This past weekend, a good number of my out-of-state relatives came into town for a family event. Among them were my first cousin, “Rick,” his new wife, “Lori,” and Rick’s 13-year-old son. I’d never met Lori before; likewise, he had never met my wife & bio kids before the weekend. Lori, like Rick, is in her early 50s though unlike him this is her first marriage, and she has no kids. I don’t wish to be unkind, but she’s not terribly attractive–notably quite heavy–and from some things she said to my wife, I believe Rick is the first serious relationship she’s had since her early 20s.
Several things about Rick and Lori’s interaction gave me pause. Here’s the highlights:
[li]Rick and Lori met on the job, working for the same employer at a comparable level. She is no longer working. To hear Rick tell it that was his decision, because no wife of his needs to work; he will support her. For similar reasons, they’ve also merged bank accounts. [/li][li]Lori is working on her MBA and as I understand it is about a year shy of completion. Rick also says he intends to discourage her from finishing it, as he doesn’t see the point of her continuing now that she has a kid to help raise.[/li][li]On Sunday my sisters decided that the family should go to Sunday school with my father. Mrs. Rhymer & I, both atheists, declined to go, as we have a policy against exposing our kids to Pentecostal indoctrination; we intend to always do something fun and kid-centered on Sunday mornings, schedule permitting. My older brother’s wife is Hindu and did not wish to come either, so we invited her and their baby along. Lori is an atheist and began to accompany us, only to have Rick put the kibosh on that. If he and his son were going, Lori had to come too; anything else wouldn’t look right.[/li][li]On Saturday night, Rick mentioned to the family, almost casually, that Lori is not allowed to wear pants anymore. Literally. The women in our family didn’t wear pants when we were growing up because that was the rule at our church, and when they got married he … persuaded … Lori to go along with that rule, though she’d always worn pants before. He seemed very proud as he said this and began to suggest that I enact a similar rule for my wife before I suggested he shut his mouth.[/li][/ol]
I found all this more than a little disturbing. But maybe I’m overreacting. Does anyone else see red flags in all this?
Rick sounds like a controlling a-hole. But Lori is a big girl (no pun intended) and she chose to marry him. Of course there are huge red flags, but if you’re wondering if it’s your place to say something about it, the answer is no.
Oh, I have no intention of saying anything to her. Why would I? I barely know her.
I don’t like Rick. It’s conceivable to me that my dislike is coloring my perceptions. My baby sister, who is smart and cute and stubborn and overall awesome, likes him, and the only thing that made her visibly react was the pants thing.
Possibly. I actually edited that in after my first preview, though I could be persuaded that I’m full of shit on the issue.
On the contrary, it is absolutely his place to say something.
Rick’s behavior reeks of the grooming an abuser puts his victim through before the actual violence starts. He is isolating her from work, education, and family worlds, and he is imposing rigid gender role expectations on her - stay at home mother for a 13 year old boy, no longer allowed to wear pants, no longer allowing her to earn her own income or keep a separate bank account.
Silence from others only re-enforces what the abuser does and leads the victim to believe that what is happening to her is normal, expected, and deserved. She needs to be told by as many people as possible that a) these are signs of an abuser, b) she deserves to be treated better, and c) she can always call/email/text that person for help, no questions asked.
No one expects Skald to give his cousin the Shovel Speech, though it might not be a bad idea. There’s a line I read a while back that really struck home for me. “The only people who think all men are rapists are rapists.” Rapists, spouse abusers, and child abusers all believe on some level that what they do is normal, acceptable. Hearing a bunch of strident women call him an abuser isn’t going to change Rick’s mind. Hearing other men tell him he’s full of shit might just.
He sounds like a “good” Pentecostal to me. Assuming that his Pentecostal church is like the Pentecostal churches here. Overbearing, overcontrolling of women and traditional gender roles strict enough to make an Amishman proud? Yep. I’m surprised he didn’t try to perform an exorcism on you four self proclaimed witches and demon worshippers (that would be the three atheists and a Hindu). And I’m not even kidding. I have the recipe recommended by the minister here. It starts with rubbing alcohol, vinegar and salt and ends in a restraining order if they ever come near my patient again.
(Not a fan of the Pentecostal church, you may have noticed. But what you described is exactly perfectly good behavior among that peer group.)
Rick is a jackass (as if you didn’t already know that). There are more red flags here than you could shake a stick at.
Letting Lori know if you or MrsRhymer are willing to assist should she want to make an escape is likely as much as you could do. Jerks like Rick will victim blame when she does leave and begin prowling for the next in line.
I am astonished at the number of people who say it’s none of Skald’s business. If you saw someone getting involved in a business deal with another person who gave indications of fraudulent behavior, you’d say something, wouldn’t you? If you heard a shopper consider buying an expensive product you suspected had problems, you’d speak up, wouldn’t you? If you saw someone digging through their purse while they were about to cross the street, oblivious to the traffic, you’d yell or grab them and pull them out of the way, wouldn’t you? If you knew the parking lot that person had to walk through was dangerous, you’d at least warn them, wouldn’t you?
Why is it we are ready and willing to help a person unless they’re in danger from someone they love?
Rick’s behavior does not fall within a range of ‘unpleasant but tolerable’; it is an indication that he is a potentially abusive partner, and while there’s no way to know for sure, that doesn’t mean you can’t take two minutes to tell his wife ‘it may be nothing, but I’m concerned. If you ever want help, just call. No questions asked.’
So, grooming for abuse, or conforming to the “normal” gender role expectations of the subculture? My first reaction was the latter, although I have little to no experience with Pentecostalism; and there’s no reason it can’t be both.
If Skald had posted this 100 years ago, I’ll bet there would have been quite a few people who wouldn’t have seen anything unusual in his description. IIUC, that’s how quite a few “normal,” non-abusive marriages worked in the past. I’m not surprised that Pentecostals’ cultural clocks are running slow.
I’d be interested to know what Rick’s previous marriage/relationships were like. In any case, I can’t argue against phouka’s advice to “tell his wife ‘it may be nothing, but I’m concerned. If you ever want help, just call. No questions asked.’”
The red flag I see is primarily that Rick and Lori don’t seem to be on the same page with these things. Her goals and beliefs clearly conflict with his. If he said “No wife of mine will work or get an MBA” and she said “Yes! I’ve always wanted to be a homemaker!” then I think that’s a reasonably healthy life choice. Same with Sunday school and pants.
In a situation like this, I probably wouldn’t say anything though. I’m not sure what I could contribute that would make any difference. If they’re in denial and/or head over heels in hormones, they won’t hear anything I have to say anyway.
More red flags than at a USSR Anniversary of the Revolution Parade.
The description reminds me of Thatidiotkaivan and his gf, who though that since she wasn’t particularly attractive it behooved her to do that dickhead’s work for him, let him treat her like a piece of furniture, and still be grateful because, hey, he looked at her (and never stopped telling her how important his family had been, and that the world owed him everything and change, and that she should really be grateful to be allowed his august company). Did he beat her up? No, but he took as much advantage of her low self-esteem as he could. “A good relationship is one that makes you better” - Rick’s “embettering” of Lori would make me run away from any man who tried it on me (and has, more than once).