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My fiancé’s family is a full of abuse, manipulation and hoarding. Can we work?

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TLDR; my (26m) fiancé (26f) of 8 years (engaged for 3 years) has narcissistic parents (64m and 64f) and sisters (31f and 29f) who try to control her life through triangulation, manipulation, gaslighting and revenge and then started to do it to me when I moved in with them. I tried to help by doing handyman work but ended up reflecting the behaviour back on them when I would clean up a work site and throw away hoarded belongings. My fiancé and I almost split after they sought revenge. We have worked together to come back stronger for the past year but her family still has a hold of her life. I respect my fiancé and love the relationship we have built, but also do not know what to do as she separates from a cycle of abuse. 


My finacé and I have been together for 8 years. We met in university and spent the first 5 years of our life together in absolute bliss. I had been in several relationships before and this was my fiancé’s first relationship, but I knew this girl was the one. We matched each others interests, complemented each other’s personalities, loved whole heartedly, supported each other unconditionally, and trusted each with our most intimate thoughts and moments. I can count on one hand how many arguments we had on one hand in those five years and they were always ended with compromise or compassion. When we got engaged after being together for 5 years it was the happiest and most proud I have ever been. I saved every cent I made to pay for the ring I designed with her family jeweller. I was excited to start our careers and live the wonderful life we had planned for ourselves. The only weird thing was how her family individually called her everyday to check in or steer her directional life choices. One of the crazy stories she told me was that her family had bought a horse for her father while she was on a school trip. When she came back from the trip she found out the horse was now her responsibility, not her dads, and it was her responsibility to take care of. There were no questions asked, even thought it was a literal white elephant that solidified her financial reliance on her family. I thought it odd but I have never met wealthy folk before and she kind of played it off like it was not a big deal. (I would later learn she abhorred that her family would not respect her as an individual and her boundaries).


Because of the astronomical rent in the city she wanted to start her career in and I was continuing to finish a master’s degree at the university in that city, we 3 moved into her childhood home with her parents (63M and 63f) and her sisters (31f and 28f). I have always been a handy guy and her parents work very high status jobs, but have a lot of financial burdens (own multiple Properties, multiple horses, expensive hobbies and pay their adult daughters livelihood) and her sisters have never had partners or boyfriends, so I thought it would be a small contribution I could assist with work around the properties since they have fears of contractors and cleaners from previous experience. Mind you the houses are like a lite version of TLC Hoarders and the upkeep work has not been met for how old the properties are. So anytime I would complete a project I would tidy up an area. (Ie: first example I could think of was the laundry room; setting up shelves my fiancé’s mother always wanted up so I cleaned and organized the trash bags of socks along with any other garbage laying around) I would throw away broken items, ripped papers crumpled notes and the clutter. Being absent minded I accidentally threw away things of sentimental meaning whenever these purges would take place. I have since done a mountain of therapy and understand this was wrong and goes against my values. This became a repeated habit to such a point that I would not even care about throwing away their stuff and felt justified as it was not being used anyway. I feel vile when thinking back on how twisted my mind was moulded in that environment. Their interactions with me were not all of a sudden malicious, but a slow build of them  gaslighting me, belittling me, triangulating and attempting to control my choices in life, all of which should have been signs as I had seen them happen to my fiancé and expressed my concern. I did not handle this well and began deliberately throwing things away but the clutter never ended. I was told repeatedly I am part of the family and their house is my house. Despite abiding by that rule I let them utilize my belongings without asking, even when I asked to use theirs it was denied. After two more instances of me throwing things away I had a big talk with her family and told them it would end. What that really meant was that I gave up on helping around the house and accepted that no matter what I do things will not improve and that I just have to work hard to move out. Throughout this time her family introduced me to alcohol consumption with wine and other spirits readily around the house. Her father hand sister have always struggled with alcoholism and I fell into the same addictive cycle with the accessibility of the alcohol and the distress I was unknowingly experiencing as a negative coping mechanism.


Upon unpacking this with my therapist I have come to understand, after this behaviour happening a number of times I began reflecting that behaviour back on those doing it to me and gas lighting her family on facts in their life and when things would have gotten thrown out they were really just missing and would show up a day or two later. Where the current issue arises begins a year ago while my fiancé was on vacation outside the country visiting a childhood friend. One of the families multiple birds got brutalized in the night but I was out with university colleagues and didn’t spend the night at the family home so I did not know about this. They ended up blaming me and shockingly her mother then accused me of taking her wedding ring which had gone missing. All of which I know I was incapable of doing as I was not present in the house for the past 48 hours and had seen her with the ring before then. I denied everything as I genuinely did not know what had happened. I always felt like  family had never really liked me for what I represented (poor white trash) and I felt like were putting on a face, but with their daughter gone that mask was off and what was underneath was a sense of deep seeded loathing and that I was now trapped.


When my fiancé came back she was completely distraught and did not know how to handle the situation being presented to her. I did not either and for the first time in our relationship we fought and quite viciously. I am not proud of how I handled that situation, I should have just removed myself to diffuse it but I fought back with my fiancé attacking her families character and actions towards me as justification for why they were lying about me. She reminded me of all the time I threw stuff out and how I have become as bad as them for gaslighting. It did not end well with me planning on heading home for the holidays and leaving the relationship on a pause. While away I broke the entire situation down with my father and mother seeking their advice, being open and vulnerable to my faults and consequences of my actions. They helped me get my mind on right, I booked myself in with a therapist and psychiatrist to test me for any mental illness that could have caused this spiral of pain. I found an apartment within my budget to rent while I continued my studies and started my career. I began eating healthy, cutting out alcohol consumption and got myself sober. It was like hitting a reset button and coming back to the real world where things made sense. I felt like while living with my in-laws I became like them in all the negative aspect my fiancé dislikes and my fiancé transformed into a meek youngest daughter controlled by her family. 


After the holidays I moved into my apartment in the city and reconnected with my fiancé. I left her a present over the holiday to match her engagement ring I designed with the same family jeweller I had designed her engagement ring with which she could wear a necklace that would hold her rings around her neck while riding horses, going on hikes, cooking or any other activities that might end up hurting her finger while wearing it. I told her my plans for the near future and she agreed they were a good idea, I asked where we stood and she said she cannot trust herself nor me and she didn’t know what to do. I suggested couples therapy to establish if we can overcome this challenge and if so focus on our commitment to the betterment of our relationship, and taking a lie detection test to show I had nothing to hide. She agreed to both but I noticed she wore the ring on the necklace which was like a lance through the heart. The symbol of our love and commitment was not being displayed to the world. I understood and was empathetic as to why that might be and I did not bring it up. 


The lie detection test was a traumatizing experience for the both of us. It was like a police interrogation from a movie and designed to make you feel as uncomfortable and vulnerable as possible. The interrogator asked me three questions in various sequences and with different tones: 1. Did you steal her mother’s wedding ring; 2. Did you hurt the bird; 3. (I cannot remember the exact details of the third, but I believe it was about my commitment to the relationship). I passed my exam as truthful (no, no, yes) but some responses were deemed inconclusive upon multiple questionings. My fiancé being the empathetic and lovely person she is saw how traumatic it was volunteered to be done as well. She answered three questions I came up with: 1. Have you ever been unfaithful to our intimate relationship; 2. Could she ever see herself trusting and committing to our family more than your parents; 3. Does she believe that I hurt the bird and took her mother’s ring. Her responses were all initially true (no, yes, no) and were only inconclusive on repeated questioning. This I believe allowed for some objective truth to be shared and knowing that we could trust each other going forward.


Over the course of 2 months I underwent a psychiatric assessment. At the end of the testing I was confirmed by my psychiatrist to have mixed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which I had already known and this psychiatric assessment confirmed that I had  no other mental illnesses which was a huge relief. Throughout the past year we have worked with our couples therapist and individual therapist working through the trauma of the past, and developing communication strategies that have made me feel more secure, understood and like I have my partner back emotionally. We have gone on countless dates, make each other laugh, talk through difficult decisions and support one another when we are vulnerable. I feel like I trust my fiancé again and I love her with all my heart. My fiancé has branched out beyond her family to have hobbies beyond horse riding and is making friends which is something that makes me really happy to see. I feel and look the best I have in years (regular weightlifting, eating clean and not drinking alcohol will do wonders for the vanity muscles that unfortunately make my male brain extremely confident in my own self image). About 5 months ago she also started wearing her ring on her finger again instead of always on the necklace I designed and I felt my heart soar. I’m that time she also worked up the courage to set boundaries with her family and told them we are still together planning on getting married. We have even set up a marriage course through our church in preparation for the nuptials. 


My fiancé still lives with her family and since my new career pays very well my dog and I have an amazing apartment within walking distance of her family home. What troubles me is we have not been intimate in over a year, and that she talks of moving in but won’t commit. I have always expressed my affection more physically than anything else as I feel fulfilled reciprocating pleasure and it is an important aspect of a relationship in my opinion. In my apartment I have enough space for her to move her entire wardrobe, instruments, desk and other belongings with space to spare. Everytime she comes over she talks about the decor she would like to have set up and where things will go. She knows that it is her space too as she has her own key to come and go as she please. When I make the comment of her moving in however she lets me know that she just needs time, and the same thing for being intimate. 


I feel like I have done everything to better myself and practice my own autonomy as an adult, but that my fiancé is scared to commit herself and make a decision on the trajectory of her life. I do not believe it is my place to try and change her mind or act in a specific way. I understand that the trauma is  very real and that she is taking the steps to separate herself from an abusive home life. I also believe that I have to live my life and it has been on pause for so long that I almost feel like I have been wasting my time waiting for her to be ready. The other bit of me feels like I am the one holding her back and the problem would go away if I did. I know this isn’t true because she has expressed that she does not want me to leave her ever. That even if I did leave she would just be consumed by her family again and end up spinsters like her sisters. I also don’t know if I can raise my children with grandparents and aunts like my fiancés family. That scares me more than anything, what they might do to my future children. My therapist has been helping me gather resources and strategies to cope and deal with narcissistic in-laws (throughout our couples therapy we learned they are narcissists). I feel lost and that I met the girl of my dreams, built a life together, and now I am about to call it off because of her family. I hate that they have control over me like that still, and that I did not do better in the past. I hate myself for putting my fiancé through this and know I am to blame for my own actions. I do not want to give ultimatums but I think I when to make a decision on what I am going to do. 


If you read this whole mess that has been my adult life, I want to thank you for your time and only ask that your judgement be honest. I recognize my fault and there is nothing that you can say I haven’t already told myself. I would appreciate your advice and experiences to help me see how to best support my partner, and for me to move forward with my life.



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The problem is more you and your gf's major issue with boundaries than the family's wild chaotic mess.

I'm not sure why you allowed yourself to become completely enmeshed with these whackos and took on many of their dysfunctions to the point where your life was derailed.  Just because you live with drinkers should not "make" you become an alcoholic, for example.

Why use her "family jeweler" for the rings instead of just going out and finding what you think she'd love?

And why go through lie detector tests to "prove" that crazy people who are not you or your gf (or whatever she is at this point) are innocent?  

All of this is about your own weak to non-existent boundaries.  

Clearly she has serious boundary issues as well.  


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On 10/18/2023 at 9:14 AM, ApolloDisco said:

I met the girl of my dreams, built a life together, and now I am about to call it off because of her family.

No, it's not because of her family. It's because of her poor boundaries with her family. She can learn to detach from excessive interference from her family but she would have to want to do so and she would have to have a plan to do so (professional help, moving into her own apartment or into yours, etc.) She would have to be willing to risk potential temporary estrangement from her family. 

Has she said she wants to and is willing to do this?

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On 10/18/2023 at 12:14 PM, ApolloDisco said:

My fiancé still lives with her family and since my new career pays very well my dog and I have an amazing apartment within walking distance of her family home. What troubles me is we have not been intimate in over a year, and that she talks of moving in but won’t commit.

I skimmed through after the beginning since you wrote a novel. You can see the pattern, that her sisters still live at home at ages they should've left and don't have partners. So your gf is showing she's not really a romantic partner with you, failing to be intimate during an entire year, and has not taken steps to move away from the family home.

What you see is what you get. Don't ever stay when you will only be happy if things CHANGE in a major way. The knowledge of the present is fact. To risk your heart on an iffy, hopeful future is foolhardy. I'd get out now before investing any more time into nowhere-land.

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Moving in with her parents was a very bad idea. Narcissists want control and you were the perfect "victim" like that. Those stuff they did, accusing you and gaslight you, are just some tools they use. It was to be expected for them to chase you away as "unsuitable" for their daughter. And you gave them perfect opportunity by moving in with them.

Your fiance is not far from that either. You may view her as such, but she is also intertwined in their web. Apple doesnt fall far from the tree. If you need proof you can just look at her actions. And how she is still with her family instead of you, her fiance. And how she doesnt even want to move in with you. Sadly there is nothing for you there. And I suggest to try to make your life on your own.

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