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Domestic Violence

Handling the Concerns of Family and Friends

12/20/2004

Question:

From all indications our son in law is probably pshycopathic, a term his mother`s friend used, or narrsistic. He has done several things the least of which is 7 jobs in a year and 1/2. Our daughter and 1 year old grandson left for several months he started helping with the baby redeemed himself and now he`s back. Our daughter so wants it to work, she was raised that way. My husband and I are trying to stay out of it but, friends and relatives keep telling us things. He`s lost his latest part time job, our daughter hasn`t shared this she is embarrased. He argues so unfairly and simply wears her out! She does work full time.

My question is how can we best help her? By staying out or what. We`ve always been close, and supportive of her decisions. Her best friend tells us he`s "sucking her spirit" out of her, it concerns me that she hasn`t told us about the job. Our family is religious and believe in marriage however, not an abusive one. She once even went to marriage counseling and he didn`t show up, he was ordered into anger management and only finished when the woman told him if he missed again she`d tell the judge. He keeps talking about a 6 year plan and how our daughter and grandson are everything to him and he is going to give them everything. He is very spoiled by his mom and didn`t ever pay rent until he moved in with our daughter after she left him.

Answer:

I appreciate your concern and support for your daughter. As I read through you case, I became extremely focused on the concerns of family. It is very clear that you as well as others have become aware—and rightly so—of your son-in-law’s behavior. Your daughter is obviously also aware of his anger, lack of commitment to change, unstable work history, and so on; however, the fact that she is not sharing her thoughts and feelings with anyone is of concern. What she needs is an empathic ear. If she fears judgment or ridicule from others she will only refrain from seeking help and will shut down. Since she is perhaps committed to remaining in the marriage despite all of the obstacles, perhaps creating a space for her to share her feelings and thoughts will prove most effective. Giving her space to put in perspective events, behaviors, and feelings will hopefully lead to increased awareness and insight into her own behavior as “victim” as well. Your daughter is a likely candidate for individual counseling. Counseling would be a stable source of support for her during this difficult time. During the course of counseling, she may learn more effective ways of coping with her husband’s behavior or she may come to realize that despite her religious and family upbringing, being in a relationship that is emotionally or psychologically abusive is not healthy for herself or her young son. This is not to say that with adequate intervention (individual or couples counseling) the relationship cannot heal and become healthy. However, a successful marriage requires the commitment of both parties, not just one.

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Response by:

Cathy   McDaniels-Wilson, PhD Cathy McDaniels-Wilson, PhD
Adjunct Professor
Department of Sociology
The Ohio State University