Ask Erin: My Sister’s Boyfriend Is Coming Between Us

She will be more likely to hear you if you can refrain from making statements that come across as being judgmental.

Q.

Dear Erin, 

I recently moved in with my sister — per her request — from another state. I had heard about her boyfriend, who didn’t sound all that great to begin with, and over the holidays I met him. 

Christmas Day, after only knowing me about a week, he gave me a $100 gift card secretly because he didn’t want her knowing about it. That night, he sent me a text message saying “sweet dreams.”

I told my sister about it, and they got into a fight, and they broke up. He continued to try to hit me up all the time, despite the fact that I ignored him. He even invited me to move in with him. 

And yes my sister knew all about this. 

I eventually blocked his number thinking he was a total scumbag. Three months went by, and I thought my sister was doing well and getting over him until she tells me she’s meeting him for dinner! 

I bluntly asked, “you’re not getting back together with him, are you?”

She said she didn’t know. Of course, I laid into her and told her he was nothing but a scumbag and that she deserves better. 

So she went to dinner with him, and when she came home, I inquired if she was going to get back with him. She said she needed to think about it but that she didn’t want to talk about what happened. 

I am so livid with her that she has such low self-confidence and esteem that she would consider getting back with the scumbag that tried to pick up on her sister! 

What do I do from now on since they are obviously getting back together? 

I have no desire to hear about him from her from now on.

A.

Ugh, you are in an unfortunate position with this one. It can be painful to watch people we love stay in or return to unhealthy relationships. I have been there.

I have also been your sister, the one returning to a toxic relationship, ignoring the advice and truth coming from my loved ones.

So what can you do?

First, although it sounds like you have already voiced your concerns, set up a time to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your sister about the facts. The facts are this man has hit on you, lied to her, and has been generally super sketchy. You can emphasize the facts, without adding on your own emotions connected to it.

She will be more likely to hear you if you can refrain from making statements that come across as being judgmental.

Rather than evaluating her self-esteem and confidence, focus on statements that reaffirm her good qualities and what she deserves in a partner. Ask her if she would want a partner like him for you, her sister. Chances are, she would not.

I am hoping that she hears you, and if she does, offer her healthy support and encourage her to seek it, as well.

Therapy, if she’s open to it, is an excellent idea, as there may be things she is more receptive to hearing from an objective third party, than from her sister.

Sometimes, our relationships with the people we are closest with are the most complicated, and that can prevent us from hearing them with clarity. Therapists provide the kind of voice that is not muddied by a long and emotional history.

If she remains unreceptive, you need to determine and then set boundaries you are comfortable with. You can’t force her to see this guy for who he is. You can’t stop her from being with him.

But you can be in charge of what contact you have with him and their relationship.

It’s reasonable to set boundaries around having him in your shared living space and discussing their relationship. You can set these boundaries while still letting her know that you love her and will be there for her, but that this is what you are or aren’t comfortable with.

Lastly, if you find that you have difficulty setting boundaries with her, it would help to speak with a therapist yourself. That type of guidance can keep us level-headed when dealing with our closest family members. Best of luck to you!


This story by Erin Khar originally appeared on Ravishly, a feminist news+culture website. Follow us on Twitter & Facebook and check out these related stories:

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