November 23, 2012 in Features

Seeing sister in new, painful light

Washington Post
 

Dear Carolyn: I’m getting a dose of reality. I’m divorcing my husband (of 23 years) seven years after the affair. My sister has always been my best friend … but the blinders about reciprocity, support and validation are slipping off.

What kind of sister would hear stories of the packed getaway suitcase stashed in the garage in case of a needed escape and not say, “You need to get out of this relationship”? Or take my call from the emergency room, hear the story of husband loading a gun and say, “No, don’t tell Dad.”?

Of course my listening to my sister and not acting in my own behalf is my fault. But looking back at the times she invalidated my concerns makes me think she is not a friend. Am I being harsh, am I into blaming? Or am I right? – Let Down

The idea of “seeing the light” is such a beautiful one – yet the reality of light hitting your eyes after years in the dark is that it hurts, a lot, at first.

Think of it as growing pains, though, and the ache you feel will align with your expectations. You’re well into your adulthood, obviously, but I define “growing up” as the transition from seeing things as we want them to be to seeing them as they are. People can arrive there as children, young adults, oldsters or not at all; it’s a highly personal journey where timetables have no place.

For you, it took your 23rd year of marriage to create the circumstances that shoved you out of what I suspect is a lifelong pattern of self-abnegation.

Why do I suspect that? Your sister. Her responses to you say on the surface that she isn’t your best friend, yes, but they could also be saying she was cast in the same don’t-upset-any- authority-figures mold you were.

Assigning terms like “harsh,” “blaming” or “right” might help you write a new narrative to replace the old one – but then you’ll be tempted to see only what fits your new story. Instead, try just applying at face value what people reveal about themselves.


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