Your Turn: “My Husband Won’t Allow My Sister to Move Near Us”

We live in a lovely town in the northern New England area about two hours away from my sister’s family and three hours away from my aging parents. I’ve been married for almost eighteen years and have three daughters in elementary and middle school. I am extremely close with my sister; we are in business together and our husbands are BFFs who go backpacking together on several trips per year. She also has three kids around the same ages as mine. My parents have decided to put their house on the market and move north to live near me. They are in their early 70s, are eager to retire, and would like to be near their grandkids as they get older (and be near family in case of medical issues, of which there are none yet).

My sister and her husband would also like to move to be near me and my parents, but the problem is my husband. He is refusing to allow my sister to move into our school district because he is uncomfortable with having so much family around. He feels he would be boxed out of his own family and he feels my sister and her family would be taking over the life we’ve made here. A few notes to add: My husband had a stroke during a planned open-heart surgery this past summer (heart defect he was born with) and the after-effects of the brain injury make him extremely argumentative, angry, resentful, rigid, and sometimes downright nasty and cruel. It’s been a hellish nine months. He’s been back at work since three months post-surgery (he owns his own wealth management firm – very type A) but is obviously under a lot of pressure to “be back to normal.” He’s doing really well in his recovery but only focuses on what he’s lost. We have a roster of therapists and are doing every kind of treatment possible to help him heal. We haven’t lived near any family for over fifteen years (I had three kids in three years, which was really stressful with no family close by to help and my husband working really long hours during those years).

I am at the point where I know I need to be available to start helping with my aging parents, and I would love to have my sister nearby as well. She and I are best friends as well as business partners, and we have a dream of taking our business to a much higher level (we’re nutritional consultants and want to grow our business into a larger scale holistic practice). My husband doesn’t support our business at all. He feels he’ll be smothered by my sister and her family, that all we’ll talk about 24/7 will be our business, and that our kids won’t have their own friends because her kids will usurp ours and keep them from having their own social circles (our two oldest are in the same grade). My sister’s kids all play different sports than mine and are into different activities. My husband’s firm is a one-hour commute from home, so we don’t really see him during the week.

I’ve supported my husband through job changes, law school, moving to two different states for his work/school, and starting his own business, and I have never once told him NO. He comes from a highly toxic and dysfunctional family and so his experiences have made him not able to see the value of having family nearby. Selfishly, I feel like I’ve been supportive of his career and life decisions and now would like him to do the same for me. However, my husband has threatened to divorce me if my sister moves here, and he has threatened to send our kids to private school forty-five minutes away just to keep the cousins from attending the same schools. I don’t want my marriage to dissolve, and I just have no idea what to do.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. PS: Yes, I am seeing a therapist, and we have been seeing a marriage counselor. — Wanting My Sister Close


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  1. Laura Hope says:

    How about if your sister moves one town over so she’s 5 minutes away but her kids are in a different school district? She can be right near without being on top of you.

    1. RedroverRedrover says:

      That’s what I was thinking. And put it to your husband like this: your parents are going to need care in the not-too-distant future. None of you knows how much. It would be better to have your sister close enough that you can share that duty, rather than be responsible for it all on your own.
      And I wouldn’t mention this, but the fact is that he might need care too. For you to have him plus your parents is going to be a huge load. But if you mention that I think he’ll get upset, from the sounds of it. Right now he seems to be trying to pretend that he’s fine and nothing’s changed, and I’m sure he doesn’t want to think about possible future health issues at this point. So it’s not something to bring up, but it’s definitely another reason for you to have your sister close by.

      1. That’s a really good idea. It sounds like the parents are already moving there, so it might be something to bring up as “well, if they don’t move then all my parents care will fall to me and that would take even more time…”

    2. bostonpupgal says:

      But isn’t that sort of…catering to crazy? The fact is her husband’s concerns sounds completely unreasonable and unfounded, and point to a disturbing change in his thought process. Also, he has not one iota of business telling others where they can live or move, and threatening divorce over the decisions of other people that the LW has zero control over is absurd. It sounds like the LW and her family are feeling held hostage by his behaviour. Also, them moving somewhere else doesn’t address that there are serious anger and personality problems at play here, and his behaviour will likely continue and just focus on other things instead.

      Lw, I’m so sorry for everything you’ve been through. I would add couples counseling to that list of therapists stat. I would also discuss your husband’s personality and anger issues with his other therapists and doctors. It might be helpful for you to see an individual counselor as well to help you cope with the situation. As for your family, tell them to go ahead and move if that’s what they want to do. If your husband is going to divorce you over that, it sounds like a blessing in disguise because his behaviour is abhorrent. Even with extensive counseling and help it could be that you should consider leaving your marriage, what you’re describing is abusive and you should not be expected to just take it because your husband’s health problems may or may not have caused some of it. Also, document, document, document. Keep a journal of his moods and behaviors, when he says or does abusive things and when he gets angry. Document his pills, doctors appointments etc, just everything. You will be glad you did if he turns violent or ultimately you end up needing a divorce, or if he files for divorce and wants custody.

      Also, LW, it is in no way selfish to expect to be supported by your husband in starting a business, moving forward in life, or just in general. His anger and unreasonable handling of this situation is extremely disturbing and concerning. I would consider lots of therapy and help, and ultimately divorce

      1. Avatar photo something random says:

        @Bostonpug- What difference does it make if the kids go to different schools if the letter writer is getting the support of living close to her sister?

        I agree with others that this husband’s controlling attitude is at minimum WAY out of bounds. But this letter writer has said she isn’t ready to call it a day in her marriage, yet.
        I think she does need the continued support of professionals and journaling is great way of keeping track of confusing life circumstances as well has record-keep.

      2. I don’t think the sister should have to compromise on where her kids go to school. What if the LW’s school district is awesome? And the other is just mediocre? What if the LW’s town is also better, but she has to tell her sister, hey, my husband is being extremely unreasonable so you can’t move here?
        I just think that’s absurd.
        He’s giving his wife ultimatums about her sisters life choices. I’m sorry, but nobody has a right to control other people, including spouses.

      3. Avatar photo something random says:

        Sorry I misspelled your name below, ktfran.

      4. bostonpupgal says:

        I do agree that anything that gets her family closer is a good idea. But I would be hesitant to suggest that the LWs sister and her family should even entertain taking into account their brother in laws totally unreasonable feelings when deciding something as big as where to live and where to send their children to school. There are a myriad of reasons, like location and quality of the school district, that the sister might be looking specifically at that town. I think ultimately letting the husband think he should have any say or power over what other families do with their lives will be damaging and just make things worse for the LW. If he knows they’ll make all kinds of ridiculous and unnecessary accommodations just because he gets angry threatens, you can bet the angry and abusive behavior will escalate

      5. Avatar photo something random says:

        @kftan, I don’t think its appropriate for the anybody to tell someone “you can’t move here”. I think the letter writer should be honest with her sister about her and her husband’s feelings . Her sister is an adult and can manage her own life decisions like where to move and what school is best for her kids. I agree the husband can’t control other people including his wife. But regardless of how fair or reasonable it is, he is his own kids dad and he gets a vote where they go to school (unless/until the letter writer gets full legal rights). I wonder if 45 minutes away from the letter writer is only five minutes away from where husband works. I’M NOT saying the letter writer should cater to unreasonable or let threats intimidate her. But I don’t think she can completely blow her husband off, either.

        @bostonpupgal- I don’t think the S-I-L should allow the husband to control her choices but I’m not sure the S-I-L’s choices should be a big group discussion. The letter writer and SIL are BFF and business partners- they are obviously going to talk. But ultimately, I think the letter writer should tell the SIL that regardless of her opinion they both have to do what is best for their own families and leave it at that. Really the only thing the letter writer has to worry about is managing what is happening in her own family (not what her sister is doing).

        If her sister does decide to move, she and her husband will have to deal with what comes. Neither her nor her husband should be strongly pushing the sister one way or another in my opinion. But my opinion isn’t really firm on this one. Twenty-year marriages, brain problems, and abuse situations are complicated.

      6. bostonpupgal says:

        Something Random, I agree with everything you’re saying. I just don’t think the LW should ever suggest to her sister that they consider moving to another town. Where the sister lives is her business, and as you rightly said neither the LW nor the LW’s husband have or should have any say in that. I do not think it’s a good idea for the LW to suggest her sister move to a different, nearby school district. I think the LW need to stay completely out of that family’s moving decision.

        You’re also correct that, as sisters, they talk a lot and the sister is probably expecting some reaction from the LW about the proposed move. I have no idea how much she’s shared with her family about the husband’s extreme anger and abusive behavior, if anything. I would encourage her to share if she wants to and needs the support. She can say something neutral, like “we wish you luck with the home search!”, be a little more honest and say how excited she and the kids are that they’re moving closer, or be completely honest and open up about the husband’s extreme reaction and threats while stressing that in no way should that be a consideration for them in the move

  2. I don’t understand how your husband has a say in what your sister’s family does? Here’s the thing – it sucks that your husband has gone through the difficult family past as well as the health issues that he has, but that doesn’t put him in charge of what your family does. If he has concerns, that’s fine. He or you could voice those concerns, but ultimately its not his decision. Its your sister’s and her family’s decision. And the concerns he has about your kids’ cousins being close by just baffle me. I would have given anything to be closer to my family growing up. Most of my family was concentrated in one area of our state (with most being in one city) but we lived 3 hours away and I always wanted to be closer to my cousins and other extended family.
    The fact that he is threatening to divorce you over something that isn’t even your decision is absurd. Continue to see those counselors and maybe look into even more for his aftercare from his health issues. I’m sure you’re already doing that, but it seems like this is out of control. Because I know his mental state is likely the effect of the stroke, I don’t want to be too hard on him but ultimately its no one’s place but your sister’s to make a decision like this.

    1. zombeyonce says:

      I second this: I don’t get how LW’s husband has any say in this at all. And if he doesn’t want to be smothered by family, that’s easy enough. Just don’t invite them over constantly or go over to their place all the time. It’s that simple. LW can see them as much as she wants without her husband.
      I live in the same town as my in-laws and we see them maybe once a month, if even that often. It’s not difficult to limit visits.

  3. Juliecatharine says:

    LW, you have an awful lot going on with 3 kids, a business, and a husband who is recovering from brain trauma. My advice would be to remind your husband that you aren’t your sister’s keeper. She can move where she likes and you and your husband really have no say in the matter. If your husband divorces you over this, what do you really stand to lose? Maybe it’s the last 9 months of dealing with your husband post-stroke that are clouding your view of him, but in a rather lengthy letter you don’t say a single positive thing about him. Are you feeling as though having family close by would help ease the burden of your husband’s recovery? If so, that’s valid but again, you aren’t in charge of your family’s living arrangements. They can and will move where they please.

  4. Was this something he would have said no to previous to the stroke? Have you sat down with him and his doctors and talked about him slowing down some? How are his interactions with your kids? It seems like he has a lot going on now, which I’m sure you do as well. But, I think that pushing it being your turn right now is a bad idea. I’m assuming your sister would probably move in between school sessions, so during the summer months? Give your husband a little more time, continue to speak to therapists and work on your family unit before you push your sister moving. And if you’re not seeing therapists as a couple and as a family it might be a good thing to add. I’m sure this has been stressful on your kids too.

    1. I missed the p.s., so you are getting therapy together and separate. If this is typical for him then I think you need to remind him he can’t control your sister. I think you all need to discuss this issue specifically at counseling and you need to find a way to make yourself be heard to him. And to let him know that he can’t use fear of divorce and sending your kids away for school (are those things he would have done pre-stroke?) to control you or your family’s actions. This sounds especially distressing for your kids. Hopefully you can find a way to get through to him and keep your marriage in tact, but it will take worth on his part too. Hopefully work he is willing to put in to not only his professional life but his personal life too.

  5. Um yeah, your husband doesn’t get to decide where another family lives. That’s just nonsense. As far as him divorcing you if she moves, I really wouldn’t let him use threats like that to intimidate you. I understand he’s recovering, but that doesn’t mean you have to submit to his behavior. It sounds like you’ve always supported him and he hasn’t supported you so this behavior doesn’t sound new or a complete result of his stroke. If you indulge this behavior it just reinforces it. Talk to him about it and try and find some compromises with his concerns, but he’s being unreasonable here.

  6. How very sad for all of you. But I do wonder, how your husband (or you, or anyone for that matter) can control where another adult decides to move her family. He really has no control over what another family decides to do. Has he always been this closed off & dictatorial? Yikes! I would be tempted to call his bluff on this one & put my foot down on changing the kids’ schools as well. He doesn’t get to decide everything. I would definitely work on this in marriage counseling.

  7. I wonder why someone would threaten their wife because their sister is moving closer.. First of all, why is it that he doesn’t “allow” it? Isn’t your sister a fully independent woman, who can move wherever she pleases to? And why is it your fault she moves closer? Meaning that he will divorce you if she gets closer, like it is your fault or you are responsible for that.
    Maybe you shoul look into your sister’s relationship with your husband. Why does he hat the idea that she will be closer? What kind of relationship do they have? Because it sound like there is a lot more into it.
    Also, if he is threatening you to divorce you over something so absurd, that you have no responsibility of, sounds like you have much bigger issues than that. Like maybe this is coming from earlier.

    1. *should *hate ugh stupid keyboard

  8. Skyblossom says:

    First, as others have said, you and your husband can’t decide where your sister lives . That is her decision to make with her husband and your husband has no say in their decision. I think the two of you need to talk to a marriage counselor.

    Second, brain trauma changes the person and they remain changed. They are often left irritable as their new personality. Continue with all the available therapy and see what kind of prognosis you can get for the future. At what point will you know that what you see is how he will remain. If your husband remains as he is now can you live with that irritable personality? Can a marriage therapist help you get through rough spots like this question about your sister. If he keeps threatening divorce you may want to take him up on it. I value marriage highly but I don’t think an emotionally abusive marriage is good for you or your kids.

  9. sarolabelle says:

    I asked my husband what he thought about this letter and he said:

    1. There are a lot of steps he could take before divorce (like you moving if your sister moves), he must be looking for a way out.

    2. It could be an empty threat or hyperbole and he won’t do anything once the sister moves

    3. It’s not like he has any say so about it anyway.

  10. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

    It’s difficult to answer this letter without knowing more about brain trauma in general and, specifically, the effect your husband’s trauma has had on his personality. Is his reaction to your sister’s potential move completely out-of-character for him pre-stroke? If so, I feel like this is an issue better suited for medical professionals to advise you on. However, if his reaction is somewhat in character for him, even a little, then it’s time you re-evaluate your relationship. If you’re married to a man who honestly thinks he can control where other adults choose to live, then he — and you, for that matter — have a major problem. And then to threaten divorce over something you have no control over — and even if you did, you’d prefer your sister to move close to you for a variety of good reasons, not the least of which is help in caring for your aging parents, not to mention the ability to work more closely on your joint business.
    It sounds like even prior to the stroke, your husband has not been terribly supportive of you, your needs or wants. He comes first. Even with three kids, why would you want to stay with a man who has so little regard for you?
    I hope your therapist and marriage counselor and your husband’s doctors can help you find a resolution in all of this. I hope they are introducing the option/idea of separation at least as an experiment if your husband continues to behave in such a nasty manner. Brain trauma or not, you don’t deserve to be treated like this.

    1. Sunshine Brite says:

      Something tells me he doesn’t listen to doctors very well – either out of necessity or otherwise. Of the brain injuries I have observed/consulted on/etc. It’s highly unlikely he should’ve been back to work so soon if he’s continuing to have such noticeable effects. It’s more likely he should’ve still been doing intensive outpatient rehab depending on the overall severity.

  11. Wait, your husband “won’t allow” your sister and her family to move closer by? How does he get to make that decision? “I’m sorry, honey, but that’s not our decision to make. Are you ready for dinner?” And if he brings it up again: “It’s not our decision.” And change the topic. Just don’t engage in this non-issue.

  12. I have a friend who suffered a brain injury and he is a much different person than he was before the injury, even years later. He is irritable, rigid, self-pitying and generally difficult to be around. I would have to agree that if your husband honestly thinks he can control where your sister lives or where her kids go to school, he has a serious problem. As a Type A businessman, I bet he is used to getting his way, which is why I think this behavior is not totally new, but is being exacerbated by his injury. Talk to the therapists and doctors about it, but be honest with yourself and think about what kind of man would think the way he does, and whether or not you still want to be married to someone like him.

  13. Skyblossom says:

    I’ll tell you about my personal anecdote about brain trauma. I had a relative who was in an accident that left him in a coma for three days so he had some severe brain trauma. Before the accident he was laid back, fun loving, loved large family get togethers, he loved playing with the kids in the family and was a favorite uncle of his nieces and nephews. After the accident he was irritable, couldn’t stand noise, hated being around kids because of the noise, especially couldn’t tolerate being around babies because he found the crying of a baby so irritable. He found noise of children so irritating he threatened to hit the kids in the head with a baseball bat. He was that different from before. He was a changed person and has remained a changed person for over 30 years. He was slowly less irritated by noise but never had children because he knew he couldn’t be around an infant.
    I don’t know how much your husband has changed and how much was his prior personality. I do know that brain trauma is life changing, definitely life altering for the patient and their entire family. Coming from a family that tried to learn as much as possible about brain trauma as they could to try to understand and help our family member I can tell you that a changed personality isn’t unusual.
    If your husband is finding noise irritating he might benefit from having an apartment near his job that he could spend some nights at every week where he could have quiet and solitude. It would give you all a break from each other. If he found the idea of your entire family overwhelming he could stay at his apartment when your family came over. I know that isn’t what he is saying but I do wonder if noise is part of the issue.
    Ultimately you have to decide what you can and cannot tolerate. I know that when you get married you promise to love them in sickness and in health, if you used standard marriage vows. I don’t believe that includes sickness making someone abusive. Everything changes when someone is abusive. I think that when he threatens to divorce you over something that is beyond your control, like where your sister and her husband choose to live, then that is abusive.

  14. I agree that if the brain trauma is an issue in your h8sband’s behaviur, then it shold be dxealt with apporpriately by healthcare professionals. Beyond that, your sister does what she likes and he can get as cranky as he wants. If it gets bad enough, tell him you’ve had enough. Deliberately isolating you from your family could be read as abusive. Of course, there will be adjustments, and if all you and your sister ever talked about was your business, well, that would be tiresome coming from anyone. Then again, of course your business is important to you. Why doesn’t he want you to have that? Maybe because you wouldn’t need him as much if you and your sister succeed in the way you want to. But he’s inventing this scenario and none of this has happened, so why does he get to dictate based on his poisonous fantasy of how it would go? Stand up for yourself and your needs.

  15. Avatar photo something random says:

    I’m sorry for all you have been through. I agree with Wendy that this is too complicated of a subject to fully address in a column and you need to keep doing the work with the professionals.

    Honestly, I think it is a little strange that BOTH of you seem to think you have a say of where your sister moves. Given that you and her work together, it isn’t surprising that she is asking you how you feel if she moves around the corner. It sounds like you want to give her an enthusiastic “yes, yes, yes!, please, please, please!” Your husband’s personality might have changed (that is a separate issue, altogether) but I don’t think that makes his feelings of being smothered completely invalid, especially since he has a such a long commute and doesn’t get to spend that much time with you guys during the week. I think his threats to send his kids 45 minutes away and to abandon the marriage are out of bounds. I don’t blame you at all for feeling defensive towards this rhetoric. Especially because he can’t seem to validate how much you NEED familial support for yourself. Or Validate how much support and how many personal sacrifices you have provided over the years for his career. Unfortunately, he has to be willing to learn that offering validation to someone else’s experience doesn’t de-validate your own experience. It means being vulnerable enough to connect with someone else without fear that doing so is going to make you the villain or disregarded. It means being willing to disregard your own feeling temporarily, because ultimately you trust your partner will be able to regard your feelings after their feelings are fully recognized and understood.

    Your husband probably feels like he also did what he thought was in the best interest of his family for the last fifteen years. While you were very flexible for most of your marriage, I think the most you can ask for is recognition and appreciation. I’m not sure this entitles you to a blank check of support to spend at your discretion.

    For now, it seems your sister has asked your opinion about things. I would tell her the truth, (without slagging your husband) you and him are split in opinion right now. He is concerned about boundaries and you aren’t. Your sister will have to make her own decision about things but I think suggesting the next school district over sounds like a reasonable compromise.

    I can’t know what you are going through right now. I’m sorry for all you both have lost with the stroke. This last year has been so trying and the end isn’t in sight, yet. How you can weather the new normal isn’t clear, yet. I’m wishing you the best of luck. You strike me as a really amazing woman and partner. Your husband has been so lucky to have you in his life. I hope this helps.

  16. bostonpupgal says:

    Oops I missed the ps where you said you’re already in individual and couples counseling. I second everything Wendy said above. It sounds like your husband was never a great guy, and now things are much worse. I hope separation is an option for you, and I would strongly encourage to think about if you really want to live with this behavior long term and consider divorce. Also, again, document everything. Get a day planner and make notes every day of his moods and behaviors, especially things that are abusive, angry, mean, or in any way negative

  17. Wonderland says:

    First and foremost – he gets zero say in your sister’s life decisions. His refusal means jack squat. Honestly, even your opinion on it has no actual impact because its their choice, 100%.

    Honestly, as someone with a brother with brain injury, I think that this is very very seriously related to his stroke, and you should talk to his doctor and occupational therapist because this turn of events is a treatment issue, first and foremost.

  18. You don’t say what the timetable is for your parents’/sister’s move. If it’s possible to delay your sister’s move for another school year, that would give your husband some more time in recovery, and both of you more time in therapy. Shelving the discussion for awhile could reduce the stress on your marriage. (Of course, that might not be an option, but just something to consider.) I also think that concerns about boundaries and feeling smothered are things that need to be addressed seriously, though it’s hard to have that sort of discussion when your husband is threatening the nuclear option. Has he threatened divorce before, or is that new since the stroke? I’m sorry you are going through this – sounds like a really tough year.

  19. While it is unfortunate about his health issues, we’ve gotten letters of this stripe from LW’s with allegedly healthy spouses. Whatever happens, continue to pursue treatment and care for him. His issue cannot control your lives. Sounds like you’ve been catering to him since long before his recent decline. Since you’re already in therapy, keep at it and keep pursuing the medical angle. A drastic personality change (even from a “type A” person with a crappy family history) is most likely due to the stroke. Maybe he’s back at work too soon and is under too much stress. He really needs to talk to his dr or maybe see a therapist that specializes in this sort of thing (in addition to or instead of the marriage kind).
    He doesn’t get to tell anyone they can’t move into his town or school district (his HOUSE, maybe). However, if you’re willing to let that one go by, can’t she move close by but not IN the district? Even if she does, his fears are pretty irrational.

    1. I think you state this very well. The LW has a controlling and demanding husband, and it doesn’t sound like it’s a new thing that cropped up after the surgery. He has ALWAYS been controlling and she has ALWAYS catered to that. The surgery may have emphasized it, but did not create it.

      Also, threatening divorce as a bargaining chip is WAY out of line and she should call his bluff.

      1. It’s definitely a good thing she’s so close with her family, and they all want to move to the area. Maybe they can just move into a family compound type deal and leave Mr. Angry with the marital house. He doesn’t get to use his brain issues as an excuse forever, esp if he’s leaning on them and not working on them.

  20. Brain injuries really do change a person and something that is really common is people around those with brain injuries thinking the person was always like that to a degree. But that isn’t necessarily true. My mom had a TBI when I was very young and it completely changed her for the worse, and my dad maintained she was always that way. But she wasn’t. So much has changed how the medical field treats brain injuries in the time since. I’m sure these issues are not just about your husband’s health, but I do think it will really help to get some further advice. He doesn’t have any control over whether your sister can move or not. Maybe he’s feeling a lack of control in his own life and taking it out on others. But you shouldn’t give in to that behavior.

  21. It sounds like you have a much bigger problem here than where your sister’s family moves to. Your marriage sounds like it’s in big trouble, can’t think of one flattering thing you said about your husband, and perhaps with good reason. There is no urgent reason your sister (or parents for that matter) must move to your town right away so I would try to stay neutral. Obviously, they can move wherever they want. I would take this time to try to work on getting my marriage back on track and care forvme husband. If you read between the lines it’s clear he’s saying “I’m scared and I need you and am afraid I will lose you”. Maybe he knows he hasnt treated you fairly (though it usually takes two) and thinks if your family moves nearby and he has another stroke you’ll be too busy and stick him in a home. Having a stroke at this age has to be very frightening and it can take years to recover from. Have you ever considered the stress he must be under? I bet if you started to be more living and caring he would too and might even change his mind. You guys need to try to re-connect. It sounds like you are staying married just out of convenience rather than real love for each other.

    1. RedroverRedrover says:

      I don’t think she’s the one who needs to be more loving and caring. She’s supported him through his career, while he hasn’t supported hers. She has had the majority of the care of their three young kids, only seeing him on the weekends. She’s supported him through his illness and is still supporting him in his therapy. Plus the list of other things she mentioned in her last paragraph. It sounds like she’s been loving and caring enough for both of them through the years, while he’s had it all his own way and not worried too much about her difficulties. I doubt very much that showing more love will change anything, because she did so before the surgery and it sounds like he was already selfish back then.

      1. Avatar photo something random says:

        I’m not sure he was selfish before the stroke. Its certainly a plausible possiblity. It is also possible that she married someone who had a lot more professional ambition than she did, at least from the onset. It is plausible that it was her choice to stay home with her kids until they reached middle school. And that she was the one that was willing to take on the challenge of having THREE babies all within a year of each other! Perhaps having those kids put a lot of pressure on the husband to succeed professionally and he felt he had to push himself to the limit to provide for his family. Perhaps he has been willing to give up ALL of his vacation time to hang out with his in-laws over the years. Perhaps he has been willing to drive two hours a day extra so his family can have the best standard of living and a nice home.

        My point is we don’t really know this letter writer or the history here. Maybe he has always been a selfish ass, but I don’t think we can presume it. Here is what we know:

        My husband had a stroke during a planned open-heart surgery this past summer (heart defect he was born with) and the after-effects of the brain injury make him extremely argumentative, angry, resentful, rigid, and sometimes downright nasty and cruel. It’s been a hellish nine months.

        This woman needs help. And she is doing everything she can to get it. No wonder she feels so hungry for support and companionship. And she ought to have it. And her husband might be too mentally compromised to provide it right now. We simply can’t know.

        I do think Ginny has a point about learning to enjoy each other, again. He is so focused on gaining back normal and she is so focused on getting her family close that maybe they could use some down time where they just try to enjoy each other. The letter writer is going to need to get support for herself in one form or another just for self-care. And she might have to make a choice about how much she can take on. Life is about choices. I just hope these posts serve to calm and provide reflection for the letter writer. Its a tough situation.

  22. I commend you LW for dealing with this, and still pursuing your own business and family life. It seems that your husband can function just fine physically, and is back at work, ensuring that his career is taken care of. But his attitude is probably going to stay this way, and you really need to decide if you even want to be in a marriage where you have no emotional support from your partner regarding raising your kids or supporting your drive to grow your business. Will you be able to put up walking on eggshells around him? Will your kids? He’s keeping you alienated, is blackmailing/manipulating you by threatening a divorce, is emotionally abusive, and by your account, has no problem disrespecting and ignoring your needs/wants/concerns. He also doesn’t care about what his kids want/need, because he’d rather they suffer a 1.5 hour commute each day and leave all their friends than have their cousins around. He’s intentionally alienating you and your kids from a family support network. It’s bad enough they had to also adjust to his moods and issues.

    I suggest that you consult with an attorney, just a consultation. Make sure that in the event your manipulative husband files a divorce or messes with your kids’ future you can be secured. So that you can be secured. Sot that you’re not alone, without custody of your kids, and completely drained (emotionally and financially). Make sure you have copies of all your W-2s and other tax documents from throughout your marriage, and make sure it’s in a safe place. Secure any and all expensive gifts also. Do not tell your marriage counselor about this. Do talk to your therapist about emotional abuse, and about the effect this is having on you and your kids. I would also suggest you speak to a counselor specifically trained in emotional abuse cases or seek a referral from a shelter.

  23. Seriously? Seriously! says:

    I think that, under normal circumstances, it is fair for a husband (or any partner) to have some concerns about his wife’s family moving into the same town. Distance can be a crucial ingredient in extended family well-being, especially with inlaws. I think people are underestimating the impact on a spouse of having inlaws suddenly being a 5 minute drive away, especially when they used to be 2-3 hours; and when one’s own family is farther away. He isn’t wrong about the impact on his life of this move.

    Similarly, I think that, under normal circumstances, it is reasonable to have concerns over cousins the same age or super close going to the same schools– both from the friendship aspect as well as the teacher/expectations and competition aspect. I have bff adult cousins with same age kids that moved around the corner from each other but purposely made sure they were in different school districts, so that their kids had totally separate opportunities to make friends, and excel in school, which I always thought was so smart.

    However, these aren’t normal circumstances, and the threat of divorce is absolutely abhorrent. It is also terrible the idea that he won’t “let” them move. But of course the LW has a right to an opinion on her sister moving to her town — I guarantee that the sister cares if her sister doesn’t want her to live in same town.

    I agree with all the concerns voiced about the changes in the husband and the controlling nature that he has presented this issue, and I think she should take that advice regarding his personality. But I disagree that his strong feelings about the sudden uprooting of all of his inlaws to his backyard is off base or that unreasonable.

    1. I agree. There was a period after my sister moved to my city that Bassanio and her didn’t get along. It sucked, especially since they had always gotten along really well in the past, but a discussion of boundaries helped things immensely. Sometimes living near family as an adult works really well, but it shouldn’t be assumed if that’s a change.
      For the cousins bring in school together, I can see both sides of the argument. Not that the kids will spend all their time together (they can ask the school to place them in different classes, parents of twins do that), but it can be a crutch or make it somewhat harder to make their own way. But, that doesn’t really pertain to his own kids, since in theory they’re more established, I’d be worried about the sister’s kids. And he’s taking this to a bizarre, controlling extreme.

  24. pebblesntrix says:

    I agree with with all the commenters have mentioned regarding his lack of right to dictate where someone else will move. However, that being said, I want to take seriously for a second your husband’s concerns and ask whether they have any legitimacy.
    You say you and your sister are best friends. You also say, “he is uncomfortable with having so much family around. He feels he would be boxed out of his own family and he feels my sister and her family would be taking over the life we’ve made here.” It doesn’t sound like he has any secret dislike of your sister and her husband but he does sound scared/anxious/nervous about the life changes this will bring. “He feels he’ll be smothered by my sister and her family, that all we’ll talk about 24/7 will be our business, and that our kids won’t have their own friends because her kids will usurp ours and keep them from having their own social circles (our two oldest are in the same grade).” How have you addressed this anxiety? I mean, if you two are best friends, business partners, and sisters, it’s quite likely he sees her as a kind of competition, almost like she could become a kind of surrogate spouse, especially since he’s rarely around given his type-A personality and his long commute –“My husband’s firm is a one-hour commute from home, so we don’t really see him during the week.” It sounds like he feels threatened. That would account for his hostility toward your business, especially since you want to grow it which takes more time away from him and the family (even if it’s ultimately for the benefit of the family) and he probably feels that threat even more strongly since he probably feels on some deep level still a bit vulnernable after his surgery and its resultant complications. Now, what I’m not saying is that your husband is being completely reasonable and you should cave to him. But what I am saying is that doesn’t just seem to be coming from a place of cruelty; I think he has some very real fears and concerns but the way he is expressing them is harsh. Maybe the divorce threat is about communicating how serious he is about this issue/fear or maybe it’s a defense mechanism, namely, if he fears he will lose you/his family to your larger family if they all move close by then he’d rather leave you before you leave him (a childish way to deal with fear of rejection or hurt, yes, but a fairly common one nonetheless; many people attack when they feel threatened). This makes even more sense if “he’s doing really well in his recovery but only focuses on what he’s lost.” If this is where his mind is then it makes a lot of sense that he would be thinking about what more he could potentially lose if your sister moves closely. He thinks he’ll lose his family; he fears he’ll be boxed out. This fear of losing his family is probably all the more terrifying if he grew up with a dysfunctional family as you say he has. You all are all he has in the way of family.
    Another component of this, I think, is that he is so caught up in his perspective of the situation and his fears because his perspective and feelings have always been privileged in this relationship and he’s never had to see major life changes from your perspective or accommodate to your needs around major life changes–“I have never once told him NO.” This is a problem. But it’s not just his problem. It’s a problem you helped create and normalize. So, it’s a bit unfair now to expect something different from him. By this I don’t mean the dynamic shouldn’t change–it should, things have been very one-sided so far and it’s selfish and unfair–but that you should understand it’s going to take some work; you should just expect that he would put your first in this because that is never how it has worked in your 18 year relationship regarding major life changes involving jobs, school, moving, and business, as you say, and these are the very things in question here. I think it’s good that you want him to supportive of your business and he should be but that’s going to require work.
    In short, I think you have to have a bit of compassion in this situation and try to see things from his perspective. Don’t assume this position is (only?) the result of “the after-effects of the brain injury [that] make him extremely argumentative, angry, resentful, rigid, and sometimes downright nasty and cruel.” See the humanity and fear and vulnerability and rationality behind what’s he saying and feeling and go from that. I think that will take you two a long way. In the end, this isn’t in order to get you to a place where you’re okay with his demands but it’s to get you two to a place where you can have an honest conversation about the future of your family, the things that seem to threaten it, ways to strengthen it, and ways to be mutually supportive of each other. And once you two get beneath the surface to what’s really going on, maybe you can come up with some kind of compromise in lieu of divorce like having protected family time on the weekends or agreeing not to talk business with your sister at family gatherings that will allay his concerns while also allowing you to have his support around your business and your family’s proximity. Good luck, LW.

    1. pebblesntrix says:

      tl;dr: Don’t let his brain injury be an excuse to dismiss his very real and legitimate feelings/concerns even if they are expressed in a childish, selfish, or ridiculous way, just because you feel like it’s “your turn” (even though it may well be and sounds like it is) on the support train.

    2. This isn’t and shouldn’t be all up on her shoulders to figure out why her husband is this way. He needs to address this in a constructive way, instead of his way or the highway. She’s been seeing “the humanity and fear and vulnerability and rationality behind what’s he saying and feeling” and she’s reaching the point where she’s emotionally spent. This isn’t about just him and her, he’s also using his children as pawns. This is his problem, and he’s forcing her to essentially choose between him and her family. For all we know her family feels there are issues brewing in her home life after his stroke, and they want to be around for her and her kids. He already doesn’t see the family enough, there’s a good chance that he probably also works weekends (from home or office). To say that it’s all on her shoulders is unfair to her and her children. She’s done EVERYTHING for him, and he never has supporter her dreams and will never support her dreams in the future.

      1. Avatar photo something random says:

        @Kat, we really don’t know what the husband has or has not supported over the years. Frankly, it sounds like a huge sacrifice to be willing to commute two hours a day. It sounds like the husband sees his SIL and BIL during most of his time off already.

        I agree that the letter writer is allowed to have limits. We are all human and growing and we have breaking points. Sometimes two people grow out of alignment with each other or one becomes too much maintenance for the other. Eighteen years and three children is a huge investment. I think life is changing for this family and they are all going to have to put more on their shoulders then what is fair at this time, especially the letter writer. Stokes aren’t fair. But I hope this letter writer is able to feel the sympathy she has clearly stirred in so many of us. I hope she finds some support in it.

      2. pebblesntrix says:

        Please don’t get me wrong, I agree that this SHOULDN’T be all on her shoulders. I also agree that he SHOULD address this in a constructive way. The problem is that he is not. That simply is what it is. The world ain’t what it ought to be. She has no control over his behavior so I don’t think it’s helpful to say for advice that he needs to change, if he won’t. If the dilemma is that she wants to save her marriage and have this move happen supportively, I don’t think just telling her she’s right and he’s wrong gets her there. So, I’m offering what I think she can do from her end. The issue is that he offered an ultimatum and she doesn’t want to take it. This means she has to budge in some way, figure out some way to make it work, or some way for them to get some kind of different ground to have a different kind of conversation. Sometimes, you’ve got to be the one to reach across the aisle even when the other person is the offender/asshole if you want to preserve the relationship, that’s just what it is even if it’s not fair and it sucks. The only other option, as far as I know, when someone has dug their heels in is to dig in yours too and call their bluff/threat which she isn’t willing to do, especially since the kids might become pawns in this battle and get seriously hurt in the emotional fallout.
        That notwithstanding, while I think he comes across in this letter as childish, selfish, and/or ridiculous, I don’t get the sense that she has seriously attempted to allay the anxieties and fears motivating this, which I do think have some legitimacy. Instead, I get the sense that her position is that this is what makes most sense for her (and her family) right now, he’s being unreasonable, and he should just support her as she has supported him. She’s focused on holding her ground and her own emotional needs (which isn’t bad in general, especially since they need to change their relationship dynamic), but having that as the sole focus also isn’t the way to stop her marriage from imploding when they’re at a stalemate. I agree that she’s probably emotionally spent and it’s hard to be empathetic and reach across the aisle to offer a hand when the person might slap it back when you’re spent. I get the sense too that she is compassionate toward her husband, taking into account how his own family history might be playing into this situation. So, I’m not trying to put this on the LW or come down on her. It’s just that I think that the way she has set up the problem is such that she has to bear the brunt of the work in brokering a solution because he won’t budge and she won’t call him on his threat. You know, I was thinking after I wrote yesterday how I should have mentioned that when you give into someone’s ultimatum demands, you put yourself in a very dangerous position because if they are the type, they can constantly hold that thing out as a threat now that they know you are willing to concede so much not to lose it. Instead of compromising, the threat of divorce can become his trump card in any serious disagreement where she doesn’t want to concede. And I wanted to warn her that if she gives in to this ultimatum, that may the price she pays. I say that to say also that I’m not necessarily agreeing with the position she’s taken here–saving her marriage–though I’m also not not agreeing with it (I just don’t know enough to say what’s right for her after 18 years of marriage with kids), but respecting where she is on the divorce issue just trying to give her another tact to try given that she doesn’t want to cave or lose the marriage.

    3. I think that’s a really good point, that the LW helped build the dynamic that she now thinks is unfair. I mean, maybe she always thought it was unfair and this is the first time she’s making a real stand, but regardless, both of them want to put their foot down on opposing sides and not see there’s room between them that they can land on. They need to find some middle ground that they both can live with and moving-with-boundaries seems like a good way to start.

  25. I really do feel for you especially all you have been through, I think your husband just needs more time to get use to the idea of your family being closer together. Hope things work out for you both

  26. I wouldn’t give any serious response to these demands. I mean come on, really? Neither he nor you get to control where your sister lives– everybody knows that. Eyeroll until you see your brain back there should do it, or laughing your ass off like I am doing right now. If the kids end up in private school, that should work out fine, right? And a divorce?” Seriously Honey? Because my sister moved here? Yeah okay then bye, and no worries I am good with half the stuff.”

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