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Dear Louanne: ‘My sister’s boyfriend makes snarky remarks about her. How can I tell her he’s no good for her?’

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Dealing with a sibling's partner who is verbally abusive can be a difficult situation

Dealing with a sibling's partner who is verbally abusive can be a difficult situation

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Dealing with a sibling's partner who is verbally abusive can be a difficult situation

I don’t like my sister’s new partner. My parents think he’s great and says he treats her well and she’s happy, and that’s all they want. But I don’t think he’s the right fit for her. He’s made some snarky comments about my sister to me, which she tells me is a joke and it’s how they get on. I find some of the comments to be quite personal and bordering on unkind. Is there an easy way to tell her that I don’t think he’s good for her?

CD

Hello CD,

You have noticed something about your sister’s partner that others haven’t. Your sister’s happiness and safety are a priority for you.

There are certainly some red flags in the behaviour of your sister’s boyfriend that give cause for reflection.

It sounds as though you have tried to bring up the inappropriate comments her boyfriend has made and your sister is not ready to hear. Many people in abusive relationships will love their partner and it is difficult to acknowledge the behaviour.

Often people believe that abusive relationships involve physical violence when one partner assaults the other. Abuse can come in many different forms and physical contact may never happen. Verbal abuse can be as damaging as physical attacks.

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Verbal abuse is any and all words that discount another person through derogatory comments — insults that are disguised as jokes.

You would like to tell your sister that you think her boyfriend isn’t good for her. Asking your sister questions will be more effective than telling her what to do. You can ask her things in conversation about how he makes her feel, how did he make her feel when they first met and is it changing any.

Let your sister know that you are there for her. Let her know how much she means to you and the things that you love about her. She needs to know that you are on her side, even if she doesn’t need you now she might in the future if her boyfriend moves from making inappropriate comments about her to isolating and controlling her.

When a person is in an abusive relationship, they need to know that there is someone they can trust unconditionally, and who won’t judge them.

It can feel frustrating that no one is listening to you, especially your sister. It is important to keep the lines of communication open so that your sister has a strong support network.

Your parents hold a different opinion of the boyfriend. It is standard behaviour for an abusive person to present differently to different people. It would be simpler if abusive people were abusive to everyone, they would be more easily identified. They are much more astute than that and will appear very credible and charming to many — being helpful, apparently respectable members of the community.

Challenging them makes it all the more difficult when they present as sincere and they can dismiss you to others as paranoid or difficult.

It is a tough position to be in, wanting to directly help your sister yet knowing that you can’t stop what you understand is happening. Taking care of yourself is very important. You can be there for your sister when she is ready.

‘My husband thinks our daughter should get a job before uni’

My teen can’t wait to relax during the summer after her exams. But while I’m fine with her taking it easy before university starts, my husband thinks it’s time she got a job and earned some money. We’ve never told her to get a job throughout school as we wanted her to focus on her studies. I would rather she enjoys herself before university, but us differing is having an impact on the rest of our children.

YA

Hello YA,

I am sorry to hear that you and your husband are disagreeing so much.
All relationships experience conflict. Disagreeing is a normal thing to do. You and your husband are entitled to have different opinions. The important thing is communicating this difference in a helpful and effective way.

Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and this is especially true during a disagreement. If the conversations with your husband are impacting negatively on the family, it is important that you both agree ways to communicate.

There are some ground rules that both of you can agree to. These include no name calling, no ridiculing each other, not being sarcastic nor diminishing one another.
Both of you love your daughter. I wonder what it was like for you when you were your her age? I wonder what was happening for your husband as an 18 year old?

Parents can love their children to the point of moving from empathising with them to over-identifying. Empathy means that you understand your daughter’s feelings while over-identifying means that you feel them as if they are your own.

While we enjoy celebrating our children’s successes, we also feel the pain of their disappointments. We do need to be careful that we don’t take away from their own experiences, interrupt their capacity to solve their own problems or form their own ideas.

Most couples have different parenting styles. Some partners think that their other half is either too strict or too soft and that leads them to over-compensate in order to make up the perceived deficit. This is not helpful. Your daughter needs to learn to negotiate a relationship with both of you.

It sounds like there’s a lot of talking going on in your home. Maybe it’s time for more listening. How would your daughter like to spend her summer?

It’s tempting for a parent to jump in and try to solve a problem or to teach a lesson. Perhaps your daughter would just like to share her own plans for the summer.

By listening, you can both learn so much about her hopes and dreams rather than either of you making assumptions about what you think is best for her.

Have a question for Relate NI? Email askweekend@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

For more information on Relate NI, see www.relateni.org 


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