[To view the original letter, please go to Last Week’s Column.]
Dominique, last week you told us about your 40-year-old sister, a woman who comes in and out of your life heaping her anger and abuse on you. Your family always excused this as a “personality conflict” between you two, but you believe she checks off all the boxes for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
That means she is choosing to treat you badly.
No matter how disruptive your sister’s life seems, she has a level of comfort in being the way she is. Though it is not your normal or our normal, it is her normal. She may even be suffering from it less than you imagine.
You think she is not facing the truth. She thinks, I am the one who is in the right.
You are caught in a Punch and Judy show, and she has you playing Judy. Punch does not regret slapping Judy with his stick. He is pleased with himself. That’s where the expression “Pleased as Punch” comes from. The expression captures Punch’s smugness and self-satisfaction.
It will always be hard for you to hold your ground with your sister. When she walks away for a year and comes back, she does it because there is something in it for her. She may be contrite and entertaining at first, or even as you say, humble, but ultimately it ends with her using you as a punching bag.
To your credit, you’ve checked off all the help boxes you could possibly use. None of it worked.
At this point you are allowed to say, “I tried enough. I need to get on with my life.” It is her right not to seek help. It is your right to cease contact. You have a right to your own life. Don’t wheedle. Quit her cold turkey.
You can wait for the next “I hate you” and year of abandonment, then confront her. Or you can send her one final text. “I am done. Don’t contact me anymore.” Then block her number, don’t read any letters or email from her, and tell your family not to pass along messages.
Some things we cannot improve. We can’t make ourselves taller. We may not be able to afford that special vacation spot. But we can improve the quality of our lives by eliminating the drains on our time and energy.
Don’t get sentimental and nostalgic over Christmas or other holidays. Put the nasty letters, texts and email from her aside. When she contacts you again, haul them out and remind yourself why you cut her off and how often you tried.
You are reluctant to break contact with your sister’s daughter, your niece. But your sister won’t let you bypass her to get to your niece, and your niece, for you, is most likely to be the foot in the door your sister needs. Leave it to other family members to aid your niece.
There is more than one way to improve your life. Sometimes it can be as simple as cleaning the closets or moving the unused exercise bike to the basement. Sometimes we must admit that, even though they are our brother or sister, the only level of conversation we can have with them is about movies and the weather.
Sometimes we must face the fact that even that is way too much.
Your sister prefers being as she is to changing as she is. That is her right. It is your right to bring the curtain down on the Punch and Judy show.
~ Wayne & Tamara
Column for the week of March 4, 2019
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Wayne & Tamara answer as many letters as they possibly can.