Originally Published: February 28, 2017 5:55 a.m.
Dear Annie: I met and married a wonderful man 23 years ago. I found out his family has a history of lying and manipulation. One of his sisters goes beyond that. She decided days before our wedding to reveal that she was abused when she was a teenager. Over the years, she has been caught in lies — so many lies we don’t know what is the truth. She made sure to tell all her nieces about her abuse as soon as they turned 14 — the age at which she was abused.
She took all her parents’ money and plays games with her therapists. When my husband’s parents passed away, she decided to tell people that her dad wasn’t really her dad and that he had abused her. She also said her uncle was her real father. None of these people is alive to defend himself. Now I’ve found out that she’s also been going around saying my husband — her brother — has violated her.
Since my husband’s parents died, she has cut herself off from us. It hurts my husband, but he simply wants an apology from her. I don’t want her in our lives anymore. I don’t want her telling lies and accusing our sons of things or telling our daughters her personal problems. What is the best way to handle this? — Tired of Twisted Sister-in-Law
Dear Tired: It sounds as if your sister-in-law suffers from mental illness and the death of her parents exacerbated her condition. If your husband and his other siblings are on board, you could try staging an intervention with the help of a licensed therapist, with the goal of her committing to a treatment plan.
Regardless, I think you’re wise not to let her spend time (especially unsupervised) with your children. It was highly inappropriate for her to discuss abuse with 14-year-old children. She’s unpredictable, and until she’s willing to get help, she’s forfeited the right to close relationships with her nieces and nephews.
Dear Annie: Your response to “Emotionally Exhausted” — whose friend “Melanie” is always complaining about the same problems — had merit, but you addressed the symptoms of the issue, not so much the cause.
How about she say something like this? “Melanie, we have been friends for a long time, and it is obvious you are unhappy and frustrated with your job. I have learned over the years that ‘I need’ and ‘I want’ are dead-end thoughts with dead-end results. To make your life more satisfying, look at the situation from a different perspective. Use phrases that include ‘I choose.’ That simple shift will change the entire game and put you in control of desired outcomes. For example, ‘I choose to have a job that I like.’ ‘I choose to have a path to a career.’ Wanting achieves nothing, but choosing achieves results that serve you.” — Believe in Melanie
Dear Believe: I like that “I choose” phrasing, as it drives home the point that we’re in charge of our own destinies. It’s a point we all need to be reminded of from time to time, so I’m printing it here. Thank you.
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