Carolyn Hax: Brother ‘blindsided’ by the wife they warned him about

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Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My brother married a woman we all knew was wrong for him in every way. My parents and I all separately spoke to him ONCE about her, but when he insisted she was “the one” and he’d finally found love, we shut up and wished him well.

Well, in three years she bankrupted him, stole from his business and ran off with another man. Now he’s broke and getting divorced and moved back in with my parents. We’ve all been as supportive as possible. We have given him time, money and emotional support.

He just goes on and on about how this all came out of nowhere and what a chameleon she was and how blindsided he is. It was okay at first, but after 7½ months, we’re sick of hearing it. Would it be okay to just one time remind him that we all tried to warn him?

Told Him So: Not in I-told-you-so form! But certainly you can talk to him about signs he may have missed. He’s giving you opportunities:

He: “She never showed me this side of her!”

You: “I’ve been thinking about this. Remember when she [specific example]? I think you noticed it then but talked yourself out of it. Possible?”

Like that — walk him to the water’s edge. Don’t waterboard him.

The point of this isn’t to get him to stop annoying you, though — it’s to help him learn from his mistake. He’s still denying there was one. Yikes. It’s counseling time, if he’ll hear of it.

Dear Carolyn: I don’t know what is normal anymore or if my behavior is normal. I called my partner while he was on his way to work, and he told me I was interrupting his routine because he likes to listen to music. I told him why I called and then said okay, I’ll let you go, listen to music. He then screamed at me for controlling him and said I don’t get to tell him when to listen to music.

I thought what I said was normal but now I am rethinking what my “normal” is.

This might be the last straw. I am so sick and tired of being screamed at for things I don’t think are wrong, and then being guilted into apologizing. Is this what gaslighting is? Or am I just way off base and I really am controlling?

Normal?: He’s screaming at you, so, that’s not normal. Right there. Ever. Not from a man, a woman, a partner, a friend, a parent, a sibling, a boss, a colleague, a neighbor. Not normal. Ever.

Gaslighting can be hard to detect, but there are signs. What you said is a pretty common conversational sign-off: “Okay, I’ll let you go.” Unless said whilst unlocking his cage, it’s hardly literal or proof he needs your go-ahead to sing in the car. Yet he accused you of control, and projection is a gaslighting tactic.

So is blaming. All he had to do this morning was not pick up your call if his routine was more important.

So is wearing a victim down. You’re “sick and tired of being screamed at,” which says screaming is routine.

Plus, you’re asking whether “my” behavior is normal — not his. Gaslighting trains people to doubt themselves.

So: Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE), read up on gaslighting at thehotline.org, and/or give yourself a Mosaic threat assessment, mosaicmethod.com. Gather support toward a safe way out.

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