Portrait of Sadness (Photo credit: Paula Abrahão)
I have talked quite a bit here about my conflicts with my sister and brother-in-law. We were not speaking for several weeks, but last week my sister called to let me know that our dad was in the emergency room at the hospital. She gave me a ride which I am very grateful for. It turns out that our dad was not in serious condition, and he was released to go home with a prescription.
When my sister took me home I told her that I was very grateful for her giving me a ride, since I would have had to spend a fortune on cab fare if she hadn’t. Then I broached the topic of why I am having trouble with the local dial-a-service, because part of our argument was that she thought that I had intentionally decided not to use it at our last visit. I think they have cut their services way back because there seems to be a rush going on and when I try to call first thing in the morning I often cannot even get through to them. When I told this to my sister I was under the impression that she accepted my story.
One nice thing that happened was that I was able to take my nephew aside and explain that the conflict between my sister and I had nothing to with him and that I was sorry that this affected him on his birthday. He seemed to be okay with that.
Then I made a big mistake. I thought that since my sister was being so nice that maybe I could write an e-mail to her to explain to her my confusion as far as what happened between us. My basic point was that she cannot expect me to be a mind reader. I did not know that she expected me to pay for part of my nephews birthday lunch. Furthermore I explained that our dad had no idea that he was expected to pay half either, because it was his birthday also! My sister gets mad at me for “tattling” but actually I think that if she claims to speak for our dad that in fact she has already brought him into the situation and I have the perfect right to ask his opinion.
I explained to her that since I had no idea that she expected our dad to pay either, that she came across as insisting that I pay for my nephew’s entire meal. Since I am on disability I do not have a lot of money available. I was planning on paying for my own meal, and also part of our dad’s. It sounded like she was demanding that I shell out a considerable amount of money, meanwhile I did not have a lot of money left for the rest of the month and I had no food in the house.
The most ridiculous part of this whole thing was that she was mad at me for my giving my nephew a gift, instead of paying for his meal! My understanding of birthday etiquette is that I am required to bring a gift only. I gave my nephew what he wanted, not what she wanted and I got kicked out of her house for it!
The reason why she kicked me out according to her was that I would upset our dad, because you see in her mind I was taking advantage of him by not paying my “fair share.” I pointed out to her that that would have been up to our dad to decide what was fair, not her. Again she does not have the right to speak for someone else. I went to the source and our dad was completely baffled as to why this should be an issue, because he is used to both of us being short on money. Besides he has been paying most of their bills for over two years because her husband refuses to look for a job! He is not completely lazy. He started his own business, which is not a bad thing in itself, however my dad has made it clear that he cannot pay their bills while he is doing that. My brother-in-law apparently thinks that by deciding to try a different career path that gets him out of his wedding vows to take care of his family!
In my letter I did not mention the hypocrisy of her position, although she is well aware of my feelings in that matter. What I mainly focused on is that there was a huge lack of communication on all our parts and that this is what led to this situation, especially since her husband was planning on paying for everybody and did not communicate with her about it at all! I told her that I need clear communication from both her and her husband, and to not expect me to always agree with them. I told her also that I have the right to set certain boundaries on her behavior as well. The ironic thing about this whole thing is that she has set boundaries on me to not yell, scream, and make wild accusations, and yet she does not feel compelled to abide by the same rules herself. I have not engaged in that kind of behavior for years, which apparently does not matter to them at all.
I also told her that it is very hurtful for her to automatically assume that when I do not do what she expects that I have done this on purpose to hurt her. I gave the example of the dial-a-ride situation that she jumped to the conclusion that I chose not to use their services despite that fact that I had told her very clearly in my e-mail requesting a ride from her that I was unable to get a ride with them. She does this a lot, she does not read what I have said and then attacks me for her misperception. I once sent her an e-mail making a request from her and I specifically said that I did not blame her! Yet she attacked me for “reaming her”, which I did not do. When I told her to look at what I wrote she just came back with the attitude that it was still my fault because of my “abusive” behavior in the past. So let me get this straight. I do something wrong, I get clobbered. But if I do something right I get clobbered twice as much!
It was a big mistake to say I felt hurt by her attitude because I forgot the cardinal rule in our relationship which is that I am not allowed to feel anything. Only they are allowed, not me.
I really do not understand my sister anymore because we used to be able to work out the small stuff and while she has always had a tendency to be controlling, I have never seen it to this extent. I do not know where this rage is coming from at all. This why I thought that it was worth one more shot at resolving this.
She has not responded but I got this “lovely” e-mail from my brother-in-law:
“Mary, our recent experiences are not new or unique. You want to know what we expect of you? Here it is: act like a grownup. Contribute. Don’t expect us to pay your way.
In almost every encounter I’ve had with you (beginning about ten minutes after we met), you complain about something. You take without giving, and argue over the pettiest things. You wallow in self-pity and demand that we rescue you from every jam you get yourself into, but you don’t give a damn about me. Is it any wonder you have no friends?
You mess with my wife, you mess with me. If you can’t be grateful, or at least cordial, please leave us alone.”
This is the last straw with them. They have made it clear that I am simply their whipping post. My feelings don’t count at all. If I am hurt by their behavior I am being “petty” and I am “wallowing in self-pity.” I take without giving? I gave a gift to my nephew. If I hadn’t then they might have cause to complain, but in fact I am a very giving person. I also gave them my car gratis because I knew they needed it. It was in excellent condition and it had low mileage. I could have sold it and gotten several thousand dollars, which considering the fact that I am disabled and live on only a thousand dollars a month, that money would have been a big help to me.
I don’t expect them to pay my way. I was planning on paying for my own meal. Frankly it is them that expect everyone to pay their way. They do that to our dad and now they tried to do that with me!
As far as the “jams” I have gotten myself into? He is talking about my mental breakdowns! And I have never asked them to rescue me from anything! The only thing that I can figure he is talking about is that there have been times when my dad has asked them to help me with moving, because of my mental condition I could not always stay in the same living situation as before. Besides he expects our dad to rescue him from the results of his lousy work-ethic. The entire time I have known him he has never been able to keep a job for very long because he refuses to follow orders! This ‘”man” is in his fifties for god’s sake. Shouldn’t he have learned a thing or two about keeping a job?
The fact is that I try to not ask them for anything! I get dumped on for the one time that I could not get a ride and needed help to go to a family get-together! The only other times I have asked for help is when it was a holiday and the dial-a-ride wasn’t running.
His attitude that I am ungrateful is totally unwarranted. I thanked them both profusely for helping our dad out and for giving me transportation to see him. But if they expect me to be grateful for trying to throw me under the bus, then that is crazy!
The fact is that all of their accusations apply more to them than to me. In the past I have let my entire self-esteem rest on what others think of me. I can’t do that anymore, because that will destroy me.
This is the end for me. I am sad that this has to be this way, but I cannot work with people who won’t at least meet me halfway. I am not their “emotional toilet” that they can just dump on whenever they feel like it. I am a person and I deserve to be treated with the same respect that they ask from me. They want to call me petty? They are the ones being petty for making this into a huge issue. They are the one’s being petty when they will not take any responsibility for their own mistakes. They are the ones being petty for ruining this friendship, placing a dispute about money over a relationship with me. While my brother-in-law may be right that I don’t have many friends, I seem to know more about friendship than they do because I would never treat a friend the way that they have treated me!
I had my new resolve tested today. Believe it or not my sister actually e-mailed me as if nothing had happened and invited me to a family visit with a cousin. By my sister’s name was a little smiley face. I politely said I was interested as long as she would agree to treat me with the same respect that she would show any other guest in her home. I did not really expect her to respond well, but I thought it needed to be said. She recinded the invitation.