How to deal with anger and desire for revenge caused by sister's betrayal??
October 10, 2010 4:17 PM   Subscribe

My only sister embezzled money from me. She stole the money I was sending monthly to support our mother, I am deeply hurt and I am having problems dealing with my feelings of anger, frustration and desire for revenge. Do you have any suggestions?

I was not born to be a victim and although I confronted my sister, she has refused to give the money back and denies, lies, having taken the money when I have the bank statements that prove her fraud. I tried to sue her (as I explain in my blog but the attorney told me this is a crime that it is very difficult to prove in court as I didn't have a written contract with her and I live in the USA and she lives in Mexico.
posted by dupedyestafada to Human Relations (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Very hard question here...

Do you think she stole the money because she have problems on her own ( debts, drugs, her own family , whatever...) or is it purely slefish ( lets say for handbags and shoes..) ?

Does your mother knows about all this ? Would it help the situation if she knew or that would '' kill '' her? Maybe telling the mom could be some sweet revenge? Or maybe your mom needs your sister back in Mexico?
posted by CitoyenK at 4:25 PM on October 10, 2010

Were the checks in her name? Would your mom defend her?
posted by anniecat at 4:58 PM on October 10, 2010

I hope you have changed banks or opened another account where she has no access. And no access to any blank checks.
posted by JayRwv at 5:24 PM on October 10, 2010

Have you tried therapy? I'm not saying that to be facetious -- it sounds like this betrayal has really become a huge part of your life. (I read a little on your blog, and I see that it's a very big situation all around.) You were betrayed, and by someone close to you. And as you point out, you may have little or no legal recourse to help mitigate the feelings of being abused. In that case I think you need to work through these feelings, and therapy may be the best option.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:33 PM on October 10, 2010

Change your bank accounts so she can't possible use what she knows to access them.
Contact your mother and fill her in, including all the evidence.
Never contact your sister again, nor allow her to contact you.
You have no obligations with regards to "family" that should put you in the situation where this happens again.
posted by kjs3 at 5:35 PM on October 10, 2010

She clearly has some kind of serious problem if she stole money from her sister, knowing that you're supporting your mother. Whether it was for drugs or for handbags doesn't make her problem any less serious (though drugs would certainly make it more serious). So, look at it this way: she needs help and understanding. She may not want that help, but realizing that she's not a bad person may aid you in dealing with your anger. Instead of accusing her and suing her, you could ask her what's going on and what you, as her sister, can do to help her get through it. The immediate answer might be, "Well, obviously I need money" but rest assured there's more to it than that. But you definitely won't get anywhere by threatening her, as she's already shown.

That said, I have a feeling there's more to your story, too, if you're thinking of suing at all (an action I can certainly understand). This isn't the first time she's done something like this, is it? It was hard to tell from your blog.

As for yourself, protect your bank account and anything she can get her hands on. If you're supporting your mom through this bank account, you may want to change your method of providing those funds so that your sister can't just virtually sneak in and swipe it. I'm so sorry this has happened to you. That's got to be one off the worst feelings in the world when it's so close to home.
posted by katillathehun at 6:26 PM on October 10, 2010

I think you need a counselor, a therapist, or someone like that to help you work through these issues. Unfortunately, I believe also that you can expect to find personal property of your mother's has been used by your sister, perhaps even pawned or sold. When a sibling feels they have been left with the physical and legal responsibility, for some, the temptation to put their own desires ahead of their responsibilities can be too great. A small "borrowing" if followed by simply taking charge of everything.

You can expect that when your mother does pass away, you will feel additional remorse added to the sorrow and grieving that you were not present for some of her difficult times and that your sister will be unbending and hurtful to you. I do not know if you can prepare for every eventuality, but I think you do need some help to work through your feelings about all that has happened and your present powerlessness to change things very much for the future.

I am very sorry for this. It always surprises me how badly one's siblings can behave and how completely differently they can perceive the same situation and excuse their own behavior. It is more painful than just the loss of money when it is a family member who has lied and stolen from one. You will also have quite a task coming to terms with the fact that you will probably never see any reparations. It's important to get some help with working through your feelings about that so as to avoid become bitter and miserable because of this betrayal.
posted by Anitanola at 7:10 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have some suggestions on dealing with anger and desire for revenge which I'm thinking will not be too popular among the Mefi crowd but here goes...

You have a lot of hurt and anger and bitterness inside you right now: that's fine, everyone goes through that.

The noble path that people might recommend is "therapy" or "forgiveness" or trying to work things out, because she's family. I say we don't really have time for that.

The simplest and cheapest path that could end the pain the quickest is to cut her (and all this drama) out of your life with a few quick steps.

1. Dehumanize her: this is the part where you think of what happened to you like a natural disaster. You know, shit happens. Your car breaks down. A hurricane tears the roof off your house. Your sister turns out to be a lying psychopath. This whole drama hurts because it is a betrayal of trust and family kinship: if you instead perceive her actions as an unfortunate force of nature (which in some ways, it might well be - she might be sick and her actions might not be her own) you will begin to feel much better about it. Yes you've lost money: no one goes through life without experiencing loss.

2. Cut her off: this is where you make it clear to everyone that the two of you no longer have a relationship. This is because every encounter will remind you of what happened and bring the hurt to the surface again. This is like having your car get totalled and you buying a new one, but leaving the wreck in your driveway: every time you look at the wreck, you're reminding yourself of how much money you've lost. Get rid of the wreck.

3. Revenge: Here is the controversial part. You're looking for something that will satisfy your feeling of righteousness and judgement (however misplaced). This is telling, from your statement "I was not born to be a victim". I'm all for taking revenge: but I say, if you're going to do it, you should do it with a little thought and preparation. The common quote that taking revenge hurts you more than it does the person you hate is actually true in the majority of cases: once you total up all the time you spend brooding about how much you hate her and how that bitterness affects your life, how much all this tarnishes your social reputation (long term!) once people find out how vengeful you are, and the potential consequences under the law (most forms of revenge are in fact illegal and you might end up in jail) versus the..... suffering you intend to put the other person through. It's actually really not worth it even at ratios of 5:1 or 10:1 (as in... if it costs you $10 to deprive your enemy of $100, is it actually worth it? I would argue not! I would rather keep the $10)

Unless you are a particularly brilliant con artist or evil mastermind, you'll never actually pull this off. Right here we are talking about revenge in terms of 50:1 or so - just a quick summary of what you'll need to do. You'll need to find something that will expend a minimum amount of effort on your part (remember, time is money)... something that is completely legal under the law... and something that EVEN if exposed, will not damage your social reputation. Or conversely, you have to rig it so that after you've inflicted your revenge, the victim will never reveal this to anyone else because of further consequences that might ensue. Which kind of makes sense: maybe we never hear about the most effective forms of vengeance because the perpetrator has woven his web so tightly the victim can never speak up about it or the police never find out.

The takeaway from this bit, uhm, is that if you're thinking of taking revenge, you're probably making yourself a victim. Unless you're an evil mastermind, which I doubt, because evil masterminds don't post on askmefi for help. But I do encourage you to think about it, weigh the costs and benefits, and then take the path you deem best. Because if you do not do this, you will always have this in the back of your mind as "unfinished business" like that car wreck in the yard - it's like a broken down car you have that you never bothered to find out if you could fix. Find out if you want to fix it or junk it.

4. Moving On It could take years. But one day you will find your anger and bitterness gone. I promise.
posted by xdvesper at 7:19 PM on October 10, 2010 [16 favorites]

I don't think you need a therapist at all. You are angry and you have every right to be! If that was happening, you can bet my sister would not be hearing from me at all. I would not talk. Not even to confront her. At that point she is dead to me until I feel like I truly can get past her devious ambitions. Let the anger pour and you can let her know she's a piece of shit but you might have to stop sending money. It's no good, if your sister is stealing it. It's like the parasitic worm that eats all the food while it's host dries up. Therapy is not the answer for now. This is different. This is family business. And that's just my opinion.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 7:20 PM on October 10, 2010

You're not asking us how to deal with the logistics of this situation - it sounds from your blog like you've already waded into that. If I'm reading right you're asking essentially about how to deal with feelings of helplessness and hurt, which are the sources of your anger. The standard answer around here is therapy, and it's often right. I think it's right this time too, regardless of whatever else you do.

You've definitely been wronged. Sometimes people just think they've been wronged, but from what i read on the blog, you actually were. She shouldn't have done that, but she did. She robbed you and hurt you and neglected your mother. You know on some level that revenge is not only the wrong thing to attempt, but that it won't fix anything. What you need is for your sister to acknowledge and admit what she did, apologize, and to atone for it. And you need to know that your mother will be taken care of. You deserve both, but you can only control the latter. You very likely will not get the former. It's not fair, but it's reality. And aside from making sure your sister can't steal from you anymore or neglect your mother, you have to accept that reality.

I found myself facing that difficult and unsatisfying necessity in recent years. I've just deleted the paragraphs explaining the situation because we're here to talk about you, not me. In a nutshell I got screwed in a life-altering way. I was lied to in a big way and betrayed. I'm still paying for it and will still pay for it for years to come. I've never been so angry in my life and have never felt so helpless because I couldn't do anything to make it right or make the liars pay. And I just had to eat it and in fact stay in that situation. And as time went on, I just couldn't get past the anger and the betrayal. Finally I had to go see a therapist because I didn't know what else to do and the anger wouldn't let up and it was poisoning me. I got cold comfort there and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. It seemed so simplistic and unuseful at the time. The long and the short of it was that the therapist said that I felt like people shouldn't lie to me or cheat me or steal from me, but the truth was that those things happen. People do those things. And I couldn't let go of the fact that they shouldn't. And until I accepted it, I wouldn't have a chance to stop being angry and hurt.

Over time, I guess I can say he's right. I had to cut my losses and put it behind me. It scarred over, but I will never get justice and I still have a hard time with that. And though I'm wiser now, and will be more careful for the rest of my life, people will lie to me in the future, and cheat, and steal. Out of selfishness or out of convenience or out of weakness, some will do it. And it doesn't matter if I think they shouldn't. They will. I can't control it and in some cases I will simply have no recourse. I can let that burn me out from the inside or I can accept it, do anything possible to redress it, and otherwise move forward. It's kind of like someone who runs a store - they know they will lose x% to theft. The shipper will lose x% to breakage. The factory will lose x% to bad runs. They accept that as an unavoidable part of an otherwise successful enterprise. They factor it in, expect it, try to minimize it, and otherwise work around it, keeping their main focus on the good and productive things.

This thing with your sister happened. It won't unhappen. If there's anything you can do on the legal front, do it. If not, you're left as the only person who can decide whether you will let this eat you up or not. Let go of "should" and figure out the least damaging way forward. For the health of your soul, you'll have to get to a point where you can put the hurt and anger of this behind you.

Maybe you can get a better answer from your therapist than I did. If so, please pass it on! But give it a try. If you're stuck on this and can't get past it, go talk to somebody who can help you get some new perspective on it.
posted by Askr at 7:44 PM on October 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

You're rightfully angry and upset. Whatever action you decide to take--whether you decide to sue her, seek revenge, excommunicate her, (all of which are up to you) realize what she's done is over and done with. She screwed you over for a good portion of your life. Will you allow feelings of bitterness and rage to ruin the rest of it?

Basically, I am saying don't allow the ugly feelings to torment the years you have left on this earth. You have a choice to be happy and enjoy life--but you can't do that when you are holding onto bitterness and rage. I guess this is the question you should consider: "will you allow your sister's actions to screw you over not once, but twice?"
posted by The ____ of Justice at 8:03 PM on October 10, 2010

I guess I'll add: it's about the money, it isn't personal to you or your mom. You are taking it personally, but she did it for the $$, not as an answer to "what is the best possible way to hurt my family?". There are some good suggestions above, notably Anitanola (I mention that one because it is closest to how I feel).
posted by variella at 8:19 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was not born to be a victim and although I confronted my sister, she has refused to give the money back and denies, lies, having taken the money when I have the bank statements that prove her fraud.

Are you super 100% sure-as-sugar confident of her guilt? Despite having statements, has she let slip in any way that she took the money or given any indication as to a legitimate but alternative motive? Cutting someone toxic out of your life is good advice but I'd hate to see someone throw away a salvageable relationship unless their confidence in the other party's guilt is unwavering.
posted by wackybrit at 8:29 PM on October 10, 2010

The only things that helped me with a similar situation were time and complete avoidance of the family members in question.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:41 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

dupedyestafada, I am very sorry that you have this situation and I am mightily impressed that you have worked so hard to keep your parents afloat for many years. I, in contrast, "let" my mother live on her social security while I lived my life. I never felt the obligation to support her. That's a cultural difference, I imagine.

Well, I've read most of your blog (though I had a time of it, trying to figure out how to read all the entries from the start). I think I have the gist.

I do have a similar "betrayal" issue that I won't describe in great detail---suffice it to say someone I loved for 30+ years completely stabbed me in the back. I, like you, was (and remain) just incredulous. I sense from your blog that when you reconciled with your sister you were happy about that...I also felt confident in a renewed relationship with my "betrayer" too...only to learn that I would have been much better off to have stayed estranged from him.

The challenge for you and I is to manage to get over this incredulity and move forward. I guess it is a matter of accepting that these people whom we did not think capable of such reprehensible actions ARE capable of same. In my case I am trying to think of him as actually being "dead to me". I am nearly there, because I certainly no longer speak to him and I am close to actually hating him. I suppose that is a way of "moving on".

I think of my broken relationship as something that must be grieved..just like a death, and I imagine you must do the same. You and I have to be very careful not to fall into the martyr role. It is obvious that much of our anger is centered around thoughts like "after all I have done!" I personally do not want to go to a therapist..but I am thinking about giving myself a deadline. If, say, I am no less angry in 6 months, perhaps I will find a grief group to share my story with others and get my sadness on the outside of me in a cathartic way. It is unusual to be used ("criminally") by someone so close to us. It is upsetting to the max...but if we do not find a way to get over the anger we will be continually drinking poison and expecting the object of our hatred to be the one to die.

If your sister were actually dead she would not be contributing to your Mother's life, so make peace with the fact that you are the only one who is going to help your Mother. You are like an only child. Get your Mother to make you executor (is there anything besides this jewelry to inherit?) and then never speak to your sister again.
Hugs to you.
posted by naplesyellow at 2:05 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know this may not help you but sometimes just shedding a different light on something can be useful.

In my Irish Catholic background the person who left the country always had the additional responsibility of staying in touch and visiting. It was almost as if by leaving you were doing a bad thing, even if it meant a better life and income which the family also benefitted from. When I returned I always had to make the effort to get around to everyone's house and see them.
While living in Spain and working three jobs to save to get married I made the mistake of having my mother as co-signator on the bank account. She used 1/3rd of the money I was saving for her own expenses. The attitude was that she was the one back home making phone calls about wedding arrangements so in some way she was "owed".

This is always compounded by feelings that the one who left is enjoying a better lifestyle and income than the one who remains. There's envy and jealously at the root of the problem which allows the person in their heads to justify what is actually theft. But that's how they explain it to themselves. She'll have convinced herself that she's left back home with all the worry of your mother and all of the family obligations that you "escaped". It doesn't matter that this bears no relationship to reality, that will be the tactic she uses to justify it in her own mind.

I would warn you about confronting her about the issue and expecting any kind of reasonable outcome. She will likely throw a lot of crap at you about how much she has to do that you don't, any discrepancies in your overall income will be thrown in, she'll probably go on the offensive as she convinced herself that it's her "right" to use this money.

you say in your blog that you agreed to pay half your mother hospital expenses? I practically guarantee your sister resents that on the grounds that she will have convinced herself that your better off than she is and also that just by the fact that her son (is that the nephew you mention?) does the driving picking up etc., or that she may have arranged the hospital, etc.,

there is so much resentment from the ones who stay at home in my experience. Best of luck, it's a horrible feeling.
posted by Wilder at 6:39 AM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I know stories of people who have gone to prison for stealing from their mom. I'm just saying....
posted by notned at 10:00 AM on October 11, 2010

Response by poster: I am so impressed and so grateful to all of you who have taken the time to help me out. I can say that I have learned something from each answer. I feel better after reading your input.

Just as background information: I do biofeedback and go to therapy. I don't think I could have survived so much stress without this help. I highly recommend both.

I am not going to go into many details here as I am explaining them in my blog (, but every time that I have tried to let go, my sister does something so awful and hurtful that it is impossible for me not to react. These waves of anger overcome me and I just want to hurt her someway or another.

I know I need to recover my sense of humor and try to laugh at my sister's many faceted personality and odd way of thinking and behaving. As characters in a novel, she and her family are fascinating and this is what I am trying to portray in my blog so that I obtain some emotional distance.

Many, many thanks for sharing your experiences and your wisdom with me. Mil, mil gracias.

posted by dupedyestafada at 2:09 PM on October 11, 2010

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