SpeakOutLoud

About Coercive Control and Psychological Abuse

How mothers can support daughters coping with an abusive relationship

– Posted in: Helping victims/survivors, SAFETY of Women & Children, Why does he do it

Are you a despairing mother whose daughter is in an abusive relationship and you’re at your wits end trying to work out how best to support her?

Have you opened your home time and time again, then your daughter comes home and you and your family try and help her through the drama she’s having with her abusive partner, but then she goes right back to him?

Is watching the way he treats your daughter breaking your heart?

Judy, whose heart was breaking witnessing her daughter living with an abusive man, made a comment about her daughter under my post Warning Signs that your Male Partner is Controlling you:

“We hardly ever get to see her …. It’s all a lot of small things — calling her names, abusive to the max, being unfaithful. It doesn’t matter what this boy does she takes him back.”

Another mother told me:

“My daughter and I and her dad are really close and love each other loads. My husband and I have always found his behaviour to her to be selfish, sexist, uncaring, disrespectful and at times cruel. When I visited her to talk about what we were seeing, her reaction was withdrawn and non-committal, she was very loving, but said we had blown it out of proportion.”

This mother was advised by Domestic Violence organisations not to push her daughter to take any action and to leave such decisions to her. Current research shows this is the best action in cases where coercive control is involved. But that may seem counter-intuitive to you. I’ll explain how to support your daughter below. Meantime, this mother went on to tell me some ways she tried to support her daughter. This mum’s approach is the recommended way, despite her daughter minimising her experience:

“I tried to keep checking on her — she always said things were fine and they were getting on well. Their wedding went ahead, he behaved very nicely in front of all the guests. All my friends said we were worrying needlessly — however he is very convincing. As time’s gone by my daughter became pale and ill looking, and seemed deeply unhappy. We noticed behavioural changes including she is now saying and doing things to try to please him even when totally against her character and interests. . . . . Recently she seems to be withdrawing from me in particular — doesn’t reply to my emails and avoids taking my calls. Again we told her our concerns about the changes we were seeing in her and about his behaviour towards her. But this time she vehemently denied everything, said she was happy, accused us of having it in for her husband and judging her marriage, and mostly refused even to hear our reasons for concern, so it was all very difficult. Taking her denials as a cue we didn’t mention the word ‘abuse’, we tried to keep it calm and play it down a bit, and at no time did we criticise her husband as a person – only some of his behaviour. I have to confess that I am finding it all a terrible strain and miss my daughter very badly, but realise that there is not much else that we or anyone can do at this stage other than, whenever possible, to monitor the situation, fight against the increasing estrangement of our daughter from us her family, give her a bit of relief from the relentless abuse every now and again if we get a chance to do so, and make sure that if we get a chance to let her know we are there for her.”

Have the impacts of abuse led your daughter to . . . .

  • become defensive and push you away?
  • be jumpy, hypervigilant, and walk on eggshells round her partner?
  • appear to bury her needs and her pain, minimise the harm being done to her?
  • modify her behaviour to fit in with his wishes, demands, commands?
  • seemingly not assert herself, not challenge or confront her partner?
  • do whatever it takes to avoid or reduce his abuse?
  • avoid revealing the truth of her situation to outsiders?
  • develop fatigue, exhaustion, confusion, depression, anxiety?
  • live with shame?
  • consider herself as unworthy, not good enough, inadequate, and that something is wrong with her?
  • ignore her own voice and intuition?
  • lose her perspective and adopt his?

One mother told me that as time has gone by, she and her husband feel in a catch 22 situation because their daughter has drawn back from them even more, is less communicative and in less and less contact. This mother said that:

“if we try to overcome this with lots of phone calls, emails and suggestions to meet up it seems to feed into her husband’s smear campaign about us. He has made up fabricated stories about us to our daughter — that we are pushy, intrusive, over-protective and jealous of our daughter’s closeness with him and his family.”

What is he doing that’s causing your daughter to reject you?

His month-by-month smear campaign slowly, but surely, divides and conquers the loving relationship between daughter and mother . . . .

  • He instils stereotypes into your daughter’s head by telling her that you are a lying, interfering, overbearing and meddlesome mother-in-law who needs to back off.
  • He uses a system of rewards and punishments — rewarding her loyalty to him and punishing her for reaching out and connecting with you.
  • He fosters distrust in her by manipulating her belief system, her interpretations and perspectives about you by telling her that you’re extremely controlling.
  • In conversations and arguments with your daughter he consistently degrades, insults and criticises you, slowly teaching her to hate you, others in the family and friends.
  • He constantly tells her that his perspective is right and her family’s perspectives, beliefs, behaviours, and lifestyle are bad, wrong, false, etc.
  • He lowers your family’s status and talks up his own family’s status. Many mothers I’ve spoken to who are going through these experiences have observed that the man’s entire family supports his divide and conquer strategies.
  • He restricts her relationships with her family by saying he loves her and wishes she’d spend more time with him and his family.
  • He may outright prevent any alliance between your daughter and you by restricting contact in any form — phone and Skype calls, and time spent face-to-face. He may insist she move towns or countries with him, isolating her from family and friends.
  • And finally, he brainwashes her into believing she needs to grow up and separate from you by telling your daughter she’s just a ‘mummy’s girl’.

Rachel, who rejected her mother whilst in an abusive relationship gives advice to mothers:

“I did that to my mum – didn’t talk to her for 6 months. Sadly she passed away. I had only just begun talking to her to be honest. My ex hated my mum and I didn’t talk to her as it was easier than getting him angry with me. She was a dragon and I stayed away, coz if he knew he went over and threatened her. My advice is never shut the door on your daughter and know she loves you but it’s hard.”

Failed attempts at supporting your daughter?

Instinctively you might have tried to get your daughter to leave her partner, tell her you don’t like him, tell her to assert herself and stand up to him, tell her to meet her own needs and stop kowtowing to him. You might have become angry and aggressive and threatened to cut off support. In exasperation you might have told her she’s stupid, obviously can’t think for herself and you might have confronted him. Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with a coercively controlling person, they believe they are always right and are driven to get their way at all costs. They deny wrong-doing, minimise harm caused, and they blame and manipulate the victim. If anyone tries to interfere in his “territory” he will retaliate — he will turn your attempts into an excuse to further degrade you and he will continue to coerce your daughter into taking sides — he will do what it takes to make her be loyal and dependent on him, and to be disloyal and break away from you.

Your daughter is doing the best that she can in these abusive circumstances

Research shows that while in relationship with a coercively controlling man, women are constantly safety planning, constantly managing ways to keep herself (and her children if she has any) . . . . keeping as safe and sane as possible. And she manages this whilst also dealing with his tactics that have distorted her reality and perspective. It is often safer to stay in the relationship than to leave. Leaving a controlling man is the most dangerous time for many women. The chance of further control, and further violence rises when she leaves, or threatens to leave. If he has not used violence in the past, the chance that he will do so at this time is high because coercively controlling men, for various reasons, cannot stand it when they lose control of their partner. Leaving is the most common time when a controlling man murders his partner — many controlling men threaten to kill their partner if she leaves, which is one reason women refuse to talk to outsiders about the abuse they’re experiencing. Check out my blog on assessing danger here.

Two rules of thumb when you support your daughter

  1. Firstly, she is already being controlled by her partner, so some of your instinctive reactions might seem controlling to her and will drive a wedge between you and send her more deeply into dependency on him. Therefore it is not really what you say to her that’s important, it is how you support her that matters.
  2. Secondly, find ways to support her that keep the doors open and that let her know you are there for her in the long run. Offering a loving, kind compassionate, concerned and non-judgemental presence creates trust.

Here are some suggestions to support your daughter

Keep the doors of communication open:

  • Let her talk
  • Just listen
  • Be empathetic
  • Let her get things off her chest
  • Ask questions aimed at helping her hear her own story out loud
  • She is not stupid — women gain deep insights when someone just listens without any agenda
  • Don’t try to convince her of anything
  • She needs you to believe her
  • She needs to trust you and she needs to make sense of her situation in her own way and in her own time
  • Tell her that you are there for her when she is ready
  • Create a welcoming safe atmosphere for her to come to (even if this is only for one hour, one day, or a one minute phone call)

Keep conversations casual:

  • Chat to her about what you’re doing in your life
  • Chat about funny things
  • Chat for short times
  • Chat about general stuff — nothing to do with your daughter’s relationship

Things to say to her:

  • I’m afraid for your safety
  • I’m afraid for the impact his abuse is having on the children
  • Research shows that many boys who witness this kind of abuse copy their fathers and grow up to abuse women and many girls learn to be doormats
  • The ways he behaves towards you are not your fault
  • You do not deserve to be abused
  • You deserve better than this
  • Use praise to build up her healthy behaviours and ignore the behaviours you see as destructive
  • Use praise that connects her personal worth with qualities she’s using to survive
  • I know you want to help him because of the weaknesses and vulnerability you notice in him, but research shows that the pattern of coercive control only ever gets worse
  • Lots of women stay because of a compelling sympathy for his vulnerabilities. Women say they don’t want to hurt him, so they choose to stay and suppress what they really want. It is okay to leave a man who refuses to take responsibility for his abusive and controlling behaviours.
  • Anecdotal evidence shows that when you draw this line in the sand, it is only then that he might start to take responsibility for his behaviours and get help to change
  • Abuse is not respect and it is not love

Ask questions to try to draw her out:

  • It must be confusing for you living with a man you love who abuses you, what is it like for you?
  • How can I support you?
  • When he calls you names how does that affect you?
  • If he continues to treat you this way, what do you predict for your future in 5 years time? And for your children’s future?
  • I notice you believe the words he says, but you seem to separate that from the reality of his behaviours. Would you like support to deal with that?

Safety always comes first:

  • Check with her when it’s a good time to call
  • Hang out with her at a safe place
  • Ask if she’d like to brainstorm a safety plan to use while she’s in the relationship and one if she ever decides to leave
  • Keep yourself safe, because some men abuse anyone who supports your daughter, and many men will abuse you if you confront him.
  • If she abuses you, assert yourself and make your boundaries clear to her.

I make the following suggestion with a vehement warning:

You could suggest good books you’ve read that might give perspectives outside the perpetrator’s mindset. However, I must warn you that if the controlling man discovers her reading anything about domestic violence and power and control, it is common for those men to hit or otherwise abuse her and it is common for him to up his game and isolate her from you even further. And a second warning: If you offer reading materials to your daughter, she herself might refuse to take the information, and the offer may drive a wider chasm between you.

Remind yourself that manipulative mind games lead to a double bind:

  • She loves him and he cares for her AND he despises and disrespects her and abuses and controls her.
  • He flexes his muscles, puffs out his chest and clamours for continual power over her AND he regularly reveals his vulnerability, anxiety, shame, weaknesses and fears. This causes many women to try to not want to hurt him and to want to help him. He uses this mix of power and powerlessness to keep her hooked in.
  • She entered the relationship with hopes and dreams AND she still has hopes and dreams that the relationship will work.
  • She used to trust him and she used to trust you — remember the ways controlling men manipulate and distort her belief systems.
  • Your daughter is experiencing the same impacts as those experienced by prisoners of war, people who have been sucked into cults, and slaves who are whipped into shape.
  • Unfortunately it is not straight forward trying to encourage her to leave. The daughter you used to know is still there. It is a natural survival strategy for anyone experiencing coercive control to tuck away large chunks of themselves in order to survive the abuse.
  • She trusts you AND he’s played mind games aimed at making her not trust you.
  • She goes through stages in making sense of the abuse — check out this series of blogs to help you understand her processes: Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, Stage 4, Stage 5.

No matter how much control he has over your daughter — full control over her is never complete…. there is hope

old woman young lady SpeakOutLoud about Psychological AbuseYoung women controlled by their partner struggle between believing in their own voice – and believing in his voice. She switches back and forth – as demonstrated in this picture of the young lady and old woman. Notice how it’s extremely difficult to see both women at the same time. Women describe not being able to hold tight to their own voice. Empowerment entails a long process of reclaiming her own voice, reclaiming her intuition, re-developing the ability to critique what’s been going on, and the development of independent thoughts that differ from his. Your aim is to let her know you are always there for her no matter what. And that you love her no matter what. Her rejection of you might mean you are not able to tell her that directly, but it can be indicated to her just by your presence. Or, depending on your intuition — you can say it directly and explicitly.

Getting your lost daughter back might take much longer than you hoped

Unfortunately all of these suggestions for supporting your daughter may appear as if they are not working. One mother told me that when she confronted her daughter, her daughter:

“vehemently denied everything, said she was happy, accused us of having it in for her husband and judging her marriage, and mostly refused even to hear our reasons for concern, so it was all very difficult.”

Watching your daughter suffering is painful in the extreme. But don’t give up hope. Many women have told me that just one thing that someone said to them months or years before had made the difference to them being able to eventually seek a way out of the relationship! Planting one small seed can make a very big difference. Some seeds take time to sprout. Seeds need the right nourishing conditions. You can be one person who offers those nourishing conditions. For many mothers you have to take care of yourself, have clear boundaries, know your limits, and seek support for yourself. If you have given all you can give and you know you’ve fully informed your daughter and extended your hand one too many times, you might need a huge dose of self-compassion and to stop providing active support. You have every right to step back and leave the door open when your daughter decides for herself to return, and you have every right to close that door if your health is being impacted detrimentally.

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43 Comments… add one

Gloria June 9 2014, 7:06 am

OMG, all of this had me in tears cause it’s all I have seen in my daughter but I’ve become the person she blames for all that’s going on because she says I never knew how to communicate with her. This is so hard to believe cause as a single parent and her illness as a child w/epilepsy and 2-tumors removed, all my attention was on her, it was my son I neglected so much cause all my attention was with her. My husband, their father, left us when she was 11 and my son 5, and he didn’t physically abuse me. True there was a lot of verbal abuse, and this I hear with my daughter. And boy is it true how we need to take care of ourselves as mothers cause I’m currently going through a lot of stomach issues, and a lot of depression. Thanks for letting me vent and read about how all caring mothers have felt like I feel today and have going on now 4 years.

jo June 16 2014, 12:11 pm

I suffered many years of domestic violence and stayed for all the wrong reasons and now I’m watching my daughter go through it. It’s heartbreaking to watch as she defends him and lies about the bruises and holes in the walls. I fear for her life and my grandkids are showing signs of fear. What can I do besides attack him myself. He is gutless.

Clare Murphy PhD June 17 2014, 4:49 pm

Hi Jo… Lots of women beat up on themselves for staying for all the “wrong” reasons. I bet if I spent time talking with you, you will be able to name many many reasons why it was important to stay. It can be a long long process making sense of what all those tactics used by your partner actually meant. Being controlled entraps women from any and every walk of life and such entrapment and mind control has multiple psychological, physical and spiritual effects. Unfortunately that then leads some women to believe there’s something wrong with them. Any decisions you made would have been NORMAL in response to an ABNORMAL situation. No one knows what that is like, but you. Don’t beat up on yourself. Celebrate the insights and growth you’ve gained and have compassion for yourself. It’s clear to me that the fact you’re on my website means you are still pushing for growth and insight. That is awesome. Clare

sarah June 16 2014, 6:56 pm

I feel like I am living a nightmare, I have been seeking advice and found this page very helpful. My daughter is only 16 and dealing with a very abusive violent controlling boyfriend of the same age. She is currently living in a hostel and won’t come home because her boyfriend forces her to stay away from me. The occasional times she does come and spend time with me and her younger sisters he stalks her and convinces her to go meet him. Every time she plucks up the courage to leave and come home he stalks her constantly and she then becomes very abusive towards me and then leaves again. And in a way I am relieved because the abuse from her is unbearable. She verbally abuses and attacks me and of course I have 2 younger daughters and want to protect them from witnessing this. I’m constantly worried, stressed and upset. I just don’t know what to do anymore.

Clare Murphy PhD June 17 2014, 4:37 pm

Sarah….Subtle continuous coercive control is a living nightmare. You are not alone. Hopefully you’ll be inspired by some tips for coping from this blog post. Also you could check out the posts describing possible ways to provide support depending on which stage a victim might be at. See these posts….
How to help women abused and controlled by male partners: —Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5 … Clare

Linda Campbell August 19 2014, 12:09 am

Someone please help me. I have read up on this site explains my 28 yr old daughter to a ‘T’. There were children involved last incident. I got a phone call from my daughter very scared upset wanted me to come to her work to talk to her. She informed me she found boyfriend kicking his 14 yr old son in the ribs and punching him. She told me …..mom he stopped hitting me, and now is doing it to my step-son and threating to do it to her own children. The boyfriend is very controlling who I call an over sized bully. I asked her to get her and the children out of there. I felt I needed to report what she told me to the police for their safety. She told me he got everyone to lie to the cops, so of course nothing was done. So now the boyfriend of course has turned this on me. My daughter won’t speak to me. I can’t see my grandchildren. My heart is in pieces please someone tell me how to handle this. This has been going on for about 4 years. I would greatly appreciate any advice.

Clare Murphy PhD August 19 2014, 11:32 am

Linda — It was the right thing to go to the police. You could also call Child Protection Services and you could notify the police of the reality of the situation so that it might be put on record. Unfortunately, whilst your daughter is being controlled by him it will be difficult for you to change anything. You could also contact your local domestic violence support agency to seek support and advice. My list of tactics might be helpful to give to your daughter — although ONLY IF YOU THINK IT IS SAFE.

Linda Campbell August 19 2014, 12:12 pm

Clare thank you for getting back with me and the helpful information. I understand that I can’t do anything for my daughter as long as he is in control. She will have to make that step her self. I know one day she will. I pray for it everyday. My main concern is my grandchildren. I did contact social services after reporting it to the cops as far as I know nothing is being done. My best friend heard the 14 yr old cussing the smaller children outside yesterday my main concern is getting the children out first but I feel like my hands are tied.

Empty and heart broken August 28 2014, 10:20 am

My daughter is also in an abusive marriage. I too am the focus of his anger. He blames me for his anger and I live 1900 miles away and I only visited my daughter 2 times in the last 17 years. Once for her wedding and once for the birth of my only grandchild. Both times he abused me and the second time he abused me and my daughter while she was breast feeding my 5 day old granddaughter. She is also in denial. I am heart broken and seeking professional help to deal with this. It is beyond my comprehension how someone would stay in this situation. I can not understand this loyalty to someone who is so angry.

Clare Murphy PhD August 28 2014, 12:10 pm

Hi Empty and heart broken — It’s a nasty situation you’re dealing with. You must have been experiencing grief and stress over this for a long time. I wish you well in finding professional support. If you can’t find someone close to help, I offer online Skype support to mothers who are coping with situations like yours. Warm wishes, Clare

Heart broken August 29 2014, 9:16 am

Clare, this web site has been a big help. Knowing I am not alone in this is a big help, except I wouldn’t want anyone in this position. I do have one question, I do not understand why we should take no action on such a violent action toward another person. All my instincts tell me to get her away no matter what it takes. Everyone tells me to leave her alone or it will destroy our relationship. I don’t understand not doing anything.

Clare Murphy PhD August 29 2014, 9:10 pm

Heart broken — I agree it’s really confusing. I’ve known some mothers/parents who’ve swooped in and taken their daughter home and their daughter ran away and returned to their partner. You might know something about cults — maybe seen TV programmes on ways people become hooked into cults and the ways they act when outsiders try to get them out of the cult — this issue you are facing is very similar. I’m glad you’re finding my website a big help — it makes it worth doing. If you ever need to talk more deeply remember I offer Skype counselling. Warm wishes, Clare

whatnow September 5 2014, 7:44 am

My daughter married a man who hurt her when they were dating. We tried to get them to break up and she married anyway. We didn’t go to the wedding. What should we do now? He is being nice now and she seems happy. Should we say we were wrong and be friendly? She broke up with him lots before they finally got married. He said he was real sorry and would never do it again. She is mad since we didn’t go and tried to get her not to marry him.

Clare Murphy PhD September 6 2014, 7:59 pm

whatnow — I’m sorry you’re experiencing this. Unfortunately the strategy of ‘divide and conquer’ is commonly used by people who wish to be top dog and control others. Just in case it’s helpful, you might want to look at the 5 blog posts I wrote showing potential stages that victims may go through in making sense of their entrapment and loss of liberty. These outline recommended ways of supporting victims at various stages. — Clare
How to help women abused and controlled by male partners: Stage 1
How to help women abused and controlled by male partners: Stage 2
How to help women abused and controlled by male partners: Stage 3
How to help women abused and controlled by male partners: Stage 4
How to help women abused and controlled by male partners: Stage 5

whatnow September 6 2014, 11:11 pm

Should we include him in family things now to take away the power? How should we act around him? He left bruises on her. He is so manipulative but my daughter doesn’t see it. Should we say we accept him so he can’t divide and conquer? His family is “understanding” and we “don’t forgive.” At one point my daughter left “for good.” Now they are married. It is a nightmare for me as her mom. What is my strategy? I do talk to her but she is mad.

Clare Murphy PhD September 14 2014, 3:15 pm

whatnow — It’s not wise for me to give you advice about a strategy because every person’s situation is complex and everyone’s specific issues will be different. I offer Skype or phone counselling in such situations at AUD$110 an hour. If that is something you are not able to afford, I suggest you contact people within domestic violence agencies in your country to support you. — I wish you well, Clare

HelenG September 7 2014, 12:13 am

My daughter who is severely visually impaired because of diabetic complications and suffers from many health issues, met a man twice her age just over a year ago. The first time I met him warning bells sounded in my head and I cannot explain what it was but I felt something bad about him, which I know sounds silly.

My daughter told me she was no longer seeing him, but used staying with friends as an excuse to meet him. I later found out that he was coming to my home whilst I was out as well, purely to have sex with her.

Her behaviour changed dramatically and she became rude and cheeky towards me, something she never was before. At New Year, everything came to a head. She, in a fit of temper, packed her bags to go and live in an unfurnished cottage, miles from anywhere and be on her own all week. Social work became involved as did police and all agreed it was not feasible due to the amount of care she needed and support.

She found a flat with twenty four hour care which was the best solution in a really difficult situation. This man, we found, was staying during the week whilst she also had carers looking after her.
I was contacted on Facebook on April by a lady who said she had been engaged to, living with and sleeping with this man for four and a half years and had been up until the end of December when he moved out with no reason. So he had been with the two of them for over four months and sending both of them the same “loving messages”. In fact he talked of marrying this other woman and setting the date.

He told my daughter he was divorced but single and a pack of lies about his children whom his ex wife had abducted and taken away and he did not know where they were. He knew exactly where they were but refused to contact or see them. I told my daughter all this to no avail. The ex fiance said he was manipulating and controlling and very persuasive. She should have been vindictive but has been supportive and concerned for my daughter and I’m now thankful she had a lucky escape. Her father, who lives abroad came to visit a few weeks ago and went to see our daughter who we found out had moved in with her then partner. She barely spoke to him or her older brother. Two days later they got married. We found out by chance. It was a well planned white wedding which we as a family knew nothing about. We are so hurt that she has done this and she still has not told us that she is in fact married.

His ex fiancé went to the Police in her area and they took her concerns about her safety seriously. They spoke to me and told me to go to my local Police station, which I did and was treated as if I was a criminal. His ex wife has been in touch. Far from the evil person she was made out to be, she is someone who was very scared of this man and so happy to be away from him and safe. She has described him as sexually depraved and ill. He was constantly seeing other women purely for sex. We found texts to my daughter which were so pornographic in content that we felt ill and these were extremely worrying. He posted naked pictures of himself on the internet and either his daughter found them or was shown them — his ex wife has not made clear. She has told us he did bad things to his children who wish never to see him again. He was abusive towards her and has said vile things about me and my family and was also aggressive and abusive to friends. He is a complete loner who seems to have no friends and is now isolating my daughter who has not contacted me for over a month.

I am so concerned for her safety as this is the first proper relationship she has ever had and she has no experience of how to deal with this kind of person. Knowing what we know, and there are things I cannot say, we are afraid and do not know where to turn for help. The professionals have slammed the doors in our faces and we have nowhere to go.

If she did not have so many problems and especially with her eyesight which means she has to be taken everywhere I would not be so worried, but now she is socially and emmotionally isolated having abused her friend in getting help to see this man and lost them as well as her family. I still love my daughter greatly but feel she hates me so much. What do I/we do as a family to help her? I really do fear for her and know this will end badly.

Clare Murphy PhD September 14 2014, 2:37 pm

HelenG — I’m sorry you and your daughter are having to deal with this kind of ‘divide and conquer’ form of coercive control. It is ugly stuff. Although the story you tell is extremely common, the answers do not lie in a short generic written answer. The issues are too complex and specific to each person dealing with this type of situation. I offer Skype or phone counselling in such situations at AUD$110 an hour. If that is something you are not able to afford, I suggest you contact multiple domestic violence agencies in your country and also people working within the disabilities field. It is common for people with disabilities to be vulnerable targets of coercive control. Some people in those agencies might be trained in domestic violence and be able to support you. — Clare

KAY September 16 2014, 9:21 am

Hello,

I am an angry frustrated mother of a daughter who has been abused mentally and physically by her so-called husband for the last 10years. He threatens her with a knife she runs out of the house and he threatens to kill her 3 little boys so she goes back home time and time again. He threatens to kill the boys by beating, or setting them on fire. Anyone who tries to help or step in to pick my daughter up he threatens to kill everyone.

Recently this year he has poured gasoline all over the living room and kitchen. Last week he beat my daughter up and today I found out that she was beaten and gasoline poured all over her.

I cried out load for some kind of justice. My daughter didn’t call the cops because he has some kind of threat over her and her kids. She feels sorry for him and stays for her own messed up reasons that she has been mentally broken down to where she has no self worth.

What is a mother or her family to do when the authority said nothing we can do since she is the one not doing anything about it. In a case like this do we just wait until he kills her in way or the other?

This country when a situation calls out for help, no one can do anything . . . yet when the person is killed by her abusive husband we all try to reach out and said we all could have done something.

I am afraid my daughter will die one day when her husband just feels like lighting the gasoline he pours on her, and light the house on fire while the kids are there.

If anyone knows how to help my child I beg and pray for some help.

Clare Murphy PhD September 17 2014, 10:59 am

KAY — What country are you in? It is horrendous that the police are not doing something. I think you should call police in other jurisdictions and also domestic violence organisations in your country to get advice and support urgently. You should also called child protection services. —Clare

jennysweeney November 30 2014, 3:53 pm

My 15 year old pregnant daughter was badly beaten by her 17 yr old boyfriend on Thanksgiving. She is 5 months along. She had to have staples in her head, her nose was broken, no harm to the baby, but she cried for my help and I ran to her and called the cops. They haven’t picked him up yet because he is hiding. The next day she ran to a friend’s and messaged me talking crazy about how he was sorry he made a mistake. I warned her not to believe him. I need help I’m worried about my daughter’s and grandson’s safety. I told her it’s just words, it will happen again but she refuses to listen.

Scared September 17 2014, 10:01 pm

My daughter is being abused mentally and physically, she denies it, but I see all the signs. When I go to her house I call first. He knows that I’m at the door he yells at her makes her cry then he opens the door and says oh I thought I heard someone at the door. They have a new baby, she is only four months old. He made her go back to work and he is staying home with the baby. I’m scared he is going to abuse the baby. Also I am going to try to talk to her today to get her to leave him. She can only talk on speakerphone. He won’t let her use her computer, it is his now. He has done sexual things to her that sent her to the hospital in the past. I know she is scared of him.
I hope she will leave him today but after reading all of the stories on this site I think she will not. All I can do is pray that today is the day. When she gets money for her birthday he takes it. When she needs new clothes she has to try it on for him and she can only get it if he likes it. Holes in the walls from door knobs, breaks things in the house and that poor baby home alone with him while she is at work. My heart is broken.

Sue Walkerden September 25 2014, 9:19 am

My daughter is married and her husband is abusive and has driven a wedge between her and her family. We have always been so close. There was an argument, things were said and now she has cut all of us out of her life. She has two little boys who I worry about. I have nearly had a breakdown over all of this, I constantly cry. I love her and my grandsons and will be here for her when she needs me. I am now worried because she has cut us out of her life. Is there anything I can do or do I just wait and hope she comes back to her family that love and miss her so much.

Maggie September 25 2014, 8:57 pm

My daughter is in an abusive relationship and has now permanently cut me out of her life. I have tried to re-establish contact over and over again but this has been ignored. I do not know what to do from here. Please can you advise me as I desperately worry about my daughter and miss her. Thanks

Annie September 29 2014, 9:37 pm

My daughter is at stage 5 in this hell. I do not feel better because other Mums are going through this, it actually makes it worse because at the end of the day, WE CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT, and that is what has to change. There has to be a law protecting these women whether they want the help or not, especially if there are children involved, because they don’t have a choice or a voice in all of this.

Beth October 5 2014, 7:53 am

I didn’t think there was another person on earth that knew what I was going through. I read the comments by these other moms and sat and cried. This is my story. This is my daughter. I fear for her safety but especially for the safety of my 4 year old grandson. Her abusive boyfriend is not his father and has already started slapping him around. She leaves her child with this man 4 nights a week while she works her 2nd job. Why would a mom do this? My grandson won’t even go to her anymore when he is abused because in his words “she’ll think I am lying”. CPS will do nothing. They believed her lies about me. She told them that I hated her boyfriend and that I made up all the abuse. When my grandson comes to visit, which is only when it is convenient for her because she needs daycare, he begs me to let him stay. He doesn’t want to go back home with her and she knows it. I don’t understand why she allows her son to be with this terrible man. Why she lives with this man’s abuse is one thing why she subjects her son to it is unimaginable to me.

Lorrie Woods October 14 2014, 12:46 am

What happens when drugs are involved. My son-in-law just got out of jail after being in for 3 years for using drugs. They got married and it lasted about 3 months before he started hiding money, not paying bills and blaming it all on my daughter. He is using again. She says it’s her fault. He constantly verbally abuses her and threatens to throw her out unless she leaves him alone and not worry about what he does. She is constantly asking if she can come home but then doesn’t. (I know she would just go back anyway). He refuses to pay any bills and she is trying to go to school and work 2 days and raise her 4 year old. Do I just sit back and wait? Is there anyone I can call?

Clare Murphy PhD October 14 2014, 12:31 pm

Lorrie, sorry you are having to deal with a situation that lends itself to feeling powerless. You could contact your local AlAnon programmes and/or domestic violence agencies to see if you can find some support. – Clare

joie October 14 2014, 11:25 am

I am doing all and more than is suggested above. I have become very frustrated and just want what is best for my daughter and granddaughter. She just called me tonight crying that he called her worthless and doesn’t love her and a whole bunch of other crap. I tried calmly to ask her to come over to spend the night but like usual she refused. She feels she needs to fix her marriage that it is something that she did wrong. I am glad I found this site. At least I can voice my frustrations. I pray she and all our other daughters get out of these horrible situations and realize just how wonderful they truly are.

Clare Murphy PhD October 14 2014, 12:30 pm

joie — This must be so heartbreaking for you. One of the pressures on women comes from a long history of dominant social messages about how to be a woman and how to be a “good” wife. Messages such as: It is the woman job to do the emotional work, to make the relationship work otherwise she is considered a failure. The other influence is the subtle incessant ongoing deliberate tactics of coercive control that male partners use to stop women from flourishing. We need HONEST MEDIA CAMPAIGNS to change the dominant messages about how to have relationships. – Clare

Lisa October 28 2014, 6:56 am

This information is helpful, but what do you do if your daughter has been with a controlling, verbally abusive husband for 15 years… and all she does about every 6 months to a year is say she’s had enough. She tells him she’s done, but he always sweet-talks her into staying. I see my grandson starting to treat my daughter the way their father treats her. I’m afraid my granddaughter will grow up being a “doormat.” Her husband is also controlling to the kids. She decided to leave him again three weeks ago, but has changed her mind again! At this point, I can’t be around him. Is it mean to tell her he’s not invited to family events, and not wanting to sit with them during my grandchildren’s sporting events? Me and my other daughter have helped her out financially, because her husband can’t hold a job. We’re done providing financial support. I am at my wits end. It’s heartbreaking to see how he treats her and my grandchildren. I don’t think she’s ever going to leave him!

Sharon November 8 2014, 2:01 am

We are dealing with the same decision about the holidays. My daughter has been separated from her abusive husband the last 4 months. He has recently had his 3rd affair during this separation. Now he is acting nice, showering her with gifts and attention and it seems she will be going back to him before the holidays. We feel he wants back with her to make the holiday rounds with the families, and presents etc. We are not ready to reconcile our family relationship with him, until we see real change over time but she wants us to treat him as we did before the separation and the truth showed itself. Do we have to reconcile just because she does?

anna November 3 2014, 5:41 am

I’ve been seeing this guy for two years, I saw all the warning signs… He cries when I have to go home, he throws tantrums, he says I don’t love him enough, he punches walls… There’s just so much. I left home for a week and spent all my money on a hotel for 3 nights. To be with him. I’ve been arrested for assaulting my brother (kicking him in the stomach because he was trying to stop me from leaving home). My mom has stayed up for nights with the police searching for me, because I’ve ran away with him. His parents don’t care, he doesn’t live at home, and he doesn’t care that my family is falling apart because of it. He calls my mom a c*nt, and other words. He says she’s psycho and controls me… He made me delete all my facebook friends, except him. He rolls his eyes at me like I’m stupid, every single night he tells me to come over, so I ask him if he can meet up with me, but he says he’s in bed, so no. And get the f*ck over here, so I walk in ANY weather to his house, stand on the porch in rain/snow/shine until he answers the door. Because if I leave… I don’t know what would happen. When I’m inside, I crawl into his bed, and watch him play Xbox, or we have sex. He says it’s my fault if sex doesn’t go his way… Our last argument started because I couldn’t sleep over… I’m 16, my mom wanted me home.. Pretty normal.. He threatened to throw me through a wall, and he yelled, and he smashed this glass ornament I was holding on the ground. I tried so hard to not cry, I just stared at the ground in shock, choking on my tears, and he kept saying nasty things under his breath. A part of me wants him to hit me. I want to go home with a black eye. I want him in jail, I want to be free, I want my mom. But the other part of me feels attached to this monster. I’m so scared for my life.

Court November 21 2014, 12:31 am

It’s hard to be truthful with your parents in a situation like this because you don’t want them to say the wrong things to make you feel even worse. It is also hard to talk to him about it because of the reaction you will get. My advice to you would be to print off exactly what you just wrote on here and make an appointment with your doctor. Hand him/her the note and go from there.

Ultimately my secret advice to you would be to leave him. I’m sure you are a beautiful girl and there is much much much more out there to offer that what you are having to deal with. People like him are, I wouldn’t say hard to find, but there are definately way more good guys out there than bad. The reason you feel attached to him is natural… It is the natural feeling of breaking up and being alone and not having that piece of you that you have become used to, which you would have in any relationship, good or bad. The hard part is being able to see past that. With experience it could take 2 weeks or 3-4 months to get over that feeling but it does go away and when it does, your life begins. The best thing that I found to help with that (and most people wouldn’t give you this advice because it’s not safe) but I signed up for online dating sites… not out of expectation of dating, but to get that attention that I needed when I was vulnerable. I didn’t meet up with anyone but it was nice to hear good things and to know “I still had it”. It gave me more confidence and I began to see my friends again and go out and have a good time.

I don’t want to scare you, but I have seen many other people in the same situation as you and unfortunately the path you choose to take will affect your life greatly. If you stay with him, he will prevent you from doing things you always hoped of doing in your life ie. travel, career, hobbies etc. you will always have that feeling of emptiness while you are with him, however if you take the other path a lot of doors will open and you can make your dreams happen, you will feel emptiness for a short time during the “break-up” process but I promise you, you will live a much happier life. It is not you that he wants, he wants a pet, he wants the opportunity to control someone. So when you are finally gone… I can assure you he will be on to seek his next victim. I really like how you recognize the symptoms and are able to see that something is not normal… that is a step that most people in your situation do not recognize. I have full faith that you will pull yourself through this. :)

Niki November 3 2014, 8:16 pm

I have somewhat the same issue but so different at the same time?! Can someone PLZ help me! My 14 year old pregnant daughter doesn’t undertand why I’m keepin her from her 18 year old boyfriend who is the father of her unborn child! He has threatend to kill himself, and also his mother has threatend me so much to the point it terrified my daughter to stay there with them. He has just shown up at my home on several occasions even after I have made it very clear he was NOT to just show up at my house without me saying it was ok. He has ignored everything I have said just because HE WANTS TO. I have had to call the cops just to go get my daughter from their house after being threatend by him and his mother after being lied to about his age and also his place of living. He has admitted to pretty much “STALKING ME” saying he is taking note of when I DO go home and when I DONT go home! I have tried to explain to both him and her that he NEEDS professional help before I even consider him being around my daughter and grandchild! He is bipolar and refuses to get help like I have suggested! I did not know he had issues like this until now. He will go from yes maam to I’m done with your daughter and want nothing to do with her and the baby. And then turn around and say, “I will collect the kid when it’s born through my lawyer”. And she insistes he isn’t dangerous he’s just upset because he WANTS to see her and when I try an explain that it’s not about what he WANTS it’s about her and the baby’s saftey and just because he WANTS something doesn’t give him the right to ignore what I’m saying.Especially when it comes to MY HOME. He can WANT all he wants but until he gets the help he needs he will never be able to be allowed anywhere near her or my home!
Please please can someone help me make her understand that he IS n fact very dangerous right now and im not just being the bad guy cause i can still press charges against him !!!!

anon November 21 2014, 12:03 am

I am going through the exact same situation with my daughter. She is 21 and had a baby earlier this year with her mentally abusive and controlling 25 year old boyfriend. Here is a brief history: He grew up in a dirty home with druggie parents whose dad controlled his mother and has beat her up twice, most recently this year. He got out of jail 3 months later and the two of them have managed to sneak behind the authorities to live within the same building to be together once again, cause you know, what they have is TRUE LOVE! tisk tisk! So anyways this abusive boyfriend believes that everything that his parents have done to one another is okay and now does the exact same thing to my daughter. Has threatened to kill himself countless times, we called the police the last time he did this he was taken away and assessed in the hospital for 24 hours, was told he needed further assistance (therapy and medication) left the hospital and never went back. He works a sh** job at red lobster as a dishwasher part time and spends the rest of his day playing video games and watching things on YouTube while my daughter cooks, cleans and takes care of the baby. He will purposefully walk in the house throw his things on the floor and smirk at my daughter as if to say “you pick them up!” He gets mad at my daughter and starts arguments when she doesn’t want to have sex with him, they live in a small basement apartment so when they argue she has no one to go to, if they argue and she wants space she will move to the couch for the night, but out of badness he will follow her and practically sit on her the entire time so that she cannot get away from him.

After the 5th time of moving her out we thought we had finally cracked her, she was finally saying things she hadn’t said before like, “I don’t want my life to be like this” and “I don’t want my daughter around him and growing up like that” she was good for about 4 days but this is because we were able to be there 24/7 setting up her things in my house and spending time with her and the baby… however the second we all had to go to work, was the day she decided to answer his phone calls and he brainwashed her right back to him. Saying terrible things about us and how we are just trying to break his family apart. She then starts feeling bad and goes right back to him. LEAVING all her things at my house for 2 weeks and that poor baby with nothing.

At what point do you start to get aggravated after paying for things all the time, helping them move, doing everything at the drop of a hat when they need it, only in the end to feel disrespected that she a) allows him to talk badly about us and wants to still be with him and b) gets brainwashed enough to turn around and tell me the reason why she’s not with him is all my fault. In your case however he is 18 and she is 14… he can be arrested for child rape and molestation which is exactly how I would have handled that from the beginning whether consentual or not. He is not allowed to have sex with a 14 year old. She is a child. And by charging him with that and assuming you are living in the States he will be put away for a very long time and you won’t have to deal with him.

I have predicted everything that has happened so far from the beginning of my daughter’s relationship until now, including the baby and the scenario we are in right now. My next prediction is the physical abuse will start happening next year…

The only advice I can give you right now because your daughter is so young and under the age of 18 is to keep her away from him, if this means moving far away where it isn’t as easy for him to just show up, I would consider that because at her age… if you can just keep him away from her for at least 6 mths to a year within that time she will meet someone else and she won’t be concerned with him anymore. Her mind at her age is very easy to manipulate, so I would use that to your advantage while you can. It gets more and more difficult as they get older.

Ella December 2 2014, 2:20 pm

Correct me if I’m wrong but, as I see this situation, your daughter is still under age and this man is committing a crime at his age. You still have control over your daughter’s wellbeing.

She is far too young to be able to do what she pleases so, I think your continued control over this situation through legal channels is likely your best bet. Eventually, one would hope that she will mature and see why you have done what you are doing.

Honestly, I don’t think that these rules apply here to your situation as your daughter is not of age to make up her own mind with any true mature thinking.

Perhaps, getting her to accept counselling would be your best bet as well as pursuing legal charges, perhaps a restraining order and court orders that he and his family be kept away from your daughter, Please keep records of every call, every threat, every date, and record as many of them as you can.

One day, hopefully, she will thank you for this. If not, well at the least, you know that you have done all that you could to keep her safe.

I applaud your tenacity and I say…keep up the legal routes to keep him and his parents away with a restraining order or peace bond or whatever your place of residence laws permit.

anon November 20 2014, 11:41 pm

To be quite honest with you.. all this “support” that you speak of.. is nonsense. You can only move your daughter in and out of a home so many times within a year before you decide to say f*@;% it! Currently her stuff is at my home and she wants it moved back in with him for the 5th time this year, she does not drive and has no friends because she’s sheltered herself from everyone except him, she makes me feel like if I don’t rent a moving truck and help her move her things back in then I’m a bad mother. Am I not enabling her abusive relationship if I assist in moving her back into his home? I would really appreciate some advice on this as the supposed move back in date is this Saturday. Thanks.

Ella December 2 2014, 2:13 pm

Anon November 20, 2014….
I think this article has said that it’s OK for you to take a giant step back and NOT be party to this as it can also make you ill as well.

I think as parents, there comes a point where we have to think of ourselves as well. It certainly sounds to me as though you have reached that point.

Your daughter is making her choices. In spite of having had the “distance” from him and having had the ability to live elsewhere (with you), she is choosing to go back to him again. This is a choice she is making, coerced by him and his abuse or not.

Remember that she is being controlled by him. He’s playing mind games with her and she may want this to work out as this article has stated. She keeps “hoping” that it will.
However, that does NOT mean that as parents, we need to allow it to continue to spin us into knots and tie up our lives and health (physically, mentally and emotionally) too.

These men not only have our daughters in their grasp but, also us! In effect, they are affecting OUR lives as well…not just our daughter’s lives.

In your case, you have given her a place to be. You’ve been supportive of her many moves in and out again. While I am not a professional and there might be a different slant/opinion from the professional on this matter, I’d say that you have done more than enough. Your daughter knows that you are there for her and that she has a place to be. I, personally, believe that you do NOT need to help her move anything out of your home again and that doesn’t make you a “bad mother”. It only makes you HUMAN.

Do yourself a favor this time. Resist helping her move this time. Tell her that you respect her decision and while you don’t agree with it, you accept that it’s her life and her choice. However, the amount of changes she’s made this year has tired you out and she is free to rent her own moving truck and pack up her own belongings but, you’re too tired to do this again this time. And, don’t help. Get busy with other things in your life and ignore the moving aspect. You might even want to suggest that she find some friends or friends of his to help her move again but, not you.

That’s just my personal opinion and I may be incorrect but, I am with you on this one. I don’t think you are in need of having to move her yet again or any further times. Let her make other arrangements and go on with your own life. You need some peace in your life as well. There’s nothing selfish, “bad” or wrong with that as a mother.
Best of wishes!

worried November 28 2014, 2:54 am

I don’t even recognize my own daughter anymore. She is not only being controlled but she seems to stoop to his level.

He seemed loving and caring and after they got engaged his behavior started to change. We heard him make rude comments to her about us and she just sat and nodded with tears in her eyes. He wanted to move their wedding date up a year and she agreed even though his behavior towards her and us was deteriorating. It got so bad that one day she was crying in physical pain due to illness and he sat in front of us and told her not to answer us when we asked if she was alright. He took her to a doctor and then told her she had to go get her own prescription, he was too busy. My husband and I told her that wasn’t the right thing for him to do and she attacked us.

Not long after they left our home the police showed up. Turns out he was downloading porn. This was not child pornography, he did go to a couple of those sites but the police where not sure if it was accidental or not as he did not download that stuff like he did with the other sites, and I’m not against adults enjoying some porn but these women looked like young teens, the age she was when he met her. The police told us he accessed these sites more than 10 hours a week over the course of a year, the year of their engagement. When we confronted her (we could have got arrested if they had decided the visits to the child porn sites were not accidental) she asked him about it. Turns out he was doing the same thing with her computer and hiding it from her. He tells us not to talk to her about certain things and even interfered with her job to a point that her boss wouldn’t give her a promotion because he wasn’t sure if she wanted it or he was pushing her to ask for it. She used to have a lot of friends but now she only has one and this girl believes my daughter’s husband is perfect and that there is no such thing as controlling relationships.

After their child was born he seemed to change for the better and I was so happy. I then started seeing issues. I believe she was suffering from post partum depression and he was doing everything he could to help with the baby. This then turned into him criticizing everything she tried to do. If I told her she was doing fine she attacked me. I have seen the baby being put in dangerous situations and my daughter looks at me to say something but if I do they both attack me for it. He takes more and more control of raising the baby away from her and she is just backing off and allowing it. Her child now looks at her as the occasional babysitter. I haven’t seem my daughter smile in more than 2 years, she used to be very particular about cleanliness and now she wears the same clothes for a week at a time, and she constantly lies to us.

I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in months because I worry about her all the time.

Sue December 1 2014, 10:59 pm

I have such a hard time talking to my daughter and explaining how I feel. Should I let her read this article?

Ella December 2 2014, 1:58 pm

I know that my daughter is in an abusive relationship. Not so much physical as psychological and control. I grew up in a household filled with abuse and I recognize the symptoms in her from this article.

I have tried everything from telling her that I see the dangers and why, listing them etc., to simply giving her space, time, room and NOT putting him down in any way as it does drive a wedge where she didn’t speak to me for over a year.

I see the workings of this man’s mind and I am beyond angry.

I worry constantly about her wellbeing, seeing her physical appearance drastically change as well as her mental and emotional appearance. She doesn’t even resemble the woman that I knew or raised. Nowhere even close to it.

I see the dangers in what he’s doing and why…because…I also lived through it in my own household and, no…I am NOT projecting my childhood onto her. Others from the family see it as clearly as I do but, we all feel helpless in being able to help her with it.

I’ve maintained an open and welcoming relationship and doors for her. I’ve let her know that I will always be here for her. I’ve listed her attributes, praised her for her abilities, talents, beauty and worth. I’ve done everything possible to encourage her to go back to things that she used to love doing, friends she used to love being with (she is now totally isolated with NO friends and only extremely measured time with her father and me). I’ve tried to encourage her to go back to school and offered to pay for it. I’ve offered to pay for any counselling or medical care she may want or need *IF* she wants it and even encouraged it when SHE has brought up the idea that she doesn’t know what’s happening to her. I’ve let her talk, listened and not been judgemental. I’ve tried to let her know that I’m concerned with her constantly feeling “ill” and the sheer amount of time that she’s constantly feeling ill (all of the symptoms listed in this article).

I’ve tried to talk to her about my concerns over her changes, bought her new clothes when she’s been embarrassed at the inability to afford clothing to go to work. I’ve paid for her to have a car to have her independence and encouraged her to do so. I’ve encouraged her to do things for herself that make her feel good about herself (ie: hair, make-up, her artwork etc.). I’ve paid for everything that can help her BUT…I REFUSE to pay for anything that has to do with her living arrangements with him or those costs as he works very little and uses drugs.

I’ve done pretty much everything that is listed in this article…even (at first) being emphatic about his treatment of her being detrimental to her well-being. That, of course, only resulted in him working his way into creating monsters out of us and her backing away from us totally for over a year. No contact.

We have gone the other direction. We have accepted him into our home and family and treated him with respect and kindness, letting her see that we are not “the bad guys”.

NOTHING WORKS! And, now…he has become abusive with us (my husband and myself as well as family members).

I am now at the point, where after nearly 7 years of this, I am close to telling him that he is NOT welcome in our home because of his abuse and rude obnoxious behaviour with us and our family. But, I fear letting him “win” in terms of the isolation that he’s built around her. I fear losing her into the dismal abyss that he provides for her to be in and her sinking further.

I am at a loss as to what to do??? I am at a loss as to how to help her. I am fed up with his abuse and do NOT want him in our home anymore but, we also risk that she will be turned once again away from us totally and be unable to see us.

What do we do? I see our daughter in this scenario fully. I see it very clearly. What do I do? Do I accept him into our home and take the abuse from him (not accepting it means him turning to her and making her believe that we are sick monsters, trying to ruin their “love”. What do I do????

B - I've been in touch before. December 6 2014, 8:56 am

Thank you Clare for being here.
This is an update of sorts.
My daughter is really beautiful, bright, funny, popular, artistic. Her husband however is a 40 year old teenage boy – spoilt, self centred, lazy, greedy, only interested in X box and video games and TV sport. Always puts himself first, daughter and baby last.

They live on a country farm. He leaves all the heavy physical work to her, she has to organise all the household affairs, manage the bills, shopping, housework, cooking, cleaning, repairs, gardening, cooking, pets, childcare – everything except the income, he works – mostly from home – at a couch potato office job.

She’s a young slender girl with a tiny new baby, but he’ll happily sit in his office idling away the hours while she lugs sacks of compost or barrows of firewood about, cleans drains and sewers, takes out garbage, whatever – he does nothing but his “day job”.

Nevertheless, she cannot make a move without his express permission. She has to run every little thing by him, from sitting in an icy house with no heating till he says it’s ok to put it on, to going hungry (while breast feeding) till he says she can go shop, and cook.

They have no social life except his family and a few of his old school chums – though we see a lot of her and baby – only through constant and careful plotting and planning and utter determination not to be rebuffed.
We’re very close to our daughter, have great fun together when he’s away, and we adore little baby – who he seems not to notice.

He doesn’t beat our daughter, actually he doesn’t touch her as far as I can tell. My beautiful, lovely affectionate girl. He never goes near her.

As parents, me and her dad are constantly stepping in, picking up the slack so our daughter isn’t left shouldering all the heavy work alone – sometimes little baby is at risk, with our daughter forced to do heavy work with babe in arms – so we step in. Constantly we are taking over tasks because she simply cannot manage them without help, and because without his say so she won’t act alone, even on essential stuff like heating, food, medical appointments.
We are exhausted, we have our own jobs and responsibilities, and are stretched to breaking point trying to support daughter.
And her husband pushes it so far, my husband is so angry at my daughter’s subjugation and we both feel we are being abused by proxy, because she is a hostage basically, and so is baby.
Me and my husband fight – he says he can’t bear to have to hold in what he really feels, not to say exactly what he thinks of her lazy slug-like husband – honestly, he is slug like.

But if we say anything she backs off, backs him up, and he smears us as “against him” and jealous.
What choice do we have?

We have tried confronting her, openly and honestly, but she insists he is just a hardworking devoted husband/father. He cannot connect to baby, and doesn’t like the fact the baby is a girl.

Our most successful strategy is this:
Love our daughter and baby.
Act as secret conspirators with our daughter, supporting and loving her but never openly mentioning her husband’s “shortcomings”, as this just prompts immediate defensiveness and denial.
Make our home a “home from home” for her and the baby, so she feels they both have another place to be.
Try to show our concerns and give reality checks, by deeds, not words. Saying anything explicit is usually counter-productive, unless couched as a casual joke.

Our friends and family see no problem with him and we have stopped confiding in them as we just hit a brick wall – they say “she loves him!” And “don’t interfere” and “he isn’t beating her”, and we have been accused of being paranoid, and of being “bored” and “making it up”.
Unfortunately the strain is affecting us both, and our health.

All of that aside, our strategy, we believe, has supported our daughter enormously.
She used to live miles from us, immersed in his (abusive) family.
Now she lives just by us and we see each other constantly.
She’s taught herself to drive, and gained huge independence.
And we’re really close and tight together, where for a while it seemed like we would get estranged.
I tell my husband, count the good things, enjoy the good moments and the joy of the baby, and feel good about helping our daughter and making her life happier and safer.
We both do feel joy in that, but it is hard. We have little time or energy for ourselves, each other, or our own lives.

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