I got in an argument with my wife of 10 years, and she hasn't spoken to me since. Her older sister is in an abusive relationship. They are about to get married. My wife is there for her in every way possible, offering a place to sleep, advice, et cetera. But she does nothing more.
I told my wife I'd never let my sister go through something like this, and that she's ignorant and lazy if she doesn't get more involved. She became enraged and said her sister needs to make the decision on her own, and we just need to be there for her when she's ready.
My wife is normally quite levelheaded and very intelligent, but I'm frustrated and think she needs to get off her laurels for once. My wife's sister has become quite affectionate with me, and I'm protective of her.
What do I do? Who's right? Should I get more involved if she won't?
Gavin, you can't take someone out of an abusive situation until they are ready, and your wife knows her sister isn't ready to leave. If you believe something can be done, you should do it. But don't punish your wife for her understanding.
A rational person thinks, why doesn't she leave? You think, if my wife explains matters to her, she will leave. But your sister-in-law is tied by her emotions, not by her reason. The book "Dragonslippers" explains both visually and in words why you don't have the power to get your sister-in-law to leave.
A rural sheriff once told us, when he responded to domestic violence calls, he would take the husband or boyfriend into custody, then drive the paved roads to the county jail. Often the abused wife or girlfriend would drive furiously down the gravel back roads and beat him to town to bail out her abuser.
Your sister-in-law needs to be fixed. She needs interior fixing she may never get or accept. There is something wrong inside of her, something you don't have the power to correct.
Abuse victims sometimes admit their problem as a way to back people off, then go right back to their abuser. You think your wife can help, but what does your wife know? Nothing I say or do will stop her from going back.
Your sister-in-law is abusing your wife because she has convinced your wife, if you say anything about my abuse, I won't come to you next time. And your wife is concerned next time her sister won't have any place to go.
When an abuse victim shows she is a volunteer for abuse by not accepting mental health help, what you can say, is, "My door is closed to you until you are ready to get help. I'm not your cornerman, willing to wipe off the blood and send you back into the ring for another round."
Your wife is not at that point yet. You are not as far as your wife, and your wife is not as far as she needs to be.
Who is running the whole show? Your sister-in-law. The "victim." Who is the only one in this group of four with the power to change things? The victim. She is all-powerful. She chooses to go back and be abused.
What do alcoholics, bipolar people who won't take their medicine, and abuse victims have in common? Everyone around them is a hostage to what they do.
You have to find a way to live so you don't become soul-sick over this. That may mean you do nothing until your sister-in-law shows up at your door, beaten, and take her to the hospital.
You have to find a way so your life doesn't remain a hostage to hers. You and your wife are at odds over this. Why? Because the so-called victim of abuse has victimized the two of you.
Wayne & Tamara
Column for the week of June 17, 2013
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