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JR, M.A.
JR, M.A., Mental Health Professional
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 184
Experience:  I have a master's degree in clinical psychology and am currently finishing my doctoral degree.
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I have just realized that my husband has been spousalizing ...

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I have just realized that my husband has been spousalizing my 15 yr old for many years. I just thought they had a close relationship until he wanted a divorce after 20 years. My daughter told me that he had told her that he was asking for a divorce before he told me. He has told her things about our marriage that a 15 year old shouldn''t know about. I don''t think anything sexually has been going on but I do believe there is a mental "relationship". She defends him fiercely and hates me for things that I have done to him. I am the emotional conduit at home, I am the disciplinarian. We don''t argue much. He is a master at manipulation and control. He is a lawyer. We are separated going through the process with attorneys. He took my 15 year old tonight to his brothers'' empty house. My daughter didn''t want to bring a blowup bed over and asked in front of me if she could just sleep with him on his blowup bed. He said yes. He has boundary issues anyway. Is there something to be worried


It sounds like you have a very complex problem. I can definitely understand why you have reservations about letting her go to an "empty house." Her behavior is characteristic of a child who is enmeshed (i.e., too emotionally close) with your husband. Your husband and daughter have created a triangle with you. That is, the closeness of their relationship is largely based on their feelings towards you. They are pulling close together and separating you from the equation. You are absolutely correct in saying that your husband should not have been talking to your daughter about adult issues and relationships. This information is too advanced for her stage of emotional development and is completely inappropriate. He is manipulating you through his relationship with your daughter. As he pulls her closer, he is alienating you and pushing your buttons. I would hesitate to blame your daughter, because it sounds like she is struggling to make sense of conflicting information. I would suspect that he is filling her head with lies about you. Your daughter is at an especially vulnerable age right now and needs to be protected from this type of relationship. Your husband is driving a wedge between you and your daughter. Additionally, I would be concerned about the potential for sexual abuse. His behavior with your daughter seems odd and suspicious. She may be compliant because of her desire to be loved unconditionally. Moreover, her emotional confusion could result in her covering up for inappropriate behavior on the part of your husband. At her age, no man should be sleeping in the same bed with her. This is grounds for serious accusations.

I understand that you have tried therapy for your daughter. As a therapist, I would have to suggest that you attempt family therapy with just you and your daughter. She may benefit from individual therapy with a psychotherapist. She needs an additional emotional outlet. At this point, she is turning to your husband for everything. This is very unhealthy and problematic for her emotional development. Please consider therapy again. Additionally, if you can, you should not allow her to be alone with him as often as she is now. She needs to separate from him, as I think that he is likely using her for selfish reasons. She may become very angry with you, but I think for her own good you need to step in and set some firm boundaries. She should not be sleeping in the same bed with this man. She certainly should not be sleeping over at an empty house with him. I know this may be very difficult and she may become very angry with you; however, I think this is a time that you need to step in and protect your daughter. I believe your gut feeling about this situation is correct. You need to keep a close eye on her behavior and make sure that there is nothing sexual occurring. If you begin to suspect something more, you need to contact the local authorities and file a report. Please seek the the ongoing advice of a therapist.

If this answer has been helpful, please click accept so that I get credit for my work. Thank you and good luck to you. Please let me know if you have any further questions. If you would like to follow up on this issue, please feel free to ask another question directly on my profile or this page. It was very wise of you to seek advice on this issue.

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Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Reply to JR, MA's Post: Would it be helpful to get a therapist who deals with sexual abuse? She herself has been manipulative with another therapist who didn't see this problem and only wanted to focus on the divorce she has only seen her 2 times. I am just concerned with her mental health and future relationships. You said she needs other emotional outlets. Were you just talking about family therapy? In reference to your thoughts I was wondering how this could go further as the divorce process is going on and he comes to rely on her even more. His only friends are his family and brother just moved away, hence empty house.Is there a name for this? I may have to use this in my divorce to get primary residency.


At this point, I think it would be important to find a clinical psychologist who works with teenagers and families. She is going to need emotional support from someone that she trusts outside of the family. A skilled clinical psychologist will be able to establish a relationship with her without pushing her to disclose her feelings before she is ready. Some counselors will rush into confronting emotions before building rapport with their client. As a teenager, you daughter likely feels caught in the middle. Your husband's manipulative behavior is creating what is known as a "triangle" in family therapy. That is, the boundaries between them are becoming diffuse (i.e., loose and too flexible). For example, she should never be sleeping in bed with him. This excessive closeness between them pushes you out of the relationship. Picture a triangle with two points close together that are connected to a third point which is very far away. As they pull together, you become isolated from them both. However, you are still apart of this triangle and are the only one capable of changing the pattern of interaction. You must take steps to separate your daughter from your husband, especially since we are unsure about the possibility of sexual abuse.

In reference to your question about how this process will play out, it seems likely that this relationship between them will become more intense as the divorce plays out. The fact that your husband has no friends outside of his family is unusual. He will likely cling to your daughter and attempt to manipulate her further. As her mother, you have to step in to protect your daughter from him. If you go to see a family therapist, they will tell you that your husband's relationship with your daughter constitutes what is known as "enmeshment" in family systems theory. Enmeshment takes place when normal boundaries between people are crossed. That is, when psychological and emotional boundaries are crossed, which makes it especially difficult for a child to develop healthy emotional attachments. Young women like your daughter usually form extremely strong attachments to boys they date. She may rush into physical relationships and become emotionally attached to men. She is rebelling against you, which is not that unusual for a teenage girl her age. She sees your husband as some sort of heroic figure that can save her from you. This does not mean that you are doing a bad job as a mother. It just means that your husband is manipulating a natural urge for a teenage daughter to break away from her mother. You are not to blame! When you have a "triangle" such as the one that exists in your family, everyone plays a role in its creation. Fortunately, you have the power to break up this pattern of interaction between them. It sounds like your husband has a "dependent personality" and needs to be connected with someone to feel normal. His lack of friends and behavior may indicate the presence of some type of personality disorder; however, I cannot make a diagnosis without meeting him.

BotXXXXX XXXXXne: Even if she gets angry with you...which she likely need to separate her from your husband. You should attempt to get into family therapy (i.e., just you and her). You can explain the situation to the therapist without your daughter in the room, so that the therapist won't be blind to the manipulation taking place. The therapist should be a clinical psychologist if possible. Clinical psychologists have the most advanced level of training in psychotherapy. Let the therapist know that you are concerned about them sleeping together in the same bed. If the therapist finds any more information, this may be grounds for filing a police report. A father figure is important in a young girl's life, but her relationship with your husband is just creating emotional conflict and boundary issues that will persist into adult relationships.

If you found this information helpful, please accept my answer so that I get credit for my work and time. If you have any additional questions, I would be happy to help you. Feel free to ask more questions regarding this issue. You will likely need a great deal of support and encouragement to get you through this very challenging situation. BUT....You are a good and protective can do it! Your daughter will probably thank you one day...just not today.

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