Ask Amy : Crisis-prone sister needs slightly tougher love

2014-06-16T00:00:00Z 2014-07-03T11:04:30Z Ask Amy : Crisis-prone sister needs slightly tougher loveBy Amy Dickinson Tribune Content Agency Arizona Daily Star

DEAR AMY: My sister has ongoing crises in her life (her son is an addict and her partner is abusive).

Recently she reached out to me, and I tried to help. After several weeks of frantic calls to domestic violence hotlines and brainstorming possible solutions with her, I watched her return to the same toxic patterns with the son and the partner. This was the fourth time in recent years that I have been drawn in, but this is the first time she seemed willing to walk away from these desperate situations.

She is a bright woman, but her life is a mess. I have been a mess for most of my life, but have turned my life around in a significant way after years of hard work with a therapist and a 12-step program.

After receiving a number of emails following the last debacle, I wrote a brief and honest assessment of my situation, saying I could not participate in her dramas any further and that she needed help beyond my capabilities. I received angry and abusive emails in reply, which I have not answered.

Our childhood was terrible. Is there a way to have a relationship with her where I don’t get dragged into the drama? — Loyal Reader

DEAR LOYAL: You have responded lovingly to your sister in the past, but the minute you drew a reasonable boundary, she acted out. Consider her behavior an expression of her panic. She fears she is losing you.

Your sister has the tools to adjust her dynamic (thanks to you). Now you should respond only with compassion: “I’m sorry you’re so unhappy,” “I hope you can improve your situation,” “I want the best for you.” You will offer no suggestions, solutions or commentary.

Your sister may continue to lash out. But once you do less for her, she might do more for herself.

DEAR AMY: I was appalled by the letter in your column from someone signed “Indian Man” who suggested that if an American man couldn’t find love in this country, he should think about dating an Indian woman because “American women are shallow.”

I’m an American woman, and I’m not shallow, though given your choice to run this misogynist statement in your column, I gather that you are. Women around the world are subjected to violence because of attitudes like this one. — Furious

DEAR FURIOUS: This letter was responding to another letter, written by “Sympathetic,” who described a close male friend of hers who was wonderful in every way, except his looks. He couldn’t find anyone to date because he is physically unattractive. Sympathetic wrote that, “If I was still single, I probably wouldn’t date him, either.” I offered to run readers’ suggestions in this space, and the letter you refer to was one.

I do think Americans (men and women) are stereotypically shallow. We’re kind of famous for it, in fact.

I believe that everyone deserves love, and sometimes looking outside your own culture is a good way to find it. And as long as it is a mutual and consensual nonshallow connection, it’s a good thing.

I share the anguish about violence against women and girls — both in this country and worldwide. As a mother to five daughters, I believe we should do everything in our power to change this tragic dynamic. I don’t quite see the link that you see between the statement about American shallowness and misogyny; but many other readers do. I apologize for the atrocious timing of this particular letter. (It ran very close to the tragic mass shooting in Alta Vista, California, by a young man angry that he couldn’t find a girl to date.) I file my columns weeks in advance of publication, but appreciate having this challenging conversation.

DEAR AMY: “Putting the Kids First” was asked by her cheating ex-husband to pave the way for their daughters to “like” his girlfriend more.

The girls are old enough to make up their own minds. As long as she’s not making negative comments, it isn’t mom’s job to fix her daughters’ relationship with the woman who helped turn their daddy into a part-time parent. Dismayed

DEAR DISMAYED: Many people agreed that this mom should make no effort to ease the relationship between her teen girls and their dad’s girlfriend.

Contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamy@tribune.com

Follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook. Amy Dickinson’s memoir, “The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them” (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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