He comes from a large family, and neither he nor his family are hesitant to phone or email my parents, me, or my sister’s friends when they have a problem – and they always have a problem: my parents should be giving him more money for the wedding, I wasn’t social enough at the engagement party, neither my husband nor I let anyone from his side have alone time with our infant son, her friends aren’t classy enough to attend events with his friends, etc. — the abuse gets spread around.
And that doesn’t even approach the things I know he and his family have said and done to my sister.
Yesterday I sent out the bridal shower invites and within twelve hours the groom forwarded an email to my sister, me, and the other bridesmaids that had clearly been circulated around his family and which viciously tore down (there was a lot of name calling) my sister and me for planning an event his side couldn’t attend. Remember, they live in another country. I included them on the invite list out of courtesy and because I am under strict family orders to “play nice” for my sister’s sake.
Honestly, after everything that has gone on previously, this email was not a surprise and I was ready to just add it to the list. The truth is, I’ve gone beyond outrage and into exhaustion. I don’t want this psychopath or his crazy clan in my life, and frankly I was ready to soldier through the wedding, help my sister pack, wave good bye, and never call her again.
Then my mother called. She said, “I know you and I’ve seen you pulling away. Please don’t cut your sister off. It’s going to be bad and she’s not going to have anyone and there’s always the chance she’ll try to get out one day. Your father and I are old and you’re the only one who will always be there. You have to make an effort to keep her in your life. She’s going to need you.”
I know a lot of his actions are a deliberate attempt to isolate her. I’ve done my reading on abuse. I’ve talked to her about it and she agrees with me one minute and defends him the next. I don’t care anymore.
I love my sister, but I don’t want to be involved with this kind of scary-crazy anymore. And I certainly don’t want my son exposed to what will soon become her side of the family. (That bit about people from his side wanting “alone time” with my son comes up at every single event I’ve attended with them and it makes me rabid.). What are my responsibilities to her? — No Thanks to Scary-Crazy
I understand your frustration and your disgust and your concern, but I think you need some perspective. The level of interaction you’ve had with the abusive husband-to-be and his psychopath family is at its peak right now because of the impending wedding. I can’t imagine that, once your sister and Crazy move to another country and the wedding is behind everyone, you will have much reason to be in touch with her in-laws or that your son — or any future children — will be exposed to them. When would you have an occasion to even see them again? Maybe if you go visit your sister? So… don’t go visit her. See her when she comes to visit you and your parents. Sure, her abusive husband will probably come too, but I doubt his nutso family will tag along.
Your mom was right about your being a bridge back to the world of sanity for your sister. She may not ever take the bridge back — and I can imagine how sad it must be to lose her to the other side — but as long as as long as you stay present in her life, the bridge is still there, and maybe, just maybe, one day she’ll walk — or run — back across. Staying present in her life doesn’t mean sacrificing your own or jeopardizing the safety and comfort of your family. It doesn’t mean exposing your son to your sister’s crazy in-laws. It doesn’t even mean exposing yourself to them after the wedding is done. It simply means some regular phone calls and maybe some mail now and then — a care package from back home for her birthday, a postcard when you’re on vacation, stuff like that. The point is simply to let her know you’re thinking of her, that you care about her, that you miss her.
You still have the wedding to get through, and it’s probably going to majorly suck. The good news is you have a lot of people on your side — your parents, your sister’s friends — who are going to think it majorly sucks. Lean on them a bit. Vent to them when the crazy in-laws are driving you nuts. Think about what steps you can take to manage your stress and anxiety during the wedding and the days and events leading up to it. Practice your favorite forms of self-care: bubble baths; a long walk in the park; a massage. Enlist your husband to be on the defense come wedding day, making sure the crazy family doesn’t get anywhere near your son (or at least are not left alone with him!), while you focus on just getting yourself through the day and supporting your sister as best you can.
It really sucks that your sister is making such a big mistake and that there’s nothing you can do or say to stop her. But that doesn’t mean you should cut her out of your life. You can stay present in hers while honoring your own boundaries, which will be easier with her moving to another country. Your mother is right — this isn’t the time to say adios to her but rather to hold on; the tenuous grasp she has with you may soon be her only link to a safe and loving reality.
About a month after that I took some friends’ advice and hooked up with an old fwb (we used protection). Not long after that, the ex and I started talking and decided to work things out. It turns out his ex had messed with his head about some personal stuff and he had had a panic attack about our future. I was honest about sleeping with someone and went and got tested (all clear).
A month in and I started getting weird feelings from him, so I took a peak at his phone. I found out he had gone on a date with some girl just after we decided to get back together. He claimed he was angry about my sleeping with someone else and, although it was stupid, it didn’t go anywhere (no sex and they stopped talking), so after a bit I forgave him.
But not long after, he suddenly became more secretive and protective with his phone: new password; hiding screens when I walked into a room; and deleting all texts. Fast forward a few months and we find out I’m pregnant (and not by him). Well, crap, but we still decided to work through it. The sex life was gone; supposedly he physically couldn’t finish because of the fact I was carrying another man’s baby, but he loved me and didn’t want to end it.
Slowly, that creeping gut feeling came back, so I took another peek at his phone and found out that he’s been sexting–sending and receiving nudes from multiple other girls and telling them he is single. I was shattered. He promised he wouldn’t do it anymore. But since then, he has been active on the dating site we met on, he changed his phone password again, and now he is way more weird with his phone (saying I can go through it but that he has forgotten the password and only has fingerprint access).
I’ve made my mistakes, but at least I was always honest with him. Should I trust him? — Phone Peeker
Hard no. No, you should not trust him. Why do you even have to ask?! This has been a doomed relationship for a long time. You’ve been making bad decisions for a while. Now you have a baby on the way. Get out of this mess and focus on upcoming motherhood and whatever you need to do to care for your baby. And in the future, one day when you’re ready to date again, don’t keep giving chances to guys who show you and tell you in every which way that they can’t be trusted. Someone telling you he loves you is not enough. He needs to ACT like he loves you.
So there’s no confusion: Dumping you for an ex, blocking you on social media, having panic attacks about your future, being secretive and protective with his phone, and avoiding sex with you are not acts of love. And not for nothing, but neither is staying with you when you’re pregnant with another man’s baby. Maybe he thought that act alone entitled him to be a dick in every other way — like he was really doing you a favor being with you when you were carrying a baby that isn’t his, but he wasn’t. You can do yourself a favor though and MOA from this guy forever while also taking a break from dating while you adjust to new motherhood and the demands and responsibilities that come with that
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.