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Having Trouble Letting Go Of Ex-sister-in-law

Question:

I ended a 5 year marriage with an abusive husband, I should have left many years before, but in my culture, you just can’t leave a marriage like that and who was I kidding, I was so young and afraid of ruining my family’s good name. All I can say is that my ex husband put himself first above all others, even 2 innocent babies that would never be born. Broken hearted and alone, I decided to leave after the 2nd miscarriage, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t have family in town and in the 5 years that I had been married I never made any “real” friends other than my sister in law. When I left her brother, I don’t know what happened. We were so close, I was there for her through so many things and was always her rock, I was the one that she cried to when she had breakups with boyfriends, girlfriends who betrayed her, parents who were going through divorce. I guess I expected her to love me enough to understand why I was leaving her brother and understand that I wasn’t leaving her. I guess what they say is true, blood is thicker than water. At first, she used to call and ask how I was doing… then I started hearing things back that I had only told her. I found out she was just calling to find any possible dirt on me and telling her mom so they could pain me in a bad light. To this day my ex husband’s entire family maintain that I left him to be with another man. I shouldn’t care so much about what they say or why they don’t care about me anymore, but I do. I find myself addicted to reading my sister in law’s blog even though it kills me each time. She writes about how she can’t rely on so called friends, how only “real” family matters to her. She writes to her other sister in law calling her “my best sister in law ever”. It hurts me so much to read these things… yet I find myself addicted to it… and after I torture myself with reading these thoughts of her, I can’t help but wonder why she doesn’t care about me anymore, why does she want to hurt me? She herself saw what her brother did to me all those years… she herself hated him for it. Now she hates me because I had the strength to leave him. Is it really my fault that he now lives a life filled with drugs, alcohol and partying? I tried to save him from that, I tried my hardest with all my heart and hope for 5 years, and after he took away 2 precious lives from me, I couldn’t do it anymore… I guess what hurts me the most is not my experience with him… but with my sister in law. How can I let go? How can I get some closure so I can move on with life and make new friends?

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Answer:

You’re hurting so much. I wish I could give you something that might take away your pain, but that isn’t possible. Only you can take away your pain. And only by making some decisions about how you will talk to yourself, and how you will manage the information that you are looking at.

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p> You were strong enough to leave an abusive man. That is a very good thing, and a rare thing. Many women (and men!) suffer for years and cannot manage to break free of abuse. So pat yourself on the back for doing something brave and necessary for your well being.

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p> You haven’t left the man enough, however. You are still attached to his family, and in particular to your former sister-in-law. The thing with the sister is particularly painful because you gave so much to her and she is disowning that connection, probably out of loyalty to her brother and the idea of family she carries in her head. It’s as though you deposited a lot of money in the bank and then the bank just said they had never heard of you and kept your money. Brother may be a loser and a drug addict, but he is still Brother, so she’ll stick with him, and stick it to you. Not the right thing to do when he’s such a turd, but that is just what most people end up doing. It doesn’t say good things about her character, and that is about as much as you can say.

<

p> You need to leave not only your former husband, but also your former sister-in-law. You need to grieve all the losses you have sustained here, in whatever way will work for you to do it, and you need to move on. Before you can move on, you will need to stop looking at your former sister-in-law’s blog. I know you feel compelled to continue to look at the stuff she is writing, but continuing to view that stuff is making you crazy, and so you have to stop in order to protect yourself.

<

p> Grieving is hard work for anyone. It takes some time however you go about it. It can be facilitated by a therapist, however, and I think in the case you are describing it might be a very good think for you to visit with a therapist a few times. You don’t seem to have people in your life who can validate and support you (you don’t describe such people anyway). A therapist can give you that support, because he or she will be able to approach your story from an outside perspective, recognize the courage you’ve already manifested, and help guide you towards a better, less painful future.

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