Author Topic: How to handle a tricky romance situation with my sister?  (Read 5916 times)

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Kendo_Bunny

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How to handle a tricky romance situation with my sister?
« on: April 20, 2013, 06:17:37 PM »
I've posted about my sister Grace many times before. She can be extremely difficult at times, because she is mentally ill (she's a narcissistic borderline personality with rage issues), but I try my best not to hold it against her. She also has a long, long track record of dating terrible men. At 28, she has been in relationships with two decent men: one left her after she had an emotional affair, and one left her after discovering how she treats me when she's in a rage. She lives about 800 miles away, which has done wonders for our relationship, but leaves a few things lacking.

She has recently started waxing rhapsodical about a new man in her life. She is over the moon about him - starry-eyed, singing his praises, telling me how he's the best thing ever to happen to her. I took this with a grain of salt, as she says this about every new man she dates, and as soon as I could, I consulted her roommate/best friend, Beatrice. Beatrice is fully aware of Grace's mental problems and her dating patterns, so I figured I could get the straight scoop on this new guy. And what Beatrice had to say was less than flattering. Actually, it was much less than flattering - she flat out called him an insincere creep who set off every hinky meter she possessed, and that ever since Grace met him, life with her was becoming unbearable, because he brings out the worst in her. She hates him so much (and how Grace has been acting since they started dating) that she is strongly considering moving out, which would be disastrous for Grace, who relies on Beatrice for health insurance.

Now, I know from experience that telling Grace anything is a bad idea is the worst possible thing you can do. However, I trust Beatrice's judgment as much more sound than Grace's. So what can I do when Grace begins praising her new beau to the sky? I've tried changing the subject, but that's very difficult with a narcissist, even when I try changing the subject to something revolving around her and her life. I've tried wanly telling her I'm happy she's happy, but she's looking for something more effusive than that. It's a sticky situation, and I have no idea what I can do without being rude and betraying Beatrice's confidence.

reflection5

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Re: How to handle a tricky romance situation with my sister?
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2013, 06:28:43 PM »
Before actually replying, I have a question.
Quote
that she is strongly considering moving out, which would be disastrous for Grace, who relies on Beatrice for health insurance.

??? How so? 

SamiHami

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Re: How to handle a tricky romance situation with my sister?
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2013, 06:33:44 PM »
I don't think there is anything you can do in this situation. Your sister is ill and you know that no amount of reasoning with her will help in any way. I would suggest keeping conversations with her as superficial as possible. If she waxes rhapsodically about her new man again, I can see just employing a neutral "mm-hmmm" type of response. For more general conversations I would simply say that you want only for her to be happy.

You can't fix her. I know it's hard to see someone you love being self-destructive but sadly, I think if you allow yourself to get too involved and invested in her behaviors she will end up dragging you down and damaging the quality of your own life. It would be unproductive to make her problems your problems.

{{{{hugs}}}} I know it must be very difficult to watch someone you love repeatedly hurt herself.

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gramma dishes

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Re: How to handle a tricky romance situation with my sister?
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2013, 06:41:12 PM »
Before actually replying, I have a question.
Quote
that she is strongly considering moving out, which would be disastrous for Grace, who relies on Beatrice for health insurance.

??? How so?

I also am curious about this.  How does Beatrice cover Grace on her insurance?

NyaChan

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Re: How to handle a tricky romance situation with my sister?
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2013, 06:43:44 PM »
Before actually replying, I have a question.
Quote
that she is strongly considering moving out, which would be disastrous for Grace, who relies on Beatrice for health insurance.

??? How so?

I also am curious about this.  How does Beatrice cover Grace on her insurance?

I'm curious as well.  In general though, this seems like a situation where as much as you may want to, you can't really help your sister if she doesn't want the help. 

Kendo_Bunny

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Re: How to handle a tricky romance situation with my sister?
« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2013, 06:44:45 PM »
Before actually replying, I have a question.
Quote
that she is strongly considering moving out, which would be disastrous for Grace, who relies on Beatrice for health insurance.

??? How so?

They've lived together for five years, so Beatrice's company considers them long-term partners and let her put Grace on her insurance plan. Very gracious of them, even though Beatrice and Grace are not romantic and never have been.

MOM21SON

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Re: How to handle a tricky romance situation with my sister?
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2013, 06:51:09 PM »
Thanks for answering about the insurance.  I was wondering too.

Anyway.  My sister is madly in love with every man that has ever said "Hi" to her.

She has been married twice and divorced twice.  She has never lived on her own since age 18, always with a man.  I have learned to just say, "That's nice", when she starts on her latest "addiction".  The more she continues, the more I beandip.  None of these "men" are the best catches.

I understand how you feel seeing someone you love headed for more disaster.

reflection5

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Re: How to handle a tricky romance situation with my sister?
« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2013, 06:52:02 PM »
Well, while I know itís hard to realize your sister is most likely getting herself into another bad relationship, thereís nothing you can do.  (I take it you havenít even met the man in question.)

However, putting myself in your sisterís place, I would be VERY upset that you and Beatrice have been discussing my relationship with this man.  I donít know what your relationship with Beatrice is, but talking to her instead of your sister about your sisterís relationship seems ďoffĒ.

Kendo_Bunny

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Re: How to handle a tricky romance situation with my sister?
« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2013, 07:11:22 PM »
I have not met him - he and my sister live 800 miles away.

For why I'm talking to Beatrice - I know what Grace will say if I ask any questions. "He is perfect! He is wonderful! He is amazing! He is the smartest, kindest, most saint-like human ever put on the face of this Earth, and he loves me more than life itself, and I would give my life to make him happy for just one moment! We are getting married and we are going to live happily ever after in a forest of magical pixies and unicorns!" That is what she says about every man she dates, which has included men who have been emotionally abusive, cheaters, liars, manipulators, losers, run-of-the-mill scumbags, and pretty much everything but woman-beaters (though there may have been one - I never confirmed it, but if he hit her, I'm sure she was hitting him back just as often). These almost invariably end with my sister having some level of nervous breakdown after the inevitable breakup.

So, I do not trust her opinion on the Great New Man in her life until I have checked with someone else. Beatrice is closest to her, physically (as the are roommates) and emotionally (as they are best friends), and Beatrice has the added bonus of a generally clear head and a good ability to spot horrible people, as opposed to mentally ill people. So when Beatrice says a guy is horrible, I believe her over my sister.

NyaChan

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Re: How to handle a tricky romance situation with my sister?
« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2013, 07:18:04 PM »
I guess I have to ask then, why do you feel you need to check up on her in the first place?  Even if she is telling you the guy is great and he isn't, what good does it do to confirm that Beatrice thinks he isn't that great? 

*inviteseller

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Re: How to handle a tricky romance situation with my sister?
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2013, 08:05:20 PM »
My DD is almost 18 and has BiPolar Disorder mixed in with anxiety issues, ADHD and ODD, so I understand what you mean Kendo about how they throw themselves headlong into relationships (friends/dating) no matter how everyone else is screaming NONONO, and then when it collapses, so do they.  And due to distance, you need that set of eyes in her roommate.  It isn't spying or gossiping...it is concern.  When your sister starts crowing to you again about Prince Not So Charming, maybe ask her what he does for a living, what his interests are, what they like to do on dates, and then maybe you can point out anything gently (oh, he's not working  why not?) and plant the seeds of doubt in her head.  And I think that Beatrice needs to sit her down and say "Listen, this guy is raising some red flags with me, can we discuss this?"  and without trashing the guy, just say what it is that makes her uncomfortable.  The problem with loved ones with mental illness is we tend to tippy toe around them so as not to set off the tempers and hysterics but we do them no favors. 

EllenS

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Re: How to handle a tricky romance situation with my sister?
« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2013, 09:03:03 PM »
Triangulating with your sister's roommate to gossip/judge her boyfriends?  Bad idea, and not very healthy.  Trying to pick your sister's boyfriends - especially from far away - bad idea, and not very healthy.  My only advice is to be as neutral as possible about the boyfriend, based on what sister tells you.  You already knew that she is not speaking reality, so nothing has really changed.

If your sister doesn't think your responses about her new guy are effusive enough, that is her problem. 
If your sister dates horrible men over and over, that is her problem.
If your sister finally drives away the friend/enabler she has manipulated into fraudulently providing her health insurance, that is her problem.
If your sister refuses to get or comply with treatment that would enable her to be more functional in her life and relationships, that is her problem.

If you allow your sister to treat you badly because she has a diagnosis that "justifies" it, that is your problem.  If you feel like you have a responsibility to try to fix your sister, or control/stop her from making bad choices, that is your problem.  If your relationship with your sister impacts your ability to enjoy your own life, that is your problem.

Please take good care of yourself. 
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johelenc1

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Re: How to handle a tricky romance situation with my sister?
« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2013, 09:09:30 PM »
I know it's hard, but it may be time for your sister to have to face the consequences of her choices.  If this guy is so awful that her roommate of 5 years (who presumably has been through quite a lot with your sister and her issues) is willing to move out over him...that should say something to your sister.  If it doesn't, and she chooses this new guy over a long time friend, then it's her choice.

At this point, the only person likely to affect any of her behavior and the presence of the guy in her life is Beatrice.  I would just ask Beatrice to please be clear with Grace about her feelings about the boyfriend and that she is thinking of moving out over it.  Make sure Beatrice makes sure Grace understands this will be the end of her health insurance.  Another option (for Beatrice) could be that she simply draws some boundaries for Grace.  For instance, the guy is not allowed on their property.  If Grace wants to see him, she can go to his place.

Other than see if Beatrice would be willing to negotiate with her, there's really nothing you can do.  When she calls, you can tell her you heard some things from Beatrice that make you think he's not all that great.  Of course, she'll get mad and claim otherwise.  It would be hard to argue with her since you personally haven't met him.

I would probably just meet her enthusiasm with non-committal "umm-mmm"s or silence.  She may not even notice.  If she does, you can tell her that you are waiting for the relationship to have some longevity before you get too excited.  If she gets agitated over that, I would say, "ok, well, let's just not talk about him then," and move on.  If she still insists, tell her you don't want to talk about him and you can either talk about something else or get off the phone.  You have to be prepared to hang up if necessary.

It's tough, but you have to let her make her mistakes and live with the consequences.

*inviteseller

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Re: How to handle a tricky romance situation with my sister?
« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2013, 09:13:05 PM »
Ellen, they was really harsh and and on a few parts, highly uncalled for.   

Kendo_Bunny

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Re: How to handle a tricky romance situation with my sister?
« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2013, 09:17:13 PM »
Ellen: I'm preparing myself for fallout. When she's going through a break-up, she can become suicidal, and will call at any hour of the day or night, at which point I have to drop what I'm doing and prepare to spend upwards of two hours on the phone with her. The phone thing can be even harder on our father, so I figured he should be prepared as well.

I don't think of it as gossiping - I think of it as getting straight answers and truth I can not rely on her to provide. I want to know how she's doing, and she is not at a position where she is capable of telling me, because she can be outright delusional about the men she dates. I am not trying to pick her boyfriends, though I would prefer if she would listen to Beatrice's advice on the men she dates - every time since she has moved in with Beatrice, when Beatrice has said the guy is a louse, he has been, and we have had to glue Grace back together.

Grace can not help that she is mentally ill. I have distanced myself to the point where her rages don't impact me as much, but when her romantic relationships collapse, I am one of the main three put on suicide watch, or sometimes just watch to make sure that she doesn't drop contact with every other member of the family, because she confides in me more than she does our father.