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#10 Can I shun sister-in-law without upsetting family? / Pot calling kettle black


Dear Abby: My brother "Pete" is married to "June," an opinionated big-mouth who never has a kind word to say to anybody. She frequently berates Pete and other members of our family. This behavior is disturbing to the entire family, especially to our mother.

My other brother, "Seth," was sentenced to prison on drug charges. Our family has suffered a great deal of pain because of Seth, but we have found strength in our unity and have remained supportive of him. June, however, never misses an opportunity to express her hatred for Seth. She's completely insensitive to our feelings. Although she's Pete's wife, I don't consider her a sister-in-law because she does not behave like a member of the family.

I would like to write her off and never have any contact with her again, but I worry that it would upset my mother and Pete, and they don't need any more problems.

Abby, can you please advise me how to deal with June without starting a lifetime family feud? —HAD IT UP TO HERE

DEAR HAD IT: Yes. Take June aside and tell her that the family needs her support right now, and to knock off her negative remarks about Seth because they are hurtful and not appreciated. If that doesn't put a stop to it, tune her out or limit your time with her. —ABBY

Gabby's Response:

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Gabby’s Response:

Hi Had It: The problem is not June. Even if June dies your family will still be using the same communication model (the same way of communicating-relating) that drove Seth away and creates space for (goads) June into saying what she says. Why? Because you are the ring leader. You are stuck in blaming, badmouthing, and sabotage. You are the one going behind June's back, denouncing her to the country.

Notice the lies in your letter:

  • ". . . who never has . . ." Never?

  • ". . . never misses an opportunity . . ." Never?

  • ". . . completely insensitive . . ."  Completely? 

  • ". . . they don't need any more problems." They sure do. They and you need to start creating a different, more desirable, set of problems.

  • ". . . Our family has suffered a great deal of pain because of Seth," No. Not solely because of him. The pain has been about so much more than just about Seth; he merely mirrors the integrity of the family. It pains your mother to know that her leadership-communication skills have produced these problems. It all began on her first date when she withheld a thought from your father.

There are undesirable consequences for lies, even the unconscious, "white," and/or "accidental" ones.

Notice also that you didn't tell the truth about your brother Seth.

". . . was sentenced to prison on drug charges."

A responsible statement would be,

". . . in prison for doing/dealing drugs."

You imply that he's not guilty or at best, not responsible.

Picture if you will two rooms: In one is a Zen Master sitting with his hands folded peacefully already unconditionally loving whomever comes through the door. In the other room is you, standing with a club raised over your head. Now visualize how June would react upon entering each room. She has no choice other than to behave as she does with you because unbeknownst to you, you are a warrior; you communicate adversarially without opening your mouth (it's an aura thing). Long before June came into your life you had accumulated a lifetime of unresolved interactions and incompletes (communication breakdowns) having to do with blaming upsets and anger. If not June, you'd need to create someone else to trigger your anger.

My advice? Keep doing what you've been doing. Drive her and Pete further out of your life until you create another similar problem, possibly then you'll begin to get a sense that you are the generator of these kinds of feuds. Why you ask would I offer such ludicrous advice? It's because that's what you're programmed to do, it's what you can be trusted to do, even after reading this reply.

It doesn't work to give advice unless you know with absolute certainty that the person will take it, else you'll fail as an advice-giver and continue succeeding as an enabler.

Most people who ask for relationship advice are unconsciously committed to failing and to taking as many down with them as possible, including their parents, and the people from whom they solicit advice.

For example: Seth has been unconsciously intent on making sure your parents fail as parents. Those in jail and in abusive relationships will even destroy their own lives rather than let their parents think they did a good job of raising them. Jail is an incredibly powerful communication to ones parents; most parents/family members go unconscious—rather than simultaneously undergo intensive rehabilitation.

You can make another kind of difference, a positive one, but you'll have to be willing to acknowledge your cause in these matters.  You'd have to give up your "nice act" and tell the truth in the moment. You'd have to be willing to stop trying to hold the family together. In other words, to bring about a transformation in your life, you'd have to be willing to not have all of them in your life. Your leadership-communication support-skills breed the kinds of problems you say you don't want; it keeps everyone around you stuck in producing more of the same. In truth, things will have to get worse before you start to heal yourself.

You need 25-hours of counseling/therapy (by yourself) through which you will begin to get a handle on how to create the kinds of relationships you say you want. If you don't get counseling things will get worse. I recommend that you start the healing process today by doing The Clearing Process —it's free and it works.

To answer your question: No, you can't shun June without upsetting everyone. Why? Because they are all equally addicted to blaming abuse; just as you make June wrong for communicating as she does so too would they all make you wrong for shunning her. Each family member would resist acknowledging that they drove Seth away and supported you in shunning June. It is possible to shun another responsibly (see estrangement) but you can't be living with others addicted to abuse. Your entire family is addicted to abuse, this is what June has been trying (albeit ineffectively) to communicate. You may request how to estrange yourself from an abusive relationship in a reply to this letter on Ask Dear Gabby (free- registration required).

It's so great that you reached out. You have the power to effect a transformation, for yourself and those who wish to come along. Underneath it all I do get your love and concern.

Please show this post to all concerned.

Thank you, Gabby

PS: You're fortunate that June doesn't behave like the rest of the family. At some level she sees how you folks are responsible for Seth's condition, what drove him to want to go unconscious with drugs; possibly it sickens her that she didn't see it before she married into the family. Even worse, she sees how Seth, you, and your family mirror her own need for therapy.

You are correct. June needs as much therapy as you and the rest but you must do it first because you are the leader. June is addicted to abusing and being abused else she never would have gone out on a date with your brother; his aura was such that if she had been conscious and operated from integrity (someone whole and complete) she would have sensed what was going on in the family.  She is also addicted to helping and to enabling. Put another way, it was unethical and irresponsible of Pete to have introduced her to your dysfunctional family (it wasn't a gift of love).

PPS: Experience tells me that recidivism is partly linked to the fact that most parolees return to their families and friends who are still using the same leadership-communication skills that supported the parolee in not going straight in the first place. A parolee leaves prison somewhat rehabilitated but within a few conversations (yes, just a few) with their family (who did not concurrently undergo rehabilitation) the parolee has undone the work they accomplished with the prison staff, automatically reverting back to communicating as before. In other words, it's 42% likely that your brother will return to prison unless you get help for yourself. No one in your family can heal as long as they continue to relate/interact with you. If Josh heard that you estranged yourself from the family and enrolled in therapy after reading this reply it would blow his mind. He'd get a sense of the futility of interacting with the family until they too had undergone rehabilitation.

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Check back occasionally for minor edits (last edited 5/2/17)

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