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Background

I recently met this couple through my boyfriend. The husband is from southern Europe (Bob) and his wife is from Tibet (Lisa). Bob met Lisa in Nepal during a trip to India some 20 years ago, and got her to go with him (through Nepal) to Europe and marry him. We are talking about a young woman who had never left her village, and who was really close to her dad. Mom had either died at birth or when Lisa was really little. She has a sister who also lives in Europe but they don't talk or can't talk often. And so Lisa ends up marrying Bob. They now have a teenage daughter. Bob and Lisa were living happily ever after (?) until:

Special Circumstances and Consequences:

To my understanding she had been an illegal immigrant for quite some time before she was able to have the appropriate paperwork and travel documents (also mix up because of Tibet being under occupation?) and even after being married to a citizen for over fifteen years. This whole time (and for reasons I haven't completely understood or told the truth about), she had not been able to go back to her village and unfortunately her dad passes away. Dad never visited his daughter either all these years (could be over 15 years).

Since then, Lisa's health starts to gradually deteriorate. I haven't been able to ask what her exact diagnosis is but she has to take anti-psychotic medications.

Additional Circumstances:

Bob is a farmer and they constantly travel from city to farm so they don't stay in the city much. Lisa helps at the farm (whether she is able to or not, I'm not sure).

Problem:

I think the husband is overwhelmed about his wife's severe illness, because every time we hang out, whether it's at their place or farm or my place, he almost always says something nasty to her either because she can't wash the dishes well or clean or teases her about her appearance (gained weight-at some point had lost almost all her teeth-from medication?) and then he apologizes to her and kisses and hugs her. This seems like a pattern-him yelling, cursing at her and then apologizing for getting angry. Unfortunately, apart from taking medications, Lisa seems to be self-medicating by drinking beer and smoking. Even though Bob seems to care about her he lets her smoke and drink even if he initially yells at her for asking for beer. She had actually tricked me into buying her beer a few times. When he talks to her that way (he is either sarcastic or angry) I try not to laugh back, but I just stay silent or leave the room temporarily

I wish I could say something appropriate when he does that in my presence, without offending him or making him angrier and less likely to listen.

Lisa can have regular conversations (when on medication) and from time to time she mentions how much she loved her dad, remembers things from childhood, and tells me how she wishes she never left her village.

Questions:

  • How should I respond to verbal abuse I'm a witness of? (My boyfriend doesn't want conflict so I am also trying to respect that)
  • Is what is going on none of my business and I should just let it go?
  • How can I start a conversation about the fact that they both need extensive professional help which means that they would have to leave the farm alone in order to get the help they need? (Looking for suggestions or ideas about relevant conversations)
  • How should I respond to Lisa every time she confesses things to me about the situation without making Bob upset?
  • 3
    Generally drinking beer and smoking aren't really much of a concern - is there a reason you emphasize this, mention that she "tricked" you in to buying beer for her? Is she not allowed to have these things because of her ailment/medication? – Catija Sep 12 '17 at 19:32
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    What country in Europe is this happening? – Crazy Cucumber Sep 12 '17 at 19:32
  • @Catija I would assume because of the anti-psychotics, but not sure. She seems to be asking for it all the time. – Tycho's Nose Sep 12 '17 at 19:35
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    It actually does, yes. Europe is a pretty big continent with a lot of different cultures. Laws are different in different countries. Your possible responses could hugely vary based on the country. – Crazy Cucumber Sep 12 '17 at 19:46
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    It is not just a legal standpoint, it is a cultural standpoint. Not all countries in Europe have the same cultural views. What is acceptable behavior changes. But if you guys think it is not vital, I am OK with that. – Crazy Cucumber Sep 12 '17 at 19:48
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Let's get the basics clear:

It is not your marriage. It is not your husband or your life. Unfortunately, there is only so much you can do without getting verbally abused yourself and probably getting banished from the house.

Having said this, it does not mean you should keep quiet. You actually SHOULDN'T keep quiet. That is just inhumane on your part. I am not badmouthing your boyfriend for not wanting "conflict", but some sort of interference is needed. His discomfort towards being in the middle of a conflict should not stop you from saying things. What exactly do you say though?

  1. How should I respond to verbal abuse I'm a witness of? (My boyfriend doesn't want conflict so I am also trying to respect that)

You intervene. You don't talk about the abuse itself, you don't talk about the particular situation in hand. Just intervene with something random. You make a joke based on the verbal abuse. A casual off-handed statement. Nothing that hurts Bob. Nothing that makes him feel like you're accusing him of being an A-Hole.

The purpose of an intervention in the form of a joke is so that the tension goes down a little bit and no feelings are hurt! You could also try to casually walk up to Bob and stand next to him and mock Lisa a little bit along with him. And then walk over to Lisa and maybe give her a hug and say, "I'm just kidding Lisa don't kick me out!".

If you don't feel comfortable enough doing that, call Bob over to you and ask him something unrelated. Get him out off that situation that he is putting himself in. The minute he calms down for a second, he will realize he was being unnecessarily mean to Lisa.

  1. Is what is going on none of my business and I should just let it go?

It is definitely none of your business. Should you just let it go? Different people would say different things. I am personally a very empathetic person. I could NEVER let it go.

Storytime:

I was 11 years old. My neighbor is horrible at beating her kids. She had 2 boys. Age 8 and 5. This one night in particular, I could hear the mom beating the living soul out of both her kids. I could hear frying pans flying around in the house literally. I could hear blows landing on the kids. I went to my dad and he said, "none of our business, let her do whatever she wants". So I walked out, picked up a stone, threw it right at their window and walked back in. The sound of the glass breaking stopped the beating for a little bit. My mom looks at me, doesn't say a word to me, and walk out of the house to see what is going on. Obviously, the abusive mom is out investigating the broken glass. My mom acted like she just heard a noise and didn't know what it was; so she came out. Using that as the opportunity, she started talking to her about beating little kids. The beating stopped.

Was my behavior necessarily acceptable? Probably not. I was 11. what do I care about your broken window. I cannot take it when you beat a little kid this hard. There was actually a campaign going on in India for a long time. Abusive husbands are usually not stopped. The government had a PSA going on that said "Bell Bajao" (in Hindi) which translates to "Ring the Bell". The video is of a few little kids ringing the door bell of an abusive husband beating his wife. Nothing else, just ringing the door bell and the husbands stops to answer the door.

That tiny intervention can actually stop such an act.

  1. How can I start a conversation about the fact that they both need extensive professional help which means that they would have to leave the farm alone in order to get the help they need? (Looking for suggestions or ideas about relevant conversations)

How close are you with Bob? How close are you with Lisa? Answer those two questions to yourself first. If you are at least a little close to either, you can talk to them about this. If not, you cannot talk to them about counselling or getting help.

But that doesn't stop you from getting close to them first! Have you ever been able to spend time with either of them ALONE? From what I gather, the main problem here is Bob. You say Lisa has a drinking problem, but that could probably be rooting from Bob being, well, Bob.

So your goal is to get closer to Bob. And by closer, I mean close enough for him to want to vent to you. Close enough for him to not think that you are just a random guest and he shouldn't be talking to you about his problems. Next chance you get, try and talk to Bob about just about anything BUT the issue in hand. Talk about how well farming is working out for him. Talk about what he is growing right now. Talk about all the topics that might not be going so well for him. When you hit the one topic that triggers Bob's venting, that is the topic you are trying to get to. Once you are there, talk more. Ask more questions. Find out why he is behaving like this without asking him.

You are trying to make him comfortable enough by asking him questions that would involve him bursting out in tears. He would eventually start rambling about something and you could then maybe make your suggestions. Make him realize that he is not completely off the deep end and that he can still be happy with his life. It takes a lot of work to get there, but it will definitely work in your benefit (and Lisa's, of course).

If Lisa has a drinking problem despite Bob's behavior, then Bob might be acting like this because of Lisa. So you do the same with Lisa. Whichever way it has to go, it has to go through those steps.

  1. How should I respond to Lisa every time she confesses things to me about the situation without making Bob upset?

You had mentioned that Lisa just received the appropriate paperwork and legal documents to be able to travel. Have you seen them talk about going to Tibet to see Lisa's family since that happened? If not, that is a BIG problem. Lisa might be severely homesick. If it is, she needs to go home and spend some time there. Whether Bob comes with her or not. Honestly, Lisa going by herself would be the ideal situation.

Lisa is confessing about her childhood life and her dad because she is homesick. You suggesting they should both take a vacation to Tibet and blow some steam off would be the most appropriate response to that. Watch your tone when you make the suggestion though:

You need to sound excited! Something in the lines of "Lisa you should totally take a vacation! You should go to Tibet, do all the things you used to do when you were a little kid." - Pick some scenarios out and paint a picture for her, make her excited. "You just got your paperwork too! Aren't you excited that you can now go visit your home and your family again? It should be so much fun for you guys!".

If Bob says he cannot leave the farm unattended: "Well, Lisa why don't you go by yourself. You do know how to take a flight alone right?" laugh about the casual mockery you just made. "I really want this food item you've been telling me about that they sell in Tibet! Go to Tibet and get me some".

This entire thing needs to be as casual as possible. Outside of this being a possible solution to their entire problem, this is pretty much the only thing you can say when she says she misses her home.

All of these suggestions are just my opinions. If any of these won't work, feel free to let me know in the comments and I will change my opinion about dealing with a situation like this.

I hope you help the couple bring love back to their relationship. Its always a happy day when that happens! :)

Edit 1:

If none of this is possible because of your situation with your boyfriend, I'd at the least tell my boyfriend I don't want to go to their house anymore. You cannot stop the abuse but you can definitely not have to witness it.

  • Thanks for your answer. I like some of your suggestions. I wish Lisa could go to Tibet, but she has no family there anymore and she is really incapable of traveling alone. At some point she left the farm at night, walked to the nearest village and begged for someone to buy her beer. I think the husband had her hospitalized after that. She is doing better now but she is still not able to travel alone. – Tycho's Nose Sep 12 '17 at 20:36
  • Not sure if the husband doesn't want conversations about his wife's dad and illness, so she doesn't upset her or because he is suppressing her. I guess only a psychiatrist could know if it's OK to bring up her dad/past in her situation. It feels that she wants to talk about it but I don't know if the repetitiveness is a symptom of her illness. It could be if she's psychotic or schizophrenic. – Tycho's Nose Sep 12 '17 at 20:44
  • Maybe convincing Bob to go with her might be a good option for you at this point. Make suggestions as to how the farm can be kept up with in their absence. Convince him. But before that, ask them about their encounters in Tibet. Ask them how it was when they were together in Tibet the first time they met. Get a sweet romantic story out of Bob and make him nostalgic and dream about it. – Crazy Cucumber Sep 12 '17 at 20:46
  • It could be either Bob suppressing her past for her own good or it could not be. Her wanting to talk about it repeatedly could be purely homesickness and Bob's rejection of that feeling Lisa has. Or a mental illness. If it is homesickness, it is worth a shot trying to get that cured for her. – Crazy Cucumber Sep 12 '17 at 20:49
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Screw minding your own business. If you see someone ANYONE being bullied, abused, etc., INTERCEPT! Either directly or indirectly.

Now, on to the constructive part. Ok. You saw I mentioned communication, correct? Let's face it. Most people do not excel in this area. But if you can muster the courage next time(try practicing/perfecting like a pitch in the mirror), go with this:

"Oh! I just remembered! (Only address one of them--this is your call on which as to who you think it is more relevant to as far as interest goes) I was just reading this article/watching this show/heard on the radio (you get the idea) and heard a really informative and kind of thought-provoking discussion between these two Psychologists about Confidence, Alpha/Beta dynamics, becoming your best self, etc. And one line particularly drew my attention. They were discussing the Alpha personality and said something about, oh let me see here, I think they said 'Healthy people do not tear each other down for no reason, and that empowered people empower other people.' I really like that! What do you guys think? I even considered getting it printed as a bumper sticker, HAHA!"

Ok. To break it down. Your automatically diffusing the situation even if it's only temporary by creating an entirely new environment and one that is not conducive to aggression, but the exact opposite. Since you aren't making a criticism directly, nobody starts in their personal "Defense Mode". Actually, that's why the preamble is vital. It's simply a distraction, misdirection, planting a psych seed, however you'd like to specify. But! It doesn't shut anyone out from hearing what you have to say from the very beginning. Actually, by addressing only one party, you're indirectly grabbing both of their attention. One is addressed, but the other is listening to discover why they were left out. See what you do there? lol. Ok. Now, when you finally introduce the "meat" of the discussion it will be thought-provoking, and since the male subject is NOT an Alpha personality, his likely response is to adopt this behavior to mimic an Alpha due to his own personal insecurities. Even if that doesn't work(I'm pretty confident, however), anytime he intentionally defies that statement he looks weaker, and as a lesser version of himself. And hun, men who treat women like that are more concerned with how they are perceived by others and themselves than most everything else. Of course, you can literally either quote the script, or feel free to modify the details some to your liking with the goal of approach, delivery, and acceptance being key. Used correctly, this WILL work. I hope things improve. And if you would, please, take the moment to reply and let me know how it goes! "Astra inclinant, sed non obligant." ~Rebellia Rose™ xoXXXox™

And to all the other commentators saying "Mind your own business" when you see someone being abused, you should be ashamed of yourselves. (Signed, <

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I'm a universe of secrets. The curious contrast of a tempestuous soul. I don't watch television. I don't discuss things that don't matter. I truly believe that knowledge is power and that it is sexy as hell. I agree with Nietzsche(I think) that the only sign of a true intellectual is an open mind. I love all things psychology, specifically behavioral psych. All I do is work and learn. Well, that I can post, lol. But mostly just those two. Otherwise, I'm learning how to work better. I'm an INTP. A Certified Wedding Planner. A webcam model. Took two years in junior college as a double major Bus MGMT/Bus MKTG just to find join the Marine Corp. Later got denied due to surviving an epidural hematoma with a 90% death rate at merely 14yo. I have lived more life in my 33 years than most will in 90 and I wouldn't change a thing. I'm morally courageous, confident, liberated, and not bashful in the slightest. So, feel free to ask anything. For the greatest service we can ever provide, is the service to others. And as a pursuer of knowledge, the only logical desire or motive to do so is to share that knowledge with the world in hopes of elevating our species. All I ask? Please pay it forward...

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  • Hi, can you edit your answer to tell us why you think this will work? DId you successfully use this technic in the past? I'm a little worry that this might escalate the situation and turn the verbally abusive people into (physically) abusive people toward the OP. – Ælis Oct 1 '18 at 4:40

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