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DNiece is having a nightmare with DSis - WWYD?

(52 Posts)
IHideVegInRice Wed 15-May-13 14:00:49

Family driving me utterly insane, thank god for MN for venting!
So DNiece is in her early 20s, and is back home for a few weeks to study. She's mega academic, fairly quiet, and just in general a lovely girl - is fab with my DCs, really kind to everyone. We've always been quite close and I was fairly involved with her music when she was growing up which was a privilege and DSis grateful as she isn't musical but wanted to support her. She has just phoned me in tears because DSis burst into her room while she was revising, calling her massively fat, lazy, slovenly, a let-down etc etc...and has taken her violin away until she does some exercise to shift the pounds. To put this in context, she is a size 10/12 and about 5'9" - she's not fat in the slightest! She eats very well, and is naturally very pretty - long eyelashes, gorgeous dark curls. She isn't a runner, but she goes swimming and walks or cycles everywhere, and most importantly is happy with the way she is. She is also in the middle of her medical exams and chose to come home to study to escape the mad hysteria at university. I've said that she's beautiful, and to be proud of who she is etc etc but it all seems a bit hollow because her own mum has left her doubting herself. I'm absolutely fuming and I'm going to ring DSis shortly - how can she a) be so out of line about her daughter's body and b) take away her violin, which I know she plays as a bit of stress relief (and she's bloody good at it too - has a diploma!). WWYD?

hillyhilly Wed 15-May-13 14:06:32

Can dniece say without instead? Her mother sounds about as far from where she should be as possible

hillyhilly Wed 15-May-13 14:06:59

Sorry, that should say "stay with you"

Shmumty Wed 15-May-13 14:08:10

I would hold judgement until I'd heard both sides of the story. How your sister thinks she has the right to take the violin from her daughter who is in her twenties is beyond me though.

Sugarice Wed 15-May-13 14:12:37

Has there been an ongoing issue to explain your sister's abrupt and cruel outburst?

Is your sister usually volatile?

VenusRising Wed 15-May-13 14:14:57

Is her mum jealous of her?

Sounds like your niece shouldn't be with her mum if she's so aggressive and confrontational at exam time.

IHideVegInRice Wed 15-May-13 14:29:03

Probably should have added in a bit more detail before posting - afaik no ongoing issues and this is the first I've heard of her claiming DNiece has a weight issue. No matter how you look at it, she absolutely does not, and luckily she knows that too. It seemed to have come out of the blue, DSis is a bit neurotic re: cleaning the house, general tidiness etc but not normally aggressive. DSis can be quite overbearing at times and she was always really bossy to us younger siblings but not nasty. I asked DNiece to be really honest about what could have caused it, and she couldn't think of anything at all, and I know she wouldn't lie. She's really hurt because she feels her mother has lost respect for her, and while she says she doesn't care about the comments or the violin in themselves it's the underlying nastiness that upset her. Also, being a medic, she's worried that DSis has some kind of personality disorder or OCD and that this outburst was her mother trying to assert some control over the perceived "situation". DNiece has no idea what this situation is though!

IHideVegInRice Wed 15-May-13 14:45:30

hillyhilly - she's very welcome at ours and I said if it would be helpful she could work from here, but then she'd have a massive noise issue - toddler bg twins! I've suggested the local public library as well but I completely understand why she wants to work from her room where all her books, files, laptop, cups of tea etc are on hand - and frankly, why should she feel unable to work in her own home? I think she has been very sensible in coming home as she knows she'll get het up with all the frenzied exam speak, and she's probably getting more work done.

FWIW both my sisters and our mother are of the same build as DNiece. I'm built like a rake, for no obvious reason, but the message growing up was to be healthy rather than body-obsessed and I absolutely stick by that. I don't think it's fair for DSis to make any kind of comment about DNiece but especially not when she is revising and looks great! She is an adult ffs!

SwishSwoshSwoosh Wed 15-May-13 14:49:24

I'd just let her stay with you. Sounds awful.

She needs to stay away from that sort of abusive outburst.

Walkacrossthesand Wed 15-May-13 14:50:51

In my experience, when someone is reported to have done/said something which seems completely out of character, there is more to the story that I am not being told, so it doesn't pay to react strongly purely on the strength of one side of the story... Could you contact Dsis and probe tactfully without revealing exactly what you've been told happened?

Sugarice Wed 15-May-13 14:51:00

Sounds rather worrying if it's come completely out of the blue like that.

Are you going to speak to your sister?

TheSecondComing Wed 15-May-13 14:56:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SwishSwoshSwoosh Wed 15-May-13 14:58:54

The niece is in her twenties tho, so surely the aunt can extend an invite and niece accept without getting too embroiled? Is not the same as 'removing' a teenager at all.

IHideVegInRice Wed 15-May-13 15:05:24

I'm undecided on whether to call her or to pop in with the kids - I'm on holiday this week so it wouldn't be odd if I did. Walk - yes, I agree. My sister can be seriously unreasonable at times, and while I was surprised I wasn't shocked iyswim? DSis isn't particularly warm towards DN but they do normally get along, though I wouldn't say they were very close. The other thing I totally forgot to mention was that when I saw them a few days ago DSis was going through DN's receipts which she'd left in a file marked Budgets - it was all stuff like hairspray, toothpaste, weekly food shop - and I was hmm and just assumed DSis was being nosy but I didn't think it was fair to be doing that, or looking through her handbags/room.

IHideVegInRice Wed 15-May-13 15:07:29

The2nd - lord no, I'm not going to be marching in there on a rescue mission. I said she was welcome to work at ours in the day if she felt she wanted a change of scenery but that is not the same as moving in!

cozietoesie Wed 15-May-13 15:13:49


Sorry - but do you know if your Sis has any substance abuse problems? Just a thought because that sounds very much like a fuddled outburst. (And her perusal of receipts could be also.)

TheSecondComing Wed 15-May-13 15:14:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Walkacrossthesand Wed 15-May-13 15:26:38

As secondcoming suggests, you need to tread very carefully here - if you accept DN's account unquestioningly you are, by default, aligning yourself with her - but it sounds as if your Dsis doesn't always behave in a rational way. If DN stays with you it will/may damage your relationship with your Dsis - hence trying to steer the middle path while not getting too embroiled. It's worth thinking carefully about exactly what you'll say to Dsis about the situation...

Walkacrossthesand Wed 15-May-13 15:28:00

PS is it worth asking DN 'how do you think your mum would describe what happened?'

IHideVegInRice Wed 15-May-13 15:44:22

cozie - I'm probably being thick - Sis or N? The receipt thing I thought was odd, because S didn't appear to be looking for anything in particular she was just looking to see how much N was spending (which was not a lot!). I can't imagine S searching N's room for drugs as she made no reference to that, and believe me if she thought she was taking something there would be no messing around. So I really don't think N would be taking drugs - she's not the most streetwise, and her friends are very similar, as is her boyfriend. Idiot question time now - how would I know if they were on drugs though? Not pale, gaunt or manic.

I realise I'm coming across a bit one-sided here but I'm not daft and I know that my measured, pleasant, helpful N would not call me unless she really needed something. She didn't know I had time off and was really apologetic when I answered as she thought she was calling me at work. She hadn't phoned her father because he is strictly not to be disturbed while at work (ibank) and later said she was fluctuating between worrying he'd also think she was fat and useless and causing a row between her parents. She isn't making this up or exaggerating, of that I am certain. It would be wildly out of character for her. Less so for DSis though as she does have a bit of a temper and can be manipulative at times...I'm now failing to think of an example!

IHideVegInRice Wed 15-May-13 15:47:40

I'm absolutely treading carefully. I haven't said anything to DN about DSis but listened and made it about DN being lovely. I don't know how to broach it with her which is why I'm still at home but I think I might just go round for a cup of tea and see what's going on xx

cozietoesie Wed 15-May-13 15:55:40

No - I was talking about your DSis and not your niece.

IHideVegInRice Wed 15-May-13 16:04:17

cozie - thanks...I don't know, is the honest answer. I wouldn't have thought so but I wouldn't have expected DN to be ringing me either so who knows. I'm in unknown territory here though and don't really know how I'd work that out?? She has always been a harsh parent but not personal iyswim? So for example she'd criticse DN's work til the cows came home but not herself though clearly that doesn't seem to apply here.

IHideVegInRice Wed 15-May-13 16:06:53

The more I think about the receipt thing the more utterly bonkers it seems - DN was away at school from age 13 and has been at university for 4 years so it isn't like this is her first taste of living away. The whole thing is just horrible.

NigellaTufnel Wed 15-May-13 16:09:13

Is your DSis going through the menopause, or any hormonal changes?

Only ask as I have seen some loopy behaviour due to that.

cozietoesie Wed 15-May-13 16:19:52


Where is your DSis's husband in all this?

IHideVegInRice Wed 15-May-13 17:56:01 work - he's fairly high up in IB and rarely home at a decent time in the week which has been the case for years. I've been over and stopped for a quick brew; there's a mega atmosphere in their house! I asked if they'd had a row and she just said N was winding her up by having her books everywhere. I didn't want to let on that she had phoned me of course, so had to nod along to the tune of: these books are demonstrating a total lack of respect for the house they've provided for her, how can she have become messy overnight, blah blah fairly disparaging comments blah. I let her ramble on for a while and then said she sounded really unreasonable and that spreading books across the floor next to her desk while she revises is a non-issue and that she should be a bit more understanding and supportive - remember how much your university exams meant? etc. Absolutely ridiculous IMO! She said she'd "had a word" with N about it but didn't include the bits about her weight/laziness or the violin removal. I tried to gently tell her to stop being so uptight and said that she should find a relaxing thing to do, like N's violin (!), if she felt she needed to calm down. She did look a bit sheepish but I had to pretend I had no idea. I'm not sure I actually helped things by rocking up and making a mess with biscuits but hey ho. What next? confused

IHideVegInRice Wed 15-May-13 18:04:34

I don't think she's on a drugs though, I just can't see how my sister could be. She's the prissiest person I've met, probably ever, and is the type who refused to let littler DN play in mud/with kids she hadn't CRB checked/be in a 40mile radius of anything processed or, worse, artificially coloured etc. Doesn't excuse her actions though, I think it's unacceptable. I doubt there will be any kind of apology to DN or acceptance that she was in the wrong but she needs to give the violin back, pronto.

IHideVegInRice Wed 15-May-13 18:10:14

Not sure about the menopause - very possibly actually. Still not OK though.

HeathRobinson Wed 15-May-13 18:57:21

Hmm, I'd tread with caution.

Why did your niece come home to study, if that's what her mother's like? It doesn't make sense.

RandomMess Wed 15-May-13 19:02:58

I wonder if your Dsis just isn't coping with having her space invaded by anyone now that your DN doesn't usually live at home anymore?

Her behaviour is still unreasonable though!

cozietoesie Wed 15-May-13 19:06:54

I'd tread with caution also. There's some huge elephant in the room here, IHide, I just don't know what it is. (And neither do you, I guess.) Do you have the sort of relationship with your BIL that you could talk to him? I find it quite extraordinary that he's so out of the picture here.

By the way - I was leaning towards booze and not drugs.

springymater Wed 15-May-13 19:20:15

I've had a similar experience to you Second Coming - with bells on tbf - and I agree to tread very very carefully. Your sister may have issues but, really, you can't really know what your neice is like at home. I'm not suggesting she is awful, however; just that you never know. You can't know.

One thing that crossed my mind re your sister - diabetes? It could explain completely unreasonable outbursts. Though I'm not saying the thing with her daughter went the way it appears!

YoniOneWayOfLife Wed 15-May-13 19:45:24

My mother did this when I came home from uni - lots of bursting in ("in case you were doing anything you shouldnt in my house"), making declarations ("if you go out tonight then don't bother coming back"), making accusations ("I know you are taking drugs in here, I can smell it")

With hindsight, it was about control, and she was drinking a lot and mixing it with lots of anti-depressants and codeine, and she has mental health issues and I was happy and not under her influence and not dependent on her anymore Are you sure there's nothing you don't know about your sister? I think about it a lot and although I wasn't perfect, it wasn't to do with me at all and it doesn't sound like your niece has caused this.

I stopped going back and we barely speak. I doubt she can even remember doing it hmm

IHideVegInRice Wed 15-May-13 21:19:48

HR - she came home to study because she wanted some breathing space from the girls she lives with at uni; it's a split between the lovely but hysterical at exam time girls she went to school with and people on her course who sound ultra competitive and driven. She's not a dominant character so it does make sense to come back, and I guess she was hoping for some TLC too! The reason she's so upset/shocked etc is because her mother ISN'T normally like this..hence the thread.

Cozie...yes. Gosh. I'm not sure why I didn't think of alcohol. You're right about something being not quite right, and I can't put my finger on it. I've spoken to DNiece again and she says it has been building for a while, in the sense that her mum has been increasingly snappy and agitated, but she doesn't know why and that there has been an awful lot of cleaning going on. She also said her dad (BIL) hasn't been getting home until v late so she hasn't really seen him much. As a brief bit of background, DSis is a SAHM and DNiece is an only child. DBIL has always had a banking job, and has always been a bit extreme with the working hours, to the extent that DSis has suspected affairs. Part of me is beginning to wonder if she has lost her identity to some degree from years of being effectively a kept woman as DNiece has been away at school and later university since 13 at least. But I would have thought she was pleased to have DNiece home, rather than being awful to her, and she normally appears quite happy.

You are quite right in that I couldn't possibly know the full ins and outs of their home dynamics, springy. I do have a good inkling though, as they live fairly nearby. She's scuffing around in a massive house and hardly sees her husband and her daughter is away so I wonder if she feels lonely but is too proud to admit to her younger sister (me). I'm not sure I understand how any of my ideas here translate to her behaviour but if anyone could shed light on it that would be fab. Or not, depending.

cozietoesie Wed 15-May-13 21:36:43

Oh I can guess only too well, IHide. What I can't do is know and you might have to spend some more time with her to get closer to the bottom of it - especially if her husband appears to be somewhere right out of the picture. I really do feel you must talk to him - or at the least support your niece when she talks to him.

I think she needs to get out of there for somewhere else. It sounds as if she'd be far better off at the moment (or even longer term) being apart from her mother rather than living with her and being savaged.

IHideVegInRice Wed 15-May-13 21:45:07

cozie would you mind if I messaged you please?

IHideVegInRice Wed 15-May-13 21:46:13

as in, I don't want to out myself to my entire street/workforce etc wink

cozietoesie Wed 15-May-13 21:54:51

No I don't mind - although I think you'd be better served by posting and gaining views from people with wider experience than I.

AndTheBandPlayedOn Wed 15-May-13 22:08:45

I am familiar with thesecondcomings experience with my dd at 18 (depression/anxiety engulfment).
But luckily I had already cut contact with my sister who would have, I think, executed a power intervention...which would have been more about the power intervention than anything else hmm. Sorry for your experience, TSC; it must have been devastating for you.

Ihideveg, as it is a temporary circumstance for your dn, she should probably just try to endure it best she can. You can help her by being her enlightened witness in validating that the problem is your sister, not your dn. Without knowing the cause-something medical/psychological?- I would tell your dn to play by mom's rules and not antagonize her, again, temporary. (Some may come along here and disagree with me, but this is imho). If dear niece can no longer study in that environment then hopefully she will use the library or your house or even return to uni early.

AndTheBandPlayedOn Wed 15-May-13 22:15:37

Sorry my post was a bit fuddled...I meant dn should put up with it as long as she could effectively study. But if her mom is setting out to antagonize her unprovoked...and studying should not be a provocation...then it might be best for dn to put herself first and best prepare for exams at some other location (as exams are the priority here).

PurpleRayne Wed 15-May-13 22:52:42

Some prescribed drugs have unwanted mental health side-effects too.

cory Thu 16-May-13 08:17:34

It couldn't all be dn's twisted reporting anyway as you actually saw the receipt thing with your own eyes, OP.

And even if there had been some totally outrageous behaviour on dn's part to excuse her mother, any adult in their senses would have recognised that being seen by your sister rifling through the private accounts of an adult is such strange behaviour that it requires either an explanation or not being seen in the first place.

I was wondering about the menopause too; I know it's not common but somebody I knew went very strange for a short period during the menopause, suspicious of family and prone to highly emotional and accusatory outbursts. It passed once the hormones had settled down and the person in question then became more mellow than she had ever been before. But it was a difficult time.

springymater Fri 17-May-13 04:21:55

Do you think your sister is losing her marbles?

ie she's alone. She had a daughter who went away, her husband is never home. It's hard living alone. Does your sister have outside interests/a job etc?

VenusRising Fri 17-May-13 11:00:27

You know thinking about this and remembering some things from my own childhood, I would say its entirely possible that,
a) the mother is going through a personal crisis, like menopause, without any diagnosis.
B) she has OCD
C) she has an eating disorder, especially as she focused on dnieces weight, and labelled her (incorrectly) as overweight. (Check for laxatives/ slimming pills in the cupboards)

When I was growing up my mum was like a harpie, controlling and unpredictable (shed had a radical hysterectomy, without hrt) everything had to be spotless, and she found it very very stressful if there were others in the house, messing it up, and would rage and rage, and she has bulimia, and constantly made judgemental(projection actually) comments about my body/ weight. It all rings the same bells.

If its an eating disorder, you can treat you reaction to it as if she was an alcoholic, as it is an addiction.

The important thing I suppose is that d niece doesn't take her mother's problems on, or take what she says or does personally.

Now for a name change!

HerrenaLovesStarTrek Fri 17-May-13 12:42:02

My DM went fucking nuts when she gave up work and moved to a different area with my sister so that she (DSis) could take her A-levels. My DM suddenly didn't have a job or friends to focus on and so DSis got the whole horrible force of it.

DSis ended up 'running away' (translation: staying with friends for extended periods) from home loads of times because DM was hell to live with. Everything DSis did was wrong (admittedly she's no saint) and her life was obsessively picked over. DM even went through her bag and read her correspondence. The stand-out moment was when DM found DSis's birth control pills (which had been safely hidden or so she thought) and left a note with the word 'Slut' scrawled on it by the box hmm

DM didn't have any diagnosed medical problem and was on no pills that we were aware of. She doesn't drink either. I think it was purely her frustration at feeling powerless that caused her to act in this fucking awful way. DSis moved away as soon as she possibly could and will never ever live with her again. They have a semi-normal relationship now as DM realised that we would quite happily never see her again if she didn't behave.

I'm afraid I don't have any advice on how to fix things op, except maybe to suggest that your DSis desperately needs some other focus in her life than your poor DNiece. They are both lucky to have you to talk to smile

IHideVegInRice Fri 17-May-13 23:33:02

Thanks all, really appreciate the range of perspectives here.
I think she could well be menopausal and/or having a midlife crisis actually; I've been speaking to my other sister about it and while she isn't close to her (ie, DN's mum) she agrees it would be about the right kind of time (though what do we know?!). Her comments were massively out of line, but it has come to light that actually this was the straw that broke DN's back - she has been attacked from all angles; from where she buys her clothes to her choice of friends, to her joining certain societies, to spending time with family, to her boyfriend, to how she organises her time...the list is endless and it appears there is a lot more to this than an isolated outburst. This comes as no surprise - I knew something was terribly wrong when DN phoned because she wouldn't normally.
I'm totally out of my depth here but I'm wondering if her behaviour is her trying to assert control over DN because it's highly likely that on graduation she'll not return home, and DSis will really be on her own then - DN still returns in the holidays so while she's away, it's still her "proper" home iyswim. In answer to some of the questions - she has never worked, but she does have various friends in similar circumstances and they're often out for lunch or classes etc. I'm not sure I've ever understood why she continued to be a SAHM when DN was boarding - personally I'd have gone loopy but then I prefer to be on the manic side of busy and DSis is what I refer to as the "beach cocktail type" so we are very different. Perhaps its all coming to a head now though because she won't have a DD to "look after" for much longer, DBiL is showing no signs of scaling back his workload, and she might be having difficulty working out her "identity"?
Venus - OCD, possibly, menopause, probably, but I can say with almost absolute certainty that she does not have an ED. I don't want to give too much away but I'm pretty well versed on EDs (and recovery smile ). Besides, her comments about weight were only a part of the overall picture but this only became clear earlier today. I'm fully aware one doesn't need to be 6stone to have a problem but other than her moods there have been no changes to her behaviour/appearance as far as I can possibly know.
Herrena - the pill incident sounds remarkably similar to the type of thing DSis apparently does. DN and I have a nice, very relaxed relationship, and I think she values being able to talk without us judging her - her parents are quite, erm, "terribly awfully", so to speak and from experience with my own parents this didn't foster the development of particularly close relationships. I'm just glad she trusts me and want to help, but not in an intrusive or damaging way.

springymater Sat 18-May-13 10:53:48

Is your sister a (secret) drinker?

Something is clearly not right with her. She is clearly deeply unhappy/disturbed for some reason. I AM NOT EXCUSING HER BEHAVIOUR, just that she is not right on some level, something is really wrong.

springymater Sat 18-May-13 10:59:25

btw I am in the position where my sister has stepped in to 'parent' my [adult] daughter following lurid allegations. Please go very, very carefully with this. My sister has concluded that I am mad and she has taken my daughter - nice bit of black and white thinking on my sister's part. Its not as simple as that - on either side, tbf (ie mine or my daughter's).

cory Sat 18-May-13 11:14:29

It could be a combination of menopause/other disorder and her fear of losing her daughter.

Even my mother, who is normally a sensible person, has said some pretty weird things concerning my emigration and my new country.

It's a panic reaction, but not pleasant for the person at the receiving end.

HindsightisaMarvellousThing Sat 18-May-13 11:22:29

Some of this rings massive bells for me. My mother went through phases of verbally attacking me, spying on me, saving things up to have a go at me about. It was worse when I was in my late teens, and in the first couple of years at university.

From the position I'm in now, with all this 20 years behind me, I'd say that most of this vitriol was driven by my mother's lack of self confidence. She was bright but under educated, and felt that she could have been more than she ended up as. Having intelligent daughters who were brimful of confidence and thought they had the world at their feet brought out the worst in her. It was as though she wanted to bring us down a peg or two

Most of the put downs were aimed at making her feel better - the sort of mentality whereby she could yell at me about whatever to prove that she was just as intelligent as I was despite not having done much (in her eyes) with her life.

Some of this behaviour was exacerbated by drinking - certainly she could and would suddenly turn on me if she'd had a drink or two, but drinking wasn't the only trigger. She was a SAHM without many close friends, and would sit and brood for hours. People would congratulate her on her clever daughters, and I think on some level she resented us being congratulated, and wanted to let us that we weren't all that special, hence the vitriolic shouting. All very complex and deep emotions, I've no idea how she would have been with sons or grandchildren as opposed to daughters. And interestingly, my sister didn't get the brunt of this, I did, as the more academic and slimmer one of us.

HerrenaLovesStarTrek Sat 18-May-13 14:31:51

Hindsight I could have written your post about my own mum, right down to the details of when she got worse. I agree with the conclusions you've reached about why she did it; however I do also think that my mother's opinion of us was dependent on praise we received from others (i.e. external validation required rather than just loving us for ourselves). So she resented the praise but also craved it.

I used to hear 'You think you're so clever because you're doing SCIENCE A-levels!!' a lot hmm grin two emoticons because I don't know whether to laugh or cry about it!

op like I said, I bet your DNiece is very glad she has you to speak to right now. Word of warning though: my mother would get very very jealous if my DSis and I indicated that we liked any women of her age (e.g. aunts, her friends, our friends' mums) more than we liked her. Do tread lightly and warn your DNiece not to speak about you too much (or any other sort of potential mother-figure) to her mum, otherwise she may get an earload of abuse over her perceived lack of love for her mum as well.

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