Dear Margo: Time to Accept a Closed Door

Should I keep trying to find closeness with my distant sister? Margo Howard’s advice

Time To Accept a Closed Door

Dear Margo: My sister and I, two years apart, have always had a strained relationship. She considers me the favored one because I was the baby in the family. My sister had her first child a year ago this month. I have yet to meet my nephew. When she gave birth, she wanted our mother there, which I totally understand. After a few months, I tried to make arrangements to go see her and her new family, but was told each time they already had plans. She lives four hours away, so it would have to be a weekend excursion.

We were all going to get together at my mother’s, but she let it slip that she was just up at my sister’s for the christening at church. I was upset that I wasn’t invited and figured at that point that she really didn’t want me around.

My nephew is turning 1 this month, and I was invited to his birthday party, but I think that was just to keep the peace and she really hopes I won’t show up. I’m at a loss about what to do. Should I go and just deal with it, or is this relationship basically done? It’s sad, but I do recognize that once my mother passes on, there will be no reason for my sister to ever speak to me again, and I suspect she will do just that. — Wishing It Were Otherwise

Dear Wish: While I recognize your wish to have a relationship with your sister, it sounds like a rocky road. These things happen, which is why God invented friends. I have long thought that being related is an accident of DNA, and sometimes the blood ties bind us, and sometimes they don’t. I would go to your nephew’s birthday party, being as affable as you can, and see what the result is. If the visit does not feel comfortable or genuine, you will have a good hint about the future of the relationship. — Margo, fatalistically

When the Clan Is Crazy

Dear Margo: I married at 18. Shortly before my wedding, both of my parents died, leaving me with no living relatives. I looked forward to sharing life with my husband’s large, close-knit family. But the day after the ceremony, my new mother-in-law started a crusade to divorce me, not only from her son, but from her entire family. Instead of welcoming me, she immediately went to each family member with amazing lies about me. I never got the chance to know them, or them, me. His mother banned me from all family functions and forbid anyone to have contact with me. She insisted we move away to a rural area, isolated from them and everyone else.

On every holiday and on the day of every family event for the past 25 years, I have cried watching my husband drive off for a day of fun and memories with his family, leaving me alone. He says he cannot disobey his mother, especially now that she is terminally ill. After she’s gone, I’m hoping things will change and I finally will be allowed to join the clan. My husband feels that things should continue as they are, relishing the role of martyr. I never can discuss this with him, as he has an uncontrolled temper and has resorted to physical violence. Should I simply accept that I never will be able to call anyone family or even friend? Sadly, divorce is out of the question for many reasons. — Alone

Dear A: I must tell you that this may be one of the strangest letters I have ever received. That your husband (abusive, no less) would cave to his crazy mother and move and then go by himself to family functions for 25 years is beyond my comprehension. Was there no clue about this nuttiness before you married? Your apron-string tied husband sounds as bad as Mom, and I don’t know why you haven’t fled before now. If divorce really is impossible, I would live apart and make friends of your own. You do not have to remain an indentured wife. — Margo, sadly

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dear-margo.html. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.

COPYRIGHT 2012 MARGO HOWARD
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

Click here to follow Margo on Twitter

57 comments so far.

  1. avatar Karin Smith says:

    LW1: My thought is to attend the birthday party. If your sister is under the impression that you’re more favored than she, it might help to give her some special attention to let her know that you appreciate her and that she’s important to you. You could tell her how happy you are for her; or maybe mention something she did that meant a lot to you or something about her that you appreciate. (Just be sure whatever you’re saying is genuine and not b.s.) Then maybe ask her, “Is there something I’ve done to offend you or make you upset? I might have done something and not even known it. If I have, I’d like to know so I can apologize and try to make it right.”
    That way, you’re giving her a clear opportunity if she wants to have to a relationship with you; if she chooses not to accept your offer, at least you gave it a chance.

    LW2: Margo, she probably didn’t see this ‘nuttiness’ due to her young age when she married; and being deliberately isolated, she probably had no idea how to escape before now.
    Alone: I wouldn’t be surprised if your husband planned this from the beginning: marry you while you’re young, get his large family to establish lies about you, physically and emotionally isolate you, and physically & emotionally abuse you. You say that divorce is not an option “for many reasons” but I wonder how many of those “reasons” are based on things your husband has made you believe. With someone who is this controlling (and evidently comes from an equally controlling, abusive family), he has probably told you many things that are either partial or complete lies to make you think you cannot escape your situation. I would suggest contacting a women’s abuse center in your area and meet with them to discuss what’s going on. They can help you find a way out of this situation; you are NOT alone and there IS a way out of this.

  2. avatar beatrix_pierre says:

    LW2 I’m thinking you are not as isolated as you seem. After all, you have access to the Internet. It seems rather nutty that your husband is so devoted to his mother that he actually obeyed her command that you two live in a rural area. I guess you feel stuck to this abusive man and you married him because you had to. (Pregnancy, religion…?) I agree with Karin. Google for a women’s abuse center in your area and escape. After being isolated for over two decades, you may believe you cannot live on your own or you don’t have the skills to make it but there are programs. Get a hold of your life!

  3. avatar Brenda S says:

    For LW1, after your mother has died your sister may become closer to you than you think.  Siblings tend to compete with each other for their parents attention.  When that is gone, there is this phenomenon to where one feels that there is no one left and will try to pull closer to those they do have—be it siblings, cousins, friends whatever.
    For LW2, I agree with everyone else–get out.

  4. avatar Trish says:

    LW1: I agree with Margo, go to the party. You will probably lose all contact with your sister when your mother passes so any time spent with your nephew is precious. It happened in my family only it’s with my brother. I have 2 nephews I haven’t seen for 27 years. I was never invited to any of their milestones, heck I’ve never been invited to my brother’s home period.
    LW2: I’ve seen this letter before, I don’t remember where. If I remember correctly the advice was the same. Get the heck out of there…NOW! It’s hard to fathom you stuck around for 25 years! You’re only in your early 40′s there is time for you to go back to school, get that degree or GED and start a whole new life for yourself.

  5. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1: Go, but try to avoid any barbs, like “you’re such a big boy … such a pity I never saw you as a baby because mumsy wouldn’t let me.”

    LW2: You’re kidding, right? Does he tie you to the bedpost when he leaves? When drafting your next fake letter, try for plausibility.   

    • avatar toni says:

      Exactly. That was my reaction to LW2 as well. This letter is bogus.

      • avatar John Lee says:

        Naw, I don’t think it’s fake, it’s way too boring and plausible.  Controlling abusive husband with a crazier mother-in-law?  It’s like advice column 101.

        If the guy was also a secret agent who is on travel 80% of the time and then she caught him with his gay twin brother in bed, then I might think it’s fake.

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      This letter may be bogus, but implausibility does not make something untrue, particularly when dealing with the behavior of people. It may not be rational for a person to endure what the LW claims to have endured, but many abused persons have put up with similar situations in the past.

      If you don’t believe it, why even bother responding.

    • avatar mjd4 says:

      Sadly, this letter isn’t that implausible at all. There are people who were older and less emotionally vulnerable than this LW who find themselves unable to break out of abusive relationships without having to be tied to a bedpost. Many people then have little sympathy – Why didn’t s/he just leave?

      This letter could be fake, for all I know, but it isn’t implausible.

  6. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Margo hit the nail on the head for both letters today.

    Letter #2 – Came across as bizarre to say the least.  Her husband is playing the martyr? No Dear, you are. You write a letter that drips with the air of a woman being “put upon” without taking any responsibility for allowing others to control your life. Short of you being chained to a bolt within you home, you do have choices and you need to look in the mirror and accept the fact you have made poor choices.  I’m with Margo on this one, time to get yourself an apartment and begin to peel yourself away from all the dysfunction.

    Letter #1 - We never know for sure what is in another’s heart and can only judge people by their actions. To be sure this sister has shown she wants to separate from her sister. However, inviting the letter writer to the birthday party may have been a sincere olive branch, she truly won’t know until she goes and can see firsthand how she is treated.  Again, I’m with Margo, just because you share someone’s DNA doesn’t make you family. Close friends can be more of family to us than those born into our blood.

    You can’t force someone to love you and accept you. That is a lie we have told ourselves for eons. “We’re family….we should be able to connect”  No, indeed.  You can hate a family member and not want anything to do with them. And that’s okay. As painful as it may be to acknowledge, not everyone is going to love you….even family. 
        

    • avatar GabbyM says:

      I completely agree with you about LW1. My sister has always been a raging b****, even in high school. She was the main source of the rumours spread about me. When we moved out, we sort of became close because I thought we had to. Last year we had a giant fight and I got to say everything that had bugged me since high school and we haven’t spoken since. My mother doesn’t understand because she is very close to her 5 sisters. Not having to watch my sister treat her dogs better than her kids or listen to how the whole world is against her is a blessing. I am closer to my sisters-in-law than I ever was with my sister! My mother is constantly nagging me to make up, but I finally took Margo’s advice that not all family relationships are worth saving and couldn’t be happier.

    • avatar redhead says:

      LW#1You may not be close, but you did get the invite you wanted. Don’t fret about the baptism, some people don’t make a big deal out of it, and invited Mom just so she can see her grandbaby get baptized. Be nice, sometimes visits like this are paying it forward. You never know where a person is emotionally, and the smallest kindness can really change a bad perspective.
      LW#2 – Seems like a fake letter. And if it is true, grow a pair and get the hell out of there!

  7. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: I agree with Margo. Go, take a gift, see what transpires. Also, you apparently do want to see your nephew (finally); this is your chance. If you pass this up (awkward and difficult with your sister as it may be), you’ll regret it. Maybe it’ll result in a turnaround towards the better with your sister. I hope so. :-)

    L #2: Frankly I can’t imagine why you’d want to join this clan. Or stay married to this man (do you have children together?). If absolutely no roots were put down over the past 25 years, I’m hard put to figure how it’s going to happen now. I wouldn’t opt for “better late than never.” Your m-i-l sounds mentally ill, and … I’d just get out.

    • avatar dcarpend says:

      After 25 years it’s likely any children are at least old enough to be in high school.

  8. avatar tjl says:

    Letter 2 is exactly the same letter that was posted at Annie’s Mailbox on June 19. I’m thinking bogus.

    • avatar duranimal says:

      Actually if the LW was only 18 when she married and has been in an abusive marriage for 25 years, she’s probably been broken down psychologically and it really may not occur to her that she can get out. If she thinks anything is going to change when the MIL dies, she’s sadly mistaken.

    • avatar John Lee says:

      1.  Letter 2 is exactly the same letter that was posted at Annie’s Mailbox on June 19.
      2.  I’m thinking bogus.

      tjl – are those two statements meant to be connected?

      You’re not saying that because a letter shows up in two column, it must be bogus?  That doesn’t make any sense.

  9. avatar blueelm says:

    LW1 should go for the kid’s sake and pay a lot of attention, compliments, to her sister. Then leave and let it go. If her sister is that bitter, then what kind of person would she be to have in your life anyway? Trust me, if she’s that nasty of a person as she seems from your letter she’ll come running if she needs something and you can decide what to do at that point.

    LW2 Lord, girl. You sound a bit like me. You had a rough life and you seem not to have thought about yourself except that you don’t want to be “alone” despite the fact you’re being kept alone in order to keep you that weak. Your husband isn’t “caving” at all. He’s isolating you to keep you emotionally dependent so he can continue to own you, and abuse you. You’ll die alone unless you get out and get away, starting a new life, so it’s your choice. But until you leave that man you’ll never know what it feels like to be free, feel love, or have friends again.

  10. avatar toni says:

    LW1: after some distance your sis has reached out to invite you to the birthday party.
    You interpret this as pacifying and even a snub.
    She owes you (and you do seem to think you’re owed) NOTHING. Just go w a present and an open mind. The chip on the shoulder could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
    My siblings and I have all fallen apart. Even a small contact feels good and matters (when there’s no toxicity). Give her a chance wo thinking of it as toxic going in.

  11. avatar CMH1981 says:

    Hi, i’m LW1, and i’m a male.  There is more backstory that Margo had to leave out, which is understandable.  My sister and I have a typical older/younger sibling relationship, it can be hostile and we revert back to our old growing up ways after too much time together at family functions, as most do I assume.  Our parents are divorced, my dad and his side of the family live less than an hour from her, whereas my mother and I both live almost 4 hours away.  My sister has cut my dad and his side of the family out of her life altogether.  They have seen my nephew once, and that is all as she won’t allow them to see him any longer b/c she can’t take their drama, which I understand and respect her decision.  It puts me in the place that they want information from me in regards to her life, which I politely just ignore when they ask by saying I don’t know and to call her.  My sister recently moved to a new house that I only found out about b/c my mother slipped up and told me by accident.  When my sister found out she was mad at our mother, and called me to say not to tell our father or anyone else, that is also when I got the invite to the birthday party, but w/the stipulation that I was not to tell him or his side of the family as well, which I have honored.  My dad did find out about her move, only b/c he and his mother and sister stopped by her old house to drop off birthday gifts for my nephew and found out by the new owners that they moved.  I ended up getting the brunt of that by being accused of keeping that information from them, which again I feigned ignorance at by stating I didn’t know she had moved either.  I did end up going to the party for the day, I showed up an hour early so I could spend time w/my nephew and get to know him.  It was nice, he is very cute, and the funny thing is he looks like my dad’s side of the family much to my sisters displeasure.  The party was a typical party for a one-year old, mostly their friends and her husbands family, and then just me and my mother for my sisters side.  I stepped away after an hour due to needing some time where young kids were not running and yelling, so I went upstairs to sit on their deck.  The party ended and I went on my way back home.  A week later I called her up to tell her I enjoyed the party, and she asked me why I was snooping around her house that day.  I told her I wasn’t, and she informed me that some of her guests said they saw me go upstairs alone and looking around her house, which if looking at someones photos on a mantle is snooping then i’m guilty.  She told me that I was awkward the entire time at the party and made her and her husband feel uncomfortable and he told her that I was no longer welcome at their house.  I apologized for my actions, I am an introvert, and didn’t really know anyone so I kept to myself.  I haven’t talked to her since, I have sent a few texts asking how they were doing, and how the holidays were, she responds, cordially.  Just an update and more information on this strained family dynamic

    • avatar bright eyes says:

      I feel for you. My family dynamic isn’t quite that bad, but I can see how your sister’s mind works – I see the same dynamic in my mother. Everything done is a slight- no matter how small or insignificant – everything is against her. There are very few things that she can not or will not see a slight in. I have seen a tiny little thing turn into huge arguments because of this but I know that I can’t change it. I have adjusted the flow of information that way I won’t be caught in the middle. I do see how what you describe – don’t tell this family member this or that – puts you in the middle but also how it can make your sister paranoid. I find myself being guarded with what I tell my sister because of how my mother will react if she finds out what I said and I have to temper what I say to my mother because my mother will then misinterpret into something that was said or done against her.
      I’d check in now and then – send cards to your nephew when he gets a bit older and visit when you have the chance. I wouldn’t push for more than she is willing to give, try to visit at times that wouldn’t be stressful for her and if she doesn’t want you staying at her house, see if there is a hotel nearby that you can stay at. Make your visits brief or plan outings that don’t have to be at her house – invite them to lunch in a park or some other neutral territory. But a frank discussion would be nice. If you could talk with her alone and tell her that you know how she feels about the rest of the family and that you are not a willing go between – supplying them information that she would rather them not have – then maybe she can start to see you as being stuck in the middle and not as someone who is watching every move or looking at every thing and then reporting back to the family members.

    • avatar Dorisan says:

      Is there anything appealing about your sister? As you write it, she blames you if any unwanted info gets back to your father; she uses the same call to blast you to issue a birthday invitation; her response to your call to tell her you enjoyed the party was to level accusations against you. And I’m wondering what sort of description she might have given to her guests if they were keeping an eye on you to report your behavior back to her.

      Lordy.

      Your one faux paux at the birthday was probably that you didn’t excuse yourself properly “Sis, would you mind if I stepped out to your lovely deck for a breather?” It’s something she should have expected of her guests anyway, if they had gone for a smoke or something. I suppose her current paranoia that you are a flying monkey for your father’s side of the family makes her think you are doing hench work for them.

      If you are staying out of the business between your sister and your father, you’ve stated that to your sister, an she doesn’t believe it, there’s not much you can do. You seem to have made the appropriate gestures toward her and your nephew and been rebuffed. You may just have to accept that she doesn’t want to have a relationship.

      If you still want to make that effort, one thing I do advise is to let your sister know, in plain terms, that you are not acting as a mole for your father’s side of the family. Tell your father to not ask anymore questions about his daughter; her assumptions that you are supplying information has been a factor in your break. Quit with the sidestepping: “politely just ignore”; “again I feigned ignorance” …. just be blunt. Frankly, her making accusations and seeming to not believe your innocent protests would p.ss me off if it was my sister. I know that the conversation would probably devolve into a flat out brawl if *my* sister didn’t take it back. That’s just damned insulting.

      IMO, close sibling relationships are a bonus in life, not an assurity. Once you become adults there can be so many contrary factors to overcome, taking the work and cooperation of BOTH parties. If you are willing to do your part, but she isn’t, you really can’t force the issue.

    • avatar martina says:

      It’s difficult to be put in the middle of others disagreements and enstrangements.  I have a bit of this going on between my one sister and one brother.  You have to be so careful about what information to give or not to give.  I feel for you.  If I were you, I’d just drop the relationship with your sister – it isn’t worth the aggravation.  I say time and again that you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family and just because they’re family doesn’t mean you have to put up with them.  If you do drop your relationship with your sister, try to be understanding of your mother because it puts her in a difficult situation also as to what she can and cannot say to whom and who to spend the holidays with.

    • avatar Trish says:

      You sound like a kind and decent man. Your sister is the one with the problem and should be the one writing to Margo. I pray life will be good to you from here on out.
      Best wishes to you.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      If I were in your position—I would write myself a list of things my sister has done for me and the number of times she has made me feel valued and loved in the last five years.

      I would hang this list (or in your case, a blank sheet from the sound of it) on the refrigerator, and every time I felt the urge to call or do something for her—I would re-read my list.

  12. avatar mb says:

    LW 1 never said anything about what she had done to make contact after the baby was born, or even before the baby was born, except try to visit several months after the birth . Did she send a baby gift when the baby was born? Did she send a christening gift? When she proposed her “weekend visit”, did she expect to stay with her sister who had a newborn, or did she plan to stay in a hotel? There is no mention of what she did to celebrate the fact that her sister was pregnant, gave birth, or that there was a new addition to the family. She only stated what SHE had not been given, which was apparently an invitation to the christening and a welcome mat for a weekend visit. She’s been invited to the birthday party. Maybe if she actually shows up with a nice gift and a good attitude, she will be invited more. And if she never did give a gift for the baby being born, or for the christening (you don’t have to be invited to give a gift, especially if the family knows that, if invited, you plan to stay with them) then she should come with something nice, like a handmade baby blanket (these are not hard to make) and say she has been working on it and now it is finally finished. Maybe she did do something other than sit around and wait to be invited to things, but she did not mention it. Sometimes, the baby of the family never grows up, and still expects to not have to do the basics in order to have a relationship, as she is used to being catered to and not having to be a friend to others.

    • avatar mb says:

      So, you are a male. Oops. But still, did you send a gift when the baby was born? Did you send a gift when she was pregnant? Did you expect that you would stay with them on your weekend excursion several months after the baby was born? Why did you wait a week to call them after the party? Did you even bring a gift to the party?

      • avatar CMH1981 says:

        I did send a gift for the baby when he was born, the entire Dr. Seuss collection and a stuffed Cat in the Hat and Kermit the Frog.  I loved to read, our mother is a teacher and I believe that books are an important thing for children, whether it is reading or being read to.  I didn’t expect to stay w/them, if they offered fine, if not I would have stayed w/my father or got a hotel room.  I didn’t call the day after the party b/c we don’t have that type of relationship where we speak daily or once a week.  I also got him Christmas gift(S), as well as gift(S) for his birthday.  Is it a rule that you have to give a gift for every milestone in regards to a birth? 

      • avatar Annie H says:

        This is in reply to CMH1981 just in case this doesn’t end up where it is supposed to. Your sister is being a self centered drama queen.  That has a chip on her shoulder that is of her own making. No matter what you do, she will not be happy.  I have a sister that is the same way.  You can be extremely nice, throw her a party, and do whatever she wants and she will still find something to complain about.  In this case, it was that you went somewhere in her house without her.  My point is she would have found something to complain about and would have used it as an excuse to say you aren’t welcome in her home. If you want to send your nephew gifts, go ahead but I wouldn’t expect a thank you or anything in response.  By the way, you are not required to send people gifts for every little milestone.    I don’t know why people think you do.  If you want to send a card instead, that is acceptable. As sad as it is, you might have to write off the relationship and move on.  It sucks but you cannot beat yourself up over things you cannot control.

      • avatar bright eyes says:

        Annie H – I totally agree. I’ve done the same thing – given presents but never got any back. I send cards but never get any back. I make phone calls but get rushed off the phone, so now I know the dynamic at work and deal with it. I send presents with no expectations – or really the expectation that I will never hear about the present again. I send cards not expecting any in return. I call and leave messages with no expectation of being called back. And I do send cards for every tiny occasion – just because I want the kids to feel special and that someone is thinking of them.
        I also feel that because I don’t expect any reaction – that I am much more at peace with the things I do. I am much calmer because I am not upset when the phone goes unanswered.

      • avatar mb says:

        To CMH – if you sent a gift when the baby was born, and you did not expect to stay with them, then I think something is wrong with your sister. Sadly, sometimes family, like Margo said, is just dna. And as far as rules for gifts go, no of course it is not a “rule,” but if you want to let someone like your own sister know that you are happy for her upcoming child, a gift when her child is born is a great way to do it. And coming to a birthday party for a child empty-handed is not a great idea IMHO. This is completely different than adults who expect fireworks on every birthday, or throw themselves showers, or other greedy bids for gifts. The birth of a child is a big deal to the people who are doing the birthing, (or the adopting,) and acknowledging it with a gift to the child is, to my mind, the polite way to go.

        But it sounds like you did everything you could – sent a gift when the kid was born, expressed interest in seeing the child, sent x-mas gifts, came to the birthday party with a gift, did not expect to stay with them, called after the party to say thank you. (a bit long after; party thanks are usually delivered the following day, but not a big deal.)

        So, you are not doing what sometimes happens with the youngest sibling, where they never learn how to be a friend or a brother because they have been catered to all their life and never had to give back. It just sounds like, sadly, though you have done everything you could, your sister is not receptive.

        I encourage you to try to stay in touch with your nephew all the way into his adulthood, no matter how badly your sister behaves. It sounds like he is going to need a sane male presence in his life, especially if your sister, horror of horrors, actually is already indicating that she is unhappy that your nephew looks like your father’s side of the family. I had to do this with my nephews, whose mother is crazy. I kept up contact until they were 18 and could do it on their own, and took them places age appropriate, like kayaking or movies, when she would let me. It was important for them to have a sane adult in their lives, and we are all glad we have a connection even though it was hard sometimes over the years to circumvent her nastiness. Good luck!

      • avatar G T says:

        There it is: “I didn’t expect to stay w/them, if they offered fine, if not I would have stayed w/my father”

        I think this is the crux of everything. There is no way you could have feigned ignorance if you see your sister and her kid and then go stay at your father’s at the end of each day. Your sister already knows your mother is a blabbermouth. She has no real assurance that you won’t accidentally blab either. She knows you stay in contact with dad’s side. Add to that you two never really seemed to get along in the first place.

        I’m sure she guessed you would stay with dad if you came to visit her overnight. No doubt they would have incessantly grilled you PLUS made a rash of calls to her of “how come he gets to visit but not us”. These are things that can send a new mother with a tiny infant over the edge and she chose to avoid all of it en masse rather than spend time and energy she didn’t have trying to referee it all.

        Because you choose to keep in contact with your father’s side (which is your right), she simply does not trust you (judging you by the company you choose to keep), which is her right.

        You also seem to want your relationship to your sister to magically be at an 8 or 9 level, although by your own admission it has always been strained, no doubt for a myriad of reasons. She wants your relationship to be at a 2 or 3 level, no doubt to keep drama to a minimum. As in any friendship/relationship, the level is determined by the person who wants the least, not the person who wants the most. So yes, you are stuck with a distant relationship with your sister. However, it seems she has not written you off completely, but is keeping you at arm’s length. I would say that is all you can hope for. You can keep the door open, as you have been doing, but not try to push her into giving you more.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        Sadly, that’s not a relationship—that’s “let me maintain enough contact with you in case I ever need money or a bone marrow transplant.”

        There are people you could be spending your time with now who would appreciate your company and actually make you feel welcome at their house. And you can always try to volunteer as a Big Brother to children if you’d like to experience that dynamic. Chasing after your sister and waiting for her to throw you a breadcrumb of tolerance every so often is both dysfunctional and very unhealthy for you.

      • avatar angelmother3 says:

        Several comments resonated with me, but this one really hit the nail on the head. My parents’ son (it will become apparent why I do not call him my brother) told me publicly, right after our mother died (our father had died a few years before) that he hated me because – get this – I am older, and he wants me dead. Two of my sisters cut off all contact with him, as of course did I; one sister kept tolerating his verbal abuse of her because she felt sorry for him that he had no family. After a few years, the two sisters went behind my back and started befriending him again. They don’t need my permission, but I just would’ve liked the warning. They all are a bunch of gossips, and none of them can keep a confidence. Who knows what they would tell him, that I had told them? One of them has a little girl I’ve never been invited to see, and the other told me she wants to keep me around in case she ever needs advice. The comment about money or a bone marrow transplant really hit me. Transplant, advice, it’s all the same, and it’s not “just because I love you.” Oh, and did I mention that the one with the unseen (by me) baby was losing her house and her car and her pets, and my family and I bailed her out? And now we’re ostracized. I send birthday emails a few times a year, and never hear back, but you know what? After reading these comments, I’m not going to do it anymore. My husband and I and our children have friends, who have “been there” for us. They are our family now. These DNA-people can forget it. Margo is right!

      • avatar bright eyes says:

        mb – the gift is not the most important thing. I have a nephew who I’ve never seen, he’s 2 now. I send my nephews presents and cards all of the time. That has nothing to do with why I haven’t seen them. In this case it’s a double edged sword that has now been dropped. By that I mean that I am always the one making the effort for my nephews, yet his aunt ‘forgets’ his birthday which is the same month as one nephew, but my son doesn’t get a card, present or phone call. She’s ‘forgotten’ to get send him something for Christmas for the past few years. No it’s not an income thing -she frequently tells me of the presents she buys for other family members. And no, I don’t punish her kids for her lack of – whatever – I just no longer ask my son to help pick out presents and now I understand that I will buy and wrap the presents from his aunt.
        And I am the baby of my family – so I have an issue with your last remark – but I’m the one who gathers my family. I’m the one who plans events and gets everyone together for the holidays. I’m the one who makes the effort to do something – whether for birthday, Christmas or 4th of July. I do silly/goofy things to make them all feel special and arrange things that they’d never think of. My son’s birthday is coming up and he will feel like the luckiest kid in the universe by the time I’m done :-)
        I don’t think that just because you’re the youngest that means you are any less adept at making the effort towards having a relationship with your family members or other people.

      • avatar mb says:

        I said sometimes the youngest does not learn how to give back. Not always. Great that you did.

  13. avatar CMH1981 says:

    I apologize, i’m coming off hostile in responding to others.  I didn’t mean to.  If I come off feeling entitled and that i’m owed something, from her, or anybody for that matter, I don’t mean to.  I’ll stop replying to others comments.

    • avatar mb says:

      No, you are fine. I did not think your comments were hostile at all, unless I missed one.

    • avatar K Coldiron says:

      From where I sit, you are a nice man with a terrible, awful, no-good, very bad sister. I sincerely wish you all the best.

    • avatar bright eyes says:

      I didn’t think it was hostile – but then I realize that there is a gap where tone and facial expression would fit in – when using e-mail or typing on a comment. You gain response time, but you lack the visual cues that help you figure out if someone is kidding. :-) Thanks for responding with more info!

  14. avatar ilovemypillow says:

    Something must be wrong – there’s no comment today from Briana Baran dramatically stating how her life is the most miserable ever lived.

    • avatar Trish says:

      I agree. I scrolled down looking for it. LOL

    • avatar toni says:

      I thought the same thing!! Usually I don’t pay much attention to names til I read the post. And if a post is self indulgent and unending I always know who the name is going to be when I look back.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Ladies, seriously? Were these remarks necessary?

    • avatar LandofLove says:

      I find Briana’s posts to be interesting and thought-provoking. She’s had to deal with some major difficulties in her life, but I’ve never seen her say that “her life is the most miserable ever lived.” Why do you say that?

  15. avatar dcarpend says:

    LW2: What’s going to happen if you divorce him? Hit man? You can, but it takes some preparation.

    Start buying gift cards in modest amounts every time you go to the grocery store, WalMart, Target, etc. Stash them somewhere safe, preferably not in your home — I have a feeling he has cut you off from friends, so a safe deposit box would be ideal. Also make copies of important papers — your birth certificate and SSI card, especially.

    How to get a safe deposit box? The next time he goes off to a family event on a non-holiday (someone’s birthday or the like), first go rent a PO box, so you have a private place to receive mail. Then go to the bank and open a box; a small one will run in the neighborhood of $50/year. Make sure you use your new address to rent the box, so any mail from the bank goes there.

    After a few months, you should have a modest cushion built up to allow you to buy groceries and other essentials when you first leave.

    Now,the following time he goes to a family event on a non-holiday, make an appointment with the best divorce lawyer in your area. Initial consultations are generally free, but ask to be sure. Go get clear on what you can expect in the way of financial support and community property. Ask, too, about what other documents you should have copies of. Also go talk to the people at the local domestic abuse shelter, just to get an idea of what sort of support you might be able to get.

    Another great resource is the public library, though rural ones may be small. Still, any public library in the country can access any book in any other public library in the country through interlibrary loan. I have never been charged for this service. In particular, read The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. The library also will very likely have public computer terminals you can use without fear your husband will discover what you have been researching — like divorce lawyers and domestic violence shelters.

    Do you see what you’re doing here? You’re getting your ducks in a row, bit by bit. You’re not leaving yet, you’re feeling out the options. No obligation to act on them, but knowing what is possible is the first step.

    Please remember that the most common time for abuse to escalate is when you leave, or the abuser discovers you’re planning to leave, which is why this stuff needs to happen while he’s with his family. I made that “hit man” crack above, but it may be that you’re afraid to leave because you’re sure he’ll hunt you down and kill you. Be careful. But still, what you have right now is a living death. Please, move forward, just one baby step at a time.

  16. avatar Elsie Terrier says:

    Letter # 2: You do not have a husband.  You have an abuser.  So, wake up and do something.  Surely this is not the way you itend to live the rest of your life.  Like a previous commenter wrote, take responsibility for your part and say enough is enough.

  17. avatar mayma says:

    Talk about burying the lede. LW2, your husband hits you and you’re worried about what his mom thinks? Getting away from the domestic violence should be your number one priority right now. Call 1−800−799−SAFE(7233). (Truly, Margo should have numbers like these at the ready.) That you are even the slightest bit interested in being accepted by his mean mother, or him, indicates that you are not thinking straight. It will take time AND HELP to get 25 years of that kind of thinking straightened out, but why not start now?

  18. avatar MisterMan says:

    I want to raise a few things from the LW #1 update in the comments section.  Why is your sister taking the word of other guests about what you did or did not do?  Also, why is her husband rushing to mention that you are not welcome in their home and that you made both of them uncomfortable?  You sound like a really good guy.  Here’s what I think: your sister is one of those people who value friends more than family.  Furthermore, I think she is one of those people that thinks their spouse (and said soouse’s family) is so awesome that they forget about their own family.  Also, another piece is that I think that her husband is controlling.  Why should he get involved in your sister’s dealings with her family? I think you made a good effort to salvage this relationship.  However, it appears that she does not want to have a relationship.  I hope that you go on and find someone special that you can build your own family unit with. 

  19. avatar carrantyson says:

    Remy Echthaar :

  20. avatar impska says:

    Lw1: I think when you finally decide to let this relationship go, you’ll be surprised at just how easy it is. It’s ok to admit that you just don’t get along with your sister. And it’s ok to leave it behind and not deal with the emotional turmoil involved in trying to get her to like you.

    LW2: My advice is basically the same for this LW too. I think that if she leaves this man, she will realize just what a relief it is. Given her age at marriage and details in her letter, I strongly suspect that she is financially tied to this man. But what has happened to her is sad and not at all normal. If she had been older and more experienced when she got married, she might have realized that this isn’t a normal marriage. Nevermind the mother in law – the husband is the abuser. He clearly went along with the lies (maybe he even told some himself), he has clearly isolated his wife. I wonder if the MIL was ever even involved, or if he just blamed her for what he was doing. She probably is somehow – after all, men like that don’t just spring from the ground.

    But the truth is, leaving with the clothes on her back and going to a women’s shelter is probably a happier situation for her than what is going on. I hope she comes to her senses and just walks away. Walk away and get some legal aid for a divorce. Because I can only imagine that the day she sits down on her own bed, in a one-room apartment on welfare and foodstamps will be her first day of freedom and happiness in a very long time.

    She’s only 43. Truly, there’s so much more life to live. It will be sad if she does this for another 25 years.