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