DTMFA-filter - but she's my sister. Advice and/or anecdata needed, please.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I am the second-oldest in a family of four daughters, one son, all of us grown. My youngest sister, D4, got married last month, and the next oldest, D3, was head bridesmaid. At the reception, D3 got very drunk and announced to various people that our mother used to physically and verbally abuse her.
Word quickly spread within the family, and our mother was devastated -- understandably so since, as far as we know or remember she was never abused. Sure, we all got yelled at, whacked with a wooden spoon when we did something really bad. But this was 20-30 years ago, in a culture where that was normal (never mind that it's not now).
Now, a month later, I've received a CC of a letter D3 has written to our mother, declaring that:
1) she will never apologise for what she said at the reception
2) she was abused, not only by our mother, but by me and my older sister
3) D4 was a witness to the abuse
Our mother and all the sisters received identical letters today and quickly called each other. My stepdad called D3, got her voicemail, and left an angry message, while our mother has been crying all evening. I spoke to D1 and D4, neither of whom can recall any abuse, verbal or physical, that goes beyond sisterly teasing and fighting. I can't see any way that our antics as kids could be considered abuse. Since D3 states D4 was a witness, I figure this effectively nullifies much of the letter.
But I have this horrible sick feeling, and it's damaging our family severely. We are almost all married with children, and D3 has, until the wedding last month, been a great aunt to my kids, a supportive and loving sister, and in regular contact with our mother, as they live in the same town (D3 and I are in other towns, not physically close).
D3 also has, I think, a drinking problem (her father is a severe alcoholic) but denies it. She binge-drinks regularly to the point where she starts fights and evidently makes these crazy claims. I don't know whether we need to get her to address the drinking first, or the contents of the letter. I half-suspect narcissistic personality disorder or something similar, some desperate attempt to get attention. She claims in the letter that she's seen a therapist, but D4 spoke to her soon after the wedding and at that point she said she'd spoken to her GP only. I doubt she's actually spoken to an kind of counsellor as such. She obviously has mental health issues but I don't know where to begin. Mostly I'm hurt, sad, confused, angry and I feel betrayed by my sister, obviously, because I thought we had a great relationship. I want to make this better.
Other things that may clarify her state of wellbeing: she will often tell us stories that make her sound really put-upon, martyred, or in which she describes herself as the best at something, whether it's her job, her sports, or relationships. In the past she has hosted Christmas and Easter at her house and puts tremendous effort into making them fantastic, planning table settings and activities to the nth degree. She thrives on approval and on being the best sister, the best daughter (it seems to me). She has had a few boyfriends in the past, but my family noticed that after a couple of years, she would start bullying and verbally abusing them until they got fed up and left. Her current partner is a great guy, very patient, and I think they may well stick with it. D3 and I were hypothesising today that since she's not bullying him, she needs another outlet.
So I suppose, after this long and convoluted story, my questions are these:
1) Do I respond to the letter in any way to state my side of the story? Would it be a bad idea to give her attention?
2) She has effectively removed herself from communication through email, facebook, and isn't answering her phone. Should I just...leave things alone? I feel like she's dragged me into it by naming me as one of her abusers now. Do I sever my ties, which means she has no access to her nieces/nephews? Will that make her rethink what she's doing?
3) What on earth could cause someone to make these sorts of claims? How can she be convinced they're false, when she seems to believe them?
4) Does anyone have any anecdotes of similar situations that will help me feel like this is something that can be resolved positively? Our mother is going to move from upset to angry very quickly, and there may be no chance to save the relationships after that.