While I’m spending some time with baby Jackson, I’ll be posting an occasional re-run column. This one originally ran on March 8.
I’m 23 years old and have been in an honest, mature relationship with my amazing and sweet boyfriend for six months. We are very compatible and it’s likely that we’ll end up moving in together in the next year or so. A few weeks ago, I got to meet his sister, who is two years younger than us and the person he’s closest to in his family. Man, was I in for a surprise! Not only did they hug each other tightly for almost a full five minutes when we met her at the airport, but he constantly had his arm around her or was holding her hand (and sometimes mine, simultaneously). The “pet name” that he calls me turned out to be a variation on his nickname for her. He even called her by my nickname and me by hers several times. He honestly looked distraught when he had to choose which one of us to sit next to. It was strange because many of his flirtatious moves, like play wrestling, tickling, picking me up, etc. were also things that he did with her! It felt….bizarre.
On top of this, his sister exhibits signs of anorexia that my boyfriend refuses to notice. A meal for her consists of an orange or a handful of crackers, and she’s super skinny, weighing 105 lbs at 5’7″. In the past, my boyfriend has mentioned that while he knows that it’s unhealthy for women to be so thin, he’s really attracted to the wispy, thin women. He may have been trying to compliment me, since I myself am fairly thin, but I can’t help but feel like his sister has something to do with it.
Do you think I am just being paranoid and jealous about the way he treats and looks at his sister, or do you think there’s something strange like I do? I’m worried that if we see much of his sister, I may be at risk of developing an eating disorder myself (I’ve had some borderline problems in the past). What should I do? — Second to his Sister
Short of telling your boyfriend that you’re uncomfortable with how physical he is with his sister — at least in your presence — I’m not sure there’s much you can do. It’s not like you can demand he stop pawing at his sister like she’s the first woman he’s ever seen. You can only hope that in expressing your discomfort, he will say something to put you at ease and change his behavior during future visits with her. I suppose you can also take some comfort in knowing she lives far enough away that in the six months you’ve been with her brother, you’ve only met her once.
Unfortunately, if you plan to move in with your boyfriend and perhaps even marry him one day, his sister is obviously going to be a permanent fixture in your life. And if her presence, in addition to making you uncomfortable and jealous, puts you at risk for reigniting a dormant eating disorder, this may just be a situation in which you need to MOA. Being weirded out is one thing (and a MAJOR red flag at that); screwing with your emotional and physical health is something else entirely, and not something I would risk doing for a six month relationship with a guy who has, at best, an uncomfortably close relationship with his sister.
Finally, if your self-image is so fragile that you would so easily be tempted to quit eating, you could probably use a visit to a therapist. Clearly, your boyfriend’s sister is always going to be part of his life; his relationship and behavior with her isn’t going to change overnight — if at all — and if seeing them together or even imagining in your worst fears how your boyfriend feels about her makes you insecure about yourself and in your relationship with him, then having a professional at hand who can guide you through processing some of these emotions is definitely for the best. And eating disorders, like any psychological issues, aren’t something that ever fully go away. They need to always be monitored and should be addressed immediately at any hint of recurrence, regardless what the surrounding situation might be.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.