In Her Own Words: I lost my brother to his abusive wife, part I

It is day 13 of Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2014. Today’s In Her Own Words is an all too common tale of a loving family torn apart by an abusive wife. “LostMyBro” shares the first part of her story about how her sister-in-law estranged her brother from their family.

Who ever thought a dress could cause so many problems?

My brother met his wife less than a year and a half ago. When he met her, I thought she’d be another girl who’d stick around for a few months and we’d never see her again. That was his pattern at the time. A year prior, he had just ended a six-year long relationship with his ex-fiancé. He dated a few women during that year, but none of them seemed to be what he was looking for, except for “Katie.”

I had my doubts about Katie right from the beginning. Their relationship advanced to different stages so quickly. They were making commitments that most people wait years to make with one another, within months. Our first encounter was ok. She seemed quiet and reserved, but I chalked it up mostly to nerves. I mean, who isn’t nervous when they are meeting their boyfriend’s mother and sister for the first time?

I started noticing little nuances about her the second time we met. For starters, she didn’t know how to converse. The conversations for the night were very one-sided and she did most of the talking. Even the way she talked, I felt she was talking “at me” not “to me”. The content was odd, too. She didn’t tell us the things you’d normally share about yourself when you are first getting to know someone. Most of it was very superficial.

It felt like she was trying very hard to impress us with the amount of money she had. She talked about things like expensive cars she’s owned, how many designer dresses she has, how she has all these adventurous hobbies like sky diving, and scuba diving. She also spent a good amount of time talking about all the tropical locations she has vacationed at and what upper middle class towns she’s lived in, but nothing about her past, her childhood or her family. It was strange.

Soon enough, my brother seemed completely head over heels with her. She was everything he was looking for in a woman. She was strong, intelligent and independent. The complete opposite of his ex, who spent the better part of their relationship, trying to find herself through meaningless dead-end jobs, while my brother paid her bills.

Katie was different. She had an amazing  sales job where she made over six figures (most sociopaths do well in sales positions). She also had her own house complete with a heated pool and well manicured yard. On top of being financially secure, she also had a daughter whom she adored and doted on. Everything seemed perfect about her. Almost too good to be true.

As the first few weeks wore on however, red flags kept popping up. From the very beginning it seemed like the courting phase was some sort of game to her. It was as if she was testing my brother. First she told him she knew someone from her gym who was good friends with him and was giving her the 411, on him. The only problem was, my brother didn’t have many close friends and the ones he did have, didn’t go to her gym.

Even the things this person was supposedly telling her weren’t even that accurate. She was doing a lot of research (aka stalking) on him. She also kept telling him she didn’t want a relationship, yet she was the one who was texting him constantly throughout the day. He’d get a text as soon as he woke up, from her and she’d check in many times throughout the day to see how his day was going and what he was doing. There was also a lot of what’s known as, “push-pull”. She would hang out with him for three days in a row and then suddenly not return his calls for a day or so.

My brother noticed some red flags, too, but he somehow talked himself into thinking they didn’t mean anything. One was that she had already been married not once, but twice before. She asked my brother not to tell us about her first marriage for whatever reason, but obviously, he did. She also had a daughter from her second marriage but she gave my brother this whole speech about how she didn’t want him meeting her for at least three months or so because her daughter was very attached to her last live-in boyfriend and he just upped and left one day. She seemed very adamant about it when she first told him, but exactly three days after her speech, she introduced them.

They were only together about a month but the relationship seemed very intense. She wanted to spend every waking second that she wasn’t at work with my brother. It almost seemed as if she wanted to occupy every second of his time, even if she wasn’t physically there. If she wanted to do something with her friends, it was fine, but she’d encourage him to go over and visit with either me or our mother instead of going out with friends.

The few times we did see him without her, it was like he wasn’t even there. He would focus in on his phone for the entire time, sending texts back and forth with her. At times, people would try to talk to him but he’d be so engrossed in their texts that he wouldn’t even acknowledge the fact that you were speaking to him. It was very odd. Ever since he met her, it was like he seemed to be in some sort of trance or under some kind of magic spell.

After only two short months, Katie had started convincing my brother to cancel the lease on his apartment and move into the house she owned. I thought it was crazy and too soon, but he seemed very eager to do it. He told me he was already in love and he knew she was “the one”. She told him she didn’t want him bringing any of his furniture or housewares. Just his clothes and a few small items that he needed.

I watched him sell off and throw away everything he worked so hard to earn in the past few years. Once he moved in, she made him cancel his phone contract and switch over to her carrier, on her plan. She also convinced him that something was wrong with his car and that he needed to sell it. She then leased a brand new Mercedes-Benz for him to drive. It’s a beautiful car, but so totally not his style. My brother’s personality started to slip further and further away the more involved they became. He was totally dependent on her.

He also seemed very exhausted all the time because he said they spent so much time together and would be up all hours of the night, even on work nights. At the time when he was moving into her home, he lost a very good paying job because he was constantly late to work because he was over-sleeping in the mornings. It didn’t seem to matter though. He still went ahead with his plan of moving in with her and her 11-year old daughter.

It was only a few short weeks of them living together when he called me up and asked if I wanted to hang out. I really didn’t want to. Lately, he had been acting totally different. I used to have so much fun hanging out with my brother. We’d laugh and talk the entire time and now, I felt like I was sitting with a complete stranger, in total silence. It felt very awkward, especially on this night. He came along with me to run some errands, but again, he spent the entire time texting her on his phone.

I felt like I was talking to a wall. He was hardly conversing with me or responding to anything I said. Finally, I asked him what was wrong. He explained to me that they had gotten into a big fight, but he wasn’t even really sure what he did wrong. Her daughter was acting like a spoiled brat that morning  and didn’t want to go to camp because she didn’t do the previous days assignment and because of it, Katie started to flip out and be completely irrational. He said her anger didn’t match what had happened. She was throwing things, screaming and cursing and calling everyone names, including him.

After he told me that, he started to open up about other things that were going on. He said she constantly had work for him to do around the house, but when he would do it, she would stand behind him and criticize the way he was doing it. He also said she bossed him around a lot and was pretty demanding. He felt like nothing he did was right. In fact, his exact words were that she reminded him of our father in that way and he felt like he was living with him again. (He later denied ever saying such things to me, but I know what I heard. I refuse to be gaslighted).

It was month three of them living together and my brother was still unemployed and showed up at my house with some big news one afternoon. He told me he was going to propose to Katie. I admit, my reaction probably didn’t seem too enthusiastic, but I tried as hard as I could to be happy. There were just too many things about Katie that I questioned. She didn’t seem to want to build any type of bond with me and my mother. I think she was pressuring him too much to commit to her and it was all way too fast.

It took my brother three years to propose to his ex and here he was, ready to spend his life with a woman he only knew for a few months. I  also thought she was too bossy and controlling. Either way, I knew it was his life and he had to do what made him happy.

After the engagement, all bets were off and the real Katie started to shine. My brother started becoming very touchy for some reason. He and I used to text each other often. One day, I had texted him some information I heard about his ex that I thought would be helpful because she owed him money and he got all bent out of shape about me sending a text about her. When he sent me a picture of the ring, I text him back telling him it was gorgeous.

He told me it was a Tiffany’s replica and that he had a jeweler special make it for him, so I asked where he had it made and that too offended him. He called my mother and told her, to tell me, to stop asking questions about the ring. It was totally not like my brother to take offense to these things and later I learned it was because his wife reads and monitors all of his incoming and outgoing texts as well as Facebook messages and emails.

My mom and I started to discuss that something seemed very off about Katie and we started to become even more fearful about my brother marrying her. It seemed like she was trying everything in her power, to keep us away. We tried to connect with her, but she was very resistant. I tried to make plans with them for my mother’s birthday but Katie was all booked up and could never come. My brother ended up completely blowing off my mother’s birthday that year and I had to call him three weeks later to remind him.

My mom tried to friend request Katie on Facebook, but it took her six weeks to respond (even though we knew she was active during those six weeks) and when she did, we were shocked. It was like a complete timeline of all the men (victims) she had dated in the last few years. She had pictures and pictures of her with different men. Some where she was posing sexy and some where she was kissing them. It was bizarre. I would be mortified if my in-laws saw pics of me like that, but she didn’t care.

The wedding planning also happened in a blink of an eye. She set the date for as soon as she could. My son and my husband were asked to be the ring bearer and best man but I wasn’t included in the wedding. I was a little hurt, but kept it to myself. Instead, I went out and purchased a dress to wear to the wedding. Little did I know, this dress was about to change the dynamics of my family forever.

Katie was very concerned about my dress from the moment I told my brother about it. I couldn’t understand why. I wasn’t in the wedding party and the dress wasn’t even that bad. She sent my brother out to do all the dirty work. She told him to tell me the dress was inappropriate and I had to get something different. My brother even lectured me about appropriate wedding attire for women, a subject he never had even the slightest of interest in before.

He was acting totally out of character and even after I told him I couldn’t return the dress, he was still insisting I spend more money on top of the $160 I had already spent to buy a new dress. After feeling attacked and backed into a corner, I defended myself and told him to tell his wife that if she had a problem she should come to me directly instead of using him as her mouthpiece and if she wanted to control what I wore, she should have had me in the wedding party. Katie being the narcissist she is, couldn’t take that someone wasn’t giving into her demands and because of this, a dress caused a battle of epic proportions, that went on for months.

Tomorrow, I will post the second part of LostMyBro’s story. Thank you for taking the time to share your story, LMB.

In His Own Words/In Her Own Words is a joint effort between Shrink4Men and AVoiceForMen to help raise awareness about the invisible victims of domestic violence, men. If you would like to submit your story, please follow the guidelines at the end of this article.

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Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides confidential, fee-for-service, counseling, consultation and coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.

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