Author Topic: I'm running out of sympathy and tired of listening to the venting  (Read 5339 times)

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Shortylicious

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My sister is in an unhappy marriage. Her marriage has broken down to the point where they only communicate to argue. She has tried to work on their issues for over 4 years (with therapists) only to be told time and time again from him that she has mental issues and she needs to change. He finds no fault at all in himself. Her children are growing up in a very caustic environment and have begun to display aggressive and confrontational behavior. I have been a sympathetic ear for years and have tried to be the support she needs. However, I am quickly coming to the end of my patience. I'm tired of every single conversation being about her marital problems. If I try to bean dip and then talk about anything else, she'll find a way to get it back to her or she'll end the conversation. I have asked her how much more she's going to take but she never has an answer. And I have secretly wondered if she stays because she likes the attention her misery garners. So, what is the etiquette of cutting off someone who is in need of emotional support? What do I say? How do I approach this?

TurtleDove

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Re: I'm running out of sympathy and tired of listening to the venting
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2013, 11:45:11 AM »
This is a tough situation that doesn't have a hard and fast answer because so much depends on what outcome you want.  Here is what I would do (which may or may not be what you should do depending on what outcome you are comfortable with):

I would bluntly tell her that you cannot be her sympathetic ear any longer because she seems to not be helped by your attempts to comfort/counsel her and her misery is dragging you down.  She will likely be angry and turn against you, but that doesn't mean you have done anything wrong.  Yes, she needs emotional support, but it cannot be from you any longer because YOU are starting to need emotional support simply due to the strain and stress she is bringing into your life. 

Take care of yourself and let her know that you would love to be able to help her but since you apparently are not able to, you need to disengage.

Best wishes!

Arudolph74

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Re: I'm running out of sympathy and tired of listening to the venting
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2013, 11:51:17 AM »
Ah, the martyr.  I had a very close friend who was the same way.  She had an incredibly disfuntional relationship.  She would cry and vent constantly about it.  It was the only time she called me.  F
inally I told her that as much as I loved her, I had given her all of the advice that I could give.  She could either do something about the situation, or she could continue to complain and do nothing, however if she chose to do nothing then I was no longer available to hear the venting.  She tried a few more times, but I repeated that if she wasnt going to do anything to change the situation, then I did not want to hear about it.  She eventually stopped coming to me about her relationship.  She found new people to vent to, but never made any change to the relationship.  I decided she must be getting something out of the sympathy she received.

Winterlight

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Re: I'm running out of sympathy and tired of listening to the venting
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2013, 12:06:42 PM »
"You already know what I think. Let's talk about something else."

There's a difference between "needs support" and "refuses to take any steps forward" and I think she's over it.
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scansons

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Re: I'm running out of sympathy and tired of listening to the venting
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2013, 12:11:02 PM »
I went through a situation like this with my sister.  It's hard.  You have my sympathy.  Mostly I started pulling back.  I'd put a limit on how long I would listen, and then I'd end the conversation.  I wouldn't call her, I let her call me.  Gradually, I worked the time down to less and less. When she finally asked, I told her I loved her, but I couldn't help her with the situation, and that while I was always there if she needed something food/shelter/ gas, the constant barrage was bad for me and I could only imagen how bad it was for her. 

She wasn't  thrilled, but we still have a good relationship.  She got a divorce and moved on.  And I honestly think making her deal with it on her own, and not just complain to me, helped her finally take action.  Although at the time I felt terrible. 


((((hugs)))))

cicero

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Re: I'm running out of sympathy and tired of listening to the venting
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2013, 12:16:52 PM »
wow - are you my sister? that sounds like our other sister's marriage...

It's tough because your sister is in a very vulnerable place. I like what Winterlight suggests, brief and to the point. you might say also "if and when you are ready to take the next steps, I will support you in any way I can but I cannot support this situation any longer"


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Oh Joy

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Re: I'm running out of sympathy and tired of listening to the venting
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2013, 12:35:24 PM »
Have you tried, 'Do you want me to listen or do you want me to help?' Then when the answer is to listen, look at your watch and enthusiastically say, 'OK.  Three minutes.  Say anything you want and you have my complete attention.  Go!' 

Piratelvr1121

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Re: I'm running out of sympathy and tired of listening to the venting
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2013, 01:29:26 PM »
I've known people like this as well and would distance myself when they didn't show any real attempt to put an end to things.   My mother was one of them, but anytime I said "Well just get a divorce!" She'd say "We're Catholic, we don't divorce!"  Now I'd accept that if she was a devout Catholic, but she wasn't.  As soon as I went off to college she and dad stopped going to mass, and once her mother passed, that was the end of attending mass while visiting her house.  Not to mention her youngest sister divorced and Grandma managed to get it annulled.    It was just another excuse for not having to do anything.

Another was a friend of DH's.  She couldn't stand her husband before they were even married, but she stuck with him and even after they got married and had 3 kids, she was still talking about leaving him, last I saw her.

It's very annoying when someone just wants to complain and refuses to do anything about it.  I don't have anything new to suggest aside from what PP's suggested.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars.  You have a right to be here. Be cheerful, strive to be happy. -Desiderata

Nemesis

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Re: I'm running out of sympathy and tired of listening to the venting
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2013, 01:56:47 PM »
Your sister is in an abusive relationship. It is hard on her, and it is hard for all those who love her.

Here is the thing. No matter how much you may be right, You cannot make her leave him. He has conditioned her to believe that this is how they "love" each other. It is not consistently bad. Abusive relationships have cycles. Honeymoon phase, plateau stage, downward spiral, explosion, misery phase and back to the honeymoon phase.

Her life revolves around this horrible cycle. You probably get her calls during the misery phase. But she lives for the honeymoon phase. This cycle makes her think things like "Other people do not understand what we have."  "I still love him". " He is not all bad". "This is the way he loves me"'.

The thing is while you cannot make her end this cycle, you can choose not to live this cycle with her. If you are not in the mood to listen to her misery, tell her " I cannot listen to this today. Let us talk about little Timmy instead". Or "You know what feel about this. I think this is something you need to handle in the way you know best." And then make an excuse and say goodbye.

When you are listening to her, don't listen with the heart of someone wanting to fix things. Listen with the heart of someone who pities her. Her pain is real. Her inability to leave is her inability to see past her miserable cycle of "love". She is addicted to the pain, the drama, the high and the low of her ugly relationship.

 You can say things like, " Wow, I hear you. do you think what he did is normal behaviour? What do you want to do about it?" Or "You said he dumped the plates in the bin after he decided your cooking was too salty. Do you like to be treated that way? What do you want to do about it?" Or " Yes, not doing anything and accepting this is your life is one option. Will that make you happy? Do you think there are other things you might be able to do that could make you happier?" Push everything she tells you back at her. Make HER think of an action for herself. Don't be her dumping ground. Be her mirror. Reflect everything she says back ar her. If her action is to wallow in her own misery pit, make sure she knows that this is the choice that she made.

You didn't ask for it, but (((big hugs))) to you. Dealing with an abuse victim is painful and difficult. It is so much harder when it is someone you love. Best of luck.

bopper

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Re: I'm running out of sympathy and tired of listening to the venting
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2013, 02:17:59 PM »
Do you just listen and say "that's terrible" or do you say "have you considered divorce"? I wonder if she is asking for "permission" to leave him?

weeblewobble

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Re: I'm running out of sympathy and tired of listening to the venting
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2013, 02:32:42 PM »
Another was a friend of DH's.  She couldn't stand her husband before they were even married, but she stuck with him and even after they got married and had 3 kids, she was still talking about leaving him, last I saw her.


She married him KNOWING she couldn't stand him?  WHY?

Shortylicious

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Re: I'm running out of sympathy and tired of listening to the venting
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2013, 02:36:03 PM »
Just want to clarify here....this is not an abusive situation. If it were, my reaction would be very different. Without giving too much detail, the issue lies with his religion. She accepted it whole-heartedly when they were first married even though its most basic tenet goes against everything she believes. I guess she did it b/c she had gone thru a nasty divorce and wanted someone to take care of her. Her whole family (myself included) were floored at her wedding when we heard the vows she was taking. So in fact, he hasn't changed at all and probably never will b/c it's a religion he's lived for most of his life. It's what drives him to behave the way that makes her upset. And yes, I've told her exactly that but she still seems to think that he will change because she no longer wants to embrace his way of life.

Piratelvr1121

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Re: I'm running out of sympathy and tired of listening to the venting
« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2013, 02:39:00 PM »
Another was a friend of DH's.  She couldn't stand her husband before they were even married, but she stuck with him and even after they got married and had 3 kids, she was still talking about leaving him, last I saw her.


She married him KNOWING she couldn't stand him?  WHY?

1) he makes a good amount of money.  They're not rich, just comfortable upper class.  2) She got pregnant
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars.  You have a right to be here. Be cheerful, strive to be happy. -Desiderata

Nemesis

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Re: I'm running out of sympathy and tired of listening to the venting
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2013, 09:20:27 PM »
Just want to clarify here....this is not an abusive situation. If it were, my reaction would be very different. Without giving too much detail, the issue lies with his religion. She accepted it whole-heartedly when they were first married even though its most basic tenet goes against everything she believes. I guess she did it b/c she had gone thru a nasty divorce and wanted someone to take care of her. Her whole family (myself included) were floored at her wedding when we heard the vows she was taking. So in fact, he hasn't changed at all and probably never will b/c it's a religion he's lived for most of his life. It's what drives him to behave the way that makes her upset. And yes, I've told her exactly that but she still seems to think that he will change because she no longer wants to embrace his way of life.

Sorry, I assumed it was abuse because he kept insisting she is a mental case. I normally ever hear that from emotional abusers. In the case of your sister, this is a breach in marital contract. Her breach, that is.

You don't get to agree with his religious views before marriage only to start wars on it after marriage. If she brings it up with you, just tell her "You knew he was Yellow before you married him. Bed made, LIE in it". Whatever "Buuuuttt" s that you get needs to be followed up with "there is no BUT. You knew, you chose it, you accept it or divorce him. What you don't get to do is whine about it." Fsay it firmly and unsympathetically.

You will find that she will no longer call you when she wants a dumping ground.

Danika

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Re: I'm running out of sympathy and tired of listening to the venting
« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2013, 03:53:31 AM »
Ah, the martyr.  I had a very close friend who was the same way.  She had an incredibly disfuntional relationship.  She would cry and vent constantly about it.  It was the only time she called me.  F
inally I told her that as much as I loved her, I had given her all of the advice that I could give.  She could either do something about the situation, or she could continue to complain and do nothing, however if she chose to do nothing then I was no longer available to hear the venting.  She tried a few more times, but I repeated that if she wasnt going to do anything to change the situation, then I did not want to hear about it.  She eventually stopped coming to me about her relationship.  She found new people to vent to, but never made any change to the relationship.  I decided she must be getting something out of the sympathy she received.

^^^ This

I had a friend like this, only her marriage was full of mental abuse. But it was better than her first marriage, and he treated her the same horrible way that her parents had treated her, so she was used to it.

Many of our mutual friends tried to help her. We listened to her. We gave her advice. We gave her sympathy. We offered her places to stay if she needed to move out quickly.

We finally gave up because it was really draining to keep offering her all these solutions and have her continue to stay with him and put up with his treatment.

I understand it's harder because she's your sister. With my friend, I could just move on and make other friends. But what our group of friends realized was that the best we could do was be broken records. We didn't want to reward her attention-seeking behavior. When she'd complain, we'd just say "Oh" and then quickly move on to something else, another subject, or walk away, etc.

I agree with what Winterlight said. Just keep repeating "You already know what I think. Let's talk about something else." And if she tries to draw you back to the same topic, say "I gotta go now" and end the phone call or conversation.