Everybody's Uncle,

My sister is 10 years older than I. My parents were unable to stem her hatred of me from the moment she learned that my mother was pregnant. We are now 48 and 58. Her daughter is 29. For most of my life, the only way to allow for my mother's delusion of a "happy family" was at my expense since there was no controlling my sister's dirty tricks and lying. Example: She convinced relatives that I was simply a hypochondriac who didn't really have multiple sclerosis. I am now homebound with MS. As you can see, her kind of dirty trick is more than a childish prank. For at least a decade, my mother and I had no contact with her because of her child-molesting husband, which was a blessing.

Currently, my sister and niece heard that my mother was in the hospital, which fortunately turned out not to be serious. I have attempted to overlook past injuries (AGAIN) for my mother's sake and welcomed them into our house, where my mother, husband, and I live together. On the first visit, while playing cards, my niece called me a "bitch" because I took a trick she wanted! She says this is normal behavior among her friends and that she couldn't promise but would "try" not to call me that again. Next visit, my sister reaches over and pinches me extremely hard when everyone is sitting around the table laughing at dinner. She says that she was just "kidding." Because of my health problems, economic problems when my husband was unemployed for five years, and subsequent depression, I have gained weight and told my niece NOT to take my photograph. She circled me with her camera and kept snapping photographs over and over again while she laughed. Then, she posted them on the internet for her friends and family to see. She says that she "loves" me and wants my photos. I told her that she can keep the photos and negatives, which she refused to return, and forget me. That's okay with her. Obviously, the camera attack and photos are more important than the "bitch" she professes to love. My sister says they've done nothing wrong and I'm the only person with whom they can't get along. Who didn't expect that response?! All of this resulted in increased MS activity from the stress.

I do have the support of both my husband and mother. These two relatives will undoubtedly attempt to stay with us again since they live out of state. That will create more stress and who knows what they'll do the next time around.

Questions: Should I cut them out of my life forever as I prefer to do? How do I prevent their return?

[Angry Sibling]


Dear Angry,

First let me introduce you to one of my standards.

Jimism: Party Rule - "You don't have to invite me, and I don't have to go."

Balancing your regard for your mother, sister and niece while challenging can be resolved by setting reasonable performance parameters for your self.

As Ralph Kramden knew well, " A man's home is his castle." It is not unreasonable to demand respect in one's own home. Nor is it unreasonable to set aside the feelings of others when demanding respect in one's own home.

Your appear to an intelligent person that allows emotion to prevail over logic. Let me share some of my personal stands for your assessment.

In my home, I set standards.
I am honored by the presence of guests in my home. They are given royal treatment and I bend to accommodate them and their peccadilloes.
I draw the line when my standards are violated. Those showing disrespect for "The king of the castle" are dropped from the invitation list. Abusive language toward me or mine is a violation of my rules. My home, my castle, my rules, and let the chips fall where they may.

Accept my regrets for your medical condition and my encouragement to keep up the fight. Your sister, by your account, falls somewhere between insensitive and hostile screwball.

Quote, "My sister says they've done nothing wrong and I'm the only person with whom they can't get along."

That is what a school of piranha says to the horse that becomes dinner. And when they get really hungry they eat their own.

They have done something wrong. They failed to show respect for the queen of the castle - wrong, unaffectionate pinching - wrong, photos taken and posted - wrong, Tolerating a child-molesting husband - insane, possibly criminal - wrong. Need I go on?

You do not have to maintain the illusion of family happiness, nor do you have to declare open warfare. Silence in public and a spiny posture in private may get the job done.

After all these years, your sister is not likely to change but a strong message might get her attention.
Inform your niece that you are her aunt not her girlfriend - she should act accordingly.
Your husband and mother support your position. Tell Sister Dearest that you are too busy, too infirm, and/or too smart to tolerate her abuse, her daughters "bitch" calling and the stench that rubs off from her child-molesting husband.

You should not cut them out of your life forever. You should minimize them until they see the light.

Let me know how you make out.

Everybody's Uncle

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