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what to do about bully daughter in law

Question Posted Sunday February 8 2009, 10:13 pm

my son married last july to a girl who is a bully.she likes to be the center of attenion all the time. she talks about flirting with my sons friends and their coworkers in front of my son (they both work at the same company). she has begun to alienate my son from his friends and family (his sister & us) who try to tell him how he's not being treated properly. she called my son's sister stupid in front of both of us with no regard for what she said. he has to get permission to put gas in his car! she gets mad if a friend texts him on his phone. she'll text that person at the same time and ask why he's not texting her. she hates most of her coworkers and talks horribly about them. my son seems to know how bad it's gotten, but is in denial. the peolple who try to support him are the ones who are not allowed to be in his life. i told him he needs to "man up", but he thinks it will work out. i don't know how to be supportive without losing my mind.

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Boe answered Monday February 9 2009, 11:01 pm:
This has to be so hard on you and your family. You know, your son is going to have to see this on his own, I think, like you said, he does, but doesn't want to do anything yet. He eventually will do something. But, in the meantime, You have to just be there for him any way you can. If things are going on like you say, his eyes will be seeing things clearer and clearer as time goes by. Let him see, without telling him, when he is without you after a while, he will start seeing on his own. He is hearing it from her and his family about this, he is in the middle. He must have had some feelings for her, but is now seeing someone he is not liking. All you can do is be there for him. I know it has to be hard, you love your son so much. Don't forget what he is going through also, I'm sure you do, and it makes it so hard to stay quite. You don't have to be totally quiet, when something happens see if he wants to talk, just talk about it. He might start coming to you soon. This girl is not going to be around for long, she is using him, she doesn't sound like someone that can care for someone sincerely. She has a personality disorder. Allow your son to realize this mistake, he will do the right thing. Hang in there. It will work itself out, like a deep embedded thorn.

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WittyUsernameHere answered Monday February 9 2009, 10:26 pm:

Your son, I'm sorry to say, is a little bit fucked.

Controlling is one thing, but purposeful alienation is a very, very bad sign. This relationship is not going to end soon, and if/when it does it won't be pretty.

Whats worse, is he actually went through and married her. The divorce won't be pretty.

Trying to marshal some good advice.

First off, don't alienate him. Confrontation is a bad idea, as he is more likely going to side with his wife than with you at this point. Denial is powerful, and she is going to draw on that to make herself the center of his world, and make anything that draws his eyes off the center a very negative thing.

As much as this seems contrary, I would recommend sitting him down and talking with him. The trick here, is to ask alot more questions than you make statements. Talk to him at length, make the observations you've made here, and ask him what he thinks it means, why she's alienating his friends, why he allows her to have absolute control like this.

At the end of the conversation drop the question-equivalent of the heavy end of the hammer.

"Given everything we've talked about, why do you still want to be with her? Do you? Do you really want to spend the rest of your life with a girl who is only going to get worse as time goes on?

Other than that, send him love and acceptance. E-mails or phone calls where you ask how he is, offer advice if he asks for it, and just generally show concern and care for him. Reinforce his confidence, tell him you're proud of the man he is (even if you disagree with choices he makes) etc. When he inevitably brings her and her shit up, ask him why he tolerates it.

You can send the "man up" message to him, but your son doesn't quite have the spine you would like, and making it clear that you don't think he's being a "man" in the situation is only going to alienate him and make it easy/easier for her to try to alienate him from you as well.

Don't put these restrictions on anyone else. Let his sister tell him how much of a controlling bitch this girl is, let his friends do the same. You stand back, seem like the voice of reason, and remind him that these people genuinely care about him, and only want to see him happy. Remind him that they tell him these things this harsly because they're scared that he's going to screw his life up and end up in divorce court in 10 years when there are kids involved, instead of now. Be honest with your own opinions but don't shove them in his face.

He might not have much spine, but with her influence he could easily grow one and be standing up to you, not her.

You can't save him from this. As clearly as you and others can see this, he can't. What you can do is remind him that life doesn't have to be this way, remind him that bad choices like this girl are not irreversible, and be there to help him pick up the pieces when this falls aprart.

If he starts talking about having kids with her, or tells you she's pregnant, its family intervention time.

Oh, before I leave off, there is one other thing you can do.

There are a ton of articles out there about how bad divorce can be for a guy, because courts favor women. It gets worse when the girl is a vindictive bitch, and especially when kids get involved. You might want to google around for some articles relating to this, and find a way to get him to read them without her finding out. Put in his mind the question of "if I divorce this girl, how bad is it going to get? How much deeper can I sink into this if I have kids with her and it doesn't work out? How much is it going to cost me personally and financially when this explodes?"

Delicate subject, you don't want to make him so afraid of divorce that he stays with her just to avoid it, but you do want to give him reasons to think about how badly she could treat him given what she sees as sufficient provocation (like a divorce filing)

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Razhie answered Monday February 9 2009, 11:07 am:
Back down a bit.

Of course you are right. He does need to man up. This couple needs counseling, at the very least. However, taking control back and standing up to his wife 'Because Mom and Sis tell me too.' is not going to do him any good in the long run. This is a decision he is going to have to come to on his own.

Trust that your son is an intelligent and capable young man. Unless he is the victim of outright abuse, say your peace and then butt out.

Sit him down and express, simply and without anger or name-calling her, that you are concerned for his well-being. Perhaps write down your two or three main concerns beforehand so that you don't start ranting at him. Suggest a counselor, or a faith leader he might also speak too, some neutral third party who could give him some advice. Then tell him that's it, you've said your peace and now you are butting out of his marriage difficulties. If he wants help or advice, from now on he must ask for it. Otherwise, you are going to keep your opinions to yourself.

And then do just that. As hard as it is, take a step back and let your son deal with this situation. If you attack his wife (and no matter how justified your complaints are it will be seen as an attack by her and probably your son too!) he'll simply rise up to defend her. You can pat yourself on the back for that one: You raised a good boy who will defend his partner and not let other people speak poorly of her, even if she deserves it.

Then be in his life in whatever way he will let you be. Be civil to this woman, but don’t take her venom. If she descends into name-calling again, quickly but politely, leave.

Loving and trusting your adult children sometimes means taking a deep breath and backing down. He can handle this. Let him come to you when he is ready to ask for help and advice, and when he does, give only what he asks for. Don’t overreact and try to swoop in and save him. He can do it. Until then, just make sure he knows that he is loved, with that strength behind him, he’ll figure out the rest eventually.

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