The signs of a controlling son-in-law can be painfully obvious to the rest of the family but often the daughter can seem to be blissfully unaware of what's actually going on. This is very distressing for the rest of the family, often leading to arguments, fallouts and even the destruction of relationships within the family.
In this article I will write a little about the signs and explain what is going on and then I will concentrate on what to do (and not do!) if you think your daughter is in an abusive relationship.
With that in mind, lets look at some of the general signs of a controlling son-in-law.
Your daughter seems to be getting more distant. Step one in mind control is to isolate the victim from their support networks. This is done in several ways. The manipulator will criticize the victim's friends and family, changing the victim's perceptions. The manipulator will also make the victim feel bad for spending time with the family or friends. This can be direct or indirect. They may complain that the victim is spending too much time with the family and they feel neglected. Or they may start an argument about something unrelated when the victim is leaving to spend time with family or friends. This puts the victim in a bad mood when going out and may result in the victim deciding in the future not to go out so much because it will only start an argument.
The victim does not necessarily recognize that they are being isolated. They think that they are making their own decision not to go out so as not to displease their husband. The manipulator can even start arguments when the victim comes home after spending time outside. This has the same effect, the victim feels uneasy when with friends, knowing there may be problems when they get home. Eventually it gets easier just not to go out.
A second sign is that your daughter can no longer make decisions without checking with her husband first. It's usually his way or the highway. You also realize that she tells him everything so you become afraid of saying certain things to her because you know it will get back to him.
Nothing is ever his fault. He is an expert at blaming others, including you, his parents-in-law, for anything that goes wrong. He will claim credit when things go right, of course.
He tells lies. A lot of lies!
He is very critical of others but will not tolerate criticism of himself. In fact, he plays the victim role so well people are afraid of upsetting him.
Whenever you bring up the subject with your daughter that you are worried about her, she takes his side against you and you may even be worried that if you keep it up, she will disappear and you might lose contact with her altogether.
He tells you how you should be living your lives, too.
Whenever you try and set boundaries with him, he instantly tears them down.
He makes remarks that are inappropriate, demeaning, humiliating and belittling.
You find it hard to believe that your daughter would have picked someone like this to marry.
The most significant of the signs of a controlling son-in-law is when you begin to notice that you don't recognize your daughter any more. This is typical in abusive relationships. You have heard stories of parents saying that their child went to a weekend program and when they returned, the parents hardly knew them. They were behaving differently, saying different things, a huge attitude change and so on. The child had obviously been recruited into a cult and had been manipulated.
Well, the same thing happens in abusive relationships. Think of an abusive relationship as a cult of 2 people, instead of 50 or 500.
The victim has to change their behavior in order to stay in the situation and survive. This new personality is what the manipulators drive their victims to be, subservient, obedient, loyal and the manipulator forces the victim to organize their lives around the manipulator.
You can read more about the dynamics of how this happens in this article about narcissistic boyfriends and narcissistic husbands. (Take the time to read them!) If you haven't read the articles, what you need to know right now is that all decision making is done to make the life of the manipulator more comfortable. The victim is led to believe and trust the manipulator above all else. The victim is made dependent on the manipulator. And let's be clear here, the victim is not making her own decisions. They are all heavily manipulated by the controlling husband. This is fundamental to keep at the front of your mind. I know, your daughter is an adult, but that does not necessarily mean that she is making her own decisions. Nor is she thinking clearly and rationally. She has been tricked by her husband and does not realize it.
Therefore, the rules are different.
Many people think that there is nothing you can do. The daughter has to realize herself what is going on. The argument goes that she is now an adult and you, as parents, should no longer be interfering in her life. Some say that if you try and point out what is going on to your daughter you will push her away and may lose her altogether.
This latter is a risk, sure, but it may happen whether you say anything or not. Many parents have bitten their tongues only for the controlling son-in-law to move their daughter to another state or even to a different country anyway.
Remember the isolation tactics of the manipulator above? They want to be the only source of information for your daughter. If you leave your daughter to her own devices, you are actually playing into the hands of the manipulator. She will continue to believe him because he is the only one giving her information. In this way, people end up in abusive relationships and cults for years or even decades. Information control is one of the pillars of mind control.
It's important that the victim receives information about the real world. They need help in being able to think for themselves, to assess what is being done to them and to realize that they are being taken advantage of. It is often better that the victim has the information even if they go and blab directly to the manipulator, than they not have the information.
Of course, educating your daughter is a major undertaking. The victim is programmed not to be able to hear criticism of their manipulator without defending them. On top of this, no one wants to believe that they are being controlled without their knowledge, especially by someone that they may love.
The trick here is to recognize when your daughter's pseudopersonality is very strong and when her real personality is dominant. You can read more about this idea of pseudopersonality is this series of articles here. You treat each of these situations very differently.
When her pseudopersonality is firmly in place, it is usually a waste of time to try and give her information. This personality is programmed to defend her husband and go against you. This is when the arguments start, things can get out of hand very quickly and ugly things are said. Should an argument start, the best thing you can do is apologize, point out that you didn't mean to upset anyone, change the topic of conversation and allow things to settle down. I know that you may not feel like apologizing, and indeed, you haven't done anything wrong, but if that's what it takes for the pseudopersonality to settle down, that's what you do!
How do you get the real personality to come out? You can talk about past experiences that were pleasant for your daughter, events from a time before the current relationship. Looking at photos from the past, reminding her about how she was as a child and so on are also useful techniques.
If she has been turned against one or both of her parents, it's often useful to engage the help of others in giving her information. If she has been led to believe that her parents don't want her to be happy and independent, any information coming from you, her parents, about how her husband is controlling is simply distorted by her into evidence that you actually don't want her to be happy.
In such a situation it's much better for her to receive information from other sources, sometimes the more the better. If she hears the same thing from only one parent all the time, it's easy for her to dismiss it. However, if 3, 4 or even 5 different people are all telling her the same thing, it's much more difficult for her to simply ignore it.
Get professional help. Learn about mind control. Study psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists. Understanding what's happening to your daughter goes a long way to helping deal with the situation. When you get that she is not thinking clearly or making her own decisions, it's easier not to get so mad at her, for example. Instead of just complaining to her about what he is doing, when you also point out the technique and how it works, it makes it much easier for her to make sense of and accept what you are saying.
Read more here about signs of coercive control, more signs of an abusive relationship, the dynamics of a controlling relationship, the characteristics of a controlling person, the characteristics of an abusive relationship, the stages of an abusive relationship, a quiz to see if a boyfriend is controlling, and what's involved in recovering from a controlling relationship.
Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?
If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
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Do you think that you might be in an abusive relationship? Are you realizing that the group you are in may be a cult?
Do you think you are being taken advantage of emotionally, physically, sexually or financially in your relationship? Do you want to leave but you can't seem to get away?