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4/14 Interactive Board: Codependent Partners

3/23 Interactive Board: He's Changing... I'm Not...

3/1 Interactive Board: D/s Lifestyle

1/14 Interactive Board: My Purrrfect Husband

12/12 Interactive Board: What if He Could Have Changed?

10/23 Interactive Board: Quandary Revisited

8/24 Interactive Board: Quandary! What's Going On?

7/20: Dr. Irene on cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness

6/12 Interactive Board: Unintentional Abuse

11/7 Interactive Board: Is This Abusive?

12/29 Interactive Board: There Goes the Wife...

11/4 Interactive Board: A New Me!

10/8 Interactive Board: Seeming Impossibility

9/8 Interactive Board: My Ex MisTreats Our Son

5/1 Interactive Board: I feel Dead - Towards Him

4/26 Interactive Board: Why is This So Hard?

4/19 Interactive Board: I Lost My Love...

4/7 Interactive Board: Too Guilty!

Helping My Abused Sister

Helping My Abused Sister

From: Diane

Sent: Tuesday, June 01, 1999 5:17 PM

Dear Dr. Irene,
I am the sister of a co-dependent, verbally abused woman. She has been married to this man for over 13 years of which she has supported him financially for about 7 of those 13 years. He is quite capable of working but insists on working for himself on new business schemes. Of course, never bringing home a paycheck. All the while making my sister feel it is her  fault. Everything is someone else's fault when it comes to her husband. He never does anything wrong. I have even sat down and had a heart-to-heart chat with him to explain to him why the whole family hates him. How he has ruined our sister. But he will still blame her for not communicating, or working too hard, etc.

She is terribly unhappy and walks around like a scared animal.  Recently, he kicked her out of the house because she washed his first paycheck with his new sales rep job. He told her she had 15 minutes to get her stuff and one of her dogs and get out. This was at 11:30 at night.  She moved in with my other sister, but I can tell she is considering moving back with him. She has been paying all of the bills even though she is not living there. We did get her to at least deposit her money into a separate account.

She has no self-worth. I feel like since she has been away from him for a few weeks, she is beginning to forget how bad it was, although at the same time she is enjoying being in a safe place where she is enjoying herself. The two of them went on a date the other night, and discussed nothing about their relationship. He just told her how well his new job was going. She felt relieved that there weren't any ugly conflicts. She actually came home glowing, she was so happy. Then she proceeded to talk about how great he was doing. It's as if she has totally forgotten who he really is.  She told him she really had a good time and maybe they should just date!

Also, he is addicted to drugs and alcohol. Although, I am not sure what drugs he is currently using. Here is my real question. I feel that now is our family's chance to do something to help her. But I don't know what we should do. She is at a potential turning point and I just want to help show her the way to how life could be; happy! Do you have any suggestions as to what we can do. She has wasted enough time with this man and as far as I know, you only live once.
How can we help her salvage the rest of her life?

I printed off a bunch of material off your web page and I will give it to her to read. I was thinking of creating a type of group discussion, where we all read the information and discuss how it relates to their relationship. I feel she needs to understand her reality, since she seems to be trying to ignore reality. I guess I was thinking kind of a casual intervention? Would you recommend that type of discussion. It would only be with the three sisters. We wouldn't be ganging up on her, just trying to illustrate the relationship in a more objective fashion.

Let me know your thoughts, as I really do not know how to deal with this. Yet, I am desperate to help her!!!

Regards, Diane

Dear Diane,

I think you love your sister very much and she is very lucky to have such a caring family. I think your discussion idea is great. I don't know if your efforts will work, but you've got nothing to lose.

The only other suggestion I have is to have her assessed for depression, if she will go along with it. Often, the abused woman is so beaten down that depression seems "normal" - yet it prevents the person from making changes.

Keep in mind that even if she goes back with him, your efforts have not necessarily been in vain. Therapists talk about planting "seeds" all the time. You may be setting the stage for movement in the future.

And if she goes back to him and never leaves, so be it. God gifted us with free will. At least you know you've done what is in your power to help.

My very best wishes,

Dr. Irene