Dear Carolyn: My sister is married to a guy who is great on paper, but just doesn't seem great for her. We (brother, parents, me) all have done our best to accept her decision on a spouse, but our relationship with him was always just cordial. She complained frequently that he belittles her, disrespects her, ignores her, emotionally manipulates her and is dishonest about major life issues. She became less confident in herself, and less fun.

Recently, she said she would be seeking a divorce and we responded enthusiastically (maybe too much so?). We lauded her for being brave, standing up for herself and risking the fear and perceived embarrassment of leaving a marriage.

Then, Sister finds out she is pregnant, Husband apologizes and everything is suddenly sunshine and rainbows.

While they were separated, sister told us a lot about her husband that is truly awful — factual actions he took, rather than tainted views of why/how he did things. Now, she expects us to wholeheartedly support their marriage and pending offspring.

The problem is, I don't. There is not a huge likelihood I will ever trust him again or be friends with him. I think the choice of having a child alone or terminating the pregnancy was terrifying, and I think she was shocked into staying in a loveless marriage, a decision she will regret in just a few years, when leaving will be harder and more complicated. I have told her as much, directly, and she has said we need to "support" her.

Is this no longer any of my business? Or does she need a balance to the false "we're suddenly blissful" narrative running through her head.

— I Just Want to Pry

I Just Want to Pry: Neither.

Well, I should say upfront that, yes, it’s no longer any of your business, technically. It’s also not your place to provide “balance” to her views. She can lie to herself all she wants.

Except she did say you “need to ‘support’ her” — I agree with her on that — which means you have some leeway still to decide what “support” in a situation like this would actually look like.

Pretending to buy her sunshine-and-rainbows story might be what she meant, but it is your place to decide you won’t pretend for or lie to anybody. You’re as entitled to your integrity here as you are anywhere else.

Plus, going along with a fictional narrative can be dangerous, if there’s abuse involved. Let’s say she persuades you to agree to this, and you all play along that everything’s fine. She may feel pressured to save face and maintain the facade, even if things go badly wrong and she needs your help.

So I suggest a more forthright kind of support. “I can’t unhear what you told me about Husband and your marriage. I also completely, 100 percent, respect your right to live your life as you choose. And I can have an open mind. So here’s my last word on this: I am rooting for all of you, and here for you and the baby, always, no questions asked.” The people who, in this moment, don’t judge her, lie to her, told-you-so her, doubt her or put her on the defensive are, when she’s ready for them, the safest place she can be.

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