My brother had a massive stroke a few years ago (in his 40's at the time). His wife tends to be loud, controlling, and condescending. I've often felt as though she's trying to make me, and others, feel like 2nd class citizens. She has said many unkind things about my brother, and is quick to lose her temper, not just around him but in general. In what seems entirely unfair, she's also very successful at her job. For many years, we all overlooked this behavior. I guess in an effort to keep peace, but also, I think no one wanted to take her on. So, we just sort of rolled our eyes and moved forward. My brother is very funny, and frequently made jokes about it all. Then, he started having strange symptoms. She didn't take any of them seriously, and even spoke about them with disdain. Shortly thereafter, he had a massive stroke, that has left him debilitated in many ways. A few years after that when my mom was very ill, and close to the end of her life, she voiced her concern about my brother's state, and how he wasn't treated well. During this awful period when she was so ill, she spoke more frankly and openly about this and other issues than I'd ever heard her speak before. Trying to acknowledge her worry, but also to relieve her mind a little, I mentioned that my sister in law took perfect physical care of him. I'll never forget the look on her face after I said that. She just looked at me very soberly, and said 'well, there's more to life than that.' In a way it was validating because for years, every time I mentioned how unkind she'd been to my brother, me, or my parents, everyone just ignored me, or said 'yeah, but she's so organized and wonderful in other ways.' Finally, someone admitted how awful this person was!!!! But, it has left me wondering if her cruelty could've brought on a stroke. I should also mention that there was an auto accident, many years prior to the stroke, with an ensuing subtle decline in my brother's abilities. I know no one has the answer to our particular family issue, but just wondering what others thought about or had experienced in regard to spouses of manipulative people having poor health. Is this real, or my imagination?

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There is medical research showing that living with hostility/anger in a marriage, or, I think, any significant relationship, has effects on the mental and physical health of the spouses. It is hardly surprising. This, I believe applies to the long term effects of stress, not an individual event. And then the lifestyle choices of any person, which include their choice of spouse, play in too.

I read the book "When the Body Says No. The Cost of Hidden Stress" by Gabor Mate, who relates unresolved emotional issues to illnesses such as cancer. It was very interesting and an encouragement to resolve our issues.

I certainly believe that the stress of living with mother affected my father's health, but, he also made some bad choices which contributed to his illnesses.

suzeeQ - You Can't Go Home Again - Thomas Wolfe, “Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going. Don’t freeze up.”
- and even if you could, it may not have been as good as you remember.
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You are right, he did take her as his wife, and I guess I should just be satisfied with that and stop my bellyaching. I wish I had the family we had before my sibs married bossy domineering people. Oh well. Onward and forward. Stupid and cheerful. 
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My health improved dramatically once I separated from my overbearing husband.

I'm sure you are right to feel that living in the stress of a difficult relationship can exacerbate health problems. I don't think the theory that your SIL's cruelty - really? Is cruelty the right word? Isn't she more just a highly disagreeable person to have in the room? - brought on your brother's stroke is likely to hold water, or to bring you much comfort.

I heartily blame my SIL for my mother's stroke. It makes me feel better to have someone to curse. But then again, my mother has passed away and I no longer have any contact with my brother or my SIL, so my conscious irrationality can do no one any harm... except possibly myself. I'm working on it.

Your brother did knowingly take this woman to wife, you know.

Have you ever had a heart-to-heart with him about how he feels?

It might also be worth pausing for thought about what could be behind SIL's domineering personality. She'll have her own crosses to bear, for sure, that you may know nothing about.
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This is just anecdotal, I suppose, but my uncle was the meanest, cruelest most appallingly SOB I have ever had the misfortune to meet. He was married to my dad's sister, the absolute opposite of him in every way. She was an angel on earth.

This man was terrifying to be near, he was loud, obnoxious, abusive to his kids and his wife---and she just took it. Scared me my whole life.

Late in her 40's Aunt developed breast cancer. She treated and was in remission for 5 years. Then the cancer came back, very aggressively and she was gone in 6 weeks. Age 51, I think, if even that.

When this uncle died (and he had worked in education for 40 years) only 25 people were at his funeral, 14 of them were his kids and grandkids. A very few were neighbors and then the funeral directors, maybe 4 of them. His "service" lasted 20 minutes. Nobody had a single "good thing" to say about him.

Personally, I think the stress of living with him is what killed my aunt. No way to prove it, of course, but meanness saps the soul--who knows what it does to the body?
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