Daily, I hear stories of those trying to live with N's- or others who obviously have clear psychological problems that are not being dealt with. Boundary issues, inappropriate near reverse-Oedipal complex issues arising from NMILs and the like. I feel many, many women just 'deal with it' and are told to do so. I am not sure if there are a greater number of women than men living with these toxic in-laws, maybe more women than men seek help and understanding. (?) It's something I've been very interested in for over a year now.

I am recently, er... less than five years married not to give away my actual wedding date or disclose any personal information that could be tracked to me. I don't pretend to have all the answers, I'm just a young wife and soon-to-be-mother living with the pain of abuse and trying to find my way out of the mess of being legally related to people whom (I believe) have serious psychological issues. I'm a newbie to this. It blows my mind how many women (and undoubtedly men) live with these kinds of in-laws in their lives for years allowing these people to overstep boundaries and attempt to ruin their children and marriage. Constantly, I am reminded how many women choose to live in such a way that keeps their spouse happy and them constantly exposed to abuse and criticism from overgrown bullies from the N's. The harsh reality I can offer is that it IS indeed a choice. A choice I made for months before realizing it was ruining my life and my marriage. I understand the choice to do so seems mandatory. From other outlets and even pastoral advice, being a woman who stands up to your husband and his family is seen as unwise. Unhealthy. Many fear losing their husband if they bring up any negative comments about how their FOO is controlling their marriage.

I want to address something today that I found extremely helpful in my own dealings with the N's. That is: the  philosophy I have of a method of breaking free from the abuse. Of ending it once and for all. To someone just now realizing, 'hey this is me' or 'my story is similar' I have a message just for you. There's hope! To all those who have gone years and years living with these people who are making your life hell- you have plenty of weapons at your fingertips you can use to fight this battle! Here are just a few things I would suggest to anyone not willing or wanting to drive their spouse away- but unable to take any more from abusive family.

Your spouse is your best (and only) ally! I wouldn't recommend bonding or venting to anyone else in the family you married into- not unless these people are clearly loyal to you and not in contact with the N's anymore. Blood is thicker than water and I am a firm believer if a spouse's FOO is causing the issues- the spouse who is the adult child needs to address it.

You cannot have your spouse on your side unless you have an open relationship and you make them aware of the wrongs and abuse that has happened. Remember- these people are born into such a mess! Chances are they're not going to realize this is a toxic family situation on their own. Keep a journal- write down incidents, keep a record of any and all abusive or manipulative contact from these people. Burying the truth of what's happened to you isn't going to improve your marriage, in my experience it only makes you resent your partner as time goes by. It's hugely important to  bring your concerns to your spouse and be honest with the damage their FOO has done to your relationship.

Rebuke- repentance- apology.

Here's where my 'method' comes into play. After the wrongs of a toxic/narcissistic family have been acknowledged, you can move forward and address them as a couple (mainly, as the adult child of the parents or family causing the issues). This is a team effort. True reconciliation or a healthy resumption of said relationship can't happen unless this is followed in some way by the N's.

Once the behavior is acknowledged and the spouse realizes the behavior is not healthy- it has to be put in the open. My husband has stated many times quite clearly in letters how he is disappointed and hurt and angry by the actions these people have done to us over the past few years. He has clearly set out what they have done and how this has wronged us both.

After a clear rebuke, the opportunity to change is out there. The N's have it in writing and know exactly what  the family member is saying. It cannot be taken out of context. The ball is now in their court.

For most normal people, repentance for their actions would be the next step. N's will rarely choose to acknowledge the hurt they caused to another person. As with my husband's family, he has and still has- no response from them. They know what they've done. They don't acknowledge it or try to make amends even though this is the only way to have a relationship with their son.

For most people, an acknowledgement of 'I'm wrong, I'm sorry and I'll make it up to you' is expected. The behavior has to be changed, the person genuinely sorry enough to want to make things right. ONLY then can the hurt party assume the relationship once more and move on with this person in their life.

In my mind, we have done our part by the rebuke- by telling them honestly what they did to us and how we expect them to make it better. Their silence is the loudest answer of all. To me, our relationship is now a closed book. I have healed enough to leave that book on the shelf in the knowledge I did my bit and there was nothing more I could have done.

They have not responded to my husband's attempt at making our relationship right once more. To me, this means it is over. To him- they have died.

They have urged us to forget and move on- before we made it impossible for them to contact us we were frequently met with mass 'family' emails about so-and-so dying or someone being ill or needing surgery. I'm sure this pattern would have continued if we hadn't blocked them. My husband no longer feels a part of this family and no contact has simply made it easier for him to be happy and forget they exist.

I know my 'method' is not the only acceptable one, but it is a good pattern to follow. It's a good way to relieve yourself of guilt if you are an ACoN and have made your pain clear to your parents- to no end. The blame does not lie with you but with them. To all those living as a spouse to an ACoN, take this to heart that it's not your fault. You do not have to forget and move on with these people. You CAN change the future by being open and honest with your spouse and doing what's best for your children by removing them from toxic family situations.

Rebuke-repent-apologize can be used from grade-school on up as a great reminder to your children that abuse is NOT okay. If someone is not sorry and not willing to change their actions they are bullies and not allowed in your home- a bully-free zone. I think it's important for parents to clearly set this up for their children. After all, if you let yourself be abused- won't your child grow up assuming this is an okay way to be treated? I can't think of anything scarier as a parent. I hope my no contact is seen by my child that mom and dad do not allow mean people to bully them into doing what they want. It's not okay for us and it's not okay for anyone to do that to them, either. If we hurt someone, we say we are sorry. We feel badly about it. We make it up to them. We try not to do that again.

By following these rules in our home, I hope to place a value on others N's are not capable of seeing. People are precious. They matter. It's not okay to hurt others or to stand by and let others get hurt. It's also not okay to move forward with someone who has hurt you and is not sorry. N's have no place in our home.


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