What to do? Your opinions please...

hunlinMarch 29, 2006

The story is too long to go into so I'll try to keep it short.

I live in northern California and my youngest sister lives in Arizona. All my other sisters and parents are in northern California. My youngest sister got married less than 3 years ago. She has a baby girl who just turned 6 months old. They moved to a new house while she was still pregnant. They now live in the new house but they've had problems and disagreements recently. They still have the old house and my sister wants to sell it. It is just sitting empty.

They keep separate money (he wants it that way, not her).

She pays the mortgage on the old house and he pays the mortgage on the new house. She pays for all the household expenses at the new house.

My sister hasn't worked since a few weeks before the baby was born. She has started to go back to work recently only on weekends to make some money since she still takes care of the baby during the week and she also breast feeds. She's had no income since she hasn't been working. She is running out of cash savings since she is still continuing to make payments on the old house.

Her husband is not helping her out.

She's brought up the subject of selling the old house many times with him. Whenever she tries to discuss things with him, he cannot seem to make up his mind one way or another. In the mean time, she continues to pay.

When I say, their old house, it is not really old, old. It is only about 5 years old, in a good neighborhood and is a huge house of about 3700 square feet. The new one is about 4000 square feet. So my sister is paying quite a bit every month.

They don't have a babysitter and my sister wants to go back to work. When she brings up the subject of getting a babysitter, he does not say anything. Now I see this is what he is: He doesn't want to have to spend any money. Money means so much to him that he wants to keep his own money. Now they are both young doctors and they both started their careers right before they got married.

To tell you how cheap he is, they took old dining room table and furniture from his sister. My other sister gave them baby stuff and smaller items. My youngest sister asked for the crib from my other sister but it was too expensive to ship. I know my youngest sister is generous and likes to buy stuff. Her husband gets on her case for buying anything. She went and bought cheap $30 chairs for the table they got from his sister. He got on her case about spending money. The thing is he makes a ton of money!

When he doesn't make a decision and sits on it and sits on it, he gets mad at my sister when she takes it upon herself to do something. And he blames her saying that she's the only that did it, who made the decision to do this or that. She gets blamed for everything.

Right now, he is not talking to her because she went to the old house to clean up their things and she put a bunch of stuff in a pile to give away. Some were his old clothes. Later they went to the house together and he saw his clothes in a pile and blew up at her. Why was she giving away his clothes? Well, if he didn't want to give them away, he could just take them back. There is also another thing, too long to go into right now. I don't want to bore you with my long story.

He's been mad with her ever since and hasn't been talking to her and it's been going on for weeks now. He's even suggested they live separately for a while.

She's trying to hang on and trying to work things out. They have a small baby. She suggested going to a therapist for help. He said that was a waste of money. So she offered to pay for it but he refused to go. He said she's the one with a problem, not him; he doesn't have a problem so he doesn't need to go.

What kind of an attitude is that?

In my opinion, I don't think it's going to work out if he acts this way. He's not willing to try to resolve things. He hasn't talked to her for weeks. He only responds when she asks him a question. He is so cheap that he's not willing to help out his wife who by the way is not able to work because of taking care of THEIR CHILD!

What kind of a husband is that? And he's willing to separate for a while from his own baby? What kind of a husband is that? Does that sound like a husband who cares and loves his wife?

I'm sorry. I'm the sister and I'm getting all mad.

So, I want your honest and objective opinion. I'm not as objective since I'm on my sister's side.

What should she do?

Does she have a chance of making this marriage work?

Can it work? What about in the long run?

My sister asked him, does the clothes matter more to you than your family? His answer: how would you feel if I threw away your clothes? If it gets this bad over something so small, what if it was more serious?

The sad thing is they have a small baby.

I know that if she moved to northern California, she will always have a place to stay and my parents will help babysit. They now babysit for two of my other sisters. But it doesn't mean she will get custody.

She is also worried that because she doesn't have money right now, that she may not get to keep the baby. She thinks she needs to stay with him, go back to work to make money first before deciding about moving out or not.

Sorry, it's long. Thanks for letting me vent.

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GEt her out of that hell.
She will get custody and obviously she is able to get a job to support herself.
Have her get a lawyer, asap.
Support her everyway you can.
I am speaking from experience. I stayed. Big, mistake, I have wasted the last eleven years of life because of a contol freak loser. Don't let your sister throw her life away.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 5:49PM
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Hunlin that is a terrible story. Way down in my gut it makes me think that he has someone else and will not spend money on his wife as he is saving it for the future. Meanwhile, she is depleting her savings which makes her vulnerable.

If she can face it please encourage her to simply speak to an attorney. This is pre-divorce behavior. They blame. They do not speak. He is trying to precipitate a break. Check any relationship book. The signs are there.

I am so sorry to say this but if someone could do some nosing around at the hospital the backstory (and I smell one) would likely emerge.

Meanwhile, she must insist he pay something for the old house. She should be sure her money is hers and safe. Stop paying for anything else and take control. (Again, a really tough attorney's advice is needed).

He is probably thinking that when he splits she'll move back there and he'll stay in the new one.

I am so sorry to hear this.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 6:11PM
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This is a sad story. I agree with what the others have said.

Is Arizona not a community property state? If it is, she is entitled to half his money, but she may not get it, or it will be very difficult, if he hides it.

Yes, at the very least, she should speak to a lawyer. Even if she doesn't divorce, she needs to know her rights and her legal position. She's fortunate in that she does have the ability to support herself and her child if it comes to that, though she must be sure and get everything she is entitled to.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 6:29PM
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Hi mlaj2000, rococogurl,
Thank you for your response. I agree with you. Getting her to see it is another. She's not being objective right now. She's going on as if everything is fine when it's not. We have suggested that maybe there's someone else but she doesn't think so.
They had a long distance relationship before they got married. She was already working in Arizona before he moved there. She bought the first house and they moved in. The first house is in her name. The new house is in his name. They were going to add her name to it but never got around to it. I think it's because he wants to keep it as his. She has offered to add his name to their first house but he never took her up on it.
She wanted to open up a joint account to pay for household expenses but he won't do that either.
I know she is not being objective. She's thinking that Mother's Day is coming around and he'll be nicer to her and do something special for her. My other sister has told her not to hold her breath.
So I want to offer her objective points so she can see for herself that there's is nothing wrong with her but plenty wrong with him.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 6:37PM
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WOW - that's awful! If it were me and he refused to go to counseling to try to improve this hideous situation, I would get out now. I can see why you are so upset - it makes me mad just reading it and I don't even know these people. Can't help but wonder why either of these two wanted to get married - he doesn't sound like he did and I can't imagine how she could have found him appealing at one time when he seems to be such a jerk.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 6:46PM
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She was in med school when she met him. She was taking a review class in L.A. where he was working and he was applying to get into a med school. He seemed nice enough. He's one of those types that don't talk very much, seems kind of shy. When I met him, I even said to her that he doesn't talk. My DH's words were, he has no personality.
She was only in L.A. for a couple of months and then left to go back to med school. Later he got accepted in Pennsylvania. They mostly communicated by phone and wrote letters for about 3 years. They met briefly on occasions but that was it. She thought she knew him. I think because they hardly spent time together, she didn't get a chance to really know what he was like.
Who keeps separate accounts anyway? I think it's not common.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 7:00PM
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Tell her to get the heck out and hit him where it hurts. His wallet.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 7:57PM
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Hunlin - It's clear that if your perception is even substantially accurate, the marriage is lousy, the husband is a jerk, and your sister is in trouble that's getting deeper by the month.

But please know that you can't fix this for her. You can't even have an accurate picture of the situation because you've only heard one side. You can offer her your love and support and friendship, no matter what, but SHE needs to be good and ready to leave before any split will stick. If she's not ready to leave, anything you do that could be perceived as an 'attack' on him could very well bring out a defensive response from her. You: "He's a jerk!" Her: "He's not SO bad..." You: "You need to leave him!" Her: "I can't because..."

Counseling is great idea. If she thinks it won't do any good to go without him, try to convince her that counselling will help her find ways to improve the marriage, ways to deal with the painful emotions she's feeling, objective ways to view his behavior and hers, and to change her responses to improve the marriage. So he says all the problems are her fault? Great - Let a counseler explain to her exactly what she is (and isn't) doing that's so terrible. Once she hears from a professional how destuctive her husband's behavior is, that might shed a different light on things. (Hearing a psychologist diagnose my evil ex with an official DSM IV personality disorder was a very different thing from hearing my friends say what a jerk he was.)

Legal advice is also a great idea, and vitally important, if for no other reason than just to know where she stands and what moves would be advantageous or disasterous. For example, in some states, it would be a terrible strategic move to leave the house; in others, it wouldn't make much difference.

She should also find the money -- all of it, before making any permanant decisions. Make a list of all of his accounts, institutions, account numbers, their balances, insurance policies, retirement plans, major assets and when purchased. A close look at the credit card and phone bills could also be illuminating... (Credit card bills revealed that my evil ex had some nasty habits that wouldn't have looked too good to a judge deciding custody.) Some eyes in the hospital could also be a good idea if it looks like it would help. Could be very useful information, or then again, possibly only hurtful with no legal advantage.

What might make a difference, if she's hesitating for the sake of the baby, is to ask her if she likes what the baby is seeing. That child will grow up believing that the way the hudband treats the wife is normal and appropriate -- that she deserves to be treated like that. (That's what got me to open my eyes.)

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 10:17PM
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I'm so sorry, hunlin. This is a terrible situation, but unfortunately not an unusual one. If I had to speculate I would say this marriage is doomed but your sister will feel it is her obligation to try and keep it together. That's where it becomes especially difficult for you - you'll have to watch her in the downward spiral and not be able to do anything but remain supportive. Keep trying to talk to her and help her; follow the advice of those above and REALLY REALLY try to get your sister to a lawyer. This guy could well be planning ahead and if your sister does not act in some fashion, he can fairly easily hide any number of assets and even plot for custody.

I too have BTDT and it's ugly. Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 11:08AM
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Arizona is a community property state. It can become complicated, but simply put in layman terms: it doesn't matter if a property, bank account, etc. is in only one persons name or if it were acquired prior to the marriage, it can still belong to the marital community. Of course there can be a few exemptions, but if acquired during the marriage it is obviously part of the comm. prop., but if acquired prior to the marriage, any moneys (ex: paycheck, inheritance) which is part of the comm. prop. needs to used to deposit, withdraw or maintain etc. Here is how it works, I will try and explain by using a few examples. Although your sister bought this house prior to marriage and it is in her sole name it still belongs to the marital community because her husband lived in it and contributed to the bills and mortgage and general upkeep. Same goes for a bank account. Money earned during a marriage (doesn't matter if only one spouse is working) is part of the community property of the marriage. Sly hubby is not protecting his funds by not having his wife's name on the account, she still gets half at the time of the divorce. The only way to protect money and property in a community property state is to secure it prior to marriage. I had an account for savings prior to my marriage. Since getting married I have not deposited a single nickle into it or withdrew any money from it to be used for the comm. prop. If my DH and I get a divorce, he cannot touch that account. Money deposited into it was not part of the marital community and therefore would not be a part of the assets to be divided. Solid prenups work well too. If the baby is an infant, it is rare, unless the mother is an absolute danger to the child, that a judge will take the child from the mothers custody. Tell your sister to call around for an attorney to meet with and discuss her options. I am not advocating that she should get a divorce, I don't know any of the parties or their situation, but I do advocate that every woman know how to protect herself and her family if the bread winner should leave. Your sister needs to know all of her options and consequences before she makes a decision that is best for her and her child.
*I am at work, so I apologize for any grammatical errors.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 11:23AM
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Ok the first thing this reminded me of was the couple in The Joy Luck Club where they kept their money separate and argued about who paid for what. Did you see that movie? The mother comes over and sees the list of the grocery items for which they "share" the cost, and says that her daughter won't eat ice cream, why is it on the list? The husband is a real **hole and we get the whole story from the daughter/wife about how they've "shared" the expenses in order to make everything "equal" but in fact it's not equal at all.

Keeping money separate is IMHO the kind of thing you do to hedge your bets. IOW preparing yourself for the eventual breakup. I know that some couples do successfully live this way so yes, it can work for some. But by and large, I believe it is not a healthy way to run a marriage.

First thing I'd do if I were your sister is quit paying the household expenses for the new house. It's his house, in his name, let him pay those expenses. She's not working, why should she still be sharing in those costs?

If she can afford to keep that first house, she should keep it. Good place to move back to in case of a break up which seems to me to be inevitable. He doesn't care about her financial situation, only his. He doesn't care about her career situation. He doesn't care about their child (shocking? it's actually VERY common). He refuses to make decisions which need to be made. He fights dirty -- refusing to talk to her when he's angry. He refuses to acknowledge any problems exist. The truth is, if one of a married couple has a problem, then they both do, that's the nature of marriage. Even if the problem is hers (which it clearly isn't), as her husband, it is now also his problem and in order to maintain a healthy marriage, the problem must be addressed.

From your description, it is clear that the relationship and marriage has deteriorated and will continue to do so till it dies unless steps are taken to repair it. As it doesn't look like those steps will be taken, the very best thing your sister can do is immediately begin to protect herself.

1. get a job
2. arrange for childcare (even if she has to pay for it)
3. move out and hire a lawyer

Maybe that will be the impetus needed to wake up the husband to realize he needs to change. If that happens and they can work things out, wonderful! If not, it just confirms that the marriage is over and your sis will be better off. I wish her the best of luck. When you're in the quagmire it's difficult to be objective but if she can pull herself out, she'll look back and realize it's the best thing she could have done.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 12:08PM
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"He's even suggested they live separately for a while."
Even before I got to that part I knew it was coming. I was going to tell you that he is setting things up so he can leave her. She needs to consult and AZ attorney right away.

"But it doesn't mean she will get custody."
Unless she abuses alcohol or drugs, or is somehow unfit, there is no judge that would take a child from a breast-feeding mother. Not gonna happen.

"Who keeps separate accounts anyway? I think it's not common."
Actually, I don't know any professional couples (meaning, both have careers) that have only 1 joint account. However, they DO share expenses. They either have a third account or 1 pays half the bills and the other pays half the bills (or divided by amount of income, that is how a friend of mine does it. She makes 60% of their total income so she pays 60% of the bills).

The thing about this that amazes me is that she continues to be responsible for "her" bills when the reason she isn't working is to care for their child. He should be stepping in and paying her bills during that time. Basically, she is providing free child care (which women throughout history have done) but it not be provided for by him (with is the other half of that free child care bargain). This is totally twisted.

Do they file joint taxes? Make sure she gets ahold of any documentation she can. He might even she hiding money in states where he used to live ("forgetting" to move it to AZ).

She should stop paying the bills for "his" house right away. I know she is your sister, but for someone so smart she is being really dumb (which is the pot calling the kettle black, because as everyone here knows I've been there and done that).

Can she go back to work part-time?

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 12:36PM
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hunlin, it's so sad when everyone else sees the problem except the person most affected by the problem. From your description, it does indeed sound like there is someone else. Would it be possible for you to hire a detective to follow him (without anyone knowing) just to put that possibiity to rest?

From your description, it doesn't sound like there is much of a chance for the marriage to succeed but unfortunately if your sister doesn't see there's a problem, I think she is just going to have to learn the hard way.

Question for Berlin: Are you sure the house she acquired before marriage would be included in community property? It's my understanding if the property is acquired before the marriage, he would not necessarily have a claim to it. However, if she defaults on the loan during the marriage, I bet they would both be on the hook. If nothing else, Hunlin's sister should see an attorney just to find out how to handle this particular asset because if she can no longer pay the loan back, there is going to be some kind of financial impact (probably on both of them) sooner than later.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 12:38PM
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Answer: Only if there was a prenup that specifically stated that any property or other assets acquired prior to the marriage remains with the sole individual upon dissolution of the marriage. Although she purchased the house prior to the marriage, and even if he did not live in it, moneys used to maintain, pay the mortgate, property taxes etc..are being done so with money considered marital property. When she was working her paycheck was thrown into the "pot", one might say, her bank account the check was deposited into is part of the pot, so when she made the mortgage payment she was doing so with money that is considered his as well as hers. But I would like to point out, even if the husband has an account in another state, it doesn't mean it's part of the marital community. If he opened the account prior to marriage, and has since not had any activity going in the account, the wife probably cannot lay claim to it. But if it can be shown that at any time during the marriage he deposited even a quarter into a preexisting account, it automatically becomes marital community.

BTW, my husband and I have separate accounts. It works for us. We don't have any arguments over money anyway!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 2:43PM
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Thanks for all your advice. All of you have been great! I really appreciate all your suggestions. It helps to know what to do and it helps that you all agree. I'm not the only one who thinks that.

Berlin, thanks for your advice. I think it's great where couples can have separate accounts and don't fight about it. I guess I grew up where my parents have everything joint so I'm used to that.

My sister has been bringing up the subject of getting a babysitter to him but he's been non-responsive. I guess it means it'll also be money out of his pocket. I can just see it... because he doesn't say anything one way or another, and my sister gets a babysitter and he'll be mad at her again saying it's a wate of money. He'll blame her because she decided without him.
It's the same thing with buying this new house of theirs. My sister wishes that they never bought the new house and never moved into it so that they wouldn't be having all this arguments. He said it was her decision so it was her fault. She says they discussed over and over again, deciding to do it and then changing their minds, back and forth and he says he finally didn't say anything and just went along with it. So he says it wasn't his decision, it was her decision.

Sue, my sister wants to get sole custody because if they split, she wants to move to California to be near us. She's afraid that they will get shared custody and she will have to live in Arizona and she won't be allowed to leave the state.

Lowspark, I have seen the movie. Now that you mention it, I do remember that part. I agree with everything you say. I can't tell her everything now. I'll have to take it step by step, first thing is to go see a lawyer and go back to work. Everything at once might be too much for her.

She is coming to California for a visit in about 3 weeks with the baby. The 3 of us will be talking to her then. Oh yeah, there are 5 of us. All girls! Maybe it will help her to see things more clearly when she is away from him and will have more time to think.

Thank you all. Again I am indebted to you for all your invaluable advice. It so great to have my forum friends to talk to and to get advice from.
Anyone know of a good divorce lawyer in Arizona? She lives in Chandler, AZ. Thanks!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 5:41PM
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Your sister is very lucky to have all of you to help and support her!

Assuming there is to be a divorce: Maybe she should establish residence in California and get the divorce here. A lawyer can advise her about residency, custody, and family support issues. She might be entitled to more because she has taken time off for the baby.

Another thing to consider: If she bought the first house before marriage, she should wait to sell it until after divorce (or divorce proceedings begin, depending on Arizona law). If she sells it first, then the proceeds from the sale of the house may become community property = half belongs to him.

She needs to discuss all these things with a lawyer. Asking around is a good way to find one. Lawyers get a reputation around town. If there is one known to be particularly tough or ruthless, whether or not she ends up hiring him or her, she should at least get a consult first so that the husband won't be able to.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 6:26PM
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Second that motion. Establishing residency in California before filing would have visitation issues decided there.

Though he may not give a fig about having joint custody of the baby, that's his ace in the hole. He could pressure/threaten her with that one issue until she caved in and gave up on any financial demands, or bleed her dry in the process.

There is the possibility that if joint custody is given (which it would be in my state by law- 2 weeks/2 weeks/w/alternate Wednesdays- a travesty, IMO) he could prevent her from moving the child out of state.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 6:58PM
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CA is also a joint custody state - custody awarded is almost always shared, although I'm not sure what the case would be with a breast-feeding mom. Nevertheless, I doubt hunlin's sister would have time to establish residency before her husband got some kind of court order for a temporary custody agreement. I really don't know what happens if you take a baby out of state and then don't go back, but I doubt you would be able to stay if the spouse chose to file for custody. My suggestion would be to ask all of these questions of a lawyer ASAP and find out the best action to take to ensure she get the best custody arrangement possible.

He sounds like a man who is more concerned about keeping "his" money than taking care of his family. Guys like that will often say whatever horrendous thing they can to get out of paying child support, so that is something your sister ought to know. I went through that myself and it is the most horrid experience I've ever had. In the minds of guys like this, full custody = no child support and punishment to the spouse. I don't know whether or not this guy is vindictive, but it wouldn't surprise me. The only way a parent could get full custody in my state, unless the other parent agreed, was to declare the spouse unfit. Amazingly, I discovered, someone can say any horrid thing about you he wants with no repercussions, even when the accusations are proved false. I thought there were protections for slander and libel but in custody court, it just doesn't happen. The "collateral damage" can last for years and years - professional discredit, whispered rumors, and so on. Generally, even with the unfit claim, what happens is that the parents are granted joint physical custody which still means that the jerk wins (no support has to be paid, usually).

Hunlin, it is vital that if your sister is considering a separation she get immediate counsel from a lawyer on arranging for a temporary custody order. Once it is a court order, he is required to pay child support. If they just have a "trial separation" with no court agreement, she has no recourse or legal establishment for custody, even if she maintains full custody and support the entire time of the separation. Support, I also learned the hard way, is not retroactive, so if she has the baby but no custody order and he has not paid paid anything in support, she cannot ask for it later. At least, that is how it was in my state when I went through it.

My final comment is a dreary one. If it comes down to a choice, I would give up just about anything to keep full custody. If that means he has to pay no support, so be it. I'd ten thousand times rather have the blighter out of the picture for good and raise the child(ren) myself than have to share custody with someone who only wants it to save himself some money. I wish I had listened to my instincts on that one and not my lawyer's reassurances.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 8:09PM
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Sounds to me like your sister is suffering from battered wife syndrome, the indicator being that she's hoping he'll "do something nice for her" on mother's day. Unforunately she will probably stick it out while things continue to get worse, before finally hitting rock bottom. Once her money runs out, her house will go into foreclosure. Since her name is the only one on the mortgage her credit will be ruined, which will count against her at the eventual divorce proceeding. If she doesn't even have the guts to put the baby in daycare (or get a nanny) without her husband's "permission" and go back to work, she's really in deep trouble emotionally.

I sincerely hope you can get her the help she needs to see the situation for what it is. Talk to her during her visit, and if you can get her to honestly say "I am in an abusive relationship", then she can turn things around. Until then, denial is the name of the game and no amount of reasoned discussion or outright pleading will have any effect.

BTW for the record, DW and I are both working professionals and we share everything. Actually she handles all the finances and the only time I know how much cash we have at any given time is the once or twice a year when I ask her "So how much money do we have these days?", LOL.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 8:14PM
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You have received some excellent advice here. I'm with seekingadvice; if I were in this situation I would put maintaining full custody of the baby above just about everything else. To that end, I suggest consulting a lawyer before doing anything else, especially look for a job. Yes, she needs money, but I think she needs advice about how returning to work (thereby being away from the child) might affect her ability to get sole custody. It's an unfortunate reality that some people (i.e., some judges) view working mothers as "less fit" than those who stay at home full time with their children.
She is indeed lucky to have a family who is looking out for her. Best of luck to you.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 8:42PM
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Seekingadvice, you are right. I think my sister would rather keep the child and forego the financial support.
From what I'm reading here, it sounds like establishing CA residence is not necessarily going to help her get full custody.

Her husband is a procrastinator of the worst kind. She started to pay the bills because he can never pay them on time. She says the household bills are in her name and she doesn't want bad credit. I told her to change the name and stop paying. So, we'll see.

Her words were "he has an unnatural attachment to things of no or little value". He got mad at her for throwing away plants there were almost dead in the other house, dead fish (I wonder what you can do with dead fish if not throwing them away), the plastic bottom containers from plants, old expired medications, etc. He never throws away anything.

He got mad at her that day and left the house. Didn't come back until the next day. Still does not speak to her unless spoken to. He keeps saying to her that how would she feel if he threw away all her clothes and her diamond engagement ring? Remember he brought up the subject of temporary separation and she was so shocked that she asked him if he really meant it and that if he was willing to throwing away all that they had? His reply was, she was the one who literally threw it away when she threw away his things...

I am speechless by the things he says. I don't even know how to respond to that. It seems like he doesn't get it. How do you argue and get your points across to someone who's just not seeing things the same way as you?

My sister says when he was growing up, money was always tight in his family. So, he's very frugal. His father passed away when he was a young boy. She thinks for that reason he has trouble letting things go. I think it's much more than that. He can let go of his own family but not things that has little or no value?
He sounds like he has deeply rooted problems. Something that can't be fixed.

Chiefneil, I like your attitude. Only if all the husbands were like that! :-)

She says she is going to go see a lawyer. She has a friend who has gone through the same thing with 2 kids except she did it way too late.
So she doesn't want to end up like her.

I'll keep you posted. Thank you all for your support.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 3:24PM
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Oh, boy, your last post hit a nerve with me, hunlin. Most of us can recognize your BIL's passive-aggressive streak, but I am seeing something else, too: I'll bet he has OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)! The two aspects seem to go together, from my experience living with someone who has it. If you tell me that he endlessly washes his hands or can't touch things with his bare hands or repeats actions (like opening and shutting drawers) a certain number of times, or is always late for appointments, I won't be at all surprised. This personality disorder takes different forms in different people, but the hoarding and excessive attachment to objects that have no value to others, as well as the procrastination, silent treatment, and control issues, are typical. He has a script in his head, and he's upset when forced to deviate from it.

I'll tell you, if that's what it is, there is a good side and a bad side: on the bright side, he does have the capacity for love, and he may really love your sister and their child (although the friction between them is eroding this). Also, this personality probably helps him in his professional work. There are treatments, including medications, neurosurgery, and psychotherapy, IF he's willing to recognize and deal with these problems. But...he probably won't admit to a problem or agree to undergo treatment, and, over the years, the personality disorder gets more and more ingrained and resistant to treatment. He thinks that it's just "his way of doing things," and he will blame your sister for being critical of him. His actions are not only designed to control others; they are a means of self-control and a way to deal with his own anxiety, whether about money or other deep-seated issues. There is some evidence that this disorder stems from a biochemical imbalance; it is not a conscious "choice."

I hope that, if my "diagnosis" is correct, he can be persuaded to seek treatment. I was not successful with that, and I'm still living with my decision to stay (and often reconsidering it). By the way, I'm not a doctor, just someone who has long experience with this behavior.

This explanation does not negate the need for your sister to take some kind of action. You've received some great legal advice above, and I wish your sister well. It's great that she has the support of her family.


    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 4:26PM
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One more thing you might recommend. If she can find a divorce support group, it might be a tremendous help for her emotionally. It helps to hear stories from other going through (or who have recently gone through) something similar. It helps to know you're not the only one in this situation, helps to know that others in a similar situation feel the same as you, etc. Plus it helps to hear others experiences to find out what worked or didn't work for someone else.

Look for support groups through non profit organizations, women's groups, etc.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 4:36PM
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Your sister has been so successful in other areas of her life (academically, at least) that it may be hard for her to admit she made a serious mistake in her personal life. Maybe mtnester can suggest a book your sister can read on OCD and passive-aggressive behavior? Also, if your sister isn't convinced by her other sisters' views, would she be willing to see a family counselor or therapist who would be *neutral* and *unbiased*?

I am glad your sister is seeing an attorney. I hope her husband is not hiding assets.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 5:32PM
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Hi Sue, sorry that you had to go through that too.
Do you really think that's what it is? Don't you think his family would know that if that was the case? Do you think it's possible that they don't know about it? They go to visit one of his sister and her husband often. They also visit his mom. They live in L.A.

My sister doesn't actually criticize him. She tries not to blame him when he blames her for things. He is so messy and leave stuff all over the house. When he can't find something, he blames her and says she moved it.
After they moved into the new house, their mail was still going to the old house. My sister who was about 7 months pregnant at the time was driving there each day to go pick up the mail. She kept asking him to change the mailing address. He never did it. So she finally took it upon herself to change it. But since their house is still a new development, the mail was not yet being delivered to the new house. She had to go pick it up at the post office. She said the box is so small that it gets full quickly. After she had the baby, she couldn't go pick it up anymore. And he didn't. So after 10 days, the post office sends them back to the sender. So they didn't receive their bills and some important tax documents. He blamed her for changing the mailing address. If she hadn't changed it, it wouldn't have happened. She didn't tell him that if he had picked up the mail, this wouldn't have happened. It was only because she stopped picking up the mail.

Is that also a disorder? All the blaming? It is never his fault. He doesn't assume responsibility. You can't really treat someone who won't admit to having a problem. He says she's the one with the problem.

You guys are so right on target. I have suggested for her to go see a counselor and find out if there is a women support group in the community. If she does it or not, we'll see. It's hard since she's with the baby all day.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 6:32PM
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I don't have a specific book to recommend, but there is a lot of info available from reputable sources on the web; you can find many articles and references by googling. I should have mentioned that there are two different conditions, OCD and OCPD (obsessive-compulsive personality disorder), and the two can coexist.

Here is a good description on Wikipedia (see link).


Here is a link that might be useful: OCD

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 6:57PM
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Yes, I'm familiar with that denial and blaming. I don't know for sure whether it's part of OCD, but I suspect that it is. "I'm sorry" is simply not in the vocabulary, because nothing is ever his fault (after all, he controls things by his thoughts, so if he didn't maliciously INTEND something bad to happen, he's not responsible).

I didn't recognize the condition for a long time (I thought he just had no "sense of time"), and my DH's family never did, till I explained to them why we were always hours late for family gatherings. The symptoms usually start in the late teens or young adulthood, although there may be early signs. But often, the signs are misinterpreted as laziness, messiness, eccentricity, etc, and the person with OCD often learns to hide them well (e.g., opting for flextime at work).

When you mentioned him leaving things all over the house, that fits, too. He may not want to touch dirty things, but more likely, he wants the arrangement to stay exactly "as is"; he doesn't interpret it as a mess, it's *order* to him. That can make it very hard to live with--you either dispose of it (risking enormous anger) or tolerate the mess. Of course, unless the mess is behind closed doors, it's too embarrassing to invite friends into your home, and this affects the social life of your kids, too.

Not everybody has exactly the same symptoms, but you haven't mentioned handwashing, and that is often central to OCD. Does he spend a long time washing? Are his hands rough and chapped? Can he touch a doorknob or shake hands? Is he always late?

I hope I'm not misinterpreting all this, but the more you've said, the more it seems to fit. In any case, it would probably help your sister if she would see a counselor on her own, just so she can understand him better and decide whether she can salvage the relationship. Good luck to her!


    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 7:59PM
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I have suggested about her seeing a counselor. So hopefully, she will. Thank you so much. I've been looking this up on the web. Some things fit. I'm not sure if all things fit. She hasn't told me everything. I don't think he has the hand washing symptom. She hasn't mentioned it and I haven't noticed it whenever I've seen them.
From what little I've read, OCD has the repetitive symptoms (they do things over and over again) but the OCPD does not. I just found out that he keeps his dead fish from the aquarium in the freezer. She said they are as big as her hand. I was shocked! Right away, I said that's abnormal. That does fit the category of OCPD. They don't want to throw away anything.
Boy, this has turned into a big thing. I started out wanting to get some advice but I've learned so much more. Even if it was true and we can put a name to the disorder, I don't think it's good for my sister. This has become bigger than I imagined. But I don't want to mention it to her just yet. I want to do more research and be more certain about it before I mention it. It's not going to help their situation. My other concern is if she does know the cause, she might feel obliged to stay and help him. But it's a long battle and it might not help her and the baby. Also, thanks for the link. I will check it out.
Have a good weekend all!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 9:15PM
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Hunlin, I think you're exactly right: putting a name on it helps you better understand the type of personality your sister is dealing with, but it doesn't really change things as far as her marriage is concerned; she still has to decide whether the marriage is worth saving and what further steps to take. I'm so sorry she (and you) are going through this!


    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 10:19PM
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What to do?

Stay out of it until she specifically asks for your help.
Biting your tongue is very painful and I don't know the dynamics of your relationship with your sis so this may be way off base.

I've learned the hard way that if you've been nagging her to leave, and she decides to stay and suffer, your relationship with her will be compromised. Family gatherings will be uncomfortable, or she and her DH will avoid them, since she knows everyone thinks her hubby is a jerk. Or she'll become distant and secretive as she works on her difficult marriage, knowing that you think she should leave. This might be happening now since she's smart and accomplished, yet in your conversations with her "My sister doesn't actually criticize him. She tries not to blame him when he blames her for things." Cry with her, laugh with her, be a loving, supportive sister no matter what she decides so she will continue to be open with you about the situation.

Much like drug addicts who can't stick with recovery until they hit bottom (for them). Abused women don't leave until they're fed up -- and sometimes they stay anyway, fed up or not. Feeling isolated, or feeling like a failure in her sister's eyes, would make a stressful situation even worse IMHO.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 10:46PM
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While it can be true that putting a name to the disorder may make your sister feel like she has to stay the "tend the sick", when combined with a prognosis, it could also be the thing to set her free. When my ex was diagnosed with a personality disorder, and the prognosis was given (10 years to a semi-cure, assuming he admits the problem today and pursues aggresive therapy truly wanting to change) I felt set free. It was crystal clear to me that he was nowhere near ready to admit to such a problem and I was not willing to tolerate another 10+ years of misery.

One other possibility you might want to check out is Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The blaming and contemptuous treatment would fit that profile pretty well also.

In any case, that man is not emotionally healthy, and the sooner he's out of your sister's daily life, the happier she will be.

Here is a link that might be useful: Narcissistic Personality Disorder

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 10:54PM
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My sister says she needs to take drastic action. Him not talking to her for the past 3 weeks, she says she can't take it anymore. Before, they've both been busy working and she didn't stop to think anything was wrong. I think she just dismissed the little things.
But since staying home to take care of the baby, she's had more time to think and see the problems. Now she says there were so many red flags but she didn't notice them. It could be that she didn't want to notice them. She is trying to think of herself and the baby.

Sue, I think you are right. I think it's OCPD. She says he couldn't bear to throw away the dead fish because it was expensive to buy. He works late and comes home late most days and even goes in to work on some Saturdays. He never wants to go on any vacation. She has to go alone or she'll tag along with one of us. She loves going to places but he won't go anywhere. He says there's no place he wants to see and it's a waste of money. OCPD??

She also says he does seem to love the baby. He'll carry her, feed her and tries to play with her when he's home.

Well, I don't know what to do... if I should tell her or not about OCPD? What if I'm wrong?
Can he be a danger to her? Should I be concerned? So far, she's been trying to keep the peace so she tries not to get mad at him. But if she does get mad at him and say things back to him, could he harm her?
She's talking to us about coming to CA and taking the CA license to work here. But that won't be for another 3 or 6 months. But then there's the custody issue...

    Bookmark   April 1, 2006 at 12:55AM
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Hunlin, you said she's a doctor.... She's more qualified to diagnose OCD than a bunch of random people on an internet forum. I'd let her figure out things on her own as far that's concerned. She probably should take his suggestion and move back to her old place, though. Or sell it. Or rent it. Having a house sit empty is just insane.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2006 at 10:06AM
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Hunlin, I don't think people with OCD are any more violent than other people; if anything, they have a great deal of impulse control. But individuals differ, of course, and I wouldn't want to make a prediction.

I wasn't suggesting that having a psychiatric diagnosis would or should make any difference in the action your sister should take; it just might increase her understanding. But I can't advise you whether to discuss this with her; bunglogirl's advice makes a lot of sense to me.

If, by some miracle, her husband was willing to go for marriage counseling (which might lead to diagnosis and appropriate therapy), there might be a chance to salvage the marriage. But he has already refused, and he's saying that the problem is in her, not him. If your sister is saying that she feels the need to take drastic action, then, sadly, she has already decided she can't live with the status quo, and that's the answer.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2006 at 1:25PM
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You could be writing about my husband and my life. Similar chapters written in our lives over almost 16 years. I've got a sick chapter going on right now, but it all boils down to this about "these types of men":

a. They like control.
b. They steal control and like to corner you to stay in control.
c. They like you to be financially obligated to some "bill" or payment to keep you "under their thumb", then they can put pressure on you to do what they want...or so you can't leave.
d. They like to keep a 2nd house for control. If you don't cooperate, then they'll suggest you both separate, etc.
e. They like to keep money separate, etc. NOT because there is another woman. No. But because they like CONTROL.
f. They are cheap, except when it comes to their wants and needs.
g. They are not generous by nature.
h. They can be a PITA to live with, but are hard workers.
i. They can decieve even the very best of us.

So, how do you live with someone like this?
a. You don't.
b. Or you do...you just have to decide how much you're willing to put up with along the way.
c. If you stay with them: you can't let them 'rule' you, run you, or let them even think they're screwing you over.
d. You get durable/total Power of Attorney or you LEAVE.
e. The ONLY way I'm staying in this marriage is with TOTAL power of attorney in case my DH pulls something. I've had to use it a few times, and he's lived with my decisions.
f. I don't put up with his "chain yanking" and my girls/sons know it. You CAN'T be afraid to walk away or be intimidated if he walks away. HOWEVER, IF he does, he's never coming back. You get ONE opportunity to walk out on me. I've made a believer out of ALL of my children and DH: "Sometimes you only get ONE CHANCE in life to do the right thing....and sometimes only ONE chance to do the wrong thing. Be very careful about the decisions you make and understand the consequences."
g. Any time he pulls a 'power show', I rain on his parade. I keep a positive attitude and "baby cake him" when I correct him. I also let him know that I won't put up with nasty, so he has a choice: get right, or get out.
j. By keeping him on notice, we've had a relatively decent life.

FWIW: The advice above is accurate. AZ is a community property state like FL, where we reside. My MIL lives in Phoenix. My DH was laughing when his mother was going through a separation from her DH a few years ago. I asked DH why he was so pleased AZ was a community property state? He said, 'Because mom would get half of all assets. Bob should have planned things better.' I said, "How so?" ...'He shouldn't have retired in that state.' "Oh, really? Well, you retired in a community property state. You seem perfectly fine with it!" My DH was stupified.

See, some people are just born greedy and selfish. My poor husband has had so many people steal from him growing up and he has serious issues. I just don't tolerate it. He's come a long way. He's also adopted four children. I have made a positive influence in his life. Your sister just needs to decide if he's worth it, which I'm sure he is.

Hard working men are hard to come by. The ones that are so prideful about their education/degrees (like my DH) have serious egos that need to be tamed; at least your sister is his equal educationally. I never finished college and my DH has tried to keep me down because of this. I'm like Molly Brown, "Ain't no one keeping me down!" =0)

PS>>>IF there is another woman: he's gone. Sometimes you only get one chance to do the right thing.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2006 at 1:50AM
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I haven't read every dot and tittle...but I meant to add that your sister has no right to give anything of her DH's things away. This would start WW III around here. Just don't do it is our attitude. We each deal with our own crap.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2006 at 1:52AM
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OK..I've read everyone's opinion now. There's absolutely no doubt your sister's husband and mine could be related. I'm thinking of all of the silly (to me) things we've gone over in our marriage. Now, get this: I'm just as asinine over my "silly stuff" that I've accumulated. It's mine to distribute and deal with it. I'm conquering issues all the time. I'm trying to return things as I purchase them if they don't fit, etc. It's painful to collect items you meant to return, but never got around to it.
I'm not one of those that are like on Dr. Phil, and neither is my DH. However, we both have issues. We're both the oldest in our families. We're both control freaks. We're both independent, sharp, and decisive. I'm quicker with the mouth than DH. He's quicker to discern another's motivation/s and intent. We both respect fidelity and have integrity. He's emotionally stunted, in my opinion.

He's a retired Army officer. He's no slouch potato! He's just a man that had a psycho mother, loser father that abandoned his family when my DH was only 5 years old. His mother turned tricks to raise 7 kiddos, two dying along the way. DS ended up being the eldest child. In and out of foster homes and orphanages. He's not a very trusting man.

So, you don't throw away his stuff. You don't go through his stuff. You let him squirrel away his stuff within reason. If he's unreasonable about having out of date medications, etc...you just take the time to explain the facts. Other than that: his college basketball trophies stay until he's willing to part with them. He can keep that saber in the top of the closet that he wore when we married. Shoot, I still have my wedding dress...and the first dresses I smocked and made my little girl.

My point: it's frustrating as hell to live with someone with issues, but once you understand how they operate and they know you're not out to destroy them or threaten them emotionally, you can then firmly set parameters with which everyone can then live. It's worked for us.

And...it is frustrating. Just don't think his behavior is not without cause. There is a reason, they just have to find a way to deal with these issues. I've had to learn how to back off in some ways, and fight more in other ways. It can work out.

BTW... The grass isn't greener on the other side of the fence. Everyone has issues. Some weirder than others.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2006 at 3:19AM
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He sounds very much like my exhole (as I like to refer to him). Controlling, non personality, his way or highway person. From experience, she needs to establish residency in CA. Call it a separation, she moves to be close to family (i.e. support system which in custody battles is looked upon VERY FAVORABLY...I'm speaking from experience here), and then files for divorce in CA after her established residency time has come (some states it's 6 months,...she'd need to check on that). Having gone through a very difficult custody battle myself, having a familial support system is a huge benefit, and it certainly sounds like she has this. The only thing I'd be concerned with with this jerk is him not returning the baby, during his visits, as many control freaks will do. It's not for love of the child but to hurt the mother. It brings back too much reality for me.

When she comes to visit, print out all these great responses for her to read. Perhaps if she sees all the truly objective opinions she'll reconsider. This guy is BAD, BAD news.

Good luck. I wish you and her the best. It's going to be a very long and hard road for her, she's very lucky to have so many sisters. I know I'm enternally grateful to my 2 sisters, mother,and best girlfriend, for helping me through the many years of hell I endured with a creature just like your sisters husband.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2006 at 3:20AM
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Hunlin, are there some cultural issues at play here? Somehow I get that feeling.

He doesn't sound violent, but he is emotionally abusive. She shouldn't have to be afraid to speak up to him.

If there is ANY concern about the father snatching the baby, the court can order supervised visitation as part of the divorce decree.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2006 at 3:57AM
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"BTW... The grass isn't greener on the other side of the fence."

Oh, but sometimes it is --- So much greener. Endless fireworks, perfection and fairy tales aren't realistic, but true love with mutual respect and consistent kindness does exist. I'm glad you've found a way to make your marriage work Sherilynn, but I'm also glad that I found the courage to STOP trying to make mine work. The ink was barely dry on my divorce when I found true love and lasting happiness.

ROFLMAO! That is too perfect! Can I borrow that term?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2006 at 12:14PM
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Whether or not the man has mental problems (sounds like he does IMHO) the fact is one cannot argue rationally with an irrational person. It's impossible. Okay, checking back in to help with the legal aspect. She would have to check with California law (I used to work in Phx, although I didn't work in family law I do know there are some top notch family law atty's there) I question whether she could move to California, file, and keep the divorce proceedings there. She might, simply because she filed first and will claim jurisdiction. The hubby may retaliate by stating that the union was in Arizona, until she abondoned the marriage and moved to California, and requests a change of venue bringing the proceedings back to AZ. Hard to say, she may want to consult an attorney who is licensed in both AZ and CA-there are quite a few. The child custody is a tricky one. Here is where I say a good attorney is well worth their weight in gold. It can be to the mom's advantage if the child is still an infant. The judge most naturally will give the mother primary custody with short (24 hour periods) to the father initially until the child gets older. The child support is set up based on the individual income of the mother and father, and pretty much set in stone, I think. Other things can be negotiated such as holidays, health insurance, child care, tax write off etc... She needs to walk into the negotiations understanding that a judgment in custody and support can be modified in the future if one of the parties becomes dissatified. With that said she can try and make the agreement as rock solid as possible and hope the father will in time start a new life and not want to be bothered so much with the old one. If his financial and physical obligations are small it is a possible scenario. The bottom line is that divorces and custody generally get down right ugly. (I did a 6 month internship in family law and that was enough to know that I would never work in the field. Give me criminal law any day, the emotional level is not nearly as insane.) Because of that the courts have tried to make things somewhat "fair" for the child's sake and avoid some of the nastiness. Does it always work? Not in my opinion. But tell a judge he's/she's wrong and see where that gets you. She needs to find an attorney who is a killer in the courtroom and has impeccable negotiating skills. Divorce attorneys are a different breed. They are empathetic, understanding, sensitive and mean as hell. They have to be. It is absolutely possible that her attorney can convince everyone that giving the mother sole custody and allowing her to move to California is in everyone's best interest - especially the child's-and to specify some visitation that she is responsible for. L.A. (or there abouts) is a cheap flight to Phx, and only about a 6 hour drive. She may be inconvenienced to bring the child to AZ for a day or two to see the father, but it may be a small price to pay in the big picture.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 1:20PM
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Hi Berlin,
Thank you so much for the information. I think Chandler is about an hour away from Phoenix. My sister was going to go see the lawyer that her friend used in her divorce. I don't know how good he is but I know she got a pretty lousy deal. Do you know of a couple of really good lawyers you can recommend in Phoenix? I want to make sure she gets a good lawyer.
BTW, we're in northern Ca, not LA. Her in-laws are in LA. But I think she will be happy to try to accomodate visitation rights if she can get full custody.

We are Chinese. My sister was very young when immigrated to the U.S. He is white.

Thank you for your reply and for sharing your story. So, it sounds like they always want to be in control. It is good that it works for you but my sister has a much milder personality than you.
I don't think she can always be fighting him. She doesn't like to fight. She would rather keep the peace. So in the almost 3 years of their marriage, by not saying too much in her defense, she already let him get away many times thinking he's right and she's wrong.
I think that because she doesn't have such a strong will, he will walk all over her and she'll be miserable.

Skivino, I like that term too! I'll have to remember that one!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 2:34PM
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My wonderful daughter-in-law is Chinese. I know the two cultures handle some things differently. I hope that your sister's and your family's ways of doing things will be understood and nurtured in whatever process she decides to pursue.
Good luck and best wishes.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 4:26PM
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Your very welcome. On a good day on the 60, she is about 40 minutes from Phoenix. During rush hour it will be longer. I'm afraid I couldn't recommend anyone since that wasn't the area of law I was in. However, I do know if she takes her time and makes some calls, usually attorneys will give a free consultation. She has to let him know everything during that meeting; what she wants and what she is willing to give up and what she needs to do to make it happen. Don't use her friends attorney if she got a lousy deal, find out who her exhusband was using! :0 ) Seriously. And unfortunately, money matters. The more expensive the attorney the better attorney they are. Don't let her back down to much. She will need a strong attorney that will represent her completely in her best interests. It sounds like she will easily give in and if thats the case she will get mowed over by "the other side". Trust me the hubby is going to be saying terrible, hateful, hurtful things. Most will be lies, but who cares? As long he walks away with everything it's all good. She will need to stay positive and strong in the face of all that she will be going through. Remind her to take him for everyting she can - she will regret it if she doesn't. Being hurt and giving in to make it go away is not in her best interest in this situation. Make sure she chooses the right attorney who will see this and instruct her. Make sure she understands that this will not be easy unless hubby does just want to make a clean break, but I doubt it. And friends and family need to be available at 3 a.m. when she needs to cry and vent her frustration.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 4:29PM
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I disagree that an expensive attorney is always the better attorney. Also, be aware that a judge can order the other side to pay all or part of the attorney fees. I suggest using a family law attorney who practices enough in that jurisdiction to know how the various judges rule. I hope your sister can find a culturally sensitive attorney -- one who recognizes that Asian women tend to be conflict averse -- so he or she won't let your sister roll over and play dead which would be against her best interests. (Even though I am third generation, I still have trouble with conflict and confrontation!)

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 8:27PM
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I also disagree that an expensive attorney is necessarily the best.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 9:02PM
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You both are right. But in this particular case I am going with the OP expressing that her sister wants sole custody of the child and to move out of state. That could be asking for alot. Expecially if the husband doesn't concede or if the judge holds the opinion that a child needs both parents. Since you can't pick your judge, you need to trust that your attorney is confident that they will do what they can to make your wish come true. Hence, why I said she is looking for an attorney who is determined in a court room and with amazing negotiation skills. The truth is, attorneys who are established and well known in their field will charge accordingly. Her attorney will advise her what will be in her best interest to ask for and what she will realistically receive, that will include court costs and attorney fees. I wish your sister the best, what she is requesting is not impossible, but it may be difficult.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 11:05AM
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Sherilynn: Hope you're not banking on Florida being a community property state, because I don't think it is. The following are the community property states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. So don't tell your DH!

Hunlin: Is there any reason to believe that your BIL would even want custody of the child? It doesn't sound like that would even be on his radar screen. When he threatened to separate, did he say anything about taking the baby with him?

    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 3:22PM
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I agree with berlin that Hunlin needs to get a good attorney with a good record in the courts and that good attorney's get to be expensive. Having an attorney with a reputation of "amazing negotiation skills" can actually decide the husband's teams tactics as well.

Secondly, whether or not BIL wants custody of the child, many folks with these sort of control issues go after not just what they want but after what they perceive the other person desparately wants. Based on my experience helping a cousin of mine out, Hunlin, you sister needs to do two things BUT with a good attorney ASAP (a) don't let on that money is a deciding factor for her - even if it means that he thinks that her family is going to be helping her with attorney fees and (b) she needs to play it cool and not reveal that she desparately wants anything - the money, the house, the kids, nothing.

Basically, she needs to get a great attorney and she needs to start playing the we-don't-talk game just as he is. Unfortunately, the only place to go when that game starts, is to divorce court, but it does seem to me that she's in a world of turmoil just now and life can get a lot worse for her just now.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 4:33PM
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mindstorm: I agree with you of course; however, in this case, his cheapness might be a good thing. If he perceives he can get out of the marriage with the least amount of financial damage, he might find that a very attractive option. Perhaps another example of him getting obsessed with the small stuff, leaving the important and valuable stuff behind.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 5:30PM
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Good advice Mindstorm -- Not tipping your hand is a very sound strategy. Another thing to consider is that the divorce *might* actualy stay civilized if both sides play nice and fair, and that if this is possible, it would be the best of all possible worlds. Even though BIL sounds like a jerk, he might be fair and reasonable in a divorce if he understands how much less it will co$t him. And being a control junkie, being able to negotiate the terms on his own may appeal to him.

Getting a high-powered attorney with a decent 'intimidation factor' is good advice, but attempting to negotiate in good faith first according to the 'pretty standard' rules of your state may be a good place to start. When I got my divorce, I mainly just wanted out -- the property was not terribly important to me, and I was willing to share 'official' legal custody provided I got to be the one to determine our child's residency. (I anticipated a possible move within the state.) My Exhole was big on appearances -- There's no way he would have agreed to anything less than 'legal joint custody' because that would have made him look bad, but he was willing to negotiate away some custody rights.

Since neither one of us had much when we got married, the difference between 'half of jointly acquired property' and what I might get under a 'favorable' ruling just wasn't that big. Is that the case for your sister also?

    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 5:34PM
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Berlin is right on the money here: She will need a strong attorney that will represent her completely in her best interests. It sounds like she will easily give in and if thats the case she will get mowed over by "the other side". Trust me the hubby is going to be saying terrible, hateful, hurtful things. Most will be lies, but who cares? As long he walks away with everything it's all good. She will need to stay positive and strong in the face of all that she will be going through. Remind her to take him for everyting she can - she will regret it if she doesn't. Being hurt and giving in to make it go away is not in her best interest in this situation. Make sure she chooses the right attorney who will see this and instruct her.

It's precisely what happened to me. I got a nice, easy-going lawyer who was the friend of my dad's friend. HUGE mistake. I needed a cutthroat lawyer or at least one who understood and played well against cutthroat tactics. Instead, we played the "nice" card since that is my nature, and I got creamed. Worst of all was the fact that my children were hurt very badly and in spite of the legal $$$$$ I spent over several years, I was never able to get the custody agreement changed (we had 1 week/1week and I was not able to move from the town - the very small town in which he had just destroyed my reputation). Every lawyer I consulted warned me not to try again, as my ex and his lawyer would continue the job of smearing me. This, in spite of the fact that he was abusing the kids and left them alone every night, all night at ages 4 and 7 while he worked graveyard. I used to drive over every night and pick them up, bring them home to bed, and then sneak them back into their dad's house before he got home. I'm sure he knew but it played right into his game, and I could not get child protective services nor the police to do anything. I couldn't even go back to court, as every lawyer I consulted told me I'd be looking at years of dragged-out proceedings. You have no idea how desperately I wanted to take my kids and run away.

I don't mean to sound overly dramatic, but your jaw would drop if you knew some of the tactics that men like that will use when they feel their control has been threatened. It has nothing whatever to do with the children and everything to do with the sickness inside of themselves that drives them to the point of destroying others before losing any of their perceived control, just as mindstorm said.

I don't know whether or not your BIL is the same kind of control freak that so many of us here responding to you have had in our lives. He sounds like a likely candidate to me, though, and my advice to your sister would be to get out just as soon as she has hired a top-notch lawyer and gotten advice as to how to proceed. Trying to remain with someone like that is a death sentence for people like your sister (and me, and many others here) who are quiet, easy-going, and non-confrontational. I mean that literally - I was married to my ex for 8 years and was so very near the bottom that I daydreamed constantly about just getting killed. If it hadn't been for my children, I would never have found the strength to get out. I was too proud at first and too weak near the end to let my family know the horrid conditions in which I lived; although they knew things weren't good, they had no idea how bad it really was and I was ashamed because my ex had drilled into me that everything was my fault. I didn't believe that intellectually, but whatever the rest of me is had assimilated that mindset and did not fight back. Somehow, though, I clawed my way back in order to remove my children from such a damaging environment. Unfortunately, I did not get full custody and was unable to protect them half of the time.

Berlin is also correct about child support - it is not negotiable *in court.* The court will set a support amount and it will be based on the parents' incomes, which is one reason why I think it might be best if your sister did not find a job right away, but a lawyer could best address that issue. However, with some guys (like my ex), the reality of kids is a hassle they don't really want to deal with. Mine was willing to forego custody if I would not hold him to paying support. My lawyer told me no way. I felt and still feel that had I taken him up on that, I'd have gotten initial court custody and none of the horrid custody battle would have ensued. You can never be sure with sociopaths, though.

Total lying got my ex got the house, the car, and half custody, no support due. Honesty and being nice lost me my children half the time (they had not seen their dad in 3 years nor had he sent any support, his choice), got me all the bills, and somehow I still had to pay him $2000. I am a teacher and my ex (his lawyer, actually) made such awful allegations about me during the custody hearing that I had to stand before the school board to address them. Word spreads fast in a small town and it was difficult to hold my head up, knowing what was being whispered. The court had decreed that neither parent could remove the children from the town without the other's approval, so I was sentenced to remain for years (this was my ex's hometown and he had moved in with his mom - no way was he ever leaving). I finally left when my youngest turned 14 - I decided I would just let my ex take me to court. His financial well (his mom) had dried up by then and he didn't bother. At that point I finally had full custody, but the scars were deep for all of us.

That is the tip of the iceburg. I have too many horror stories to count. Tell your sister to get out and get her baby out.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 5:51PM
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Seeking, I am sorry you suffered such horror but your response makes me want to say what I have been thinking reading this thread.
Hunlin, I hope your sister is strong enough to handle what is ahead but the only really important thing is her safety and removing the baby from harms way. From everything you read and hear, psycological abuse leave deep scars.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 7:03PM
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Seeking, The fiercest hugs in the world to you. Your situation sounds utterly horrible.

I battled my cousin's divorce with her although she did not have kids - her ex was a horrible person too and really messed with her self confidence as well. It was awfully hard on her and although I feel selfish saying this, it was very hard on me too. I was her nearest family (we both live in Boston), I absolutely love her parents - my uncle and aunt - and she and her sister are about my sisters' ages and very close to us. I had to help her, there was no 2 ways about it. But it was extremely taxing because (a) she was apt to crumble and believe him when he told her she didn't have the assets to fight him and that she should be off from "his" house (purchased after marriage with collective monies) with her clothes, books and the 5 or 10K she had in her bank account when they first got married, (b) He was a sly worm who was attriting away her self-worth even though she was a young professor and he was - at the time - umemployed. He'd had a pretty high paying job but money was a very big deal with him. Bottom line, she got a lawyer with an awesome pedigree and while her husband's demands didn't back down, he even had his own lawyer telling him to climb down from his high horse. Anyhow, a good attny really did pay off in my cousins' case.

Amazingly, although money not his marriage was paramount to him, all his arguments to her about the settlement was about how she should capitulate to him because she wouldn't have the money to duel it out with him. Basically, he'd worked her up to be nervous about her finances and then based all his arguments on that anxiety that HE'd installed in her. Since she had family helping her financially, that settled not only her, but once he realized it, it ended the battle for him as well.

Although it sounds trite and pithy, my cousin's experience really brought home that old adage about bullies are cowards in disguise or something like that. Just listening to an account of him talk was enough to bring that phrase to mind.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 9:49PM
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I am so sorry ladies. But your stories are exactly why after getting my toes wet in family law I pulled them in quick got on my feet and ran. Here is a quick story for you, not a pleasant one, but perhaps it will help so many to realize that it could have been worse. This happened many, many years ago, I won't indulge names or the state in which it occurred. My firm was representing a woman whose husband used HER car, to commit a very serious crime. When he was caught they impounded her car for an undetermined amount of time. Serious crimes have serious long legal proceedings. Our client still had to make the monthly payments to the bank for the car, and with one income, she needed to cut the ties quick, before more debt piled up. When she filed for a divorce, believe it or not, jail bird hubby was suprised and hurt! She agreed to take full responsiblity of all debts up to the filing date. She just wanted out and to move to another state. Who could blame her? She was humiliated to show her face in the town she was born and raised in. Hubby decided to tie things up by fighting for the fridge. Yes, ladies, thats right, a full size fridge. Where, you ask was he going to put this large appliance? Trust me during the conversation with his counsel I had a few suggetions. I think they came some time after the question "ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!" Now the circumstances in my story are unique, but the lashing out by the hurt party who feels like they have lost control is not. The worst thing that can happen to a controlling person is to lose the person they control. That individual empowers the control freak by being the one thing that helps to create his little world, you know the one, where he is all knowing and powerful?

Hunlin, please let us know what happens. Mindstorm is correct. Your sister needs to carry on as if everything is normal. She can't tip him off. It's best that she has the element of surprise. So once your sister's mind is made up, go out and find a good attorney who is licensed in both AZ and CA. You can start your research by going to the State Bar of Arizona website, go to Legal Resources and click on "find a lawyer". Once the page comes up simply request family law. To the right of the name is a 'more info' button, there you will find what states (or jurisdiction) they are licensed in. I cannot verify how up to date the website is, but it's a good place to start.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2006 at 10:47AM
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Thank you so much for all your advice. It is very helpful. I will definitely check out the website you mentioned.

A big hug to you. Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry you had to go through all that. It sounds really horrible.
It really amazes me how there are really nice people out there but there are also many creeps out there. It makes me thankful that I have a good decent DH.
I don't know my BIL too well and I don't know if he is going to be playing dirty or not. I guess we'll have to be prepared.

I'm glad that your cousin's story ended in a happy ending for her. I'm sure it was very tough going through it all with her. I may be in your shoes soon helping my sister through it.
My sister is keeping everything hush-hush and trying not to let on anything about her plans. She wants to see a lawyer in CA instead of there because she's afraid he might find out. I don't think he could find out unless he knew where she was going. She will be in CA in about 2 weeks.

She is very frustrated about him controlling things such as what she can and can't buy. She tells me she wanted to get a Christmas tree for baby's first Christmas but he wouldn't let her. Says it's a waste of money. He doesn't believe in Christmas presents.
They had to argue about getting her a rocking chair for breast feeling. They bought it but she said he didn't talk to her afterwards and was in such a foul mood. She had to buy the changing table for the baby from a goodwill store for $5 for which she was embarassed to tell me. She wanted to decorate the baby's room. He wouldn't let her paint any color because it will reduce the resale value of the house. The crib and all other baby items were gifts or hand-me-downs. She can't do what she wants. If she bring things up with him, he just says that she wants everything her way.
What about this... is this an OCPD trait? He says things and later he'll deny that he ever said it.

I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your stories, giving your opinions and advice. It has been invaluable.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2006 at 3:27PM
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. . . is this an OCPD trait? He says things and later he'll deny that he ever said it.

I don't know if it's OCPD, and am not sure that can be diagnosed from here anyway, but as soon as I read that, I thought Ah-ha! Adult child of an alcoholic! Or alcoholic himself, or both, or some other substance abuse.

That kind of denial designed to make the other person feel crazy, plus the other extremely controlling behavior, is classic behavior for an adult child of alcoholics. In this country, statistically there's a very good chance that there's substance abuse in his family. If that is the problem, there is counseling for it and recovery groups they both could attend. Some people think these are helpful.

So I wonder if he or his parent(s) have a substance abuse problem.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2006 at 5:28PM
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Hunlin, people with OCD and OCPD do have control issues, but what you're describing is much more severe than I'm familiar with. I'm used to a certain amount of obstinacy/inflexibility and denial, plus the hoarding, as we discussed, but I don't encounter attempts to control every aspect of our daily life, as your sister does; my DH is reasonably cautious about spending money (as am I), but he's nowhere near as stingy and demanding as your BIL. He does project blame sometimes, but that characteristic is not limited to people with OCD.

We can come up with a lot of psychological theories about your BIL, but most importantly, he is NOT willing to go for counseling or therapy, so there won't be any diagnosis by a qualified professional. We'll never know! Your sister just needs to move ahead on the legal front and get out from under his thumb. My heart aches for her and the suffering she's going through!


    Bookmark   April 5, 2006 at 6:34PM
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He's abusing her, plain and simple, and she needs to get out now, before he starts escalating the abuse and hitting her or the baby.

Here's a book that helped me see what was happening.

Here is a link that might be useful: Men Who Hate Women

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 6:14PM
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Hello ladies,
Sorry I haven't gotten back. I want to give you all an update. Before my sister arrvied in CA for her short vacation, her husband had called a couple of their close friends over and they had a sort-of meeting of hashing out their problems. The friends tried to give them advice. After that he really tried to do things and help out around the house and even got rid of some of his things (according to my sister).
She has gone back to Arizona and she says they are communicating more. She does not believe he has OCPD. She also feels guilty trying to separate him from the baby. She says he is trying so she has to give him a chance. That is it and nothing we can do at this point. She also decided not to go see a lawyer.

We tried to help but in the end, it is her decision. I really hope everything works out for her. I want to thank all of you for all your help and good advice. I really appreciate and value all the help I have gotten here on this forum. You guys are great! Thank you!!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2006 at 6:45PM
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Have your ears been itching? I've been wondering what happened to you and your sister. I am not optimistic, but for your sister's sake, I hope things get and STAY better.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2006 at 8:31PM
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Hunlin, I'm so sorry to hear of the latest development. Your BIL isn't OCD, he is controlling and an abuser. I could write a book about everything you've described, but it all boils down to one thing: HE WILL NEVER CHANGE. Sure, things might get better temporarily, but they will always go back. And every time it happens, your poor sister will become just a tiny bit more desensitized, and eventually it will seem normal to her.

I will just touch on a few things:

>He brings friends over to discuss their marriage, things get better. (Trust me, this is very temporary.) On the surface, it might seem like he really wants to work on things, and has brought these good friends over for heartfelt advice to repair the marriage. In actuality, what he is doing is forming an alliance against your sister to keep her 'in her place'. He is manipulating your sister as well as the friends. From the friends' standpoint, they are flattered that he has consulted them, and see him as a good guy so very concerned about his failing marriage. From your sister's seat, she grasps at the tiny straw that maybe this time, things will really change. Plus she now has the unspoken pressure from their friends....if she rejects the advice and leaves, she is the bad guy. How could someone be so horrible to leave a man that really wanted to work on things? Then there's the simple three against one, which makes her question if she's being unreasonable. These are classic things that abusers do.

>He doesn't 'let her' buy or do certain things. Another classic abuser trait. From the outside observer, this is ludicrous. Why does he get to make the rules? And why would someone go along with them? It makes no sense, especially because 'the rules' are so ridiculous. But it's not the rules, really. It's the effect of the rules. They go to further diminish your sister, and make her question what is right or wrong, and maybe things make sense in a way, but even if they don't, making him mad is to be avoided, because then she pays in a different way. By the way, she does not 'make him mad', he chooses to be mad, so he can manipulate her and control her. That is what abuse is all about, control.

>He doesn't speak to her when she does 'something wrong'. That's control again, using passive aggressive tactics. Not speaking to someone is a manipulative and very, very hostile act, disguised as someone who is 'hurt', or 'upset'. Your sister is normal. By being normal, your sister does not know quite what to do, because she's dealing with someone that's NOT normal. She's never run into someone who acts like this, so she doesn't have the tools to deal with it. She expects that the man she married will love and respect her and treat her as such. He doesn't. Your sister does all the normal things that normal people do. People in conflict discuss, listen to each other, and agree or compromise. Those things don't work with a controller/abuser. And all the stuff he does to her keeps her off balance and confused. Because sometimes he's really nice to her. Throws her a bone. So she keeps trying. And the way he twists things around to make it her fault makes her question herself, somehow makes her see 'his side'.

It's really hard to understand, if you haven't been through it. It's got nothing to do with how smart your sister is. Abusers are really, really good at what they do, and they do it so subtly that you don't even realize what's happening. They chip away at your soul tiny bit by tiny bit, so you don't even realize what's happened. A favorite analogy about those who have suffered mental/emotional abuse is this:

If you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it realizes it is in trouble right away, and immediately jumps out to escape. If you put a frog into a pot of cool water, and very slowly bring it to a boil, the frog will really not notice, and acclimates itself to the small increments of rising temperature and not realize it is in trouble until it is too late.

Don't give up on your sister. Don't believe her when she tells you that things are all better, and he's really changed. She wants to believe that, and she probably does because she wants it so badly, but it's not true.

I guess by now you have figured out that I lived this life too. I was with him for 15 years, and wasted 10 of those believing and hoping that he would change. I feel so stupid for that, and it's very hard not to hate myself for it. Not only did I lose so many years, but lost precious time with my family, (he did his best to isolate me from them, with some success), for which I'll never forgive myself.

Linked below are some books that might strike a chord with your sister. I don't know for sure that your BIL is doing all of the things covered in this book, but I kind of suspect he is, and your sister is either too embarrassed to tell you about it, or simply doesn't recognize what is really going on.

The ones that she would hopefully read are:

Controlling People
The Verbally Abusive Relationship
Verbal Abuse: Survivors Speak Out

Most people who read one or all of them feel like the author was secretly observing their marriage.

I really, really pray that your sister finds the knowledge and strength to leave. It seems so obvious to everyone else, but I understand all too well why she might stay. Whatever her choices are, now or in the future, just keep talking to her and listening to her. Gently point out things when you feel she is receptive. The fact that they have a child makes things even harder for her to make the hard decisions, so keep that in mind when you get frustrated with her decision to keep trying.

(((xo to Hunlin and sister)))

Here is a link that might be useful: Patricia Evans Books

    Bookmark   May 19, 2006 at 10:33PM
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Weed, what a beautiful and kind post. Thank you.

There are some wonderful people on these forums!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 7:33AM
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Weed, thank you so much for what you wrote, your kind advice and for sharing a part of your life story with us. I am very sorry you had to go through that yourself. You are right. The more she is exposed to the same thing over and over again, she becomes desensitized and begins to think it's normal. It will be very difficult to make her see reason and try to convince her otherwise when she thinks everything is normal. It is a long road ahead and we'll have to wait and see what happens.
Thank you again Weed. A big hug to you!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 11:57AM
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Oh, I'm so tired. Hunlin, after reading the most recent posts I realized, quite surprisingly two things: I married two controlling men. One, I divorced after 8 years. The next, the one I mentioned above. I realized reading Weeds advice and others that I'm so tired........of the struggle. So tired of handling all of the bs. I'm not spineless...but I am really tired. I think I'm just too tired to start over.

I hope the very best for your sister. Keep hitting her between the eyes with the truth about her husband and his behaviors. Hold that mirror up and speak loud and clear.

God Bless you all.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2006 at 12:08AM
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