Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Parenting & Relationships

Tell Me About It: Brother's girlfriend shows signs of abusive personality

Q: My brother is constantly making out with his girlfriend in front of everyone. Whether it's groups of people talking, watching a movie or just the three of us, they are always kissing.

Based on other conversations with him, I think she has insecurity issues. For example, he drove a female friend home and she said, "If I ever catch you driving another girl in your car, we're over." Or the time he walked with a classmate to the car and she forbade them from hanging out ever again. As a result, she gets very angry if we ask them to stop kissing in front of us because we're uncomfortable.

Any advice on how to tread carefully? He will bring up issues with her and ask for my opinion, so I want to be ready the next time he calls me.

Anonymous

A: Your brief description of this woman could be a guide to abusive-relationship signs. She is possessive (the constant kissing, the suspicion of other women), controlling (telling your brother what he can and can't do, "or else"), isolating (the kissing again, the anger at his family and over friends/classmates). What these tell you is that she is not invested in your brother as a person, but instead as a means of propping herself up, a source of validation, insurance, power — which she both draws from him and uses against him.

The next time he brings up issues with her, please say to him: You're a good person. You don't deserve to be treated as if you're always looking to cheat. I see you changing. This behavior isn't like you, and I worry about that.

Say this in calm and judicious segments, followed by listening to how he responds. Attacking her risks cornering him into defending her. Guide him instead toward the person you know him to be, and toward thinking about himself and his own needs in this relationship.

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