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Guilt over ending my sister's abusive relationship


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I will try to keep this short. My sister calls me hysterically crying about twice a month. Its always the same story. Her boyfriend/fiancee is drunk and they got in a huge argument. This has been going on for almost 5 years now. We thought the relationship ended 3 years ago. They had a huge blowout. My parents got involved, unpleasant words were exchanged between my family and the boyfriend, and things ended. So we thought. My sister got back together with him and kept it a secret for 6 months. Regretabely, we allowed him back in our lives. After another 2 years of dating and fighting, he proposed, she said yes and they got engaged. The frequency of the "crying calls" increased. They fought over everything. My mother and I kept this from my father, so not to upset him. My sister got pregnant before the wedding. The fighting and crying continued. My sister lost the baby. More fighting more crying. As the wedding approached more fighting and crying. Here is what just happened. I received a call from my sister telling me her fiancee had done the following: spit in her face, called her every name in the book (things so vile and disgusting that I can even repeat it), said he finds her unattractive, fat and ugly, accused her of purposely losing the baby, kicked her out of the house, threw out all her clothing, told her to die and said it was over. The next day he calls and apologizes. She says she can fix it and wants to get back together. I was enraged because not only was this guy abusing my sister, but my sister had become a shadow of herself. I told my father. He got on a plane immediately. Enough was enough. If she couldn't end this herself, then I had to do it for her. I don't know if it was my place or not, but I had to end it for her sake and her well being. After all of this, my sister still wants him back. I am appalled.

Now my sister is making me feel guilty by blaming me for ended her relationship and telling our father. She is giving me a huge guilt trip. She is begging him to take her back. She is almost in her fortys and feels this was her last shot of getting married and having children. My father is not well and we worry about his health. She is mad that I got my father involved.

I can write for hours, but this pretty much recaps my side of the story. My husband tells me that I did the right thing, but my sister is making me feel horrible. Am I getting dragged into her abusive cycle? Am I falling into the traps of abuse? Should I have intervened? Was it my place?

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OH my, wow this sounds exactly like a similar sinario I've been involved with.

HI bluehen, first I'll say sorry that you are involved in all this because I understand the tangled pull that you are feeling. I don't really know how to chat about this but here is my thoughts. I do think that you are getting dragged into your sisters abusive situation and that in a way she is abusing your support and care for her( I hope this does not sound bad) what I mean is that it hurts you emotionally to hear all about this and then for her to do nothing that hurts too. and you are just stuck in a position of support and listening but she has all the control of what she does. This is all hurting you and that is not fair. She puts you in a hard position by expecting you not to tell, but really that tells you that you were in my opinion right TO tell because she know's it is not healthy and that others won't support it. People in abusive relationships don't really see it the way others do and so they sometimes NEED others to intervene so I think you did the best thing for your sister. but even that does not always work and sometimes we need to just step back and let them live there lives the way they chose too. However we need to deside what is ok for us so to protect us to from getting hurt. I'll share this from my situation, my sister same sort of sinario I'm the listening support as well, anyways he hurt her and my parents called police in and we did it all to stop the relationship and well after it all was done restraning orders, distance, time, energy, support, crying and emotional drama's, she is back with him and I sort of give up it hurts like hell I feel like I've lost her and I just can't let her say to me all this anymore, I tell her you are chosing this, you can leave, you need to make a choice but I can't help you.

I think my thoughts for this for my sis anyway is that everytime I listen to it all she feels better and is able to cope and forgets reality of the situation, she feels better, I make it better for her and she stays. I helped on all the loose ends for her by giving her what she needs when she needed it and she stay's. I feel like it inables her ( that might not make sence) but without me to cry to all the time mabe she can see the reality infront of her.

anyways I don't know all of your story but mine is a confusing one - all I can say is so sorry you are in these shoe's, and hopefully in time your sister will be able to see reality of the situation.

Please take care.

Edited by nightfalls
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I agree with your husband that you did the right thing. From your post, clearly your sister is in an abusive relationship with a man she cannot separate from. While she tries to give you a guilt trip for involving your father, your sister is likely aware that other members of her family would not tolerate the abuse described above. In some sense, your sister's hysterical calls about her relationship are like calls for help to deal with a situation she cannot handle alone.

Should you have intervened? The question has already been answered by your actions: Yes. But, it is clear that your family has limits to how much support it can offer to your sister. Can you introduce your sister to a counsellor? A priest? Ideally, your sister can share her thoughts, and begin sorting out her concerns about her relationship, age, and having children. You can ask some questions of your own so you can participate in some way, and to help your sister cope with some uncomfortable realities.

Your sister may rightly blame you for ruining her relationship with her fiancee, and telling your father. Yet, this blame may be a reaction to the fact that your sister seems unable to work things out with her fiancee despite whatever efforts she has made. Should she abandon the relationship now, it would seem as if the whole experience were for naught. This is a difficult situation, but as you say, you now find your sister a shadow of herself. To do nothing at all would be the greatest mistake, but it may be time to consider bringing in a third party with experience in broken relationships for some perspective.

Edited by kaudio
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I like the comments here so far.

I think you are acting righteously (e.g., out of genuine love for your sister), and you've won a battle, but the thing is you have to realize that you cannot win the war. Ultimately, you do not have the ability to control your sister even if she is acting in ways that are self-harming. If you attempt to control her life too much, she may simply cut you out of it at some point. This kind of thing happens all the time when parents try to break up kids relationships. It can get ugly (uglier than it already is).

It seems clear as day to you and others that this realtionship is bad for your sister, and she may realize it too (part of her) but another part of her is getting some need met by staying. It may not be a positive need. In other words, she may not be getting esteem needs met, but she may be getting some other needs met. She may believe she cannot do any better. she may believe that she will be an even worse failure if she is never a biological mother. She may believe she deserves to be yelled at. She may believe that she owes him some duty to stay, that despite his cruelty, he is ultimately unable to live without her and to leave him would be to crush him. She may hate the fighting, but love the makeup sex and attention he gives when in the consolation part of the abuse cycle. There are all kinds of things she may believe at some fundamental level which will keep her bound to him. She is enmeshed and will likely find a way to return to him.

Like a good cult leader, many abusive partners control information and thus reality/perceptions. So he may be telling her "You can't do any better", and "this is normal; this is how normal people live" and "what's wrong with you that you think there is a problem here". Even very strong people who fall into orbit around this kind of manipulator can fall prey, and it is very difficult to get away. Ultimately, it is only anger that might propell her away.

Your role here is maybe better to maintain a connection and continually try to help her with reality checks - to counter the messages that will keep her feeling that she doesn't deserve any better. You can't do this if you're antagoinizing her and infantalizing her (which is what you're doing unfortunately - you are sending her a message that she cannot take care of herself, and thought that might be true, she won't want to hear it. So try to repair the relationship with your sister and try to maintain it. You don't have to agree to see this guy or invite him back into your family, - you can set whatever limits you see fit - but you maybe will have to bend so as to maintain some connection with her which is a peer connection and not a parent-to-child one.

And if she ever does get angry at him, you can amplify the anger by showing how it is real and rational, and you can provide a place for her to go which is sheltered from this sick guy, but you cannot force her.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Looks like you've gotten a lot of substantive replies already, but I want to give you my reading of it, before I read what others have said.

First of all, I think you are a wonderful brother. Your sister is very lucky, and I'm sure she knows it. Even though she may seem angry at you, that's probably misdirected anger at the situation. I'd hate to see a situation where she leans on you so much that you become her only source of self-protection. That wouldn't be fair to you, (and wouldn't be productive either...ultimately, you can't save someone who doesn't want to be saved). I read a book a long time ago called "Codependent No More," that might be applicable. I should probably re-read it myself, actually.

It sounds like a pretty sticky situation--it would be tough for anyone. In my opinion, you did the right thing as much someone intervening on an alchoholic's behalf does the right thing. The addict isn't going to like it, but sometimes those interventions save lives. I hope your sister eventually realizes what her family members are trying to tell her.

Please, do not drive yourself crazy over this. You don't want to give this guy anymore victims than he already has.

And don't doubt yourself.

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  • 7 months later...

WELL U MAY BE IN MY SISTERS SHOES... Basically same story different lives. I posted asking if i am being abused.. in the new member post. All my family and friends say yes, i think yes but my boyfriend..well ex tells me he doesnt beat me I OVER ACT.

He has more than once spit in my face, pushed, shoved banged threw punches, threw objects towards me , screams, insults, chocked and fracture my thumb... he blames all of that on me, i make him angry.. This has been on and off for 4 yrs. He does not beat me but he DOES physically and verably hurt me, Last fight last week i called my sister as i do every other week or month when the monster comes out and well she could not take it and called the police. He left yes now he is back read my post it explains why. I feel bad for him thats why, because im so stupid thats why, we live together he has no where eles to go. Any way getting back to you.,,, I am glad my sister called and I am glad that it was her call that helped end this flipping night mare. He may not be out yet... she has no idea he is back, only until he finds a place. But i am happy she did me a favor she ended this becuase i didnt have the excuse me the balls to. Your sister wants to be back with him because she (as well as i am ) is holding on to the what if's, a wedding a baby... we are in our 30's time is ticking. Its a routine... See the diffrence in our stories is I WANT HIM TO LEAVE MY LIFE BUT i CANT IMAGINE MY LIFE WITHOUT THE JERK. Its the good time we hold on too. Sad to say she is going to get a wake up call and it is not going to be good. EXAMPLE... A co-worker of mine told me her close friend is in jail for killing her husband.. he abused her many times and they were fighting in the kitchen one night she grabbed a knife to defend herself and stabbed him. She is locked away for a long time. Or he may hurt her badly without even meaning it. She has to want to leave him, the more everyone pushes the more she will stay. I WANT THIS TO BE OVER, I AM NOW AFTER 4 YRS DONE AND WONDER WHAT I WAS THINKING FOR STAYING THIS LONG, I AM STILL AS I SIT HERE WONDERING WHY DO I CARE IF HE IS HOMELESS, WHY DID I LET HIM BACK. I know i dont love him or want to try , i know im done he doesnt have much longer here. Your sister will one day wake up and Thank you. Maybe she will have his child and it will take one fight in front of that baby for her to become strong and walk. Just keep praying and be there for her no matter what. The last thing we need to hear is for someone we love tell us how stupid we are. I HOPE ALL WORKS OUT, IM SORRY YOU FEEL SO BAD.

Edited by SHARM
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