Who is BU?(18 Posts)
I could use some perspective on a tricky family situation. Who is BU: me, my dad, or my sister?
My sister is 35. She has a career, but is single and has no real friends. I suspect she has a touch of Aspergers, and anxiety: she has always struggled with relationships and can be quite moody. I love her, but she is very intense and can be exhausting to be around for long periods of time. I have always felt somewhat responsible for her because even though she struggles with friendships, etc., she is lonely.
She was always close to our dad growing up. But when our mum died 10 years ago and Dad began dating soon after, my sister was unable to deal with losing Mum and the advent of Dad's new girlfriend. Then she found out that Dad had cheated on Mum during their marriage (!). My sister was so upset. She distanced herself from our Dad, who honestly didn't make any attempt to reach out to her. But again, my sister is very intense, and she took Mum's death hard. I think my Dad was unable to cope with the double trauma of losing Mum suddenly AND with sister's extreme emotions, so he was not in any kind of shape to support her (he needed support himself). In any case, Dad remarried VERY quickly, and my sister has not spoken to him since then (ten years!).
My sister is struggling now. I think she is also depressed. I think I am the only person with whom she is close/can talk, and she is still so upset about losing her relationship with our Dad. Dad for his part has said that if sister cannot accept his wife, she is not welcome in his home. The thing is, he talks about her now as if he has forgotten how fragile she is, as if he wants to assure himself she is NOT all alone by herself (which she is), or that I am NOT the one who is supporting her. He really seems angry and disgusted with her when her name comes up in conversation. It is hard to believe they used to be so close.
I am of two minds here. On the one hand, I was surprised at how cleanly Dad seemed to disconnect from my sister. But my sister has told me she hates herself for being unable to see Dad/our childhood home with "a woman who is only there because Mum is dead." I understand that. But I want my Dad to be happy, and he would be living all alone if he had not remarried, so I'm not sure if my sister is thinking about what she really wants here.
And I'm a bit annoyed that Dad's new wife seems to be resentful of my sister. When I meet Dad and his wife for dinner, she has said things to me like, "Should I be worried about the Olivia situation?" ("Olivia" is my sister). It was clear she was asking if she should be worried that my sister would somehow affect her own relationship with my dad, which bothers me a lot. I feel that my Dad would be happier if his wife encouraged him to try to communicate with my sister and mend fences, and develop a relationship between Dad's wife and sister. I do think Dad's wife has picked up on Dad's sadness about losing sister, and the fact that Dad and sister used to be close, and she feels threatened by my sister.
But it is almost Christmas, and it is hard to be bouncing between my sister and my Dad. I would love to have everyone over together for Christmas, but I will have to choose between my Dad and my sister because neither will show if the other is there.
My sister has told me she hates herself for not being able to "turn her feelings off" and not be angry with Dad. But she calls me crying almost every night. I don't know how to advise her or what to do. I don't want her to be alone on Christmas, which she will be if I spend the holiday with my Dad and his wife (and I resent my sister a bit for making me feel disloyal for spending time with Dad).
Sigh. This is a tangle.
To be honest it goes a little deeper than having a new wife. You said your father cheated on your mother? No wonder she's upset. Her mothers dead and has also been cheated on. Has your father addressed this issue? It's a big part of the story and should be cleared up before anything else in my opinion.
Being truthful I feel because of this it should be the dad reaching out to the daughter, your sister. Though if this is not to happen it's whether or not your sister can forgive and forget. Also, is his new wife the woman he cheated with? If it is I kind if don't blame your sister!
No, the new wife isn't the one he cheated with while married to Mum. We learned he had had a fling while on a foreign business trip years ago.
Yes, Dad is not blameless here. The two of them are very stubborn. And I do think she is psychologically troubled in some way, and she has always struggled with depression/anxiety, and with making friends and maintaining relationships. I worry so much about her, and find myself alternately angry at Dad for pretending she is not troubled, and with her for her apparent unwillingness to accept Dad in any new relationship ten years after Mum's death. But mostly I am just so sad because I love both of these flawed people, and this situation is just so painful for all involved. I don't know what to do.
Your father is the one who has acted immorally. By having an affair, he is responsible for the consequences.
Affair aside, as the parent, he should not be attempting to force acceptance of his new wife on his daughter, he should be working with her to help her work through her very understandable sadness, and feelings towards his new wife. Demanding ultimatums towards a grieving daughter is unacceptable.
He is being incredibly selfish. Yes, his happiness is important, but in this case it's clearly at the expense of his daughter, towards whom IMO - as a parent - he should feel he owes his loyalty and kindness.
Whilst he has every right to do whatever he wants; he has escalated what would already be a difficult situation by acting immorally and having an affair.
You cannot control the actions of your father or your sister, only your own. There is no contention here in my mind, spend Christmas with your sister.
As an aside - your father, IMO, owes far more to you sister as a father than she owes him as a daughter.
He chose to have a child and all the responsibility that comes with it, she did not choose to be born.
He needs to take the initiative here and start a dialogue without being demanding.
Honestly I think you're going to have to be brutally honest with both your sister and dad or it will begin to affect your own mental health. You can't be the conductor for their negative energy full time. Tell them to bloody get their shit together, it isn't fair.
This sounds really difficult and I can see why your dad reacted the way he initially did towards your sister after losing your Mum but a lot of time has passed and his life has moved on so it’s very sad that he can’t make the first move to your sister to make amends. I think really he needs to and it doesn’t reflect well on him that he isn’t doing this.
I would agree that his wife isn’t helping the situation and I think it’s quite shameful of her to not encourage your dad. While it wouldn’t be the easiest thing your dad could have a relationship with your sister without her having to see his wife.
I think your dads current reaction to your sister is a defence mechanism so that he doesn’t feel so bad about not supporting her but that doesn’t make it fair or right.
I think your main attention and time needs to be with your sister really.
I agree with you OP that it's possible to sympathise with both their reactions and to be a little cross with both of them.
I would tell Dad that you're spending Christmas with your sister because she is alone and he is not.
If he's funny about it I would tell him that only the two of them can mend these bridges and perhaps as the parent he could be the one to try First.
I think in your situation I'd consider my loyalty to my sister to come before my loyalty to my dad. But I see that that could be hard because christmas with someone with depression may be a lot more taxing than with your dad. I don't see that you can leave her alone though.
Your sister is the child and struggling with her mental health. I really think that your dad should be trying a bit harder. It must be very hurtful for your sister how he has prioritised his new partner, no wonder she can't stop feeling angry.
I also think your dad needs to reach out and find the solution and at the moment you are putting yourself in the roll as peace maker
I would tell them both you aren't going to discuss either person with the other - they are grown ups and need to sort it out themselves
Your dad should make time for your sister without his wife to begin with and build a bridge
It's not your problem so stop making it one
Your Dad sounds like a bit of a dick. He's put everything and everyone before his own daughter.
I don't think anyone is being particularly unreasonable as it's such a complicated and emotive situation. I just wish you all luck and hope they make up.
So your dad was struggling too much to provide support to his daughter, but not struggling so much he could quickly remarry. I would spend it with your sister, it sounds as though she will need you more. Your dad will have his wife, who will your sister have? Though that doesn't necessarily mean you can't see your dad at all over christmas
Where are you in all this? Both sides are leaning on you heavily and neither are taking responsibility for the situation coming about, finding a solution, or moving on from it. I think that is unfair.
I think you need to start telling them how you feel as well - stuck in the middle, upset, torn between them. Rather than trying to fix it yourself
Your dad should reach out and is behaving very selfishly.
I would work on him and his new wife.
Is anger is at himself not her - she is a guilty reminder of the sh1tty thing he did in cheating on your mother and the guilt he feels at having done that to a woman who has since died, not to mention the reality of the terrible effect it has had on his child. He finds that uncomfortable to confront and so it translates it into anger at her. You might say that is doubly sh1tty from him.
I think you need to be frank with him about that analysis - too many men are tyrannical heads of the family who go around destroying people and everyone just keeps their trap shut. this is the middle ages. Your dad needs to be gently confronted with his own emotional twists and turns, and not allowed to continue to victimise your sister.
He is supposed to be a parent, not an instrument of cruelty.
It does very much sound like nobody is considering your needs in all of this, whilst expecting a great deal from you.
Is it possible for a neutral mediator to meet with your sister and dad, and facilitate a conversation between them with a view to some kind of reconciliation? Would either of them be open to something like this?
Something does need to change because you can't carry this singlehandedly. They need to be made aware of the pain this situation is causing you, and that you need them to take some action to move things forward.
It sounds very, very difficult. for you
I have a very loosely similarish situation, very different but with issues between dad and sister after death of our mum and I think both are needing too much from you here. It's really not fair for you to be caught in the middle like this and it will take it's toll on you and your own wellbeing. Sister is using you as her crutch and dad is using you to be ok about the distance between him and his daughter- she's not 'alone' or wandering the wilderness because you are there and looking after her, in a way. I'd sit down with dad alone and tell him this is all very unfair on you and your sister, he is her parent, her only remaining parent and even though she is an adult he is her only dad and she needs him to help her through. And that while you know she can be difficult he needs to reach out to her and fix things from the ground up, no wife involved until they are in a better place and then perhaps one day the wife can be involved. If dad came to be agreeable I'd then tell sister she needs to meet with him and talk, he can't fix it if she pushes him away. Then I'd have Christmas in a neutral place with all invited and make it clear everyone's invited and each party is welcome as long as they are civil and if they choose not to come it's their own choice, you are not responsible for them then spending the time alone/ without you.
That'd probably be the 'work toward' for next year though, this year I think your sister should maybe take priority as she'd be alone otherwise. But if you managed to mediate to the extent that your dad was trying with her and she wasn't making any effort towards reconciliation next time you could do as above and if she decided not to attend and your dad did then she'd be alone of her own making.
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