August 12, 2007 3:15 AM   Subscribe

I did something effed up and now I'm paying for it.

While talking with my sister online I expressed a rather harsh opinion about one of our mutual friends. While expressing my feelings I also managed to betray my friend's confidence. I acknowledge that this was really wrong of me to do, and I've apologized profusely. However, my sister went and sent the friend a transcript of our IM conversation!

My friend baited me later on the phone, asking me if I said this or if I said that - which I think is wrong, I'd rather they just confronted me about it head on instead of *knowing* what I said and trying to get me to admit to it. Also, nothing I said was untrue, it was just unpleasant to hear. Now my friend is mad at me, but I'm more worried about my sister - this is a recurring thing in our relationship. She is constantly moralizing to me and telling me how I have fucked up even though she has hardly lived an absolutely mistake-free life. Should I try to explain the hypocrisy of the situation to her (people in glass houses and all that) or should I just not talk to her at all? This sounds pretty harsh of me, but I'm pretty sick of putting up with this all the time. How do you deal with someone who thinks it's okay to betray your confidence just to tell someone else that you betrayed theirs? I know what I did was wrong and I feel really bad about it, but she took something I said offhand and while I was in a crap mood and basically destroyed my trust in her.
posted by reallygoodgirl to Human Relations (32 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Well, in my opinion you CANNOT reason with people like this as a general rule. The fact that she did it, and constantly does it means she thinks it's an OK thing for her to do.

I wouldn't cut off contact altogether, but cool it. Talk about general stuff, nothing too specific, and save your opinions and/or personal thoughts for people who will retain your confidence.
posted by gadha at 3:28 AM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

How do you deal with someone who thinks it's okay to betray your confidence just to tell someone else that you betrayed theirs?

If the relationship(s) matter(s) to you, you figure out a way to proceed with it/them, independent of sharing confidences.

In general, you suck it up and turn it into a learning experience.

Among the things that you can learn from this:

(1) There is no such thing as a secret, unless only one person knows it and doesn't talk about it with anyone.

(2) Don't say anything to a "confidant" that you wouldn't want to see, in print, on a blog, website or newspaper... especially about another person.
posted by enrevanche at 3:56 AM on August 12, 2007

Some people are one-trick ponies. If they're happy when they're lecturing, they'll bait you into asking questions and creating openings for their ranting. Others like to feel victimized, or morally indignant. A relative of mine constantly commits little acts of crappiness on the people who care about her, and we're all forced to forgive her. If someone else does something similar, she doesn't consider the hypocrisy of making a big deal about it. You forgave her, so it's off the table and she's free to act betrayed. She gets off on it.

We don't talk anymore.

That's one option. Another option is to know what they're trying to do, and figure out how to change the subject, or otherwise stop short of giving them the chance they need to initiate whatever emotional masturbation they're fond of.
posted by evil holiday magic at 3:58 AM on August 12, 2007 [3 favorites]

Blood is supposed to be thicker than water. Your "betrayal" of a friend's confidence to your sister is nowhere close to your sister's betrayal of yours.

She has more regard for her relationship with her friend than with you.

Life isn't a contest between the two of you as to who can make fewer mistakes in life. Wouldn't it be nice if you could trust each other, cut each other slack when there's a problem and be supportive of each other?

How do you deal with her? Tell her that you think that you both have to work on improving your relationship and do so. Forgive her. She's going to be your sister for your entire life, Within ten years, neither of you will probably even remember this friend.
posted by MCTDavid at 5:12 AM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Should I try to explain the hypocrisy of the situation to her [..] or should I just not talk to her at all?

Oh come on. Why does it have to be one or the other? This smacks of the same sort of imaginary moral highground you accuse your sister of occupying. Let it go and mend the fences as circumstances permit; but don't be making any drastic decisions while you are still mad about the situation (that your own actions ultimately caused remember).
posted by peacay at 5:12 AM on August 12, 2007

You can't change your sister's behavior.
You can lead a horse to water....

You made the mistake in that you trusted your sister to keep her mouth shut. She believes it's her job with you (and possibly others) to tell them 'what's right.'

This is your problem, not hers, although I'll bet she's your older sister and has been doing this all your life.

First, right now, realize that you shouldn't be telling your sister anything this sensitive; while she is your family, she is not a 'friend'; she's someone you have to be friendly with.

If this really upset you, at some point, maybe a month from now, you should sit down, in person, and ask her what did she think would be gained from her behavior (of sending off the IM log)?
She'll say, "oh, it was to teach you a lesson." You then ask, did she mean to damage your relationship with the third person, or with her? That all she did is show that your sister can't be trusted to hold your confidence. That you're not angry, but if she thinks that it's her job to teach you a lesson, all it's taught you is that you can't trust your sister.

You could also, next time she 'preaches', say to her "Wow, it's really sweet of you to care about what I do. Can I ask you a favor? Let me fall down a bit. I know you're trying to keep me from making mistakes that are obvious to you, but I need to make some mistakes, sis. Some things have to be learned the hard way. How about you wait until I come to you for advice rather than you forcing it on me?"
posted by filmgeek at 5:28 AM on August 12, 2007

Go and rent Kenny.
posted by flabdablet at 6:21 AM on August 12, 2007

If I were you I just wouldn't tell your sister anything personal anymore. Keep on talking to her but just don't reveal any private stuff. Or you could tell her what happens to snitches in the hood....just saying.
posted by thelongcon at 6:22 AM on August 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

Why do you persist in telling your sister, for whom you say this is a "recurring thing", sensitive information that can and will be used against you?

Fool me once, etc...
posted by foobario at 6:45 AM on August 12, 2007

Best answer: In my opinion, living a low-drama life is living well. Aim for that. You know your sister is a drama queen, and you know that particular friend is as well, and you'll have to adjust your interactions with them accordingly. Drama-fiend friends can be quietly and gradually demoted, though, and sisters can't unless you have no other family. Cutting her off is overly dramatic, and will give her a lifetime supply of shit to stir whenever she feels like it. And if there's one in a family, there's usually at least one other around who will happily share that pot.

Don't tell her the things that set her off. If she ever notices, you can just tell her that you've realized that it just creates tension and you don't want to do that to your relationship. If you break the dynamic, she might even eventually lose the habit.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:58 AM on August 12, 2007 [4 favorites]

Best answer: your sister's an asshole, it's not your fault. next time, respect your friends' privacy, esp. with your asshole sister.
posted by matteo at 6:58 AM on August 12, 2007 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Echoing matteo, your sister is a bitch, and one helluva a little bitch at that. There is absolutely no good reason, even in her own head, for doing what she did. She was just trying to screw with you, mess up your life and turn your friends against you. People constantly, and to be honest fairly benignly, gossip behind each other backs. I'm not saying it's a great thing to be doing, but that is a far far cry from what your sister did. She has no excuses what so ever, she did this because for some perverse reason she likes to cause you pain.

From now on, keep things distant and civil. Have no unnecessary conversations and talk about nothing personal. Hopefully over time she'll learn that being a vindictive little bitch doesn't pay or she won't, but either way you won't give her the ammunition to do this to you again.
posted by whoaali at 7:18 AM on August 12, 2007

Best answer: really matteo's right on the money with this one. There is a lot of sort of extra free-floating grumpiness in your post but there are a few clear cut issues

- you betrayed a friend's confidence knowing it might not have been the best thing to do
- your sister betrayed your confidence in a way that indicates she's being judgmental of you.

In my family what MCTDavid says is usually true, I would expect a family member to be a little bit more privacy-upholding than a friend, but every family is different. When a family member betrays you it just seems the more spectacular because it can be hard to believe they are being lame, but your sister is being lame.

All this other stuff

"which I think is wrong, I'd rather they just confronted me about it head on instead of *knowing* what I said and trying to get me to admit to it"
"nothing I said was untrue, it was just unpleasant to hear"
"Should I try to explain the hypocrisy of the situation to her"

Is just sorting out bad feelings and feeling bad that you made your friend feel bad, to me. Maybe it would have been better if your friend confronted you, but you hurt her feelings, I'd ignore how she responded for the moment. Whether what you said about your friend was true or not true, you can sort of make a choice at this point: do you want to be someone who betrays people's confidences [like your lame-ass sister] or not? It doesn't seem like your sister is a good person to be confiding in, but that doesn't make her not your sister.

I'd just ease back on the confidential dishing with her, tell her somewhat curtly that she hurt your feelings and refuse to give in to the "oh yeah guess what I heard about SOANDSO" urge, tell your firend sincerely that you're sorry, and from here on out let your actions speak louder than your words as far as who you care abotu and who you trust and how you want to trust you.
posted by jessamyn at 7:18 AM on August 12, 2007

Best answer: Your sister did a bad thing, and it must inform the amount of trust you put in her from now on. She appears to be trying to win the favour of your mutual friends (so she'll have a leg up on you) -- if that's the case then she's got some serious insecurity to work on. Don't let her use you as a tool in that process.

That being said, as you well know, *you* are the untrustworthy one for someone else now. It sucks for this to happen because, well, people talk about each other. Have no illusions, this is simple human nature, but you surely never intended to hurt someone. Focus your energy on making amends to this person and accepting your own indiscretion. Mend that relationship as a way to be the person you want to be, and let your sister work out her issues on someone else from now on.

If you want to re-frame your perspective on your sister, think of how pitiful it is to compete unnecessarily for the favour of your friends. It's kind of sad really.
posted by loiseau at 7:19 AM on August 12, 2007

The problem here, after you get past the fact that you said things about your friend your shouldn't have in writing, is your sister is a class A-1 jerk. She CANNOT be trusted. Do not put anything in writing to your sister you do not feel comfortable having on the front page of the NY Post.

Your so called friend also baited you and her true colors came out. She sides with your sister. Be careful around her too.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:02 AM on August 12, 2007

My mom is like this -- if I ever let slip a piece of brutally honest opinion on another family member or friend, no matter how remote, my mom will relay it to them.

When I was 20, I thought it was unfair, but then I just stopped telling her anything remotely sensitive because she can't be trusted. So we talk about normal updates on my life and hers, but I don't go blabbing about what a loser alcoholic my uncle is, etc.
posted by mathowie at 9:00 AM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Your sister broke confidence, which is a terrible thing for her to do. However, you also broke confidence, which is also a terrible thing for you to do. You are no worse than her.

Should I try to explain the hypocrisy of the situation to her (people in glass houses and all that)

She's not the only one in the glass house. ;)

People make mistakes. Forgive them. But never ever forget that they made them. Or your doomed to having people like this in your life forever. And do you really want that? Blood is sometimes thicker than water, but not always.
posted by Solomon at 9:03 AM on August 12, 2007

Your sister did it to stir up trouble. Treat her as you would an unexploded bomb - tread carefully, always watch what you say around her and be aware that there's probably a hidden agenda to anything she says or does. She may be a blood relative but that doesn't mean you should trust her.

I'd also search Metafilter for any posts relating to Borderline Personality disorder and see if any of the described situations sound familiar.
posted by TorontoSandy at 9:19 AM on August 12, 2007

With sisters like that, who needs backstabbing faux friends.

That was nasty. My brother did something like that years ago and I still can't fully trust him to this day. Didnt help that it wasn't the first time.
posted by lampshade at 9:44 AM on August 12, 2007

Response by poster: thanks for all the responses so far. here's a little bit of clarifying info for those who might want it:

foobario: What I meant by "recurring thing" is that her judgment is a recurring thing, not that the confidence-sharing is a recurring thing, sorry for the ambiguity.

peacay: it doesn't have to be one or the other, but I've gotta say - after about ten years of dealing with this, not dealing with it at all anymore seems very, very tempting. it's not drama that i want, it's peace.

filmgeek: actually, I am the older sister, but not by much; we are very close in age. She has, however, been doing this all my life.

again, thanks.
posted by reallygoodgirl at 10:10 AM on August 12, 2007

Best answer: after about ten years of dealing with this, not dealing with it at all anymore seems very, very tempting. it's not drama that i want, it's peace.

Those of us who actively avoid drama at costs find it to be especially peaceful. I'm sorry that your sister deliberately hurt you, and hurt your mutual friend to do so. It may be that the mutual friend will one day realize how fucked up it was for her to be used as a pawn in your sister's game. But whether that happens or not, you already know the answer to be: avoid your sister and her disgusting head games.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:37 AM on August 12, 2007

Best answer: If your sister is a judgmental, self-righteous bitch who loves drama and gossip then she will probably always be a judgmental, self-righteous bitch who loves drama and gossip and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. By definition she will be very convinced of her own rightness, will strongly resist any other perspectives, especially those in which she isn't perceived to be right. Any confrontation will produce feelings of victimization and matrydom and will do nothing but further convince her of the rightness of her ways.

Just cut her off.

You don't need to stop all contact altogether but stop discussing anything more than the weather with her. You need to spend your time and energy on people who will support you and not betray you rather than leap at every opportunity to take you down a notch.

filmgeek: actually, I am the older sister, but not by much; we are very close in age. She has, however, been doing this all my life.

It's really not uncommon for younger sisters to develop this "I'll show you" sort of complex about their older sister, particularly if the age gap isn't that great. But this is her problem. Presumably she's an adult and should have grown out of this. The next time your sister does this you might let her know that you wish she could grow up but don't count on it.
posted by nixerman at 11:31 AM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "... While expressing my feelings I also managed to betray my friend's confidence. ..."

In my experience, it's only a single digit percentage of the human race that can truly keep confidences. They are special people, and their friendship should be held in extremely high regard, because they too often unwillingly bear burdens they probably shouldn't on behalf of others. That's why keeping confidences is such a big, important part of professional life, to the point of being codified in law and ethics practice formally. But in private life, we've only got our experience to guide us, and our friendship and deep respect is our only means of acknowledging the worth of our friend's characters, in their dealings with us.

You've learned, painfully, that you are not among this select group of people. That hurts, but it is useful knowledge about yourself, and it has probably permanently cost you the regard of the mutual friend you and your sister had, which is a hell of a price to pay for it. You may find that you aren't going to get that friend's trust back, if they have any sense, although you might be forgiven. You may have to come to accept that a wall you've created around that friend's inner most self, in a thoughtless moment, is now an unwelcome, permanent feature of your relationship. Don't make a bigger jerk of yourself by insisting that any forgiveness your friend extends somehow include a restoration of the previous regard in which they held you. Do protect future friendships by making it clear through explicit statement, early on, that you don't keep secrets well, so that you aren't entrusted with information that will put you in a position like this again. Your best hope for good relationships is that people will be honest with you, but not confessional.

In so far as your sister goes, you've also learned something about her, that has to alter your relationship with her, permanently, if you're not going to continue a life of "drama." As JohnnyGunn put it up thread "Do not put anything in writing to your sister you do not feel comfortable having on the front page of the NY Post." I'd extend that to all communications, verbal and written. She can't keep confidences either. In my experience, people who can't keep confidences don't learn to do so. It's an innate character quality, that the people who do keep confidences usually exhibit in very early childhood, without external prompting. Your sister not only doesn't have this ability, but she's also equipped with a mean streak, as well as being judgemental and hypocritical. If I were you, I'd cool my jets on that relationship, to Christmas and birthday cards, and attendance at weddings and funerals, if unavoidable, permanently. Why would you want such a toxic influence in your life on a larger basis?
posted by paulsc at 12:12 PM on August 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Your sister was bad in another way: she went out of her way to hurt the friend by passing on what you told her. She'll keep doing stuff like this and have her comeuppance eventually.

It'll do you more harm than good idea to stop communicating with your sister, because the lingering awareness and effort of cutting her off will maintain her bitter effect on your life indefinitely. It'll make other family members uncomfortable, and she'll use your "unreasonable" silence against you. On the other hand, she's untrustworthy and drama-hungry, so when you have to deal with her, be as cautious as you would be with any venomous creature. Keep things amicable, sidestep any traps she might set, and generally hold her at a distance.

You're worried about her, which means, I guess, that you see she's doing things that'll cause her problems later on. There isn't anything you can do or say that can prevent those future problems; she'll have to learn it on her own. If she ever asks you for advice, that'll provide an opportunity -- but for now, you can't help her.

Meanwhile, apologize sincerely to the friend who was hurt, and take full responsibility. Any mention of your sister's fault in this will sound like you're making excuses.
posted by wryly at 1:08 PM on August 12, 2007

I think matteo is right. I would write sister a short email apologizing for gossiping about friend to her, thus involving her in drama [which she appears to love, but that's neither here nor there]. No "but I blah, blah" justifications. I was wrong and I know it, end of paragraph.

Paragraph 2: As a separate issue, I'm very disappointed with you that you would then further hurt this friend's feelings by tattling on me about what I did. I'm curious what your goal was in doing that - was it to make friend feel bad? Get me in trouble?

Paragraph 3: I have apologized to friend about my indiscretion, and hopefully friend will forgive me. Sadly, I'm feeling that your actions mean that you aren't really my friend. I hope I am incorrect about that.
posted by ctmf at 1:48 PM on August 12, 2007

Should I try to explain the hypocrisy of the situation to her (people in glass houses and all that)

I doubt that would go well. People often have a hard time believing they're hypocrites. She'd probably just get defensive and try to turn it around on you--now you're the one being critical, what business do you have judging, etc.

You know if you try to cut off contact, the little dramallama will just cause even more drama over it with other family members. So just be a really crappy conversationalist whenever you talk to her. Go on and on about your hobby, your work, the movie you saw the other day, how hot it's been lately--anything neutral and un-emotionally-charged--and brush off or barely respond to anything she says, especially if it relates to your failings/mistakes/whatever. ("Oh, that's nice/that sucks/that's something to think about. But let me tell you about...") See, that way you're not cutting her off or refusing to talk to her--there's no huge dramatic rift for her to tell other family members about--but you're not letting her use you as an outlet for her desire to moralize, either. (And with any luck, maybe she'll start talking to you less, and create more distance for you.)
posted by Many bubbles at 2:25 PM on August 12, 2007

Your sister not just an asshole, like matteo said above, but she's immature as well. Wasn't this something straight out of Mean Girls?

Unfortunately, sometimes you just can't count on a relationship with your sibling. My brother has repeatedly done this sort of thing to me, only not with my friends, but rather with family members that I do not have much contact with anymore. After awhile, I realized that anything I said to him or did in his presence would be twisted and repeated to these relatives in a way that would continue to paint me as a raging bitch. Because of this, I've just put a lot of distance in our relationship. My main communication with him is general polite small talk at family functions, a yearly birthday card, a yearly Christmas card, and the occasional e-mail that contains very limited info.

When someone burns you repeatedly, you just need to keep your distance after awhile, until hopefully one day they grow up and you can patch things up. They say that blood is thicker than water, sure...but you can't pick your family. You can pick your friends. Surround yourself with people you trust, who you can be honest with and who you can trust to be honest with you. I think that's the key to having a good support system of friends.
posted by tastybrains at 2:53 PM on August 12, 2007

Response by poster: thanks, everyone. I'm actually really surprised by the amount of nonjudgmental input here, considering I did do a pretty shitty thing. I haven't yet decided what I'm going to do, but you guys definitely pointed me in a few helpful directions.
posted by reallygoodgirl at 4:11 PM on August 12, 2007

Everyone has done a good job at pointing out that your sister is a horrible person. That's all fine and dandy. But you are her brother. She's not going away. It seems like you should be looking out for her best interest, so any solution should attempt to help her (if she really needs help) and not simply "wash your hands" of the matter. If your sister truly acts like this on a regular basis, there is something broken within her. Maybe, through loving her, in a major way, she would come around to trust you, even if you criticized her. I would try loving her to death. Constantly trying to help her. Ignoring her horribleness. Gaining her trust. Then, when she knows that you aren't out to hurt her. Help her realize the faults she has. But then again, I'm crazy.
posted by allthewhile at 6:24 PM on August 12, 2007

erm. Sister. sorry. I meant to say "sibling" and it came out "brother". lol.
posted by allthewhile at 6:24 PM on August 12, 2007

If your sister is a judgmental, self-righteous bitch who loves drama and gossip then she will probably always be a judgmental, self-righteous bitch who loves drama and gossip and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it.

I dunno, I think there is definitely a tendency for a lot of people to be more drama-oriented when they're younger, no matter what, than they are as they get older. I'm not saying it goes away completely, but people definitely chill out, and bringing up references to borderline personality disorder etc because someone told a friend what another friend said about them is a little over the top, I think. Especially if you guys are younger, I would say this can absolutely be overcome.

You've highlighted a lot of advice, but it is not all saying the same thing, so just give it some thought when you actually do respond. Personally I think the important thing is to cut down on the drama, which includes cutting down on saying stuff like "my sister's a judgemental self-righteous bitch". She's just someone who got excited hearing your excited comment and excitedly told the person it referred to, and that person got excited and called you to see if she could get you excited... Everyone was, on some level, enjoying the drama of the scenario, even if on other levels they were bothered by it. You have to recognize that stirring up the emotional excitement can feed itself, and be the one to calm the storm rather than responding to it.
posted by mdn at 9:09 PM on August 12, 2007

i agree with backing away on certain parts of your relationship. but i think it may be helpful to draw lines and form solid boundaries if she starts to bait you. but keep it simple, just a little "sorry, i'd rather not go there." or something like that, make it about yourself/feelings, without making the boundaries about her. that would just get her going. it'd probably be helpful for you as well by making you concious of your space also. it just seems to me that if you're going to make a change to a relationship you've had for so many years it'll help alot if it's clearly defined. if it's vague i could just see her trying to chip away and bait you and you may slip and be right back where you are.
posted by andywolf at 10:23 PM on August 12, 2007

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