Ask Amy: Sister won’t sanction abusive relationship

September 3, 2013

DEAR AMY: I am very confused about a decision that will most likely cause hurt feelings between family members. My sister is gay (this isn’t a problem — I also have a gay brother). She has been in an abusive off-and-on-again relationship with “Jean” for many years.

At first they had a pretty good relationship, until alcohol entered the picture. Jean would become very abusive (verbally, mentally, physically and emotionally) when she drank too much. Their volatile relationship ended seven years ago. My sister endured a breakdown so severe that she spent nearly a week in a psychiatric ward.

My mother, myself and her friends supported her though this. My sister then moved on and had other partners in her life.

Two years ago she and Jean reunited. Since then, they have parted ways twice — the last time was so bad I feared that my sister would end up having another breakdown.

Now they are planning to get married. I love my sister and want her to be happy, but I cannot support a relationship that has been so emotionally draining. I do not wish to attend my sister’s wedding, nor do most of my siblings (there are six others, and I am her only sister).

How can any of us support a relationship that has been so abusive and watch my sister marry someone who tells her she is ugly, good for nothing and will never amount to anything? -- Concerned Sister in MN

DEAR CONCERNED: You need to act on your own conscience, but this is tricky. Be aware that your refusal to attend your sister’s wedding will have no impact on her choice but will alienate her from you.

For now you should not make any statements one way or the other (because of their pattern, you can expect another breakup).

If your sister forces the issue, you should speak only for yourself and tell her, “I want for you to be happy, but it breaks my heart to see you with someone who is so dangerous to you. I can’t stand by and watch you marry ‘Jean,’ but I want you to know that I love you and will always be in your corner — in this case, from a distance.”

DEAR AMY: I have been friends with “Terri” for more than 50 years. I work in a tiny office of two employees. When one of the employees had to leave for surgery, our boss asked if I knew anyone who could help us out for a couple of months.

I asked Terri’s 24-year-old daughter if she wanted to work. She is like a daughter to me.

We hired her. We kept her on even after the other employee returned. After a year of work, she was still not getting it. She was getting lackadaisical and making lots of mistakes. I covered for her many times.

My boss fired her three months ago. I have tried to call my best friend to explain and have left several messages. She has not replied. Should I keep trying or just let this very long friendship go? -- Upset

DEAR UPSET: Your friend’s daughter is the principal player in this workplace drama. She was given an opportunity, she blew it and she doesn’t seem to have acknowledged that you were instrumental in employing her in the first place.

You could e-mail her to say, “I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you, but I hope you realize I had no role in your dismissal. I wish you all the best moving forward.”

After that, leave it alone. Your friend thinks she is advocating for her daughter when she is actually enabling her.

DEAR AMY: The letter from “Afraid for a Friend” sent shivers up my spine. Like the friend referred to in this letter, I was an abused and battered wife, locked into a terrifying marriage.

I escaped to a shelter and from there into a new life. I hope these women are able to support their friend through this. She will need it. -- Survivor

DEAR SURVIVOR: I’m so happy you were able to build a new life for yourself. I hope this friend is able to do the same.

Amy’s column appears seven days a week at www.washingtonpost.com/advice. Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune

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