Home > Abusive relationships, Borderline Personality Disorder, Marriage, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Parental Alienation, relationships > Request for Help: What Advice Do You Have for a Father Whose Son Is About to Marry an Emotionally Abusive, Controlling Possibly BPD and/or NPD Woman?

Request for Help: What Advice Do You Have for a Father Whose Son Is About to Marry an Emotionally Abusive, Controlling Possibly BPD and/or NPD Woman?

kicking-and-screaming-1Jon posted a question on my blog a few days ago regarding his son who is engaged to marry a woman whom, by his description, is at the very least controlling and emotionally abusive and quite possibly narcissistic and/or borderline personality disordered.

I’ve posted his story and question below. This father is in a position that many of the men who read this blog family’s have been in; poised to watch their grown son or brother make a disastrous mistake that will harm him, alienate him from his family and possibly harm any children he may have.

Please read his story and keep the following questions in mind:

  1. What do you wish your friends and family would’ve said to you before marrying or otherwise committing yourself to your emotionally abusive, BPD/NPD wife, ex-wife, girlfriend or ex-girlfriend?
  2. Is there anything they could’ve said or done at the time that would have caused you to reconsider the relationship or marriage?
  3. What advice can you give to Jon to help him preserve his relationship with his son?
  4. What advice do you have should the worst case scenario happen and his potential daughter-in-law effectively cut him off from his son and future grandchildren?

If you can make the time to reach out to Jon with any advice or support, please post your comments below and thank you in advance for your generosity.

I’ve been looking for an explanation for why my 25 yr old son, professional, University graduate etc. has changed since becoming engaged less than a year ago. His fiancee is permanently infuriated by my wife and I for not giving in to her every whim regarding the forthcoming wedding. The latest is that she (and aparrently our son) only want parents and siblings at the wedding ceremony. When we objected, because relatives from overseas who love our son would like to come over, she threw a fit and said we weren’t welcome either – what I couldn’t understand is why our son keeps silent during her rants, and when I ask him what he thinks he just says that its what they both want. She only very reluctantly allows us to speak in private to our son, saying that she had to defend her future husband from us – his parents. He seems oblivious to how he has become alienated from us and his sisters who love him dearly – it seems to us that he has been captured by her and her family who seem to also live in fear of her – were they trying to get her off their hands?

As he’s only been with her for about a year (quick engagement and rapid wedding plans) what is the best way of trying to get him to come to his senses?


My reply:

Hi Jon,

My heart goes out to you and your family. It appears that your daughter-in-law to be is your average NPD/BPD nightmare. What you’re describing is a fairly common occurrence. She’s isolating your son from his family, the people who really care about him, so that she can assume total, unchallenged control over him.

Don’t dismiss her indefensible behaviors as pre-wedding jitters; they’re not. I’ve read numerous stories similar to yours and know people personally and professionally who have had this happen to their sons. In fact, my dearest friend’s family went through something very similar prior to her brother’s wedding. Now, he’s married with two children and his wife basically denies his parents access to their grandchildren unless they come bearing expensive gifts and pay her homage during every visit. . . My friend has had barely any contact with her brother for the last 5 years and describes it this way, “It’s like my brother died. I don’t know who this person is. . .”

The cruel irony is that your son’s fiancee is probably alienating him against his own family by portraying you as controlling, selfish, etc., which, in reality, is how she’s behaving. Why does he go along with it? Because if he doesn’t, he’s probably subjected to verbal and emotional abuse, shouting, tears and heaven knows what else. At least when she’s raging at you, she’s not yelling at him, so he keeps his mouth shut.

These women are masterful when it comes to getting a man to marry them. They close the deal fast before the worst of their behavior comes out. Although, sometimes they expose their true monstrous selves prior to the ceremony and men still marry them. It’s astounding.

Have you spoken with your son’s friends about his fiancee? What do they think of her? Unfortunately, he may not be able to hear any of your warnings or pleas to reconsider what I can guarantee you will be a disaster, especially when they begin having children. There’s a risk in telling him what you really think and feel. If he repeats it to her, she’ll use it to further cut you off from your son. If you could speak with his friends about intervening that might be a good first step.

If you talk to your son, I’d avoid saying anything bad about his fiancee because he’ll probably become defensive. You need to frame it in such a way that you’re able to express that he doesn’t seem like himself, you don’t understand why his fiance is becoming upset, you don’t want to put him in the middle, that you love him and support him no matter what, but that you are concerned because a wedding should be a happy time and it’s been the opposite.

Jon’s reply:

Dear Dr Tara,

Thank you for your reply. It helps to know we are not alone – and reassuring to confirm that we aren’t crazy or unreasonable. Having an explanation for our future daugher-in-law’s behaviour provides some basis for trying to work out a strategy for rescuing our son before it’s too late – i.e. before the wedding in 5 months time!

Having read some of the papers and blogs on this site it is obvious to me now that our son tells her everything that we speak to him about, and she uses this ruthlessly against us – twisting the most innocent things to make us appear inconsiderate of his future happiness and well-being. She is the only person on the planet who’s sole mission in life is to make him happy!

The articles you have produced on how to tell if you are in an abusive relationship etc. seem more targetted at those tragic long-term sufferers. What I would really like is something I can use to help my son see for himself that he is dangerously close to making the biggest mistake of his life. I have pleaded with him to postpone the wedding and just continue living together – but he is adamant and insists if they could marry tomorrow they would.

Of course I could be deluding myself – he shared a flat with her at University for 3 years before they ever got together, although I suspect he was her shoulder to cry on and “rock” between a succession of failed relationships taking place right under his nose. So maybe he is already a long way down the road to perdition.

If, as seems feasible, I’m going to lose my son anyway, I would prefer to do so as a result of my active attempts to get him out of this relationship, rather than watching the train-wreck just happen in front of my eyes.

I am working on contacting his close friends, though these have dwindled and may not be as close as before. I feel like picking him up and shaking him – what other things can you suggest, or any other correspondents out there who have had or are having similar experiences.

By the way – here’s an almost unbelieveable irony – they are both medical doctors and she wants to specialise in psychiatry!

The above questions and comments were originally posted on the Contact page.

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to shrink4men@gmail.com.

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Photo credit:

Kicking and screaming cake topper at bride.

  1. Pauline
    November 4, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    I have been reading this thread because a lot of the accounts here seems to mirror my husband’s and my experience of our son’s relationship and now marriage (summer 2014) to an extremely needy and narcissistic woman. I won’t go through the whole story. The reason I have looked at this forum is that she has just told us that she told my son before the wedding that she didn’t want children because of her past and current mental issues and he decided that, despite the fact that he had always wanted children, he would agree with her in order to be with her. It is like a bereavement for us to know that our son is sacrificing his ability to be a father as he would be wonderful and we feel very bitter that she has denied him of that. We realise that this is a double-edged sword as having children could be a very risky thing in many ways and it would also make it harder for him to divorce her if it ever came to that though he has already stated that he does not believe in divorce and that marriage is for ever. She has drawn him into her web and we feel sure that the manipulation will continue and increase. I just wish he had never set eyes on her.
    I very much sympathise with Jon in his original message which is now several years ago and wonder how things have gone since then.

  2. Tricia Fran
    August 13, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    I wish I could offer advice. I have given up on my son and my grandson and my psychotic daughter in law. I tried to keep her happy; bought her gifts and tried to say positive things but it didn’t matter. I am angry at my son’s father; he and his girlfriend are the special ones now, she just loves them to death. She used to copy me on emails to them so I could see how much she loves them.

    After the last crazy call from her, I cut off all contact with her, blocked her cell number and her email. I closed my Facebook page so I didn’t have to see all the pictures of my grandson with everyone but me. It is the first time in more than three years that my life is peaceful. I try not to think about it and cry in the shower if I get upset. People ask me, “How can you give up your only grandson?”

    Here is my dilemma. I could allow myself to be ridiculed, criticized and used financially, agree to do whatever she wants me to do and join her little delusionary world or choose to back out of the mess and not see my grandson.

    I choose not see my grandson until my own son wakes up. It will not happen soon, he is a very proud person and he hates to admit that he made a mistake. As a lawyer, I know that a divorce from someone who has a personality disorder is a horrible experience, since that person does not hesitate to lie and can fabricate intricate story lines at will.
    She can’t be fixed and I am not a good actor so I just have to wait. My son knows that I love him. He, however, has a mountain of apologies he must make before we will welcome him back into the family.

  3. Tricia Fran
    July 29, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    It is a relief to find that I am not the only one going through this; you are all describing my daughter in law. I have been through at least 3 years of drama with her. My son sounds just like her now.

    I warned him before he was married that he didn’t understand the seriousness of her problems; she didn’t wait until they were married to show her true personality.

    I know that they don’t get along because I hear the stories from their friends. My son never wanted to get divorced (like I did) and now they have a baby. Because of her craziness, I saw the baby when he was first born and then was not allowed to see him for six months. Then I could see him again for a weekend and then horrible phone calls and emails from her would start again, telling me everything I did wrong during the visit. It’s always something with her. According to her, I am a liar and a drama queen, I have a dissociative personality and I am delusional. In addition, I have never had a real conversation with my son, etc

    They actually had a book in the bathroom at their apartment titled, “Growing up with a narcissist mother” or something similar. The crazy thing is she projects all of her bad qualities onto me. It’s shocking to hear her describe herself but be telling me I have those qualities.

    Her mother is the same way and no one in her little world does anything that would upset her. I decided to get a therapist to help me with this. After the therapist read the emails from her, the therapist told me to give up and find something satisfying to do with my time because there is no way to fixi this problem.

    They (I call him a Stepford husband) have alienated my entire family. My son was the first grandchild and I have four sisters who love him very much but want nothing to do with him now. His friends use a crude term to describe her control of him.

    Now, for those who want to say that maybe I am all those things she called me, I am not. As I said, I was in therapy trying to figure out how to deal with this and when I asked my therapist if I was a drama queen; she laughed. I think someone close to me would tell me if I was delusional and I don’t lie.

    I did, however, try to learn some things from this conflict. I learned to deal with the problem in front of me rather than bringing up past issues. I learned not to promise to do something if I am not sure I can do it. But I will never again allow her to talk to me in such a disrespectful way. I have changed.

    I love my grandson but if I get to see him one weekend and then I am prevented from seeing him for months, I don’t want to engage in that kind of heartbreak where they use the little guy as a pawn.

    I miss my son, the one that was optimistic and playful, smart but not snobby and not concerned about having the best of everything. I miss the son that loved his family and had a social conscience. When I ask him if he is happy, he says he is but I don’t believe him. I feel like the person who is being rude and disrespectful to me is not my son, it is what he has become under the pressure of his relationship with her. Thanks, I needed to get that out. I am not Mom or Grandma anymore.

    • July 30, 2014 at 9:00 pm

      You are not alone, believe me. Your son’s personality has changed due to how he is been treated by this woman. Over time my son’s personality changed too. He used to be a fun loving, easy going, mild mattered and a very happy go lucky young man, but after a year with his NPD gal he became quick tempered, defensive, moody, unhappy, probably because he knew no friends or any family liked her. ( as we all witnessed her behavior toward him over time with disbelief) It bothered him that his choice to put up with this abusive, controlling, manipulative person was not working out. The fantasy was crumbling. This fantasy, bill of goods that she sold him was not who she really was like, like in the beginning. He was being subtly put down, she would compare him to other guys she dated, saying that they were so much better boyfriends, etc…He is the kind of guy who loves to cook, he would clean the house, do laundry all while she was at work, do romantic gestures, like flowers, dates etc. Nothing was ever good enough or done how she expected or he wasn’t doing enough! So my point is your son feels deflated inside, sad, stuck, feels he has no choice, feels he isn’t good enough. He is angry how his life has turned out with her and he’ll take it out on the ones who love him unconditionally, you. His fantasy of their life together isn’t as he dreamed or like she promised it would be like. Don’t let her win. Be there for him. Be kind, generous, loving, understanding. Don’t let her have any ammunition to use against you. ( she will blame you or anyone else for their bad relationship. It will never, ever be her!! Anyways, be supportive, caring etc. He will see how loving you are. He will stick up for you when she tries to tear you down. Let her hang herself with her own behavior. Be civil to her…make sure he sees your kindness to her. Believe me, ( talking from experience) she will destroy her own relationship all by herself. Make sure he knows you are always there for him, and that you love him, you respect that he loves her, and it’s not wrong that he loves her, but when someone doesn’t treat you with love and respect back that, that is not ok. That is abuse! Tell him if that makes you unhappy, than he may need to do some thinking of what he wants his life to be like, today and 5 years from now. That he does have a choice to stay or go. He will not be a failure if he chooses to end a unhappy situation. He will gain self respect and also be respected by others that he found the strength to make such a hard decision. He CAN choose to be happy. He can be happy. Let him know it’s not wrong that he loves her, that you wouldnt expect any less from him cause he is a loving kind of man, but hopefully he is not staying in a bad relationship, if he is not happy. Life is way to short to do nothing about that. Give him your support whatever he chooses and hopefully in time, he will open his eyes and will of had enough abuse to seek your help or loving support.

  4. June 15, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    I too, am a concerned parent of a 25 year old son, who will not take the blinders off to see the destructive relationship he is in. He is a tall, good looking man who used to have confidence in himself. He is brainwashed and is convinced she will change. I have tried to show him this website so he could check it out for himself but he refuses too. In such denial. He keeps saying he is waiting for her to realize this relationship is not going to work, so she can break it up. What is he waiting for… more verbal put downs, controlling outbursts, blaming, belittling, drama filled arguements? He says he is totally aware of the control and abuse yet he continues to stay. Why? Where did I go wrong? Why doesn’t he have boundaries? I am so broken hearted to read all these blogs to see that no one seems to have an answer as to what we as parents or friends can do to convince him to stop the insanity! She is an attractive girl whose is a nurse. I thought people who go into nursing are compassionate, not this nurse. I believe she is NBP for sure as well as a professional victim. Help! Any real advice, action that we can take as a family? None of his friends or any family, cousins, uncles etc. like her cause of what she has done and how she has treated my son over this year. They have only been together for a year. OMG what a year! Any suggestions may help. I paid for him to see a psychologist which helped for awhile but now he feels he is so much stronger now (because of his 5 visits) that he has the tools to handle her now. NOT! The cycles continue over and over. She broke up with him 4 times last week. But now she is so in love, she can not live without him. etc. etc. All of us has talked to him (friends and family) but he says in do time. Really? Why not NOW!!

    • Mellaril
      June 17, 2013 at 3:12 pm

      It sounds like you’ve done all you can. He stays because there’s something in it for him.

      Check out the Forum. There are several parents with children in abusive relationships posting there.

      As for nurses, several of us tangled with them. There are several threads about them in the Forum.

      • July 30, 2014 at 7:52 pm

        Thanks, you are absolutely spit on…I did do all I could to help him open his eyes. I think the best thing was to keep the comunication open so he could still vent what was happening, but after a short venting (he would have about how aweful she is continuing with the verbal and emotional abuse) I would just listen, not give ADVISE (cause it would go on deaf ears anyways), then I would say…well, has she changed? Same answer, no. Then I would say, well perhaps you have some more thinking to do. Is this ongoing behavior ever going to stop? Is she, has she changed like she continues to promise you…No…well, it’s your life, your happiness. I can’t help you. You have to decide if you want to live your whole life like this. I’m not living with her, you are. Your decision! I love you and will be there if you need a place. But it is your life, your happiness. You choose. If your fear is loneliness. Ask yourself..am I happier by myself or with her and her behaviors. Well, it’s now summer 2014. Son has left the relationship so far. It’s now been 3 months. Hope he has the strength to stay away. So far he has…but we know how manipulative these girls can be. Yikes! ( I kinda did give him advice) I would just say over and over…what are you going to do? Do you think you deserve better treatment?

    • March 31, 2015 at 12:45 am

      Hey, arla here…this is march 2015… my son lived with this gal for 5 months, finally ended things and moved back home temporarily. After only 6 weeks back at home May 2014 (broke up, lived back at our home) beginning of July 2014, went back to her and started dating again as of today, March 2015. She hasn’t changed, she got some counseling, which helped her to become more manipulative, and cunning with her controlling abusive behavior… A true narcissist in every way. I just have to hang in there and pray he someday soon with have the strength to finally let go forever, before she gets pregnant on purpose or something.
      Dr. T…please do an article on codependent men in the simplest terms…my son says his biggest fear is being alone, and won’t be able to find an attractive gal like her…help. He’d rather be with this abuse than be alone or fear of never finding another attractive girl. He has no confidence left. He is a very attractive, in shape young man. I know there wouldn’t be a issue finding a healthier match…what can I do, or say. Codependent for sure. Son like mom.

      • March 31, 2015 at 12:59 am

        Forgot to say he is so far still living at home trying to save to buy himself a condo? They’ve now been together for almost 3 years. Roll coastering the whole relationship. When things are good they’re really good, he says, but when they’re bad it’s really bad….( I have commented previously on this blog)

  5. E!
    August 14, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    “Have you spoken with your son’s friends about his fiancee? What do they think of her? Unfortunately, he may not be able to hear any of your warnings or pleas to reconsider ”

    My brother married an abusive woman, and she turned him against his friends *first* before she went on to alienate him from his family. They met in college, and he’s a bit of an introvert/nerd type, so he didn’t have all that many friends to start with. She’d start crap with his friends and turn it around to imply that his friends were “jealous” of the relationship and wanted to “turn him against” her, and issued ultimatums about needing to choose between her and these people who were badmouthing her ‘for no reason’ other than jealousy…naturally, he chose the woman he loved, and the friends were no more. She forced a confrontation with his roommate which caused the roommate to move out, so that my brother was financially constrained to find another roommate quick (HER!) and she consolidated her control of him by living with him so he never got a chance to get away from her and get his head on straight. And the next thing you know, she’s calling our parents in another state to let them know what a horrible person their son is and throwing a hissy fit at her bachelorette party that his one remaining female best friend threw for her when best freind and guests objected to bride-to-be badmouthing her future spouse, our brother and best friend (“Being with him caused me to be alienated from my family, so I’m going to alienate him from his” quote-unquote, exact words from her ruby red lips) and uninviting us all from the wedding and bla bla bla. [Interesting that she didn’t have any female friends of her own to come forward and organize her bachelorette party. Ah, the red flags are so clear in hindsight.]

    Things have gone on like this for years. Every once in a while, one of the family will put out an olive branch and invite them to dinner or a family gathering, and they seem to be OK, but then we find out later that we somehow “insulted” or “offended” her in some way so we get the silent treatment again for a year or 5 until we swallow our pride and once again extend the battered olive branch.

    And,no, parent of the groom who is about to marry the monster. There ain’t a thing you can do about it. You can voice your concerns in as kind and neutral a format as you want, but whatever you say will be twisted and used against you.

    Best thing to do, in hindsight, maybe, would have just been to nod and smile at everything she said or did, including horrific episodes of verbal abuse and badmouthing against my loved one, ‘cute’ stories about what a stupid jerk he is and how brilliant and wonderful SHE is, just grit our teeth and do our best to make sure our loved one knows that he is loved and supported and has a place to go no matter what.

  6. Jaye
    August 2, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    To all who have experienced the loss of a son to a daughter-in-law; I would like to offer some insight. I too, had an exceptional relationship with a beautiful son, my only child. When his stepdad decided to leave after five years of marriage, my son crumbled. His devastation was overwhelming. I became sick for a period of approximately a year, during which time I couldn’t care for his needs like I normally would have. His sense of loss of my husband was bad enough but my emotional absence at the time really pushed him over the edge. He developed NPD (narcissistic personality disorder), which manifests exactly opposite of the way the person who has it feels inside. My son became a prime target for the girl who then entered his life. My husband received counseling and returned to the marriage but the damage was done for my son. Long story short, we never could really make a connection with this girl. When my son’s business failed we offered to allow them to move in until they could pay off bills and secure down payments. They had two year old twins at this time. Bad move! The girl was livid! She would “hide” the twins when I would come home from work so that I couldn’t access them. She destroyed new sets of towels, threw my silverware in the yard for the kids to play with, destroyed the carpeting in the two rooms they lived in, destroyed the marble floor in the bathroom, overflowed the second story tub until water came out the can lights on the floor below, ripped veneer off of freshly refinished furniture, etc., etc. She later told me that she did all of this because I wouldn’t “make my son grow up”. After finally (seven years) convincing my son to see a therapist regarding her behavior and constant depression, we were informed that she had seven different personality disorders, borderline (the worst), passive aggressive, histrionic, avoidant, paranoid, and dependent, and schizoid. The diagnosis did nothing for the relationship with my son. I mistakenly believed that if a professional told him these things he would have to believe them. He only defended her more fervently. She too, blamed all of the problems in her life on me.
    I had to learn how to read her, and discovered that the only way she would not be intimidated by me, or jealous of me, was for her to “have” more than me. That has worked to a degree since my son is very successful. Now I only discuss with her things like my desire to downsize, being too tired to babysit, etc. so that she feels powerful enough to be a little gracious. She finally asks nicely for me to babysit, and seems thrilled that I want a smaller house. The point is that while unfortunate, if you want your sons back as much as they can be back – play the game. I fought it for nine years and essentially lost. When I finally wised up and realized that she wanted to be the one with all the power, I gave it to her (symbolically only of course). I am never really too tired to keep my grandchildren though she loves to believe that I am but that I would do anything for her. I don’t really have plans to downsize, so she finally seems content in her 4,500 square foot house. I have accepted that sadly this will be my life, but committed to myself that as soon as my grandchildren are grown, the game is up. I believe it will be the only time that my son will have her to himself to actually see the alienation. Wish I had better advice. Best of luck. P.S. Our psychotherapist told me two things: I am surrounded by emotional incompetence, and it’s easier to join them than fight. I chose to fight psychologically.

Comment pages
  1. June 30, 2011 at 7:09 pm
  2. December 17, 2010 at 6:44 pm

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