
@Zyllem: It’s pretty clear that you can count on this being your life if you marry into this family. Think long and hard about that. You cannot change people and you cannot change anyone’s point of view.
Also, like other mentioned, grandchildren. I would not allow my kids to be around people like that.
Post # 8
First of all…his stepfather seriously KILLED his dog? How did this happen? And how does he excuse that behaviour?
I’m sorry but I don’t know if I could continue a relationship with someone who was willing to have these people in their lives. I don’t know how you do it. I realize that he’s a victim of abuse, but something has to make him see the light, and if strangling a sister and killing a dog aren’t bad enough for that, I’m afraid nothing will be and you’ll be stuck with this shit in your life forever.
Have you had serious talks about what it’s also doing to you? Perhaps he would think about it harder if he knew what he was putting you through everytime he let her into his life.
Post # 9
Thank you everyone! I was about at wit’s end when I posted, but luckily there has been one positive development: I managed to convince FI not to make his most recent trip to see his mother. Lia22 gave me the idea to frame my appeal from the point of view of my own feelings rather than pointing out that they treat him poorly, and it worked. I explained that I don’t want to be around these people given their past actions, that it’s very difficult for me to spend time with them, and that it would be very distressing to know he was visiting his mother. I could tell he had mixed feelings but he listened and he isn’t going or returning her messages about the visit. I think I’ll work on getting him to cut down contact this way, and maybe with a little distance he will be more open to counseling? It’s sad that he can’t do this for himself, but honestly my priority right now is just to get these people out of our lives. I think if I can get him to really see that this isn’t just something for him to deal with but something that is the one major stress on our relationship it might help him to develop more resolve as far as sticking to promises about minimizing contact. At this point I think that’s hard for him to see even if it’s obvious to me because his relationship with them is so much more complicated.
Also, thanks Cookiecreamcakes! I hadn’t thought about therapy for myself, but it would actually be a good way to relieve some of the stress and maybe develop some strategies for addressing the issue further with FI. I think I’ll look into that!
Luckily neither of us are interested in having children, but that doesn’t really make me any more eager to keep his parents in our life. But I think it’s a bit of a relief knowing that is one less thing we need to be thinking about. I do worry about any children his sisters might have, though (one is already married), as even though they don’t speak to their mother I know she would push to see any grandchildren and pull whatever manipulative tricks she could to make them follow through.
Ugh, the poor dog. FI’s stepfather took it to work with him a few weeks ago (which he never does, the dog always stays home), locked it in the car without water or the windows down and then left the dog to die of heatstroke since it was almost ninety degrees. And no, it was not an accident: first off, that dog would have been impossible to leave in a car by accident as it was a toy poodle that became extremely anxious when separated from people so it would have started making noise the second FI’s stepfather started getting out of the car. Second, he didn’t just leave the poor dog in there for an hour, it was out there from 9-6, and having brought the dog to work anyone would have remembered it was in the car before almost nine hours had passed. The police agreed that it wasn’t an accident from the statements they took, as well, but unfortunately couldn’t do much since the dog was already dead and FI’s stepfather had disposed of the body somewhere.