Need help breaking free from addiction?
1-888-993-3112
Call 24/7 for treatment options. Ad Info & Options

The Way Out Is Through The Door

Question:

Hello, and thank you for reading this letter which is somewhat long and intricate on several personal levels. I shall try to be succinct and refine the details. Basically it involves my elder sister and brother-in-law and a family that has been ripped apart. My sister and I were once very close to each other, and I worshiped the ground she walked on.

<

p> I am a gay man and 8 years ago whilst living at home with my mother she had several strokes and I became her main caregiver. The strain and duration of care led to the decline of my own health, culminating in the knowledge that I was HIV positive, and on that realization that I could no longer care for my mother she entered a nursing home, passing away just over a year ago.

<

p> During this period of my mothers decline my sister and brother-in-law lost their house and THEY decided that I should move out of my home, and they should move in to look after our mother. After saying I did not wish to move (I was literally homeless) my brother-in-law came to the house and started throwing furniture around threatening me with verbal abuse. I left the house sleeping on a friends sofa, and they moved in. Within a few weeks my brother-in-law, who has a history of mental illness, and who had been in and out of mental hospitals for most of his adult life (paranoid/schizophrenic, bi-polar, dystonic-homophobe, manic depressive, etc.) was sectioned, and my sister could not cope with the demands of my mother care who’s illness made her ‘difficult’. They moved out and I moved back in. As I mention we were a very close family and this was like a meltdown.

<

p> My brother-in-law since has launched a spiteful homophobic vendetta towards me and has maneuvered to dispose of me from the love of my sister, niece (who I have doted on), and nephew. At my mothers funeral he caused a scene and refused to speak or shake my hand. It would seem to be based on covetousness, jealousy, and resentment that I am now living in the family home, and his own demons concerning his sexuality. He is gay/bisexual,and was having sex with my ex-partner (I discovered this when he broke down on one occasion telling me he thought he had AIDS and had infected my sister). He is also a very unstable character and given to mafia type dealings.

<

p> I have not told my sister of his infidelity and I don’t know why. She is not daft and knows of his bi-sexual nature. There have been several attempts to reconstruct our relationship, and I feel that I have gone the extra mile in trying to patch things up, but how many times does a dog have to be kicked? I can feel his hatred towards me. Therefore I have decided for my own sanity I want nothing more to do with this man. My sister will not let me be, and expects us to play happy family. My dreams are full of nightmares of her husband. I know that his brother has visited my neighbors spreading malicious gossip. They( barely speak),and that my nephew has been practicing gay hate songs with his uncle on their guitars.

<

p> My sister has written raging letters to me and we did not see each other over Xmas and New Year. However, I love her and when she came to see me this month we arranged a day out which was fine, though I never mentioned her husband. Its just that the next step will be him calling with her.

<

p> Confucius said:”the way out is through the door”, trouble is I can’t seem to find the door-handle.

<

p> Thank you again for reading this. I have left details out, but I hope you get the picture, and would be grateful for any insights you might lend.

This Disclaimer applies to the Answer Below
  • ‘Anne’ is the pseudonym for the individual who writes this relationship advice column.
  • ‘Anne’ bases her responses on her personal experiences and not on professional training or study. She does not represent herself to be a psychologist, therapist, counselor or professional helper of any sort. Her responses are offered from the perspective of a friend or mentor only.
  • Anne intends her responses to provide general information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
  • Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
  • No correspondence takes place.
  • No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by ‘Anne’ to people submitting questions.
  • ‘Anne’, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. ‘Anne’ and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
  • Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.
Answer:

I seriously doubt that you will be able to make peace with your brother-in-law, and not for lack of trying. If he is, as you say, an unstable and clinically paranoid man and also a man who cannot accept his own sexuality to the point of violent homophobia, it will simply be very difficult for him ever to accept you. This would be his problem except for the family conection. So in that sense, it is your problem.

<

p> I think the “door handle” might be hard to find here because you are ambivalent about what you want from the situation. You want to have a relationship with your sister, but that have to come at the cost of having a relationship with her husband, who you understandably want little to do with. There doesn’t seem to be a good middle ground (or at least you haven’t found one yet) and so you are paralyzed.

<

p> I suspect part of the problem is that you are being passive in the situation and not asserting yourself or defending yourself. You are essentially faced with a hard choice: you can either keep the status quo and feel put upon by your brother-in-law’s actions, or you can reject the connection, communicating to your sister that you love her but will not allow yourself to be treated violently or badly by her husband, and communicating to your brother-in-law that you will not allow him to treat you badly (e.g., that you will leave the situation and/or call the police if he becomes dangerous towards you, that you will speak out against him when he says nasty things towards you, etc.). Asserting yourself means taking some risk and will take some stones to acomplish. It is probably the best doorway you can work towards, if that is your goal, however. Therapists can help you with assertiveness, and/or you can read books about it. The classic work is “Your Perfect Right” by Alberti and Emmons, but there are dozens of newer books out there today. Good luck!

More "Ask Anne" View Columnists

Close

Call the Helpline Toll-FREE

To Get Treatment Options Now.

1-888-993-3112 100% Confidential

Get Help For You or a Loved One Here...

Click Here for More Info.

Close

Call The Toll-FREE Helpline 24/7 To Get Treatment Options Now.

100% Confidential
Get Treatment Options From Your Phone... Tap to Expand