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Recently, a friend of my husband’s responded to a meme he posted on Facebook that said, “Dear Santa, it was my sister’s fault.” One of his friends immediately commented, “Bet your sister will love that.” He explained to the friend that he didn’t care what she thought. She pressed him, as we both tried to explain there is no relationship there, she will not even see it. He explained that he loved the sister he used to have, but not the person she’s become. His friend began to chastise him, insisting he still loved her, she’s his sister and that “Love can be pain. But that’s how you know its importance, by the amount of hurt that can be caused.”

That really threw me for a loop. I’ve been taught all my life that loss of love can certainly hurt, but that love isn’t supposed to hurt, that someone who loves you, that you love, isn’t supposed to hurt you.

My abuser used to say “I hit you because I love you,” “I yell at you because I love you.” “If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t care enough to make you listen.”

I had terrible flashbacks about my sister-in-law last night. I dreamed about her all night long, one nightmarish flashback after another. I was right there, in vivid technicolor and Dolby sound. I think I relived almost every ugly encounter we ever had.

Let me recount a few of them here, to give you an idea of the kinds of things I found myself reliving.

  • On my husband’s and my first Thanksgiving together as a married couple, his sister called the night before and demanded that he give her our turkey, as she hadn’t bought one, thinking she was going to a family member’s home, but her in-laws decided at the last minute to come for Thanksgiving and she had nothing to feed them. When he objected, her response was to remind him that it was just him and I, we’d be alone, so why did it matter.
  • When I had reconciled with my sister after some 13 years, and was trying to make her feel comfortable being part of my new family, there were a series of non or miscommunications with my sister-in-law, resulting in me not being there when she sent my oldest niece to live in NY, not knowing my niece had come home for Thanksgiving, not knowing my niece wanted me to sit with her at Christmas Eve services, etc. We were often kept out of the loop by my sister-in-law when it came to the girls. I’d always been there for them, especially my oldest niece, as she was going through a lot of things while her mom was working nights and not available to her. From what we’ve been told, my niece went to her mother with her hurt feelings, thinking I was purposefully avoiding her. Instead of my sister-in-law explaining to her that I had a new son with special needs I was responsible for, trying to reconcile with my sister and bring her into my new family, was having health issues myself and to understand that I might not be available to her right when she wanted me, but I still loved her, she told her to write me a letter and express how she felt. My niece sent me the most horrible letter, cursing me out, calling me a fake, accusing me of never really loving her or caring about her. She ended her letter by saying, don’t go crying to mom she knows all about the letter.
  • We managed to reconcile with our youngest niece and her mother after a number of years had passed. My youngest niece was pregnant and my sister-in-law asked me to organize and hold the baby shower. My husband and I spent about $500 on shower gifts. My sister-in-law started to complain that she felt blackmailed by her daughter, if she didn’t do certain things, she wouldn’t be able to see the baby. She even told us she’d sought counseling because of it. I blogged about the situation and what she’d been telling me, asking readers for advice as to how to help her deal with it. My niece apparently went on a search and found my blog, my sister-in-law printed out all the blogs about the baby shower and my upset over how she’d been treated, but she interpreted them the way she wanted to, making it appear as if I thought all the misunderstandings with our nieces were her doing, instigated by her, jealous over our relationship with them. She took the blogs to her mother and we were ambushed at the mother’s apartment. She berated me and accused me of making all of it up, denying she’d ever told me she was threatened with not seeing the baby, for more than an hour. We were denied baby pictures when the baby was born, were blocked by all of them on Facebook.

There are so many other incidents. So many times when she’s lied to us, then denied ever having said things, that she’s made condescending digs and comments about me, about my house. My son asked her to have a relationship with him, that he wanted her in his life, to talk on the phone, maybe go to lunch. She promised to check her schedule and get together with him, for weeks we didn’t hear from her, when I asked her if we could schedule something, she said she never told him she would do that, she said they talked about doing it at Christmastime. I was right there, when they talked about it and know that was not true. He was devastated. She’s gotten in my husband’s ear and tried to say negative things about me, she’s gotten him alone and expressed how much she wanted him back in her life, but didn’t want to talk to me.

To someone reading this, it might not seem like all that much, but after 32 years of interaction with this woman, being disrespected, lied to, accused of all kinds of crazy things, losing our nieces, having our relationship with my husband’s mother impacted, it’s been nothing but abusive and destructive.

For someone to tell me that because this woman is “family” I have to love her, have to forgive, have to overlook her abusive behavior, to tell me that walking away and letting her go is wrong, not a loving thing to do, was so outrageously hurtful and dismissive of what we’ve experienced. No one should be expected to sacrifice themselves for the sake of “keeping the peace.”

Why doesn’t anyone ever suggest that the abusive individual should curb their behavior to “keep the peace?”