The in-law triangle, how do you deal with it?
April 5, 2016 5:06 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I have been together a long time and I have posted about issues with his sister before. I can see that his inability to draw boundaries is the real issue here and so my question is combination of how does one deal when a SO can't and won't draw boundaries and has a needy sibling who has a hard time backing off. We are all in our late 30s but emotionally in our relationship, it feels like he needs to take care of her, and be there for her and I can't get over the feeling that her very existence is now sucking oxygen out of my relationship, and i need to stop feeling like that. Details inside.

My boyfriend and I have had a long distance and rocky relationship and finally moved in together in the same city and apt 20 months ago - his sister also lives here. He lost his father suddenly 4 years ago and has had to spend a lot of time on family matters over the last 4 years. His mother, now in her mid 70s lives alone in our home country but her kids, (80% of the time my bf) manages all her affairs from here in the States. Phone bills, banking, and disputes with house-help or even friends from here since his dad's passing.

When we moved in together (he was 37, I 34) he told me he had made a "pact" with his sister, who is 2 years younger to him, to meet her atleast twice a week. My boyfriend and I are both highly educated and work very demanding jobs, where it is not uncommon for the work day to be 12-14 hrs long on average.

Considering such work commitments I found it entirely unreasonable that right when we moved in together to take our relationship forward, he would tell me 2-3 times a week, and during our little free time on weekends, that he wants to meet his sister. This would often be for a meal, dinner or brunch. It would also often be Friday dinner or Saturday brunch, which can be special meals after an over worked week.

They come from a family of doctors and she is one too, my boyfriend bucked the trend and we're both much more culturally and artistically inclined and well - accomplished too. But her constant self aggrandizing over medicine and family is really too much to bear.

I don't like hanging out with his sister because we just don't have common interests and she makes their family of origin the center of every reference and every conversation topic, constantly. If not it's her in-laws or she incessantly talks about her husband. It's not even gossip, which honestly can be invigorating among friends, it's just constantly self referential stuff for which others are an audience.

What bothers me is that over the last almost 2 years since we have lived together my boyfriend has cited spending time with his sister as a clear priority in his life. Now after several fights and practically issuing an ultimatum about her presence in our free time he has modulated our hanging out with her. I do see that where earlier he would say every four days that he hadn't seen his sister in "a long time" he has cut back.

She got married last year and her husband had moved across the country for a new job a few months before the wedding. From the time of their engagement every invitation of hers was treated with the sentiment "oh she's moving away" - now about 16 months since that time she has shown no signs of moving. A mutual friend has also conveyed to me that she has cited her brother's presence in the city as one reason for not wanting to move. Her husband is now considering switching jobs again, and they don't know where or when - but that is a recent development. Even something like our going to a potluck hosted by my boss on a Saturday evening would not be free of a competing invitation from her with the statement - "ok, but you know I'm leaving soon".

Upon hearing of an evening I spent with friends she feels no reservation in saying "oh my brother told me he was with you and so he couldn't hang out with me". On his birthday she hung out in our apt till 4:00 am with other friends endlessly talking about her husband. When our friends narrated an incident of their 2 yr old having bitten someone in daycare we all advocated for the baby saying the other kid must have instigated her. My Bf's sister responded saying she understands, she might bite her husband too. What sense does that make? But it's how she implicates herself into everything big or small - the story was about the baby not about her The next morning she texts asking if we could all go out for birthday dinner. She was just in our house for 8 hours celebrating!! My boyfriend declined saying it would be better for our relationship if we just spent the evening by ourselves. After which i know she has asked him if he can hang out or is it "girlfriend" time only.

Because of family affairs since their father's death they have had a lot of paperwork from home to deal with. This also used to be a constant excuse to meet. BF handles most of it and has to badger her to do her bit. She does handle most of their mother's medical matters, he handles everything else, finance, investments, real estate, travel arrangements and much more. Despite this everytime she hasn't seen him for a few days she will pull out some paper that needs to be signed and make it a reason to get together.

For a while I thought if I initiated an outing or a meal than we'd be done and be done on our time preference, but I saw that she just took this as encouragement to hang out even more. If we met on Thursday, she'd ask what we're doing on Friday or Saturday and my boyfriend just doesn't say "oh we just met", or even feel that way. It's always upto me decline which I find very very tiring now.

We recently went our first short holiday together after a very long time. She called him on Sunday afternoon while we were on holiday to ask about how their taxes were affected due to recent family financial affairs. My boyfriend ofcourse doesn't mind, and they talked only 10 -15 min. It was while we ate breakfast and I'm not sure why but it really pissed me off. I really want to stop feeling this way. This person I don't find interesting in the least now casts such a big pall on my life. I feel ill at ease knowing that another invitation and another combative posture from my boyfriend about it will be around the corner every week.

I know he's the primary figure in all this and he sees me as disliking his sister without acknowledging the larger emotional dynamic. "But she's my sister" used to be his constant refrain - I don't see that as a self evident statement - what part of her behavior is it supposed to explain? He has even said "she doesn't say I'm spending too much time with you" which I find totally bizarre. It dumbfounds me. I don't understand if he's autistic about this issue or if he thinks this is a triangle.

We have made a lot of progress in the last few months, and have a long and deep history. We are talking about marriage all the time, though it is prompted by his greencard application which he is delaying of his own volition so we can both be on it once we're married. Now at this point of potentially getting hitched he has backed off from meeting his sister although I believe they talk almost everyday and text each other much more. Yet I feel like he's reacting to my ultimatums and displeasure than really understanding that if we are to be together he will have to prioritize us and draw boundaries.

I have no precedent to draw from in my personal life, in both his family of origin and mine we don't have any sibling relationship that is so overbearing on marital relations. I can't recall my father's sister, who lived with her family the same city as us being emotionally demanding of my father. Bf's father and aunt had a similarly healthy dynamic. It really upsets me that his sister gets upset when we decline seeing her for a week and then guilts him over it. He's returns grumpy when I don't accompany him but I find that totally unreasonable. I have drawn my boundaries and haven't seen her in a few weeks now. My boyfriend is not happy about it but I am and so it's going to stay that way for the moment.

I'm a bit surprised myself at how big the issue has become and I really want to find a healthy way of dealing with it, especially as it looks like she's not going away anytime soon and we are likely going to be family. Coping mechanisms? What have been your experiences with spouses who don't see toxic in-law behavior?
posted by whatdoyouthink? to Human Relations (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like your boyfriend has been completely honest and upfront about how important a priority family (and particular his sister) is to him throughout your relationship. Ultimately I don't think either of your preferences (for lots of family time vs. not so much family time) are inherently correct here, but this does sound like a pretty big incompatibility. I would not expect that you can change such a huge component of your boyfriend's personality and life. You have to decide for yourself whether it is a dealbreaker or not - from everything you've written here, it sounds like you simply may be happier dating someone for whom their family of origin is not such a large priority/focus in their life.
posted by rainbowbrite at 5:18 PM on April 5, 2016 [39 favorites]

I don't think she's toxic, exactly, it's just that she's a higher priority for him than you are, which is (a) unusual and (b) a death knell for a romantic relationship where that value isn't mutually held.

There's research on this- i.e. marriages tend to fail when there isn't a reprioritization from the family of origin to the new partnership. The exceptions that I've personally witnessed are where both spouses come from extremely attached families where they mutually agree to prioritize family-of-origin hangout time, and that hangout time happens with both spouses; and - crucially - they both actually enjoy their in-laws. Neither of those conditions exist here.

It's kind of one thing after another with this guy and his family, isn't it?
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:30 PM on April 5, 2016 [16 favorites]

I know he's the primary figure in all this and he sees me as disliking his sister without acknowledging the larger emotional dynamic. "But she's my sister" used to be his constant refrain - I don't see that as a self evident statement - what part of her behavior is it supposed to explain? He has even said "she doesn't say I'm spending too much time with you" which I find totally bizarre. It dumbfounds me. I don't understand if he's autistic about this issue or if he thinks this is a triangle.

You mean the larger emotional dynamic in which you just really super-duper hugely dislike his sister?

You two are not compatible on the subject of family; that's all there is to it. Many people would find this level of relationship between siblings entirely normal or even desirable. Many would not. You do not, therefore you should not marry this man.

I say this with sympathy, as someone who really struggles with finding an okay balance between relationship and family (I am close with my family, and this causes friction in my relationship). I find myself scaling back on seeing family because it makes things easier but it breaks my heart endlessly. If he's anything like me, you have no idea how sad you're making him, because you just don't understand where he's coming from. And he has no idea where you're coming from either!

So part ways, for heaven's sake, before you get to the point where you hate him as much as you hate his sister.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 5:32 PM on April 5, 2016 [33 favorites]

I'm not sure I understand what's toxic about her behavior, other than that she's boorish in conversation?

I find your behavior a lot more perplexing -- your boyfriend is close with his family, he's been totally upfront with you about how important his sister is to him, they've always spent a ton of time together, he's not trying to EXCLUDE you from his family but to include you, and you're issuing ultimatums that he has to cut off or drastically reduce contact with his family of origin. And your objection isn't that she's DONE anything, but just that she's boring and boorish.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:33 PM on April 5, 2016 [28 favorites]

And above all, failing to agree with you in this regard doesn't make him autistic.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 5:33 PM on April 5, 2016 [53 favorites]

You know, I remember the last time you posted about this and it was the exact same set of complaints and nothing has changed. You're putting all of your frustration off onto your partner's sister, when your real problem is that your partner likes things the way they are and isn't going to change. So is this a deal breaker for you? I don't see anything inherently problematic in their relationship, but you do, so you've got to decide once and for all whether you can live with the partner you have or whether you need to leave.
posted by MsMolly at 5:33 PM on April 5, 2016 [27 favorites]

His family is a higher priority for him than his partner/spouse is and it really sounds like you are not comfortable with this. Unfortunately, I just think it seems like a dealbreaker for you, and not something you can work around with coping mechanisms, although drawing the boundary about spending time with her was a good idea because it seems to have brought down the immediate stress level for you.

To think of it as "he sees me as disliking his sister without acknowledging the larger emotional dynamic," is really misstating what's happening; for him it's just more important that he meet his family of origin's needs than his girlfriend's. You have observed this in action time and time again, and naturally, reasonably it's troubling you. It's not that you dislike his sister - it's that you dislike how he prioritizes her over you, and you feel he should have different priorities.

this moment: "It was while we ate breakfast and I'm not sure why but it really pissed me off. I really want to stop feeling this way. This person I don't find interesting in the least now casts such a big pall on my life. I feel ill at ease knowing that another invitation and another combative posture from my boyfriend about it will be around the corner every week."

Listen, I can tell you why it really pissed you off - you were on a trip with him, presumably alone together, ostensibly having quality time, having gone through the trouble to arrange a trip for yourselves, and on a sunday afternoon on vacation he was ready to drop whatever and deal with her tax question on the phone rather than just call her back later. It was a concrete moment of "she's more important to him than I am." And as you observed it you thought, wow yeah this is just going to happen over and over again, every week. Which it sounds like it is. That's why you felt mad. I am willing to bet on it.

Think long and hard before you marry into this dynamic. Your boyfriend and his sister may both be wonderful, kind people - even if you don't personally find the sister super interesting! - but this dynamic has the potential to make you so resentful and aggravated that it might not matter how nice they are.
posted by zdravo at 5:39 PM on April 5, 2016 [18 favorites]

He's going to prioritize her over you, period. If that's not okay with you, you should leave. He's made his position very clear that she comes first over you.

I wonder how her husband feels about this.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:45 PM on April 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

You don't have to like her. However, if you want to stay with your partner, then you need to make room for her in your life. That can take one of two paths - he can spend time with her without you or you can spend time with the two of them. Your call.

If someone came to and said "my partner wants to remove me from my family relationships" or "my partner wants to dictate my family relationships," then the entire site would post answers telling the asker to RUN.
posted by 26.2 at 5:52 PM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

I've looked through your previous questions regarding this relationship, and honestly... it sounds like a lost cause. He's had three one night stands... that you know about. He's been dragging his heels about committing to marriage. You've broken up several times. He's got needy sister issues that he's refusing to deal with, perhaps because he likes his relationship with his sister the way it is. In relationships with this many issues there comes a point when all you're really doing is trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. I'd say it's time to leave and find someone who is better relationship material.
posted by orange swan at 6:06 PM on April 5, 2016 [49 favorites]

She's his priority, and he is her priority.

Why are you with someone who is at best indifferent towards you?

This will never ever ever ever change. Leave or accept you are some sort of spot holder for his primary relationship. I would not accept this, personally. I recommend you leave his cheating ass behind and reclaim your life before it's too late.

Seriously. Run.
posted by jbenben at 6:23 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm a bit surprised myself at how big the issue has become and I really want to find a healthy way of dealing with it, especially as it looks like she's not going away anytime soon and we are likely going to be family.

I think you're surprised because part of you realizes that she's not the problem. Try to imagine a friend of yours is in the same position you're in - been on and off with a guy who has cheated on her for a decade and this guy prioritizes his sister over your friend. Now your friend is saying his sister is the problem. Would you agree that the sister is the problem or encourage your friend to consider that her boyfriend is the problem?

I don't know whether your boyfriend has magical powers, you're terrified of being single or you have epically low self esteem, but it seems like you need to hear someone say that you deserve to be in a relationship with someone who makes you feel like a priority, full stop, so I'll be the one to say it. You don't have to be in a relationship like this. You can be in a relationship where you're your partner's priority. But not if you stay in this relationship. Your choice.
posted by kat518 at 6:44 PM on April 5, 2016 [12 favorites]

Oh my gosh, this is that guy from the prior questions who cheated on you...he's like a red flag parade. Just dump him and move on already!

I could not disagree more with the people up thread. This is not "perfectly normal and healthy and just a matter of preference." My eye! This IS unhealthy and co-dependent and I would bet good money it's because sister has a bad marriage. This kind of sister-brother enmeshment will wreck both sister's marriage and your relationship, given time.

I mean, even if everyone is right and the sister is totally innocent and sweet (snort) and it's "just a matter of preference" I think if you broke up with him tomorrow you'd find a lot more people to date who do NOT want this kind of sibling reationship, whereas he'd find much fewer people to date who would like this or tolerate it. I mean, if he gets together with a woman who insists on seeing her sister two nights a week, and he sees his two nights a week, and they have other obligations, that's a relationship where they barely see each other.

He's relying on dating someone without a strong personality of her own who will bend to his preferences. Screw that. Dump him.
posted by quincunx at 6:47 PM on April 5, 2016 [13 favorites]

What's the cliché? "Don't make someone a priority who makes you only an option" or something like that?

The sister isn't the only problem here. She's a higher priority for him than you are. This is not in and of itself DTMFA-worthy in all circumstances.

However. He's cheated on you before. He's waffled on long term, serious commitment with you. Instead he seems to have opted for keeping you in limbo.

You don't have to stay with him.
posted by RainyJay at 6:57 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's funny (not ha ha) because I remember another poster who was very sad that her brother had much less time for her since he started dating.

If this were a friend he were prioritizing over you then maybe something would change. But it's his sister, he's known her his entire life and she's clearly his priority. Even if you did like her, this would probably grate.

Say he marries you. Well you're signing up for a lifetime of spending time with someone you really don't like or being alone while your partner spends time with her. Why bother? Life is too short. Break up, find someone else, it's better to be alone than with people you dislike as much as you clearly dislike sister.
posted by kitten magic at 7:02 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

is he open to couples counseling? you'd be able to work out whether your values are aligned or not.
posted by kinoeye at 7:18 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

The problem in your relationship is not that his sister makes unreasonable demands on his time, the problem is that he would rather spend time with his sister than with you. That doesn't make him a bad person. It doesn't make her a bad person. It does, however, make the two of you incompatible.

Blaming her instead of him is what is keeping you from DTMFA. Rethink where the problem is.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:31 PM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

I don't see how this is different from your prior question, except that sister is definitely not leaving. She'll get divorced before she leaves brother.

One thing I can say for your bf, he has been up front that he is going to see sister "at least" twice a week. You don't have to like it (really! a lot of people wouldn't!) but his cards are on the table. The choice is yours. You can live with this or you can be totally free of this before lunchtime tomorrow if you want.

FWIW, I don't like the sound of this sister person either (particularly how you described in your last Q how she gets huffy when he chooses to spend time with you.) But I think you're at wits end with the situation and it's coloring your view of her. You don't like her. At this point she could be sweet as pie but you're so fed up you'd be seeing a harpy. You can tally up all her transgressions if you want, you can drive yourself mad gathering evidence that she sucks, but that doesn't change her primacy in your bf's life one bit.

Also FWIW, because you are getting a lot of fair and culturally sensitive people saying this is all relative (no pun intended), I don't think the dynamic between these siblings sounds all that healthy either. Sibling closeness: great; frequency of contact: that's a cultural and personal thing; but a sister getting jealous and a brother telling lies (to her and I bet all my money to you as well) and playing sister and gf off each other? Sounds hinky to me. I would not want to be involved in that.

You've been with this guy over 10 years, if I'm reading you right? This sounds utterly exhausting. I'm racking my brain trying to figure out whats so great about him. Do you want 10 more years of this? He's not going to change, she's not going to change, you're not going to magically become okay with this, and you don't have to.
posted by kapers at 8:32 PM on April 5, 2016 [8 favorites]

Sadly, it seems like he's indifferent to your desires. His sister seems like a higher priority.

I don't think that you are being unreasonable. If you both work long days, time together is precious! I actually agree that he should be putting you first, and he should be giving more consideration to your wants and desires. But ... it seems like he's not willing to do that. You probably deserve someone who does.
posted by Ostara at 9:29 PM on April 5, 2016

You are being weirdly unreasonable. Shit, I hang out/ have long chats with my SIL at least twice a week, and she's not even my sister. Twice a week for family obligations is you getting off light. You're not even married yet!

It's okay to dump the guy because he's a cheater, but it feels like you want to be more important than his family while not being family, and that is just asking way too much. This is toxic. Get out.
posted by corb at 10:10 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't think he is going to change. So....are you going to change?
posted by Toddles at 10:22 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

I thought of some comments I had in response to your question, but then I went to your question history and saw that I had already written them up (very close to what I thought again upon reading this) in the last relationship question you asked. So feel free to go read that again.

The only two new considerations are these:
1. please consider individual or couples' counseling.
2. don't expect her marriage to work out or for her to ever move. I'm willing to bet that isn't likely.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:22 PM on April 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

What is so great about this guy that you're willing to put up with this? If you're waiting for the sister to move and be a family with her husband, don't hold your breath.

Clearly, his family is a priority for him, and you aren't.

You've been in this relationship for a decade, and if you break up, you'll think of having wasted ten years of your time with this person who is SO CLEARLY not right for you. Do you think something will magically change if you marry? Because it won't. If anything, it will be worse because any threat or ultimatum will hold no truck with him at all, because you're married.

This is a sunk-cost fallacy. He is not a slot machine and if he were, he's not paying off.

This is never going to change. There is nothing you can do to change it. So if it's not going to change, and you're not happy, then why oh why are you still forcing it?

You have 4 more months on a lease (if you're renting), in that time, consider your options. Look for a new apartment, see a therapist to understand why you're so willing to accept this situation when you're so clearly frustrated and unhappy. Figure out where you want to go next and how you want the rest of your life to look.

I personally, would not want to be in a relationship where I was not the number one priority in my partner's life. Full Stop.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:12 AM on April 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

Adult siblings who voluntarily talk to each other are family of choice, and attempts to reclassify their relationship to a more declassé and instinct-driven "family of origin" attachment will not change that. accepted thinking here is that it's obligatory to demote your family in favor of your lover, but it's unacceptable to (be asked to) demote your friends simply because your lover doesn't like them. A relationship like this between adults exists because this woman is his chosen friend.

However, it is acceptable to judge someone by the quality and character of the friends they choose to have, much more than to judge them by the family they can't help coming from. so if his bad taste in friends outweighs his loyalty to them for you, that's entirely fair.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:10 AM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

I stopped reading when you mentioned her husband. Before that I thought for sure she was single and depressed from the loss of her father and substituting a relationship with her brother for having to do the work of finding an appropriate love interest (and still it sounds as though she may be).

Your bf is effectively having an emotional affair with this other woman. Which is complicated by the fact that she is family, so it's not like you can insist that he go no contact.

You are clearly not the apple of his eye, and I can see how if you got married you would be relegated to servant status (keeping his household running and raising his kids) while he spends his "fun" time with this other person. And, omg, do not underestimate how venomously angry and bitter you will be when Auntie becomes the center of your children's world.

Move on while you still have some sense of sanity.
posted by vignettist at 8:00 AM on April 6, 2016 [8 favorites]

I'll echo what a few other people have said here: I don't agree that this level of contact with his sister is healthy or normal, especially since it's causing friction in your relationship. And even apart from hanging out twice a week, from what you're saying, there seems to be a very off and weird dynamic between these two -- as in, very weird and off -- and I don't think it's just a matter of preferences in familial relations or what have you. He's behaving with his sister the way you'd behave with someone you had a crush on, and no, I don't think it's just a matter of cultural differences.
posted by holborne at 9:23 AM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

The problem isn't his sister, it's HIM. He's the one choosing to spend his time with her (instead of you) and he's the one choosing to play you off of each other. Yeah, it's shitty and a bit weird, but he was very upfront with you that this is how the relationship was going to be.

Whether it's off or wrong isn't really the issue, though. You think that if you can say to him, "your thing with Sis is hinky af and metafilter agrees!" he'll stop. He won't, and you can't make him. So you've got two options:

1. change yourself (the only person you can control) and accept that this is the way the relationship is. Learn to love the sister and look forward to spending time with her.

2. leave

I'm sorry.
posted by AmandaA at 9:38 AM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

I guess if you must stay with him, a coping mechanism might be to work on making someone else or something else the focus of your life, the way sister is the focus of his. Someone you see 2-3 times a week, check in with, run your couple-plans by, take calls from at any hour in front of your bf during couple-time, schedule your life around, accommodate, need and be needed by. Balance things out.

I sense your primary focus in life is on him and this slog-sounding relationship. If you didn't need him as much, then his not seeming to need you would not be so painful.

If this doesn't sound like the sort of relationship you'd want, then bailing might really be your best option. At least worth seriously considering.
posted by kapers at 10:15 AM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've also been following your past questions and I think it's time to cut your losses and break up. He will always prioritize his relationship with his sister and will bow to her overly-enmeshed demands. She also will do the same - she's back-burnered her own husband for a huge amount of time so that she can be close to her brother. They are each others' primary relationship. Full stop. You will always play second fiddle as will any children you have. There's no evidence to think that another possibility is realistic. The "improvements" he's made are insignificant when looked at in context of the very large issue you have here.

He's been clear that he'll never create good, consistent boundaries with her in a way that you'd find acceptable. Believe him.

The only way that you'll feel good and content about this situation is to happily embrace always being #2 in his life and that your fate will largely be in the hands of his sister. It sounds like that's not the road you're willing to take. I don't see other options.
posted by quince at 2:26 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Okay, I still think you need to dump him, but because I know almost no one takes that advice from AskMe and because no one's been offering you any solutions that don't involve dumping him (besides kapers' suggestion to get your own "sister"), I wanted to add a thought.

To fix the sister problem, you have to satiate her emotional needs somehow. You've been approaching this from a perspective of "boyfriend needs to set boundaries" and while that's not wrong, it's highly unlikely to happen. I will presume the relationship is mostly one-sided and boyfriend doesn't need her as much as she needs him. (A big assumption.) If boyfriend set boundaries, she would be deeply hurt but then would find another outlet. This would in the long run be good for her- teach a man to fish- and in some ways her brother is enabling her.

For what it's worth she probably shaped her whole personality to please her family (became a doctor like dad and mom or whatever) and now her dad is gone. Her mom is feeble and needy. Her husband is absent. Her big brother is a shining star, someone strong who can give her what she wants, reminisce about the old days, and validate her life choices. He gives her self-esteem. She probably feels low and weak and like he saves her from all of that- and now you want to take him away! It's so unfair.

This sounds like a crazy plot from "The Parent Trap" or something, but essentially what she needs is someone who can give her those things, but who is also not her brother. Her husband is an obvious choice. Do you know him? Have you talked to him? Can you get him to move back? Can you "gift" her a nice vacation to see him? Anything you can possibly do to encourage their marriage will help you. If possible, enlist him as an ally. Hell, maybe even start talking about moving to HIS city yourself! If that's totally impossible, try to find someone else in your city who can give her what your boyfriend is currently giving her. A therapy group, a best friend, a therapist, even a date if the marriage is indeed failing.

Really you should just break up with him though. This sounds exhausting and I bet if you marry him, he will be thrilled to offload care of his mother and sister AND your children to you. And then he'll learn to set those boundaries- with them AND with you! Ugh.
posted by quincunx at 7:56 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

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