Dear Carolyn: Back in February, my little sister was dumped by her boyfriend, just three months prior to their wedding. Even though she’s over him, she’s understandably having a whole host of emotional/trust issues that are giving her a very hard time dealing with men in a romantic way.
This has also led to some behavioral changes (drinking, random encounters with men) that, while not unusual among women her age, are extremely out of the ordinary for her. Prior to this, she had been extremely “together” – definitely the golden child between the two of us.
At what point do we sit her down and gently tell her it might be time to snap out of it? – Broken Engagement
You seem unaccustomed to having people wander off the sanctioned path in your family. You also seem to be testing the idea that your sister is overreacting to the breakup.
I believe, though, that this was much more than a breakup for your sister, and that you’re under-reacting to her crisis – one she’s having because this is all so new to friends and family.
“Golden” children tend to live by a do-what-I’m-supposed-to model of behavior, gradually forming an expectation that this will result in the life they’re supposed to have.
When instead these exemplary choices send them into a publicly humiliating ditch, often the next place they find themselves is smack in the middle of a major existential crisis. Yes, she does need her family right now, but not to tell her (this) or firmly advise (that) or set her upright and return her to her dollhouse. She needs you to recognize that you all mistook her good behavior for emotional maturity – and that she has to find her own way back to making good decisions for her own. Loving her for who she is, versus what she accomplishes, is the best map you can possibly give her for this difficult road ahead.