To my way of thinking, we are basically good friends now. He never kisses me, and there’s no affection. But we get along great. I asked whether we are roommates/best buds now, and he became angry and said, “Of course not.” I’m not bragging, but men flirt with me all the time, and it makes me so frustrated and sad that my own guy has zero interest in me, intimately. I asked him politely, numerous times in the last couple years, about talking to a doctor. Maybe he has testosterone issues or something else. He said he would, but he never does. I’m running out of patience. I’m communicating and trying to be understanding. Now I’m imagining us breaking up. A male friend whom I’m mutually attracted to is flirting more and more. I’m feeling weak and emotionally and physically starved for love. — Starved for Love
Leaving a relationship that no longer serves you – that hasn’t served you for years, after communication has failed to fix the problem, isn’t weak, and it sounds like that’s what you need to do at this point. There are a host of reasons your boyfriend isn’t showing interest in being intimate with you, and few of them are even related to you. This is a problem he needs to be willing to address, and he isn’t. Even after you’ve brought it to his attention numerous times, letting him know how important this is to you and how much you miss feeling close to him, he still just ignores the problem. He’d rather you continue feeling neglected, rejected, and frustrated than whatever negative thing – anxiety and embarrassment maybe – he’s afraid seeking help would make him feel. There’s not a happy future with someone like that. It’s time to move on.
After SIL failed to get my BIL to break up with my sister (literally she demanded he choose – and he chose my sister), SIL started drinking more and taking prescription pills. Eventually, she was fired from a job minding infants when she fell asleep on the job. Her parents were going to help her sue for wrongful termination until someone pulled her dad aside and told him it wasn’t a fight he wanted.
She has been fired or quit every other job she’s held – always within one year and usually a lot sooner. She lived in an apartment her parents owned. They bought her a car. They sent her to the rehab of her choice when she needed to get clean. And the next rehab and the next rehab and the next rehab. They let her move into their vacation/retirement home; then she moved in with her fiancé/eventual husband. They lived there for years. Then the parents bought an apartment so SIL could move out of their house. Her marriage fell apart and eventually she and her husband divorced. Her parents paid all costs.
She totaled her car (DUI) so they let her borrow theirs. She totaled their car (DUI) and so they got her a new car. Why? Well, she can’t get to work without a car. She has a breathalyzer thingy on the car.
She secretly married a man she had known for a few months, and he and his 16-year-old son moved in. He does not speak much English. She speaks almost no Spanish. He seems to be a good person, and likely he did not realize the extent of her problems. She OD’d a couple of months ago. Her stepson found her and called 911 while giving her CPR. Her excuse was that a friend gave her something for period cramps. They used Narcan to revive her.
Last week her husband filed a missing person report before he found she was in the hospital having OD’d again. This time on coke. The EMTs said she wasn’t breathing for at least four minutes – likely longer. She has been on a ventilator and unresponsive for over a week. The doctors do not believe she will wake up. They are removing her from the ventilator and have organ donation teams on standby. She could live for weeks or months.
So my question: What the fuck am I supposed to say to her family when I see them that will not cause any more grief and judgment? Her parents are good people, they tried their best and will spend the rest of their lives wondering if they had made different choices whether things would have been different. I didn’t often agree with their choices, but I also recognize that in the last several years they didn’t really have many options. — What to Say?
Despite all the drama around your sister’s SIL and her expected imminent death, you would say to her family what you’d say to anyone who has lost someone to a long illness and is grieving: “I’m so sorry for your loss;” “May happier memories of her be a comfort;” “I hope you can find some relief in knowing she’s no longer suffering;” “I admire how committed you were to her care;” “You were always such a strong advocate for her.” I would avoid mentioning her disease (addiction) or any specifics around past behavior, incidents, and choices made. Her parents have doubtlessly mentally replayed these a million times and likely have a host of mixed feelings around all of it. None of it even really matters right now. What matters is that their daughter is dying and they are in pain. Your brother-in-law is in pain. Even your sister may have some very sensitive feelings around the idea of losing this very complicated person in her extended family. Extend them all compassion.
Since you’re closest to your sister and you are someone who is more removed from the SIL than anyone in her husband’s family, you can be a safe space for your sister to vent in a way she likely isn’t able to with her husband and in-laws. She has to be the support system for them while you can be a support system for her. Let her know you’re there to listen without judgment, which is as simple as saying something like, “I can imagine the mixed feelings and stress you’re experiencing right now. Please know I’m here for you to listen any time, especially if you need to step away from your role as support person for a minute and just share your own feelings and thoughts.”
Once your SIL has passed away, do what you would for anyone you know who has lost a family member: send sympathy cards, attend a memorial if you’re invited, make a donation to an appropriate organization. In the interim, you can send a “thinking of you” card to her family if you feel moved to. The message here can be a simple: “You’ve been on my mind and I’m wishing you comfort through this hard time.” Again, the specifics aren’t as important as the big picture here: Loving parents are losing a daughter to a terrible disease they helped her fight for years. You are right to think of them and what you can say to offer some support.
***************Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram. If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.
FYI June 8, 2021, 9:05 am
LW1 — Break up. Nothing here to work with.
LW2 — This letter struck me as odd, in a way. All that backstory about the sister-in-law — “she blames everyone,” “she has a breathalyzer on her car,” “she speaks little Spanish,” etc. — only to discover she’s dying! I don’t get it. Why castigate her now? She had a painful life, and of COURSE the normal compassionate things should be said to her family.
I wonder if LW has maybe spent a LOT of time and energy (with her sister) focusing on this person. I mean, did LW just want to tell the story again? The story of how awful this person supposedly was? LW seems to think it was personal, but this is very, very much par for the course with addiction.
Helen June 8, 2021, 9:22 am
The same thoughts occurred to me about LW2. I think she’s attracted to the drama. She’s spending a lot of time thinking about her sister’s SIL
Bittergaymark June 8, 2021, 12:50 pm
I think the LW wants permission to say something truly awful. Such as: “Whew! Thank God, right? Ding dong the witch is dead!”
The whole letter is bizarre. I agree.
Emily Morris June 8, 2021, 11:42 am
To LW 1 — time to break up! You aren’t compatible and he’s not pulling his weight to work on an issue that is a REAL ISSUE for you. Maybe give it one last try and say “we work on this now or I’m going” (but it seems like you have done a lot of work already without any reciprocation). Ultimatums aren’t ultimatums if you are actually going to act.
LisforLeslie June 8, 2021, 1:33 pm
Second letter is mine. Wendy – I appreciate the compassionate and measured response. I will try to keep all of those things in mind. I spoke to my sister last night and she’s pretty much exactly in that place. She and my BIL had to set pretty firm boundaries with her SIL to protect herself and her son. And she feels guilty because while her heart breaks for her husband and her parents-in-law. she feels nothing for SIL.
For everyone else – I agree I am a judgemental bitch and a half. This was more of a vent and a request for phrases that will not disclose how fucking angry I am that this woman broke everyone’s hearts. This woman had every advantage. She was smart. She was kind. She had parents who loved her. But parts of her were broken and no matter who tried to help, she made bad choice after bad choice.
The sick and awful reality is that dying is the outcome that will give the family closure and peace. If she were to fully recover, this cycle will continue. If she remains unresponsive or wakes at some point, she’ll likely be severely brain damaged and will need full time care for the rest of her life. Her family is now in this morbid holding pattern. They have no where to put their grief.
So yeah, I’m more angry than sad. I’m sad for my BIL and his folks. They are good and kind people but it was not enough to save this person from herself.
Karebear1813 June 8, 2021, 5:55 pm
As someone who has a sibling that is very smart, attractive, and kind hearted but also has mental illness and addiction issues, I can sympathize with you and your anger. Our family has already had the talk about the day we get “the call”. I cant seem to make up my mind if I will be at peace or if I will be raging with guilt of what could I have done more. My mind is never made up. My sibling has received similar support from us, her family, as your sister’s SIL. I find most addicts selfish, abusive, and narcissistic like. Hopefully your sister and her husband’s family will find peace and comfort if she passes knowing they no longer have to worry about her suffering. The truth is, her parents know her cause of death and they know she was not a great person. They just don’t need to hear it from other people while they are grieving. Keep a simple “Sorry for your loss” with your sister’s in-laws. In private, take your sister out and celebrate, if you like. And another suggestion, In lieu of flowers, maybe make a donation to an organization for recovering addicts.
On a bonus – hopefully her organs will give life to those who want it.
LisforLeslie June 9, 2021, 6:50 am
Thank you for the kind words. My heart aches for her parents because I know for the rest of their lives they will live with the question “Could we have done things differently?” and the answer is yes, of course, but whether that would have worked out better or made things worse – they won’t know. They’ll just be tortured by that question.
To lose a child, even a messed up, manipulative child is terrible. And I know they know I judged her. I didn’t like how she treated my sister, or my BIL. It’s a no win situation all around.
misspiggy June 9, 2021, 7:50 am
I feel the anger at someone apparently throwing away lots of advantages. I’ve found it doesn’t help me move forward, other than reducing the guilt of wondering if I could have done more to help.
I have found it helpful to think of addiction as an illness we haven’t worked out how to treat reliably. Many conditions don’t yet have successful cures, and whatever triggers and maintains addiction is one of the worst. In the meantime, people are being lost to an illness that nobody would choose to have. It’s very sad, but there is little blame to be apportioned. We might want make the problem simpler and less scary by blaming people for not saving themselves. But in my experience you might as well blame people for not ‘beating’ cancer.
Anonymous June 8, 2021, 5:46 pm
She does sound awful… but all you can do is say polite phrases such as “Sorry for your loss.” Or “Such a tragedy.”
ron June 8, 2021, 6:02 pm
Addiction is similar to serious mental illness, in that they can be ‘treated’ in a way which provides at least temporary relief, but can’t be permanently cured — the treatment is needed to function and then to prevent relapse. Often, drug use begins as self-medication for mental health issues. In the end, the afflicted person often is unable to live a normal life, even if they want to and work at it. When parents devote this much effort and resources to one of their children, it is an indication that they know how unwell that particular child is and how much help they need. Compassion (and likely avoidance in self-defense) are called for more than anger. It’s difficult for all the members of the afflicted person’s extended family. It’s incredibly hard to save a person from themselves, This is a not uncommon problem.
ron June 8, 2021, 6:27 pm
L for L
I do disagree with this part of what you wrote:
“This woman had every advantage. She was smart. She was kind. She had parents who loved her. But parts of her were broken and no matter who tried to help, she made bad choice after bad choice.”
I have a relative who is smart, was kind, had parents who loved them. They didn’t have every advantage. They were seriously mentally ill. That is a HUGE disadvantage, which often leads to addiction (and did lead to use of multiple drugs in this case), bad relationships. failed attempts at employment, and many bad choices. In the case of my relative, it led to something not at all far from hatred for the parents who did so much to help them. They desperately wanted to be self-sufficient and not restricted by helpers, wanted to be left alone, but weren’t able to get by like that. They are reasonably happy now, in semi-hermit mode, but do contact and talk okay with family. Been there before, the crash has always happened and the family always hopes this time is different. Maybe this time is going to be different for my relative.
We had a friend who had suffered from schizophrenia as a teen, been treated, married to get away from home, and was a kind, intelligent, hard-working, self-sufficient person who cared about others and was a delightfully interesting person to be around, then their mental illness returned with a vengeance, they pushed away all who attempted to help them, became homeless, died at far to young an age.
LisforLeslie June 9, 2021, 6:31 am
She has been in therapy for years and has no diagnosis of mental illness. But to be fair, I suspect she has undiagnosed borderline personality disorder. Anytime a therapist would start to see through her BS, she would drop the therapist. Point being, she was offered help over and over, but when faced with taking responsibility or dealing with her issues – she ran away.
I also realise that BPD doesn’t usually stem from nothing. It’s usually a trauma, but usually someone who is apt to blame everyone else, would point to the trauma as an excuse when things go tits up. So again, was there a trauma? Is it BPD? We will never know.
Bittergaymark June 15, 2021, 5:38 am
Anybody who has been in therapy for years and made no “real” progress clearly has fairly severe mental illness. The fact that hers still remains undiagnosed means your SIL had remarkably shitty therapists. No seriously. She was saddled with utter hacks — clearly. Meaning she definitely was not blessed with every advantage. She certainly didn’t enjoy the advantage of the most basic, simply decent mental health care…
ele4phant June 8, 2021, 6:59 pm
LW2 – I think all you need is:
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
And then nothing else.
I have an addict in my family, its incredibly sad and frustrating and maddening and everything in between. It is a disease, but I do think addicts have an obligation to get well. But it’s hard to watch and be around and hard to get them to change if they aren’t willing. As challenging as she’s been for this family (and for you watching your sister), no one wanted this tragic of an end, right?
As an aside, I don’t really know my brother’s brothers-in-law at all. Like, that’s his family, not mine, I’ve maybe met them a time or two. I wouldn’t expect to have to say anything to them if one of them passed, because I don’t really know them.
I suppose I’d express my sympathy to my sister-in-law if one of her brothers passed, but eh, you seem way more involved with your sister’s in-laws then I am, that you’d potentially have the opportunity to interact with them. Not saying your way is wrong, I just…they’re not part of my life at all. I have my own in-laws, and don’t know really a whit about either of my brothers’ in-laws.
LisforLeslie June 9, 2021, 6:45 am
I don’t know how to explain it except for the yiddish word mischpocha, which is family by marriage or by blood. My mom knows all her in-laws relatives (aunt’s sisters and my uncle’s sister and brother). And while she doesn’t talk to them directly, we always get updates on their lives, kids, etc.
I thought that was totally normal. Go figure.
Ele4phant August 26, 2021, 10:00 am
So the update brought me back here and to your comment.
I just had my baby shower this weekend m, my sister-in-law hosted it. My own mother said to me “I’m surprised April (my SIL’s mother) wasn’t there”.
Which I initially was like – why would she be? I don’t really have a relationship with her. She’s not my MIL. She is often at holiday events, particularly when my SIL hosts, but…this was a shower for me and my husband m.
All this to say – maybe I am the weird one after all if my own mother expected my in-laws family to be there.
brise June 9, 2021, 4:34 am
He has become a friend. So treat him as such. End amicably your relationship, say that you are not game and never have been for a platonic relationship, or simply that you feel your relationship has become a friendship.
Keep him as a friend if you feel like and if he feels like, or just move on.
Give a try with the other guy. You are 48, not 90. Carnal pleasure, physical intimacy, is an important aspect of love.
brise June 9, 2021, 4:40 am
LW2, yeah, stick to a banal statement. Frankly, I fail to see how this is your business. It was a sad life, and a sad burden for the parents and family. All sadness here. If you want to do something, make a donation to a charity for families of addicts.
anonymousse June 9, 2021, 5:49 am
The thing is, no matter how shitty her behavior may have been, she was still their daughter, or sister, etc. Despite having every advantage, maybe there was a lot more to the story, such as trauma. There is a lot of shame and stigma associated with abuse of any kind, especially sexual. It’s a tragedy for them, not a relief that she is gone.
LisforLeslie June 9, 2021, 6:59 am
It’s exactly that point – that the family is grieving and I’m angry at this woman for putting them through this. It’s that weird combination of anger and guilt for being angry and relief and guilt for being relieved that I know is eating at my sister as well.
My BILs family doesn’t really like to put their emotions on display. So if there was trauma, it was never discussed. However SIL was very upfront about her issues and using them as an excuse for all kinds of behaviors. So if there was trauma, I’d have expected her to use it to get her way about other things.
Redgirl June 14, 2021, 8:43 pm
It’s completely understandable that you feel anger in this situation, but it’s not acceptable for you to express any of that anger to the people who are closer to (and thus grieving more intensely for) the SIL than you. Look up the “ring theory” of emotional support ( https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/promoting-hope-preventing-suicide/201705/ring-theory-helps-us-bring-comfort-in). Offer sympathy and support to the family, give your sister the space to express whatever feelings she may have, and vent your own anger to uninvolved friends, or a journal, or in a kickboxing class — never to SIL’s family.
I had a deeply mentally ill, addicted brother who committed suicide when I was a child. The stigma surrounding all of those things made it heinously difficult to grieve — it took me over 20 years to come to terms with it and absolve myself of the guilt of not loving him hard enough at the age of 10. It was even more of a nightmare for my parents, of course. Trust me when I say that the people who expressed their sympathy and offered support were a help, but people who expressed their anger at my brother (anger I never shared) simply hurt me and my family at a time when we were already suffering unbearable pain. Don’t go there.
Kate June 9, 2021, 7:57 am
The two people most fucked up and unable to live independently in my family grew up affluent and loved. But there was childhood trauma nonetheless. There was brain injury. There was addiction. There was prescribing of ADD meds, and use of marijuana at a young age provided by mom’s boyfriend’s son. Having every advantage unfortunately does not ensure someone will be okay and able to function as an adult. Tbh on this site I see a lot of misunderstanding of mental health and addiction issues. These are diseases. They are not under people’s control. The underlying disease makes it difficult to seek treatment and benefit from it and stick to it. People with mental illness or addiction aren’t acting “at you.” They are seriously struggling. I’m not an expert obviously, but it does still surprise me how dismissive people can be of the underlying condition when considering someone’s behavior.
000 June 9, 2021, 3:01 pm
I’m a licensed therapist specializing in addictions, and I don’t see anyone being dismissive here. The LW and other commenters are simply acknowledging the anger that comes naturally when we see someone’s life hijacked, or even ended, by addiction.
Bittergaymark June 15, 2021, 5:54 am
I disagree. Many in here seem to think anger is justified at the SIL. Anger for not heroically triumphing over her mental illness
But God damn it. It is an illness.
Imagine if the SIL had instead lost her battle with breast cancer? Now can you see how fucked up and evil such anger towards her would then be?
Why then is this any different? Is it the “responsibility” of every cancer patient to magically get better? No, seriously. Mental illness can be far more insidious than cancer. It, too, can come back again and again and again. Or simply never go away. And through it all the patient is expected to somehow pull themselves out of it through sheer will even though they are often fucking out of their mind.
The anger towards the SIL in this thread and those who justify it is one of the most fucked up views I’ve ever seen on here. No. Seriously. Talk about blaming the victim. Blaming the victim who is presently lying in a hospital braindead no less. NEWFLASH: she’s already paid a terrible price. If you want to piss on her grave. Do it in private. And for the love of God shut the fuck up about it.
Kipiani June 9, 2021, 10:09 am
A tip I heard years ago, to diffuse anger (even justifiable anger) against someone: Imagine them as a baby. An innocent little human full of potential, (hopefully) loved by their parents, who wanted only the best for them. The family, especially her parents, are mourning not just who your sister’s SIL became, but who she could have been.
laylas June 9, 2021, 8:52 pm
LW1: Major sexual incompatibility is a dealbreaker. It’s no one’s fault, you two are just not a good match. Move on.
LW2: Stop judging the woman, she has already paid the ultimate price for her addictions. Try some compassion on for size. Your ‘anger’ is selfish and displays utter ignorance about the horrors of addiction.