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Ryan LCSW, Mental Health
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 872
Experience:  Individual and Family Therapist
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Hello Ryan, I have a serious concern. My sister is going

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Hello Ryan,

I have a serious concern. My sister is going through a domestic dispute with her husband. She has been with him for 16 years, met him when she was 17 and he 22. They just recently got married (about 1 year ago). They have 2 daughters, 12 and 10 years of age. My family is very concerned about this situation because she is a victim of emotional abuse by her husband and at times it has been physical (he tired to choke her once while arguing). In the past 4 weeks, the situation has gotten worse because she told him she wanted a separation and he has gone irrational on her. He took out a gun on two occasions (walking around the house with his two daughters crying) and the second time he shot the gun through the main door, threatening to shoot himself if my sister did not return to the house. We called the cops after this incident. Even though all this dangerous things have happened, my sister still thinks that she can be friends with this man (he is trying to convince her that he is changing by going to counseling), the shooting incident happened last weekend. My question is, there was a family trip that they had planned before all this fighting and arguing around my nieces started to happen, my sister still thinks that she should go with him and his family on this trip(to the caribbean for 8 days). My family and I are very worried for her safety and are urging her to cancel the trip. What is the best advice I can give her about this situation? Please help! We are all women in this family and don't know what to do. By the way, his family is on his side and have not intervene during the disputes even though his family lives 5 minutes away from them in PA, we live in NYC. Thank you again.
Thanks for your question,

You are right to be concerned about your sister. While I would certainly like to believe that her husband has the capacity to change, it sounds like their relationship is at a very volatile point right now and it would be in her and her daughter's best interest to stay away from him. Even if it is just in protection of everyone's emotional safety, this is obviously a man who is extremely impulsive and has the capacity for violence given the state of their relationship.

It may eventually be possible for her to be friends with him, however it is too soon after these incidents have occurred to assume that everything is ok. Counseling is certainly a step in the right direction, but if I were in her shoes at the very least I would be looking for some confirmation from his counselor that he is in a frame of mind that is healthy enough for her to be around. It might be a hassle to cancel the trip, but in the interest of everyone's safety that seems to be the best option.

Ideally your sister would keep her distance for now. If she chooses to go to counseling with him at some point, that may help them to resolve some of the issues that got to this point. However, after firing a gun in the house and threatening suicide, this is not a person who is emotionally stable enough to go with on an 8 day vacation. Perhaps she can do something else special with her daughters, but right now my best advice would be to stay away from this man until she has some assurance by a mental health professional that he is capable of keeping his emotions under control and maintaining a safe environment for the family. I definitely wish you the best with all of this, and if there's anything else I can do to help please let me know.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.



You had hit the nail on the head. I just would like to know what is the best way to encourage her to seek counseling for herself. She is so used to be in this type of relationship with this man that she fails to realize how dangerous these incidents truly have been. Please advice me on the best approach for the family to follow with her without sounding bossy or pushy. Thank you in advance.

I'm very glad I could help. It can be very difficult to convince someone to seek counseling on their own without sounding pushy. If she has had similar problems several times now, you may be able to point this pattern of dangerous relationships out to her and try to appeal to her sense of logic. However it would also be pretty typical of anyone to go to a family counselor after a separation in order to deal with the transition and make sure that her kids are handling everything ok. In that way you may be able to convince her to go for the sake of her family, and once she is there they will likely address some of the problems that have gotten her to this point. Another option would be to even try to convince to her go with him in order discuss the problems in the relationship, and that may cause her to have to directly confront the problems that leads her to be involved in these dangerous situations. Best of luck,

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

You may be right by suggesting counseling to help her and her daughters deal with the separation. But another concern we have is that her husband calls her every day 2-3 per day and she talks to him for long periods of time. Is this a good idea for her to allow him to have so much access to her? I feel that if she continues to let him into her head, she might have a harder time cutting him off completely. She says she does not want to get by with him, but she feels bad for him. Any advice?

Unfortunately it doesn't sound like much of a separation if she is talking to him so frequently. It's not uncommon for the person who is being abused to feel bad for the abuser and in that way continue to let them into their lives, and that is likely what has happened here with her feeling bad for him. However, in order for the separation to serve it's purpose, there is typically very minimal access and communication between the two of them while they each work out their own personal issues that led to this point. After they've spent a reasonable amount of time working on themselves individually, that would be the point to start communicating and seeing each other more often.
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you, Ryan

I'm glad I could help. All the best,