comtrolling behavior

Dear Rene,

My brother is married to a very controlling woman who I just can’t bear.

Rebecca tells my brother, Andrew, what to wear, what to eat and even if he can go to the restroom. I hate seeing how she talks to him and really have to bite my tongue when we’re together.

I know he doesn’t like the way she speaks to him but he’s afraid to speak up as she has a fierce temper on her and a really nasty streak. They have a 3-year-old daughter and Rebecca says if they ever break up he’ll never see her again…

What would you advise me to do? How would you deal with this awful woman? I just can’t bear to see my brother being treated like this…


Taylor, Sacramento


Hi Taylor:

It’s evident you love your brother very much otherwise you would not have written to me. Your problem has a relatively easy solution for you – unfortunately not so much for him.  So here goes.

First and foremost, HE is married to her, not you. She may be a royal bitch on wheels but for some reason he was attracted enough to put a ring on it. Whenever Buff and I see an odd couple like this we say to each other, “He/she must be good in bed.” I know it’s crass but it illustrates a point. There may be aspects of their relationship that you are not privy to. It could be sex; it could be something more. Maybe he doesn’t want to pick out his own clothes or make decisions on what to eat. But the fact is you are seeing only one facet of their union, what they show you when they are with you. Another thing to keep in mind is that people change their situation when they are motivated to do so and that must come from within. Your brother is an adult, capable of handling himself. He will make a change when the situation becomes unbearable or the negative aspects of the relationship outweigh the positive.

With regard to you and the sister-in-law this is pretty easy; you will continue to bite your tongue. Do it until it bleeds if you have to but it’s not your place to fight his battles or speak out on his behalf. I’m a fan of playing these situations like a chess game. Let’s say you do say something and it results in a BIG blowout, which, given her temper, will undoubtedly happen. At the end of the day, he will more than likely side with her, his wife, not his sister. Now you think Rebecca was a bitch before, wait until you give her reason to hate you.  And you’ve heard of pillow talk? You can rest assured she’s going to be chewing his ear off about how much of a bitch YOU are, how dare you overstep your bounds and insert yourself in their relationship and so on. Trust me, this will not end well. Two words: Butt out.


There is one caveat I must add. If you suspect Rebecca is hitting your brother or otherwise abusing him (verbally or emotionally) then you MUST say something. Abuse of any kind has no place in a relationship and domestic violence where the man is the victim is not unheard of.  Take him to a place where he can safely talk about the situation and get help.

Good luck mommy!


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