Sis­ter is set­tling for a bland boyfriend. What can I do?

The Peterborough Examiner - - ARTS & LIFE - El­lie

Q: My sis­ter’s an at­trac­tive woman, 39, who’s thank­fully di­vorced from her abu­sive hus­band of eight years.

She’s been sin­gle for a cou­ple of years, dated some de­cent guys, but wasn’t ready for a re­la­tion­ship.

For the past seven months, she’s been see­ing a new guy who’s bor­ing and al­most anti-so­cial. He doesn’t share her in­ter­ests or show ex­cite­ment about her.

I think she just feels “safe” with him.

I’m her brother and clos­est rel­a­tive (our par­ents live in an­other city), so I feel some re­spon­si­bil­ity to­ward her.

I wasn’t aware of the ter­ri­ble treat­ment she ex­pe­ri­enced in her mar­riage as I was trav­el­ling for work a lot in those years.

I want to make sure she doesn’t end up “set­tling” for a bland part­ner who’s idea of fun is just hang­ing out at home (her home) and watch­ing TV.

My sis­ter’s a warm per­son, in­ter­ested in good con­ver­sa­tions about cur­rent events.

Yet she’s hang­ing onto this guy like she be­lieves she can’t do bet­ter.

How can I help her re­al­ize that she needs more than what he of­fers her?

Con­cerned Big Brother

A: Your con­cern is un­der­stand­able, based on your sis­ter’s pre­vi­ous abu­sive mar­riage, plus your feel­ings of hav­ing let her down when you two weren’t con­nected enough for you to re­al­ize what was go­ing on.

How­ever, you may be over­re­act­ing to her cur­rent boyfriend.

Have you spent enough time with him to make such strongly neg­a­tive judg­ments? Have you talked ca­su­ally with her, ask­ing what it is about him that she finds spe­cial?

If her re­sponse about him in­cludes that he’s “safe,” “gen­tle,” “re­li­able,” “trust­wor­thy,” you’ll know im­me­di­ately that her past trauma has left her un­will­ing to risk be­ing with any­one about whom she can­not say those words.

That’s also very un­der­stand­able on her part. But, as a car­ing brother, you can help her con­sider a deeper assess­ment of this man or any other.

To do that, she needs to talk to a ther­a­pist who’s ex­pe­ri­enced with coun­selling peo­ple who’ve suf­fered abu­sive re­la­tion­ships.

She needs to de­velop full con­fi­dence that it wasn’t her fault, that she didn’t ever “de­serve” harm­ful treat­ment, and that she can have an equal and healthy re­la­tion­ship in the fu­ture.

It’s through the coun­selling that she’ll ei­ther find that this man is some­one who can share some of her in­ter­ests, and add to her life pos­i­tively …

Or, that he’s the wrong guy for her per­son­al­ity, in­ter­ests and needs, which she has to de­cide on her own. FEED­BACK Re­gard­ing how the let­ter-writer’s aunt moved her grand­mother to a nurs­ing home (Oct. 7):

Reader: “This story is right out of le­gal is­sues called ‘lack of tes­ta­men­tary ca­pac­ity and un­due in­flu­ence!’

“Since the aunt lived in the same U.S. state as Grandma she likely was her power of at­tor­ney.

“This may’ve given her the author­ity to sell Grandma’s home and store pos­ses­sions.

“How­ever, ban­ning the rel­a­tives from vis­it­ing Grandma stinks of ‘un­due in­flu­ence,’ as in ‘we’ll take care of you if you leave us all your money.’

“Ban­ning rel­a­tives is a red flag for this sort of be­hav­iour.

“If Grandma changed her will, hope­fully this was done af­ter her Alzheimer’s di­ag­no­sis, which ren­ders the will in­valid and re­verts to what her pre­vi­ous will stated.

“If no one chal­lenges the will when Grandma passes, the aunt will get away with it. I can as­sure you the rel­a­tives are hid­ing some­thing! Get the sis­ter (who’s a lawyer) to in­ves­ti­gate.”

El­lie’s tip of the day

Abused peo­ple need pro­fes­sional ther­apy to move past their trauma in or­der to have healthy re­la­tion­ships.

El­lie Tesher is an ad­vice colum­nist for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your re­la­tion­ship ques­tions via email: el­[email protected]­tar.ca.

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