Please enable me further
July 11, 2010 8:54 PM Subscribe
Toxic relatives and forgiveness games ... how do I handle this?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total)
My sister is married to a severely problematic man. He has a drinking problem (one drink and he'll proceed to get completely wasted), has gambled away most of their life savings away in the past, has attempted blackmail for money, and will attack others verbally if corrected or feels there is an attack on his authority or beliefs. He is not a complete mess and can be very cunning and charming for a few days at a time.
We thought he was a different but decent enough person for the first few years of their marriage. A few years ago, his gambling problems blew up in his face, as well as a boatload of other lies and scams, and I advised my sister to dump him. My parents think he is a scumbag and don't want anything to do with him but would like to maintain some semblance of a relationship with my sister.
Lately, we have gotten letters of apology claiming that he was bipolar, is now medicated, and is sorry for everything that has happened and would like to mend this rift in our family. He has a history of making "surprise" grand gestures (buying cars on credit to apologize after a fight). My sister maintains a purely perfunctory relationship with my parents via Hallmark cards and facebook messages, but has stopped conversing with them and me via phone for the last year. My sister is passive-aggressive and loves to be maneuver others to be "the bad guy" so she can be nasty but still feel good about it, rather than having an actual discussion or confrontation. If undeniable evidence of her husband's activities confront her (picking him up after a bender, notices of unpaid child support show up), she sits staring blankly and perhaps muttering a yes or no if questions are asked.
My guess is that the conditions behind any further contact will be unconditional acceptance of her husband, which is unlikely from my parents, so then we will be the bad guys.
I am planning on calling her and asking what her version of reconciliation would entail. Have any of you succeeded in setting boundaries with a sibling who is married to somebody toxic? I am nearing the DTMFSA point but the situation stresses out my parents.