Annie Lane tries her hardest, but…

Dear Annie: I am sibling No. 3 out of four. I am estranged from Nos. 2 and 4. This was my choice, and a wise decision. They are manipulative bullies, and after years of trying to have a relationship with them, I finally gave up. My younger sibling tried to manipulate me with a fake suicide threat because I would not give in to her demands. My older brother is an emotionally unavailable bully who has taken advantage of my father by using his credit cards and then not paying him back. I have tried to address these issues, but they always turn the table and tell me that I am the problem.

Dad turns 90 next summer, and my oldest sibling wants us to fly home (COVID-19 permitting) to have a dinner celebration at a restaurant. Annie, I don’t want to go. I cannot bring myself to sit across the table from these two. I refuse to fake it or pretend that everything is fine.

If I do this, I will be resentful toward myself. I am not willing, not even for Dad. I am planning to fly later in the month to take Dad and my stepmother out to dinner. We get along really well. They are aware of the estrangement and have remained neutral, which is good. Do you have any other suggestions? — Sibling 3 Has Left the Building

Dear Sibling 3: It sounds like there’s a great deal of hurt, anger and miscommunication here. A suicide threat is never something to dismiss as just being manipulative. It is often a cry for help (which I’m hoping she received from a professional). As far as your older brother being emotionally unavailable and taking advantage of your father, he can’t be a very happy person.

But on your point that every conversation ends with the tables being turned on you, this might be an indication of things you have to work on as well. Relationships are two-way streets, and rarely is one person completely at fault. Be introspective and see if you can find forgiveness in your heart for them, at least so you can go to your dad’s 90th birthday.

You don’t have to sit at their table, and remember, it’s not a birthday about you; it’s for your father, and my guess is that nothing would make him happier than having all of his children in attendance. (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

I’m offended.

For those of you who are new to my blog, I’m estranged from my sister, who’s a violent [bleep]. She’s assaulted me on several occasions. Our mother would LOVE for all of us to join with her on holidays and other special occasions. And that’s too bad.

This advice of Annie Lane’s reeks of false virtues.

I am estranged from Nos. 2 and 4. This was my choice, and a wise decision.

Same here with the estrangement. Some people like Annie Lane don’t realize how precarious an estrangement can be. I can’t handle interacting even mildly with my sister. It just agitates me, and I’m usually so unflappable. (Okay, I was unable to type that with a straight face.)

At any rate, an estrangement reminds me of giving up a food. I recently quit eating processed sugar and flour. If someone were to tell me, “Oh, just make an exception. It’s your dad’s ninetieth birthday,” I’d say, “Really? You want me to do that to my own digestive system?” Going against something you’ve set into place, just so you can appease someone else, is a false virtue. I and I alone should make those decisions about my diet and my associations.

Annie Lane loses me when she talks about how unhappy the siblings must be. Yeah, I’ll grant her that, and my sister’s always been unhappy, too. And my sister has this amazing ability to make me unhappy whenever she’s unhappy. Leading up to her worst assault and battery against me, she was panicked about her future and I was flourishing. (I certainly wasn’t trying to shove it in her face, and my shortlived happiness was too long in the coming.) She couldn’t cope with that and had to bring me down. Now, these days, I’ve got a mother who’s all like, “Ohh, won’t you please associate with your sister?” Um, no.

So there’s a difference between being unhappy, or being unhappy with the strong need to make others miserable as well. It’s okay to be unhappy. It’s not okay to be a bully.

But on your point that every conversation ends with the tables being turned on you, this might be an indication of things you have to work on as well. Relationships are two-way streets, and rarely is one person completely at fault.

Irrelevant, and offensive. I don’t care how much blame I have in my failed relationship with my sister. It’s irrelevant to the simple fact that I no longer want to associate with her. Blame has nothing to do with it. She can blame me. That’s fine. I don’t care. She probably doesn’t care, either. I have to give her props for staying the hell away. But the above advice from Annie Lane would be more pertinent if the letter writer wanted to end the estrangement. (Not for a birthday party, but for real.) As it is, it falls flat, because the letter writer has every right to keep his siblings at arm’s length.

Be introspective and see if you can find forgiveness in your heart for them, at least so you can go to your dad’s 90th birthday.

Such a false virtue. I think it would be better for us a a society to value boundaries and decisions to walk away from someone. And forgiveness really isn’t the issue, nor is it wise. If the letter writer opts for forgiveness, then she (random gender guessing here) is setting herself up to “forgive and forget” which can lead to being victimized all over again.

Forgiveness gets my hackles up if/when the person who needs to be forgiven is still present with the possibility of causing more harm to those involved. Anytime you can’t forgive someone safely (because doing so would let them reoffend), then forgiveness is the falsest virtue of them all.

Annie Lane makes it sound like, “Oh, just forgive them and attend this one event,” but one event can be one event too many. It’s too much to ask. Way too much. Like, “Oh, you have celiac disease? Here, just eat this one slice of bread.” Who says that?!

My guess is that nothing would make him happier than having all of his children in attendance.

Yep, that’s how my mother feels. But she thrives on drama, so once my sister assaults me and I scream and run for safety and Li’l Sweetmeats (my infant niece) starts to cry, my mom’s in her minimal comfort zone. When ceramic dishes fly through the air and the cops are called, my mom’s thrilled. The rest of us? Not so much.

If I were a parent to adult kids with distinct personalities and nothing in common, I’d hate the idea of dragging them all together. But my virtues don’t involve forcing people to do things that go against their own best interests just to kowtow to me, whether I’m turning ninety or not. Bowing down to the pressures of a higher generation is sickening. I grew up having to do that all the time, and it disgusted me. Now, I refuse to do it. This advice of Annie Lane’s is seriously bad.

3 thoughts on “Annie Lane tries her hardest, but…

  1. What puzzles me here is why the letter writer is writing. It sounds like they’ve already made the decision that the best course of action is to not go to the birthday party, so what’s the point in writing?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was wondering about that, too!! Hmm… maybe he/she was hoping to be validated in the decision? Or maybe Annie Lane somehow modified the question or wrote it herself…?

      Liked by 2 people

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