How do I warn my sister she's headed for an abusive relationship?
January 1, 2008 5:36 PM Subscribe
How do we tell a young woman (a teenager, really) that she's headed for a nightmare of a relationship?
posted by moira to human relations (27 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Short and sweet: my little sister has just become engaged to a young man she hasn't been dating long. They are verbally and physically abusive to each other in public. This is extremely out of character for my sister. The guy isn't exactly a winner (evidence below). Add to this the fact that she's recently become very defensive. How do any of us speak to her in a way that will get through, make her think?
TMI: I should first mention that I'm over 700 miles away. All of my information comes from my mom. I should also mention that my mom is a very open, accepting, calm person, and generally lets us make our own bad decisions. She's also been in an abusive relationship, and knows all the red flags. I don't suspect overreaction or things blown out of proportion from her.
About my sister: 17 yrs old with a reading disability that's been rough on her. Her character has always been gentle, forgiving, and wise. Her father, who she lives with, is an alcoholic, and the rest of the family is unhappy and dysfuntional. She's been struggling with depression for a long time, now, and has begun to take everything said as a lecture or attack. She's recently gone through a barrage of bad relationships, including one with a guy who stalked and harrassed her and threatened to kill them all.
I want you to understand the import, then, that this *current* relationship is the one we're most alarmed at.
About the relationship: They are verbally cruel to each other. My sister says horrible things to and about him, and he responds with the same. They manipulate each other. He won't let her be without him. When she wanted to go to our mom's place to watch Gilmore Girls for a little while, he threated to go out and get drunk. Unlike my sister's father, he's a mean drunk. She is terrified of him doing this, and capitulates.
They've never been seen *not* fighting. They are physically abusive to each other. They slap each other. She pinches his nipples, hard, hits him. My other sister (S2), who isn't exactly gentle and has had some bad relationships, was shocked enough to tell our little sister to back off. Even my little nephew has commented on it. Why haven't they come in, yet? "Oh, they're probably fighting again."
About the guy: Honestly? We don't know much about him. He was in the reserves and scheduled to go to Iraq, but was discharged when it was discovered he'd been diagnosed with bipolar. He was unemployed after that, living with my sister in her car at first (we hadn't been aware of this), and moved right in when she got a place. They've been spending her money based on the amount he's got coming from the Military, i.e., money they don't actually have. I believe he finally has a low-end job now. As I said before, he won't let her out of his sight, and he's just as abusive to her and why is my cat trying to eat my knee?
OMG, there's more?! She's always looked up to me. I'm in a happy relationship with a wonderful man. Our relationship has always been held up to her as ideal, and my husband as a rare gem of a man. We're the only healthy relationship she's seen. She's always said that that was what she wanted. Now I'm concerned that she thinks she can't live up to it, that it isn't possible, and has pretty much said f*** it all.
The last bit: I am not and never have been close to her. We have lived our lives separately. This doesn't change the fact that she wants a closer relationship with me. She is ostensibly planning a drive down to see me soon.
My mom has always had a personal rule that she wouldn't speak against our relationships, for fear of alienating us. She's changed her mind for this one.
Wow, these relationship questions really do run on.