How much should family history influence a marriage decision?

Woohoo!!! This is my first thread since the crash of 06. And, yes, at least for the first half of it being crashed, I did check almost everyday to see if it was back up!

Anyways, as I continue to learn and grow together with my fiancee, I have come across more and more information about his family and his childhood, much of which is sad to hear. I am afraid that this forum is too public for specific examples as I am speaking about someone without their permission, but I will try to outline some of the issues that have come up without invading on my future-in-laws privacy. (My fiancee is okay about posting).

In talking about childhood experiences, I have learned that he has experienced quite a lot of abuse in almost every typical way except direct sexual abuse, and even then he did experience covert or indirect sexual abuse through relatives.

Abuses included everything from seemingly trivial and hard to pin down emotional abuse such as withdrawing affection or threatening to abandon him at a young age when he didn’t do chores all the way up to being shut into a closet and having food and necessities taken away for small reasons such as not listening or talking back.

Physical abuse included having things thrown at him, being shaken, hit, smacked, kicked, threatened to be killed, etc. Physical abuse is actually what uncovered all of this and led to our talking, as a disagreement a couple months ago between him and his dad resulted in being hit and thrown across the room. (Thankfully he did not respond and instead left quickly).

Emotional abuse appears to be largely from his mother and apparently went along the lines of neglect and guilt. (The 'ole, if you become a lawyer, I’ll kill myself, stay home forever line). I learned about his experiences of emotional abuse by confronting it whenever he would clam up. Such as I would tell him, “I’ll be there at 6PM” and if I was a few minutes late, he would breakdown and regress to a childlike state, as only God knew when his mom would show up or be home, so obviously I was acting like his mom and abandoning him.

Sexual abuse began around 9yrs of age while at Grandma’s house. Uncles introduced him to various pornographic outlets and other situations that I cannot post on a public forum. Although he says he is sure that no direct abuse occurred, (and I do believe him) I still think these experiences are under sexual abuse as it was a traumatizing experience for a young child.

All of this is like a mountain falling on me! But it does help to fill in the blanks and really brings together the whole picture. I have felt that with every step he makes to becoming holier, more independent, loving and happier, his parents have waged an all out battle. All along, I have dismissed it as just cutting the apron strings or that his parents want what’s best for him a little too much, kwim? Things like threatening to call his boss at work and get him fired because they don’t want him to work were red flags to me, but I could only count them as random actions. Now they are fitting in.

Okay, so I am getting to the point of realizing his parents are completely loony and off the rocker. Despite the benefit of the doubt I keep giving, it is almost becoming purposefully blatant. Or maybe they are becoming more comfortable around me and thus being abusive around me. (Such as yelling and cursing, threatening while I am in the room).

This has all dropped from the sky recently. To be honest, I would not have begun a relationship if I had been aware of the sorely dysfunctional dynamic of his family.

The only thing I could think to do was talk to my mom about it and post here. My mom says to run for my life. What do the anonymous posters think? I wish there was a way to marry him without the family. I feel like I’ve been with him long enough to see him inside and out. I have not experienced any red flags or abuse from him, even in cases where he was angry, sick, put on the spot or stressed out. I feel like he is worth it. But I am seeing this from a young point of view. Any suggestions?

If he will not completely and permanently sever all contact with these people, then you need to reassess and probably discontinue your relationship. I think he has worked hard to overcome his past, and I think that it is a doable thing for people who are determined to do so.

But, regarding his entire family-- **this is not negotiable. ** These people are dangerous, and neither you nor your future husband should be subjected to them and definitely not your future children.

If he is not willing to do this, then move on.

I’m with Mom, RUN!!!

You can also go to your local diocese and meet, just once, with a marriage and family counselor on staff there. Tell him/her what you told us, and see what kind of advice you get.

Then you can tell your boyfriend what your counselor has suggested. I’m betting you’ll be told to cut bait and move on, without looking back. But you need to hear it from a professional.
There’s no way on God’s green earth that your guy is marriage material. Not without long term, intensive therapy. And that has to be his decision, not yours.

That sounds like a good idea. How do I go about finding someone to speak with?

Also, what kind of therapy does he need to be looking into and to treat what things?

Thanks for any information.

Fortunately, or as in this case, unfortunately, a mate comes as a package and this one sounds like lots of baggage. Yes, people can change I know, but in cases like this the abuse is part of him and it will always be there. I agree with your mother. It may be very hard, but I think I would extricate myself from this situation.

I am staying open to the suggestions here and of course my mom’s suggestion carries a whole lot of weight.

But (yes, there is the young adult but) is it really hopeless? We have had 4 amazing, beautiful years together and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with him.

Surely there is something we can do to determine the way or amount he was affected, or someone who can guide us in adressing the parental issues and working through them?

Or at least a pathway I can take, certain steps I can take, to fully determine if I must end our relationship before just ending it.

I think that is a funny image of telling him, sorry, it’s over. :stuck_out_tongue: Okay, funny but absolutely sad.

You can never marry a person without marrying his family.
Once you marry him, you become part of his troubled family.

Also, a man is the son of his environment. With such abusive background,he must have many wounds deep down. He may be a very decent person, however, he definitely needs lot of healings, psychologically and emotionally. Those wounds will surface up sooner or later. It is very risky to marry such a person.

Your Mom is right, a mother always has her children’s best interest in mind. You should listen to her. You can keep him in your prayer, help him to seek for professional help, as for yourself, RUN!!!

Remember, he will not only be your husband, but also your children’s father. His troubled family, will become your children’s grandparents,etc… Are you willing to allow your children to experience potential danger and abuse?


I think I see what you mean…to imagine my future children around his family is disturbing. I wouldn’t like that at all.

It is just so depressing to think of ending our relationship.

I think you should buy Children of the Self-Absorped, Toxic Parents, Toxic In-Laws, Why Is It Always About You? and If You Had Controlling Parents…

One word: Narcissists!!!

His parents are sick.

Your fiancee should seek out professional help and until he clearly moves on with his life (forgiving the past but not forgetting-meaning that he’ll keep his family at a very, very long arms distance). He does not have the capability to be in a committed, sacramental marriage until he himself has healed from ALL the hurts and pains from his family. You can remain engaged, but do not marry until he has healed. Otherwise, you’ll be heading on a very emotionally unstable marriage.

I understand your feeling, especially when you are friends for so long, so used to be with each other… But, think about this,
no matter how many years you have been together, comparing to a life time, a few years is short, a life time is long. Would you rather endure a short period of pain to avoid a miserable future or would you rather to avoid pain for now and step into a life time problem? With such a family background, future problems are guaranteed.

It maybe heartbroken to think about breaking up, but, if not breaking up now, future heartbreaking is unavoidable, which one would you choose?

It is your right to choose. So choose wisely. If you know it is a dark hole, don’t jump in. Pray God to give your strength and wisdom.


I am so sorry for your plight. What a difficult decision. You’ve found what sounds to be wonderful man who is the product of a very unhealthy environment. As such, he comes with much baggage, both by association with the very parents he is called to Honor (a very heavy cross he must learn to bare), and in his own reaction to things, as taught through a life-time of terrible situations he has already endured.

Please do some careful discernment as you proceed. If this young man you have spent 4 years with is ever to have the opportunity to be married in a healthy relationship, it will require a lot of work on his part and a wife willing to help him work through some serious difficulties.

It will NOT be easy for him, but if he is committed to doing what it takes, it is possible that his upbringing is not a life sentence for him. I would recommend you look on to see if there is a Catholic Therapist in your area who can assist him. If he is not currently prepared to commit to what may be a lifetime of therapy to address the issues of his upbringing and the challenges of dealing with his parents, then I strongly recommend you end the relationship now. It is only with his working to address what he’s been through that anything can be done to move past it. You can NOT take the lead in fixing this.

It is likely that he will need to distance himself from his family, possibly for the rest of his life, for a long period time at a minimum. The challenge lies in balancing his need to seperate himself from an unhealthy situation and the desire to give the proper honor to the parents who gave him life. This will require therapy and spiritual direction to get right.

Are you really prepared to sign-up for the long haul on this? Is he aware of what it will take on his part to have a healthy life?

How committed is he to prayer and the Church? Is he willing to place God at the head of his life and accept Mary as his mother, the only mother who is perfectly aligned with God’s will?

If he’s prepared to place God in the driver’s seat of his life, and commit to therapy and spiritual direction, he might have a shot, especially if he finds a woman who can stand by him through it all. But this woman is in for a bumpy ride, and if you elect to take this course, know that you will have many challenging opportunities to grow in your ability to Love. You will have to forgive, you will have to be strong, you will need to be gentle and nurturing.

In the meantime, be prepared to get spiritual guidance for yourself and spend time at Eucharistic Adoration. Share with him your concerns, let him know you love him and let him know what you want for yourself, for him and for the two of you, whether it’s together or not.

If you do choose to leave him, let him know that as a man, he has many years ahead during which he can resolve these issues related to his family, and can then begin a healthy relationship and start a family of his own long after it would be too late for you (as women, we have a limited period of fertility). You want him to have the opportunity to get the help he needs before the complications of raising his own children. If the two of you were to marry, without ABC children would likely come soon, perhaps too soon for his circumstances.

Protracted engagements are not necessarily a good thing, as they tend to lead to temptations that are very difficult. You’ve got a tough decision.

God Bless,


CaRose, what a beautiful and inspiring post. I really appreciate it.

I am unsure if I am putting this correctly, but what does he need help with? Like, what is wrong with him and needs to be fixed?

We are reading through this thread together and he wants to know what is wrong with him and what he needs to do to become a healed person who is stable and ready to be married.

If he goes to a therapist, what does he say? Thanks!

In light, I would choose to end the relationship, especially if it impeded either one of us from going to heaven, or our children, or meant harm to our children. I can’t just go do that, however. I want to learn more about this and although I know we have learned tons of things (Seminars, Pairs, West, Dr. Harley, John Paul, etc have been a daily habit for us until my recent work/school schedule) I feel at a disadvantage here because there is no abuse in my family. How am I supposed to know how he feels, or what to do? What is wrong?

What are things I can do to learn more and make an informed decision?

I was looking at an archdiocese website but it is all for marriage enrichment, and I don’t want to come across as arrogant over something as serious as this, but none of the information offered is news to me, or things that we have struggled over.

Are there exercises, therapies, situations, talks, something that can be actively engaged in our relationship to determine the extent of influence his family history will have?

The coming of a child in marriage I have heard is a big trigger of past problems, but I am sure that is an unwise way to go about discovering more on this subject. :slight_smile: Hehe, just trying to be lighthearted here.

P.s. I checked the site and there are no listings for our state.

As for “What’s wrong with him”, please give him a hug for me, and let him know he’s done nothing wrong, but he, through a life-time of funky environment, has been programmed incorrectly. He has expectations of things which are not normal or healthy because this is what he’s known in his life.

Because of this, he likely doesn’t have the healthy response to an unhealthy situation. I would guess he doesn’t even notice how out of the norm some of the things that go on in his family really are. As such, he’d be less prepared to get out of situation that could be dangerous, either in the near term, or in the long term.

He will need to learn anew, like a person who has had a stroke and needs to learn to walk as an adult, how to deal with the world, most especially as it relates to matters of family, his family of origin and any new family he establishes.

If he were to start a family of his own right now, how will he handle his parents, new grandparents who will want to get to know their grand children?

How about aunts, uncles, cousins? What about family holidays and other get-togethers? What about those family members who are “mostly” healthy? Do you cut yourself off from them as well, or do you find yourself getting roped back into the family web (dealing with the charge of being “holier than thou” for extricating himself from the unhealthy environment?

It’s not about him being a bad person, it’s about having to learn the right way of dealing with an bad situation.

I think that it is possible that such a relationship, if you were both committed to making heaven your ultimate goal, could draw you closer to Christ. But there is always the possibility that one or the other of you will grow weary of the task. If either were to grow weak in the fight, there will literally be Hell to pay.


Contact your pastor, the diocese, or the local Catholic Charities. One, if not all, will have no problem referring you to a local Catholic Therapist. Also, check the back of your church bulliten, there may be a Catholic Therapist advertised on the back of there.

I know, CatholicTherapists is growing, but it still doesn’t help in many places.

I know a friend of mine was into Regnum Christi and she and her fiance went through a serious book on discerning marriage. They spent months going through it chapter by chapter. I don’t know the name of the book, but I believe it was written by the founder of Regnum Christi.

I would suggest you see if there is a religious order of faithful priests in your area and ask if they would be willing to provide you with spiritual direction.

A lifetime of abuse does not prepare you properly for leading the correct decisions in your life. You now have to decide to commit to learning how to be an adult in Christ.

Can you commit to this?

God Bless,


Take it from someone who has been there and done that–you need to think about your furture children right now and your own future. Marriage is a decision to be made with a clear head and not with misty eyes.

Do not try think to save him or help him heal. Do not expect he will improve because he may not and he may in fact get worse. He may get worse, as marriage can do that for those who have had their boundaries crossed and their borders broken. Marriage brings you closer, and to them it blurs the borders.

I talked earlier today to my sister who was crying and crying–her husband of ten years wants a divorce for reasons that go directly to his messed up childhood and nutty parents. Her with two small boys to raise and no job. Be ye warned.

Let him solve his problems on his own. It will take YEARS. Don’t spend your life on it. It isn’t going to profit you any and will only steal your life.

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