My wife and I have three daughters, ages fourteen, twelve, and nine, who complain that their mother physically and verbally abuses them when I’m not home. But they beg me not to say anything to her because she will take it out on them when I’m not home….

I don’t know what to do. I’ve thought of leaving my wife and taking the girls with me, but I don’t know if that’s the best solution…. I’m worried about the psychological well‑being of my girls, because they’ll grow up with the problem of not wanting to tell anybody what’s going on when I’m not home.

Dear Friend,

We commend you for having such a close relationship with your girls! It is wonderful that they are comfortable sharing their thoughts and secrets with you. This close relationship with them is certainly positive for their psychological well‑being.

On the other hand, we can’t help but notice that your relationship with your wife must not be a very close one. The fact that you have considered leaving her indicates that the two of you have other areas of conflict in your relationship and that your marriage is not what you would like it to be.

It is very difficult for us to be able to advise you about your specific situation because we have questions that we are not able to ask you. The two most important questions for you to ask yourself are whether all your girls always agree regarding the details that they tell you, and whether all of them are equally concerned about the way their mother treats them. If one girl seems to always be the one who talks to you about her mother (with the others just agreeing, but not having much to say), then you need to speak to each girl alone and question her long enough to be able to decide whether there are any discrepancies in their stories. Although your girls may never lie to you, their perceptions of events may not be completely realistic, and their attitudes may influence their memories of what happened. If their stories are completely consistent with one another, and if all the girls seem equally concerned, then it is important for you to take action.

Here are some possibilities for you to consider: Go home unexpectedly at different hours of the day. If this is impossible for you, then get a close relative or friend to go to your home unannounced. Find a reason for a different friend or relative to stay for a few days or weeks in your home. Any adult who you trust can serve as a corroborating witness to what is going on.

You do not say that you are worried about the girls’ physical well‑being, so we assume that there have been no marks on their bodies as evidence of physical abuse. This leads us to believe that the girls are not in a life or death situation, which is why we are advising that you move slowly and carefully.

Is your wife verbally abusive to you? Does she have outbursts of anger? Does she display behavior that is consistent with the reports from your girls? If so, you can speak with her about these issues without revealing the girls’ secret. And you can go together to a professional counselor and discuss your marriage issues (beginning with poor communication and lack of trust) as well as your concerns about her behavior.

Ask God to give you the wisdom you need to resolve this problem as well as the other problems in your life.

We wish you well,

Linda and Charles