My Daughter Is Married To A Controlling Man

Morning friends,

I had another big physical challenge this week. I took a three and half day pickleball intensive camp. There were 8 players in the camp along with our instructors and we played pickleball for about 8 hours a day for 3 and half days,  I am so exhausted. But I have to say, doing it with a single focus over a concentrated period of time has made me a better player than I would have been had I just kept doing what I was always doing. Sometimes when we really want to make a change, we have to invest in ourselves. My focus on improving my pickleball game this year is minor compared to some of the challenges and changes you all are trying to make, but it might be worth investing in a six week Walking in Core Strength Class coming up if you’re ready to build your own internal CORE strength. For more information click here

Here is This Week’s Question: My daughter and her husband are coming up on 5 years of marriage. It’s been the longest, painful, 5 years of our lives. We have tried everything we know how to help, support, involve them, love them, and he just doesn’t want it. He said right from the beginning, “My goal is to break this family apart!” We are tired, hurt, angry, in pain, suffering from the death of a healthy relationship with our daughter, because he says, “I’m intimidated by you guys.”

We were a very tight, loving family until he and his family came along. We just saw her recently at a family wedding and it tore me up. Right now there is little or no communication. I’m feeling I just need to have her out of my life completely in order to heal. I’m struggling with that. Truthfully, it’s very close to that now. I love her so much, our only child for 12 years until our other daughter came along. I don’t know where to go with the pain. I’m questioning why God would allow this to happen and whether or not there even is a God. I’m hurting. 

I’m still hanging on by a thread but barely. What more could God want me to learn and endure?

Answer: I am so sorry for what you’re going through.

It is so hard to trust God when we cannot understand why he allows certain things to happen in our lives. When it doesn’t make sense to us, we’re often tempted with the thought that God is not good or that there must not be a God at all. Click To Tweet

I hope you understand that in addition to having to deal with the pain of losing your daughter’s closeness with your family; you are in a real spiritual battle. Like Job in the Old Testament, you are struggling to understand why God would allow such hardship into your life. Please hear me. Theological truths don’t always bring a whole lot of comfort in the midst of our affliction, but nevertheless, they’re important so that we can at least understand a little bit of what might be going on.

The challenge that Satan posed to God regarding Job was this. “Job only loves you and serves you because you bless him. Take that away and he will curse you.” (See Job 1 for the story.)  I think the same sort of challenge unfolds in many of our lives. When it seems to us that God is good, it is easy to love him, praise him, and trust him. But when life feeds us bitter herbs, we often don’t want anything to do with him and our faith and trust plummets.

It seems like you might be facing this kind of temptation. The enemy’s lies feel so much truer than God’s Word. Jeremiah, a prophet in the Old Testament is a good example of this struggle. In Lamentations 3 he is very angry with God. He feels like God has lied to him and used him and Jeremiah is angry, hurt and faithless. Yet in verse 21 of Chapter 3, he has a remarkable turnaround in the way he sees things. He says, “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope.”  Nothing in Jeremiah’s situation changed. What changed was his perspective but because of this shift, Jeremiah had hope.

I wish I had something to say to you that would turn this situation with your daughter around. I wish I had a way to help you make your son in law feel safe, or trust you or love your family. But honestly, I don’t. But what I can tell you is that your suffering has brought you into the afflictions of Christ. He knows what it feels like to offer love, fellowship, and closeness, and be rejected. He knows what it feels like to long for relationship and to be spurned. Read his heart-felt cry in Matthew when he says, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, I would have gathered you together …..but you would not.” (Matthew 23:37).  

That said, in the meantime, how do you live with the very real reality of brokenness in your family? I would strongly urge you NOT to break off all contact with your daughter in order to deal with your own pain. I understand that seems easier right now but put yourself in her shoes for a moment. She has married a man who does not want her to have a close relationship with her family. That puts her in the middle and in a terrible dilemma. She has chosen to distance herself from you in order to make him feel better. That hurts, but if you turn around and distance yourself from her because of your pain, that only gives him more ammunition to justify his feelings. 

I want to give you two other things to think about. In my counseling and coaching practice I’ve worked with many young women who needed to take a break from the closeness with their mother. And, as a mother of a young woman, I know what that would feel like to me so please don’t misunderstand what I’m about to say. But for a young woman to mature into who God made her to be, she may need to separate more from her mother than her mother would like. It may be good for the daughter even though it can be extremely painful for the mother. Mothers who were patient and affirming with that separation time, eventually reaped the benefit of a renewed relationship with their daughter. Mothers that couldn’t tolerate that distance and used guilt, manipulation, and/ or rejection to try to get their daughter to come closer only got more distant.

The second thing I want you to think about is that if your daughter is in an abusive/controlling relationship with her husband, his strategy would be to isolate her from her family and support system. If you distance yourself from her because of your pain, then whatever resource you could be for her or source of support you could provide her might be lost. I know it’s very tough for you to accept that you have minimal contact and a superficial relationship but at least you have some contact and that might be crucial for her to hang on to. 

Lastly, right now your stronghold and refuge is God. God sees your pain and Jesus knows your heart. You can go to him and be raw and real. He gets your pain (Hebrews 4:15,16). Satan has already scored a victory when your son-in-law’s fear ruled him. Please don’t give Satan another victory by allowing him to rob you of your own faith and your peace. Although it feels like death right now, please trust God and choose life! (Deuteronomy 30: 19,20).

Friends, have you had an adult child distance themselves from you due to a controlling/abusive spouse? What helped your broken heart? How did you struggle with trusting God with the outcome?


  1. God Hears on February 19, 2020 at 9:56 am

    I agree with what Leslie said here. My abusive husband used isolation tactics early in our marriage by convincing me that I was not “leaving and cleaving”, by pointing out all of my parents’ sins (while ignoring his own), etc. My parents are believers who, at the time, freaked out and responded with anger. Later on, my husband completely cut me off from them when I was in the middle of having babies. He convinced me that they were controlling when, in fact, they knew he was abusive and didn’t know a godly way to help. I submitted to him because he manipulated me with scripture and lied to the leadership of our church. Now my children are tweens and after 7 years now of educating myself about abuse and clinging to My Heavenly Husband, my parents have a great relationship with my children and me. (I have also been separated from my husband for over a year now.). In the years prior to our separation, I took gradual steps to repair the relationship with my parents and not allow my husband to continue to control that. It was scary and hard. My parents have been able to help me and my children much in the last few years and I am so thankful. I have also seen them grow in their relationship with God through this too. Keep praying and believing God’s promises!

    • SherriLynn on February 19, 2020 at 11:51 am

      Thanks so much for your comment and story. We too have one of our daughters in such a relationship. I am so glad that you’re doing the right thing and am so proud of you.

      • Autumn on February 19, 2020 at 6:02 pm

        I think it Is important to remember that these women were once little girls. What was their home life like? Did they see mistreatment and disrespect at home? If so, the moms who kept their daughters in that situation are to blame.

        I hope the moms of young children who are reading this blog consider how denial of their child’s abuse may be creating this and many other problems in adulthood. Is it really worth staying with an emotionally abusive and controlling spouse when it is so damaging to children?

        • God Hears on February 19, 2020 at 10:34 pm

          Autumn, Yes, significant damage is done to children who witness abuse and I hope that the church can more responsibly acknowledge that. Moms do need to act but it is sometimes a long process that involves a lot of planning. The damage done to children who witness abuse is not published enough nor talked about enough so most of the church naturally believes that the statistics regarding children who experience a divorce applies to these same children who experience abuse. (Therefore, some Christians think it is in a child’s best interest to remain living with both parents.) I even had a well-meaning Christian tell me, “Children are resilient.” I think that sons might actually come out the most damaged, because they can become abusers themselves or abuse their mothers.

          • Nancy on February 21, 2020 at 7:34 am

            Girls are just as damaged. They very likely end up choosing partners that treat them just as they saw their mother treated.

            That’s their experience. It’s what is comfortable and known.

          • God Hears on February 21, 2020 at 12:28 pm

            I agree that girls can become really damaged too, depending on the specifics of each situation. With my girls, it has been less so because they have understood some things well & I had the opportunity to educate them on abuse. With my son, it has been way harder because the abuse was
            modeled for him & is ingrained in his behavior. It’s an exhausting daily battle & is one reason that I hope more men of the church will see the need to assist their sisters in Christ with sons in this situation. With my daughters, I began to address the abuse a few years ago by saying things like, “What you saw today was
            not how men should treat their wives,” pointing out good points in godly men that they know, etc. I tried to do it in a way that clarified the behavior but did not denigrate my husband & made it clear that they must treat their father with respect, in spite of the circumstances. It can be risky to be open with your children but I prayed much about this & hoped that God would use this.

        • Jennifer on May 8, 2024 at 9:13 am

          To blame a mother for staying with an abusive spouse is not fair and extremely abusive. Im guessing you have never been in such a relationship yourself. The manipulation, gaslighting etc. keeps a woman constantly second guessing their decisions. They don’t feel like they can adequately provide for their children, maybe they were raised that divorce was not an option and they were working hard to repair things. Unfortunately it takes 2 to repair a relationship. They didn’t mean to keep their children in a toxic environment. They didn’t know how toxic the environment was till they finally got out . Once the realization sets in they start feeling guilty and blaming themselves when it was really their spouses fault for the toxic environment.

          So to say the mom is to blame is actually a pretty toxic statement. You don’t know what kind of abuse they were going through.

          I know for me, one of the many things that kept me in the toxic relationship was feeling that I could better protect them from him if I was there, than I could in a split custody situation.

          There is a lot of rational that abused women use to stay with their abuser. In fact , on average, it takes 9-12 times of leaving before they stay gone. That just shows how manipulative these men can be.

    • Adrienne on February 27, 2020 at 9:19 pm

      Thank you God hears, I needed to hear your story! What an encouragement!🤗

  2. Sara on February 19, 2020 at 10:33 am

    My husband tries to control me in different ways. One way is seeking to keep me as far away from my family as possible. We moved interstate because I got a job offer from a company that he had sent my CV to. Now I hv been away from my family for two decades. I stayed on because my pay was good and husband did not work.

    Hubby is hoping when I retire, I will not stay near my family. I can no longer submit to him because of trust issues. I also do not plan on staying in a city he likes as it is far away from my family. My marriage has been a sham for so many years that I would like to live my life in any way I choose and not what my husband dictates

    • MoonBeam on February 19, 2020 at 5:52 pm

      I hear you saying you hope for happiness and a better way of life ‘someday.’ Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Your ‘someday’ may never happen. What is stopping you from living your best life now?

      Don’t wait until retirement to live. My friend did that. She put all her hopes and dreams in her someday when I retire book of dreams. What she never anticipated, was that she would come down with an age related chronic illness. That illness prevents her from all the wonderful activities she dreamed of doing in retirement. If you are dreaming of a better life, please, make it happen. I know my friend regrets not living to her fullest each and every day.

      • JoAnn on February 20, 2020 at 11:20 am

        Moonbeam, that is a very wise perspective. We have only today, and we must use it in a way that honors God and ourselves.

  3. Nancy on February 19, 2020 at 1:56 pm

    ´mothers who couldn’t tolerate the distance and used guilt, manipulation and/or rejection to try to come closer only got more distant’.

    This is exactly the right phrase ´couldn’t tolerate the distance ´.

    I pray the Lord enable me to cling to Him as our girls go through this very natural distancing that comes with individuation.

    The inability to tolerate distance can suck the life out of a person and seriously damage the relationship.

    The image I always had of my mother was that of a lamprey.

    • JoAnn on February 23, 2020 at 3:29 pm

      The inability to tolerate distance means that the parent is using the child to satisfy their own emotional neediness. In a healthy family, the parents raise their children with the explicit goal of them maturing into competent, independent adults who love the Lord and can build their own successful family. I am gratified to see that both my daughter and my son have successful families that don’t look like copies of ours, but are managing well in their own way. Example: one family home-schools and the other is in public school. All of the children are doing well and love the Lord. What more can I ask?
      It all depends so much on having healthy goals.

      • Nancy on February 24, 2020 at 7:14 am

        Agreed JoAnn, it is a sign of emotional dependance.

        I love that your kids are each following Jesus down their own paths. How beautiful.

        I have been thinking, as our church walks through emotionally healthy spirituality, that my relationship with my mother depends on the degree of my own healing. When I am strong in Christ, I can extend her the Love she so desperately needs. The problem is that when I am the one in need (when I am walking through challenges), I cannot even tell her about it. And so my thought about my relationship being dependant on my degree of healing is a lie, I think.

        The pressure that I put on myself to be ‘healed enough’ to be The Source for her is sort of ridiculous. I cannot be ‘healed enough’ for the two of us. I can only do my part. So our relationship remains distant with occasional moments of joy.

        That’s about all I have control over, it’s all I can offer.

  4. Louisa on February 20, 2020 at 6:17 am

    I’m so thankful that this is and you are a safe place to have another opinion! 😍

    “She has chosen to distance herself from you in order to make him feel better.”

    I would venture to say that the young woman has chosen to distance herself from the mom because she’s always walking on eggshells and is trying to keep the (false) peace.
    If she’s that isolated I hope that the mom prays that her daughter will escape this man’s clutches and recover her sanity.

    From someone who has been there.

  5. Cathy Kooser on February 20, 2020 at 9:07 am

    Leslie I think you are wonderful and I’ve read many of your books and been following your blog for a long time. I’ve seen you answer many questions, but this has got to be one of your best responses ever. You answered her beautifully and I truly hope she’s able to receive the message that I believe God sent her through you. Thank you for all you do for those of us who are struggling to get healthy!

  6. Sunshine on February 21, 2020 at 4:18 pm

    Would any daughters or sons like to chime in and mention what their mothers did that was helpful? I would love to hear their perspectives!

    In my experience my family remained silent about the pedophiles in my family. They ignored the situation and then blamed the children who reported the problem to other adults. When authorities arrived, not a single adult was willing to turn in the abusers. (He was a good “bread winner.” ) The same was true of domestic violence and emotional abuse which was also present in the home. Everyone minimized the problem and acted like it was an “anger issue” or suggested ways we could adapt to the difficult person. He should have been kicked to the curb and sent to jail. The adults in my world, they were probably minimizing the problem due to their own deep denial.

    I do not like it when people quickly blame the church or say the church should fix their personal problem. This is avoidance and blame shifting. Rather, I think you married this person. You chose to have children with this person and you decided to live with this person. It is not the church’s problem, the children’s problem or the authorities problem. It is YOUR problem. You married this sick person. It was a terrible mistake. Cut your loses and move on. Take accountability for your actions and remove your poor, innocent children from destructive people regardless of who they are. Put and end the fantasy of them every getting better (treatment is almost useless for abuser, narcissists, pedophiles and addicts) and get counseling for your denial and own up to the problem. Yes, others may help you, but you got yourself into this situation. Only you can get yourself out of it.

    • Nancy on February 22, 2020 at 7:33 am

      This is very well said Sunshine.

      We are responsible for ourselves and our children. The church can be supportive and should have Biblical views on separation etc….but ultimately it’s our responsibility to keep our children from harm.

  7. Moonbeam on February 26, 2020 at 2:30 am

    Any tips on how to help your son or daughter get out of denial? What do you do when you see your abusive spouse weaving their deceptive, manipulative game on those you love ?

    I think one of the most difficult aspects of this journey out of a destructive or abusive relationship, is that sometimes, our loved ones don’t acknowledge our pain. In fact, they add to our pain by minimizing and denying the injustice that was done to us. They are hooked by the abuser’s lies and marginalize our experience. They speak our abuser’s language and are caught in the crazy making as they become vicarious perpetuators of abuse too.

    I assume the abuser will eventually show their true colors and expose themselves. But many have such an ingrained and polished alternative persona that person after person gets fooled. How do we stand up for ourselves and stop the vicarious trauma?

    • Nancy on February 26, 2020 at 7:03 am

      Ahhhh Moonbeam, I feel for you.

      I think your best weapon is speaking the truth. Not by defending yourself, or in any kind of speech, but in the small things. Continuing to strengthen your CORE will enable you to guard your heart with your kids. You can’t make someone else come out of denial, you can only be strong in The Lord in the presence of it. Like you said; in entering into it they become abusive too. You’ll have to apply all the same strategies and principles we read about here.

      That’s very sad and worth grieving. I’m so sorry.

      • victoria on September 4, 2021 at 7:32 pm

        Very well said. My daughter hs been in a slow controlling, now marriage, and $ is his mo for 7 yrs. She now is not teaching and has a 4 month old sweet little girl, that he has now stayed at home with and I am not allowed to ever see my daughter alone as “we are a package deal.” Its been very hard on her wonderful brother, as her husband has made us the bad guys until 1 month after their marriage he had an affair, marrying her 2 weeks after she graduated from school..
        Prayer, not becoming victims, and rising above my feelings and loving her when I can, esp my new granddaughter helps when I am strong. So thankful for this discussion. Its a very twisted relationship and he looks like an angel with Perfection.

    • Annalee on March 3, 2020 at 9:46 am

      I don’t have an answer for you but wanted to let you know that you’re not alone. I am living this heartwrenching trial too. I pray and ask God to bring beauty out of ashes and trust Him to do so if and when the time is right. Hugs to you.

  8. Adrienne on February 27, 2020 at 9:14 pm

    I can identify with this Mama’s heart, mine has been breaking for a year now as my youngest daughter married a controlling young man as well.
    We did our best to love and accept him so our daughter wouldn’t have to choose between him and us. He betrayed us and has not been faithful to her.
    It is tempting to see him as the enemy and while he is not a friend, our true enemy is Satan.
    The searing pain you feel can be blinding. Remember what Leslie says, and that Jesus took your true rejection on himself ( separation from God) so you don’t ever need to experience that. He sees you and has walked in your suffering. He was perfect and people still walked away and mocked him. He bore up under it all because he knew the truth about himself. He was the son of God. You are his daughter! Saturate your mind with His word…this experience is for our transformation!
    I’ve been learning to die to my dreams for my daughter and our family because God has something bigger than I dared imagine…
    Also, this is my daughter’s story, not mine. I would have written her story and mine without the chapter we are now in…no doubt. My only hope is in the one true Savior and author of all stories, who loves my girl more than I do. He works ALL things together for good (as hard as it is to wait for it) My daughter loves the Lord and no one can snatch her out of his hand! I am with you in prayer sister 💕praying we will both be there when our daughters need us that we will abide in the vine, finding our life in Him! Praying we won’t lose heart, the battle belongs to the Lord!
    P.S. A book I have found helpful is “ to be an anchor in the storm” or the latest version is called “helping her get free” by Susan Brewster.I recommend it to anyone who wants to be a help to other people in difficult situations…☺️

    • Autumn on March 1, 2020 at 9:05 pm

      I don’t agree you need to die to your dreams because God has something better. That seems like very twisted theology to me. Enabling an abuser by minimizing and denying the truth is foolish and dangerous. Out smart the covenant breaking son in law and help your daughter escape.

      • Jane Cole on March 8, 2020 at 8:02 pm

        My daughter was in an abusive relationship for 5 years. She had two children by him. As her parents, there was nothing we could do to help her escape that situation, until she wanted to. I had to keep praying and trusting God, until that time came. I did have to die to my own dreams, ideas, and plans. When I did….God brought forth something better than, I could ever think or imagine! I had to take my hands off the situatiin….Let Go and Let God have the control and reigns of the situation! It’s been many years now. My daughter is Strong and Soaring High!

        • Adrienne on March 17, 2020 at 1:26 am

          Thank you for your encouraging words Jane, that is wonderful to know that your daughter is free and strong today! I can envision my girl that way too, Jesus is mighty to save…His wonders never cease! He is our safety and anchor through the storm. Kind regards,A

  9. Libbie on February 28, 2020 at 12:37 pm

    I read the posts from these mothers, and I want to go give my mother a big hug. She witnessed my marriage to a controlling man for 7 years. And although I still kept in touch with her, it definitely altered what I could confide in her, and would defend him when she would get angry with how he treated me.

    But she stood by me, and learned to patiently wait for me to see the light. Now that I have left him, and am going through the painful process of divorce, she has been there for me, and is one of my best friends and advocates. Hang in there, mommas! Your daughters need you!

    • Adrienne on March 1, 2020 at 1:14 pm

      Thank you Libbie, for sharing Your experience, wisdom and encouragement !🤗

  10. MaeLynn Biggs on March 3, 2020 at 9:11 am

    My son has done this very thing to me. It’s like as if he’s forgotten that he has a family! Most holidays he blows us off and goes with her family. He even calls his mother in law MOM. I believe he is trying to keep the peace since my daughter in law is angry and controlling.
    My counselor encouraged me to think of this like the prodigal son in Luke 15. My son is in a far country (his wife’s family). He will remain there until he “comes to himself”. Until then I must be like the father – waiting, watching, and praying – ready to welcome him back when the time comes.
    In the meantime I spend much time in the Word of God memorizing and meditating on God’s promises. I remember that God is good NO MATTER WHAT MY CIRCUMSTANCES! I know that these light momentary afflictions are working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (2 Corinthians 4:17).

    • Adrienne on March 3, 2020 at 1:26 pm

      Truth sister! I struggle to stay in reality with God, not denial, and not worst case scenario! Jesus knows our affliction and is near to the broken hearted…we must fix our eyes on Him, not the circumstances we see now before us. May we be ready to make fools of ourselves to welcome our loved ones back to relationship when the day comes!🤗May we stay present with those in our lives we can love and minister to right now ☺️ Blessings on you, thank you for sharing the beautiful truth!

  11. Penny on April 22, 2020 at 8:29 pm

    To all the Moms, I am your daughter. I have a controlling husband. He tried to drive a wedge between me and my family. My mom was patient and didn’t let down. Through time and constant prayer, wise counsel and showing up, my mom spoke with me about the patterns she was seeing. It has been a really long and hard 10 months of seeking God and paying attention to the things in myself and my marriage that he wants to show me. God is faithful. He love you. He loves your daughters, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, and sons. He is pursuing their heart. Don’t grow weary of doing good. 💗

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