Supporting a family member through a bad break-up
April 21, 2012 2:43 PM   Subscribe

How can I provide support to my sister-in-law/friend during a difficulty break-up, transition, and international move? Obviously, more complex details inside.

My sister-in-law (sil) moved abroad about five years ago; the plan was for her to stay six months, but she ended up meeting a guy, a fellow traveler who had been living in the other country for several years. The two became very serious and got engaged two years ago, staying in the other country. My sil in her late 20s now--we're close to the same age, and my husband/her brother is a few years older. I really like her a lot, and we get along well whenever we are together, but because of distances, we aren't amazingly close.

After a lot of issues about where to live (fiance wanted to stay in the country they were living in; sil wanted to come back to the US), they've finally made a (very difficult) decision to break up. She called my husband last night and told him. She'll be moving back to the US, to the city where my husband and I live, in about a month. (I was very surprised to hear this news, by the way; I knew this had been a source of tension between them, but my husband and I both really thought that she would stay abroad with her partner)

I'm wondering how best to support her during this transition. Here's the tricky part; my sil is pretty baby-crazy. She and her fiance had been talking about having kids for a long time, and she was really looking forward to being a mom. The whole family says that they always thought sil would have kids before my husband did. But I am currently four months pregnant (and excited about it). When we announced this news to sil, she appeared to be very happy and excited, but joked about feeling some jealousy, so I'm sure it's there.

I'm looking for general advice about how to support her when she moves back to the US (she's been in a developed, English speaking country, but I'm sure the culture shock will be difficult), and specifically looking for advice on how to navigate support and interactions when I am a pregnant, and I'm sure she imagined herself pregnant by this age. I would also really like to reach out to her before she arrives, but am unsure exactly what do say.

Any advice would be appreciated.
posted by Ideal Impulse to Human Relations (5 answers total)
I would offer her support but not rely on her support during your pregnancy - so no rides to Dr's appointment or whatever unless she REALLY pushes for involvement. She will probably want to go out and do "single girl" stuff, if you aren't into that try to include her in your social group (assuming a lot of her support network has moved away after five years).
posted by saucysault at 2:51 PM on April 21, 2012

Know what's cool about women that are looking to date in their late 20s and early 30s? They tend not to make the same mistakes that women in their early 20s do when finding partners.

She's baby-crazy? She's probably going to be more inclined to date guys that would be decent dads.

As a distraction, let her help you pick out baby stuff.
posted by k8t at 3:22 PM on April 21, 2012

When it comes time, if she offers to babysit, take her up on it. I was feeling a little baby-crazy before I had one and I wish my sister-in-law had let me have a chance to spend more time with her baby. (As a result, when friends fawn over my daughter and offer, I always take them up on babysitting. And then wait to see if they offer again, and let them as many times as they are excited by.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:00 PM on April 21, 2012

I just recently moved back home after living abroad for 2 years, and the best thing for me has been the few friends I have around. I just left my social network, and meeting people is always hard and takes time. I am sure she would appreciate offers of coffee or lunch dates, games of Scrabble, whatever you guys might like to do together. Just having the option of someone you know you can call up when you're feeling lonely is gold.

That doesn't speak to her breakup or your baby... but really, all of that aside, I am sure that overtures of friendship are the best thing you can offer right now. Also, even if she is jealous about your pregnancy right now, this is her brother's kid! I am sure that by the time he/she is born, your SIL will be excited about her nephew, and also happy to babysit and collect baby snuggles.
posted by snorkmaiden at 10:08 PM on April 21, 2012

You're overthinking the baby thing - her reaction is whatever it is and if she finds that situation painful hopefully she'll be mature enough not to let it interfere with your and her brother's joy and excitement. Don't rely on her for support during your pregnancy or after the baby is born but accept any support she offers trusting she would not offer it if it upset her. Let her determine how much she wants to get caught up in the family's 'we're having a new baby' wave of excitement.

What is really nice is to have somebody be available as social contact and to help facilitate building new connections because she will feel lonely at times.

So as others have said make yourself available for coffee, a lunch or whatever you two like to do or to help shopping for stuff for her new place etc.

And if you are interested in the same kind of things invite her to tag along as she may enjoy the people she meets with you on those occasions - if you are happy for her to become part of that group of people.

As to what you can do now just reach out and tell her you realise she's facing some very difficult transitions and that you would like to support and help her through them. That opens the door for her to reach out to you for help or a chat or whatever (not just her brother) and then you just do what you'd do with any friend.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:15 AM on April 22, 2012

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