Releasing the past in order to find myself

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

NSis's Greatest Hits

I've written about my relationship with my sister before.  How we grew up, the triangulation, a basic story line.  But I wanted to write out some specific incidents so that I could look at her behavior in totality and not just individually.  Usually, I'm pretty good about doing this with people.  But DH made a very good point in relation to one specific event and a light bulb went off.  I realized how much I excused of her, how enmeshed I was with her, how much she manipulates, controls, and hurts me.

When DH and I moved into our new home, my sister, her boyfriend, my dad and his wife came to visit within days.  It was very stressful for me.  We had been working towards moving in for a year and it kept getting pushed back, until the two events landed virtually on top of each other.  I was a little sad that DH and I wouldn't even get to enjoy the first few days "settling in" but I thought it might be a fun, little "celebratory" way to break in our new home with family.  It wasn't.  NSis and her boyfriend arrived with gifts and flowers and were very thoughtful and helpful.  But it went down hill quickly.  My dad implied that the "gifts" my sister had brought had taxed her financially.  And that I should offer to pay for the food she had brought.  This was the first sign things weren't going well.  Here I was, cooking and entertaining 4 adults (with lots of beer to boot) and I knew that I was being labeled the bad guy for not "chipping in" on her gift.  Then,  NSis's boyfriend started getting on her nerves.  They started to fight.  She complained to me about him, and (in a lapse of judgement) I sided with her (I would later be characterized as being "rude" and making him "uncomfortable").  He was a whiny, lazy man sitting around letting me wait on him and complaining about the meals I served.  He complained that he hadn't gotten to see enough of our town (I hadn't even unpacked in my new home), that he wanted to go out barhopping, on and on.  Then, one night after we had all gone to bed, they get in a screaming match.  One thing led to another and he hoped in his car and left NSis here.  Left her 600 miles from her home.  And didn't look back.  She wakes me up in the middle of the night crying. I spent an hour at 2 in the morning, listening to her "vent".  It was all one sided and she was just spewing at me.    I'm sure I was expected to drive her back home but I couldn't and didn't.  She had to figure it out herself.  DH pointed out yesterday, that I had just moved into a new home.  I had the a lot on my plate.  But she must have felt she wasn't getting enough attention and created some drama.  It was horrible and draining.   Oh, and she ended up getting back together with the douche bag too.

When my sons were born, she promised she would come help.  The first time, she cancelled out last minute. I had expected that from her.  I had texted family around 5:30 in the morning about DS arrival.  She had been awake (having a crisis) and called immediately.  She was happy and excited.  She then asked if I'd called my Dad.  I told her no, that I was waiting until around 6, so that I didn't wake him up so early in the morning.  I didn't think it mattered if I called then or in half an hour and I thought it would be nice not to be woken up early in the morning.  Well, NSis took it upon herself to call.  She told my mother she "felt he deserved to know"  (and oh, the irony considering our current situation.).  She completely stole my thunder.  Making the announcement of my son to my father before I could.  She completely ignored my wishes and did what she wanted to garner attention for herself.   She was a mess when my next son was due, saying she was so worried about taking care of my older son (not that she would be doing it herself.  NM and DH were here).  But as usual, it was all about her.  I thought however, that maybe NM and NSis would cancel each other out in the situation and I could have a nice birth.  When my second son was born, she never said anything about coming.  She just acted like she'd never offered at all.  BUT, she had a crisis with her work, changed jobs, had to move out.  Her life, as usual, was in turmoil.

When it comes to my kids, NM always tells me they are the "light of NSis's eyes".  How much she loves them and cares about them.  Well, she's failed to acknowledge them the last several holidays and birthdays.  For my son's last birthday, she didn't even acknowledge it had happened.  She called several days later but never once said anything about it.  She did talk about how she was struggling, her love life, her moving life, her emotional state.  Never once said a damn thing about it.

She used to call all the time late at night, drunk, and sobbing.  She was always having a horrible problem that she needed to talk to family about.  Needed her family to support her.  It didn't matter that I had to work in the morning, or was up all night with an infant too, or had a family to take care of.  All that mattered was that SHE needed me.  I started turning off my phone.  I told her to quit calling me so late.  I told her that, unless it was an emergency, to not call.  She said she respected that.  But one night, I got a long message detailing what an asshole I was.  What a horrible sister I was.  That I was a snob, living my "perfect" life, and that I could never understand what she goes through.  This is a theme with her and my mother.  The have both said, and implied, that because she is "less fortunate" and I am "more fortunate" in life, that I should give more of my emotional life to her.  That I owe it to her to help her out.  That it is my job to help even us out.  NM gets angry if relatives send me Christmas cards but not her.  She feels they are leaving her out.  I feel  that they send me cards because I maintain relationships with them.  She ignores all of the relatives.  NM feels that I should overcompensate for NSis in life.  That it is my job to bridge life's little speed bumps for her.  That I am blessed with a husband, and home, and family and that she, the less fortunate, should be excused from reciprocating in any way.

When we are together, NSis often expects me to pay for everything.  She often pays one bill.  And then, she must figure she is "good".  She never offers again.  She always orders whatever the hell she wants and expects us to pick up the tab.  If she comes along on activities, she must feel that we should pay because she is doing us the "service" of joining us on our activities.  Activities she can't afford, and if we are rude enough to go some place with our kids she can't afford, we should pay.  She can be very generous at Christmas (well, used too) but then complains endlessly afterward how broke she is.  If she does anything for me, like buy gifts for my kids, she holds me hostage on the phone while she picks them out.

I won't even go into my wedding.  But, long story short, she did every thing she damn well could to start drama, make me look bad, and cause chaos with in the limits of trying to look like the "thoughtful" sister.

She has crisis after crisis.  Medical issue after medical issue.  And she is not responsible for any of it.  She is just the recipient of the short end of the stick.  If I listed out all of the things that have happened to her, just in the last five years, none of you would believe it.  She continues to socialize with horrible people from her past, but then acts like she can't help them contacting her.   She does nothing to try and improve her lot in life (aside from talking about it) and then expects that we should all rally around her.  She drops me if something (or someone) better comes along.  She is so concerned about herself that she rarely, if ever asks about me.  She never acknowledges my husband.  And if she does, she often is annoyed and pissed off at him.  She can become volatile and violent.  I have been, and continue to be, afraid of her rage at times.   She tells me I am a horrible sister, snobby, unwilling to help.  She always tells me she misses me, but makes no real effort to connect with me.  She acknowledges nothing in my life.  She expects me to prioritize her above my husband and kids.   She has never been happy for me for anything I've done.   She expects that if she is not happy, that I should not be happy.  That if she is having a crisis, then it is my crisis.  That if she is going through something, I should drop everything, fall to the floor sobbing for her, and spend every moment finding ways to help her.

I stand at a fork in the road with my relationship with her.  I can not go on like this.   NM thinks I'm too weak to handle things like this.  But in reality, it's the narcissism that I can't handle.  The drama, the chaos, the secrecy, the fishing for sympathy.  The implied obligation, the guilt, the fear of their retaliation should I not support them as they want me to.  The panic mode they send me to.  I will not subject my kids and family to this anymore.  I have to force myself to remember that life does not have to be this damned hard, ALL OF THE TIME.  I'm tired of being held hostage.


  1. Replies
    1. Funny you should ask. I was just discussing this with DH today. Not much. Sometimes there is a spark of the friendship we had as girls (which was still very unbalanced and often violent. I was often fearful of her then too). But, in the chaos of things, we clung to each other. And I always felt some duty to her. Partly like she was MY child too. But she was my first friend, and often my only friend in childhood (I've really had light bulb moments today about how isolated we are in our family, and how my FOO sets up situations to reaffirm their belief that all you really have is family which only makes us lonelier.) And there are moments. Fleeting moments when we talk and laugh and she knows a side of me that few others do. But it is true, there is very little there to hold on to.

  2. I'm afraid that last comment will come off sounding snide. What I mean is that I don't see anything good about your sister and I wonder if you do? Is there anything good, or kind, or thoughtful about her (as she is now, not as she was as a child - that's super important); and if so, is the little bit of good you might find really worth holding on to her in light of all these awful things?

    1. It wasn't snide. It was honest and blunt and to the point, all things I value in our friendship, Jonsi.
      So, see above first. But yes, as she is, I don't know. Nothing comes to mind easily. And your's is a question I've been batting around over and over these past two days. What am I sacrificing and for what benefit? I guess, sometimes, I thought things would come around. That once we got around the triangulation and she got out from under my mom and grew up, things would change. We could be allies. Sometimes we are. She definitely understands things that no one else does. But sometimes it's like we were both held hostage, and our relationship was bound up in being so alone and so tethered together. But is there something else there? I've often said that if she was someone I met, we would never be friends.

  3. My sister has some similarities (your comment about her dropping you when something better comes along especially stung me) with yours, perhaps not quite as dramatic, but constantly in crisis for certain. And most of her crises are due to her own behavior.

    It should never have been made your job to be your sister's keeper. Why oh why do people like to claim your good life is a coincidence and not a result of living as an honest, good person?

    My thoughts are with you, no matter how you choose to deal. Hugs!

    1. Thanks VR for the hugs. The support I receive here is invaluable.
      And people like to claim a good life as coincidence or just being lucky because if they attributed it to living a good, honest life and they are not so blessed in their own life, they would have to do some introspection and figure out why. It is easier to deflect and attribute falsely then look back at themselves in the mirror and figure out what they need to do to change. But, knowing this doesn't make it any less frustrating!

  4. Reading this post reminded me so much about how I felt about my relationship with my sister. I also tried to look for redeeming features and couldn't find any and also used to say that if she wasn't my sister we wouldn't never be friends either. The constant "drama, chaos, secrecy and fishing for sympathy" was taking a toll in my life too and at that time I came across a word on the internet that was my fork in the road, my realisation that I had to get out of that vicious circle.
    ko.yan.nis.qatsi (from the Hopi Language) n. 1. crazy life. 2. life
    in turmoil. 3. life out of balance. 4. life disintegrating.
    5. a state of life that calls for another way of living.

  5. I am so sorry you are going through all this.

    1. Thanks Cassandra. I appreciate your thoughts.

  6. Jessie, the behavior you describe is classic narcissistic dumping and use of you as supply. Your NM jumping in to shame you for not doing more for NSis is part of it. This is how enmeshment works. Your sister is an adult. You are adult, a wife, a mother. The hardest thing in the world, as many of us have noted across these blogs, is setting boundaries for ourselves and feeling FINE about them. How others respond to our boundaries is their problem. I know, easier prescribed than done. I struggle with this all the time. I'm just back from an overseas trip that virtually destroyed my already bad back, yet am expected to fly out again to visit NF, who never, never, visits me. I'm thinking that I really don't want to go and will have to work to privilege my own needs, even though he is elderly. The narrative your FOO is dumping on you, that you are more "fortunate" than NSis, is bullshit. Classic enmeshment bullshit. Next time your sister tells you off, try telling her she is selfish, narcissistic, self-absorbed, and you've had enough. See what she does.
    the hardest thing in the world for we ACoNs to believe is that we can survive without these people. Maybe even survive better, happier. Maybe. Keep writing down the events as they happen, because they give a really clear picture of what you are dealing with. Pathological selfishness and neglect of the reality of YOUR life too, is abusive. You don't have to take it.

    1. Thanks CS for the reassurance. It is so difficult. I think the guilt, both implied from my FOO and that which I put on myself is the hardest part. I often think I would be much happier without dealing with them (in fact I know that I would be) but shaking of the feeling of being the black sheep who "disowned" her family really sucks. But you are right, it is all right out of the narcissistic playbook, right down to the complete requirement of enmeshment.
      And I'm working up the courage to tell NSis off. She really, really can be a very volatile person and the thought of her raging at me makes me fearful at times. I'm guessing she'd flip it and tell me that I am self absorbed, selfish, and uncaring.

    2. Expect that she WILL flip it. I have been exactly where you are re: this stuff for decades, and am finally, finally beginning to pry open the internal fingers' death grip of guilt over not wanting a relationship with these people any more. The internal guilt trip is as hard to get past as that dumped on you by the FOO. But they are connected. Think of it as an unwanted program installed on the hard drive of your subjectivity. It is an "App" and they can use it when they want to. But you can delete it, in bits and pieces, in stages, over time, as you come to reckon with the reality of the loss of these people. They do not care about you as much as they care about their own egos. Period. Period. Truly. And you will need to decide whether or not you want to continue to live with that.