(Closed) is my SIL in an abusive relationship?

posted 5 years ago in Relationships
Post # 3
12247 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: May 2013

It’s definitely possible! I can’t say for sure, but there are some flags.

Have you talked to her one-on-one? Just how she is and how you’ve noticed that she seems less happy when he’s around.

Post # 4
519 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2014

This is really a situation where you need to have a heart to heart with her to let her know you are there for her.

I myself am a completely different person with others with or without Fiance present – it isn’t because of abuse but to do with a social anxiety disorder I’ve had… for some reason when he is around with other people I get really nervous and can’t act like myself. So really it could just be how she acts instead of abuse.

My Fiance would also respond in a similar fashion if we had just had a fight or he was particularly in a bad mood – you can’t tell because you only heard them in that clip of a second on the phone and have no idea what may have happened in their home before that…

As for the depression but bubbly with you that could be boiled down to her putting on a show so you don’t suspect that she is depresed.

Really this can go either way and no one can know for sure because no one knows what happens behind their door! But I would voice your concerns to her and let her know if she needs a place to stay that you will help her. It really doesn’t sound like a relationship she needs to be in though if he has no intention of ever marrying her when she wants to get married.

Post # 7
369 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: November 2000

Your concern absolutely makes sense. As someone with domestic abuse (physical, mental, sexual) in her past in the form of one individual I was entangled with for almost five years, I can say that when it came down to it, unfortunately all the family and friends (who I knew would help me in any way they could) could not make any ‘breakthrough’ with me. I had to leave in a way that I knew made it impossible for me to go back.

An abusive relationship can be like an addiction to a very dangerous, highly addictive susbstance. You can know it’s horrible for you. You can know it’s ruined your life. But put yourself where you can’t get at it and you’ll do anything to get back. 10 years is a long time. A lot of habits may feel overwhelming and unbreakable at this point. She may be blaming herself and feeling she deserves her lot. 

I left many times, strained everyone to near breaking points themselves as it just doesn’t make sense, from the outside, when a woman stays. For me, it came down to leaving everything I owned, buying a ticket to Germany, packing two bags, and getting in that 5AM taxi hoping to god he wouldn’t wake up. That was in 2002. I’ve never returned to the States.

You can try to provide her with as many oportunites to be away from him as you can. For me, these were like oxygen. You said she seems like herself at these times. Perhaps (working on the assumption that something is going on here) given enough of these times, she might get some of her confidence back, remember a bit of herself.

That is the manipulator’s masterstroke. And this is what so many people don’t understand. It truly enrages me when someone flippantly says ‘well, she stayed with him. If any man hit me, I’d be gone.’ Here’s the thing. They don’t hit until they know you’re not going anywhere. And that can involve years of breaking you down, your confidence, your beliefs, your social connections, your finances, your opportunities. Their little bird in a cage, so terrified it won’t fly even if the door’s left open.

Getting away (again, I’m just working with the hypothesis that something is indeed amiss) can take multiple times. It’s a struggle. Sometimes you feel, it’s better the knife stays in place. You’re afraid that if you remove the weapon, you’ll bleed to death even faster. And you know it’ll take so long to heal, it overwhelms you. The status quo, in all its misery, still seems less daunting.

I’m very concerned about his proximity to weapons. To be clear, there is no shame in being a gunsmith. This is not a political stance. Rather, his career frustrations, his need to belittle her, her behaviour. These are all things that are of concern. 

I know I’ve not offered much by way of concrete suggestions, but if something bad is going on, perhaps just a little insight into potential behaviour of hers that may just not seem to add up.


Post # 9
9674 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: April 2019

Something is definitely wrong there, since she is a completely different person when he’s around. Since she is on antidepressants it sounds like she is already getting some help, which is good. As for the trips out here, no the flight is not 3 days long lol. More like 13-16 hours. But it does seem weird to only stay 3 days when you’ve flown all that way. 

Post # 11
9674 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: April 2019

@anonybeezer:  that is strange, maybe he was buying some for their home. I just think it is unlikely he flew out here to cheat on her or anything bad like that. But I admit the story is definitely fishy. Just be there for her and support her like you have been, and maybe get your Fiance to talk to his sister and see how she is feeling about the relationship.

Post # 12
621 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: August 2014

@anonybeezer:  There are certainly some red flags here, so it makes sense that you would be concerned. The screaming and cursing and name-calling in response to a simple question is verbal abuse. It also sounds like she may be a bit isolated since her friends are all of his friends – she may not have someone she can talk to about what is going on because it wouldn’t be safe to talk with mutual friends. My best advice would be to have your husband reach out to her in a very general and supportive manner. “Hey sister, I just want to check in with you because I noticed that you don’t seem to be yourself around ____ lately. I’m just concerned for you and want you to know that we are here for you if you want to talk about anything.” You can open the door to communication so that if she IS experiencing abuse, she may feel relief that someone else has noticed, and at the very least will know the door is open if/when she is ready to walk through it. Domestic abuse can be a very isolating experience, so I think just generally letting her know that someone is looking out for her could be invaluable down the road. 

Post # 13
1009 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2012

There could be abuse going on.  Check out the Power and Control Wheel.  You’ve already covered verbal (the c work?  Seriously?!) abuse and isolation.  Bette Noir raised some great points.  To add, the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is when she decides to leave.  Since DV is about power and control, when she decides to leave, she’s taking that power and control back, which can cause escalation of violence.  A victim is 3x more likely to die at his hands when she leaves than if she stays.  And his access to guns could be reinforcing that.  I’m a bit confused by how he could be making and selling guns.  If you are in the US (this might not apply if you are not), the sale of guns is highly regulated (and needs more regulation!).  I don’t think just anyone can sell a gun.

Post # 14
510 posts
Busy bee

They could just be having some downs. I’m on prescription anti depressants and anti anxiety meds. People at work constantly tell me how happy I am and how they can never imagine me upset. When I come home, I’m mopey and nitpicky. That’s not because of my SO…it’s because at home I can be myself, and myself isn’t ‘bubbly’ all the time. 

Some anger between a couple does not mean abuse. They’ve been together so long that even if it’s just a natural drift apart, they could both be reluctant to call it quits because they’ve invested so much. Again, not abuse, but certainly not pure joy.

Abuse is a huge word to throw into play and I’d be careful about how you approach this situation. It’s nice of you to look out for her though.

Post # 15
2269 posts
Buzzing bee


he screamed at her- over-the-top roared at her to “shut the f*ck up and find the f*cking box herself, lazy c*nt”.”

Maybe I am misunderstanding.. but did you say your Fiance would speak to you in a similar fashion if he was in a bad mood? 

Post # 16
473 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2018

@Chrysoberyl:  this is confusing to me too. I can’t imagine a time this is ever acceptable … Maybe if someone’s child had gone missing and they were venting or some other extreme situation…it sounds pretty damn scary to me. 

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