DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother-in-law has a boyfriend who continuously treats her like trash. She kicks him out of her home once every few months, but he always ends up back in the house -- it’s a toxic cycle. It is hard for me to keep watching her take him back, but I don’t want to overstep. What can I say to help her understand that she needs to leave this man for good? -- Protective Daughter
DEAR PROTECTIVE DAUGHTER: Years ago, I was in an abusive relationship. What I remember for myself and what I have witnessed in others is that the abuser seems to have the ability to control your mind somehow in these situations. Reason leaves you, and what seems obvious to others is not so clear to you. In my case, it took living with my sister and not wanting her to see how horrific this relationship was for me to leave. He tried to get me to come back for years, but thank God I never did.
You do not have any power in this situation. Your mother-in-law is blinded by whatever spell her boyfriend has cast upon her. You can tell her you love her and want her to be happy and safe. You can tell her that it hurts you to see her suffer with this man. You can tell her you want her to have peace and happiness by herself or with someone who respects her. You can encourage her to look in the mirror to see who she has become because of being with this man. You should not tell her what to do or demand that she leave him. She must come to that conclusion on her own.