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Elliott, LPCC, NCC
Elliott, LPCC, NCC, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 7664
Experience:  35 years of experience as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a college professor.
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I have a toxic relationship with an older sister. We are both

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I have a toxic relationship with an older sister. We are both in our 50s and I cut off all ties for about 14 years after she crossed another boundary (what I thought was the last time). She has been very domineering and controlling throughout our lives, and I bear some responsibility for being so passive to save the peace. She continually badmouths me to relatives and contacts my adult son behind my back, trying to strike up a relationship with him when she had been rather indifferent for many years during his childhood. I have thrived professionally and personally since cutting ties, but have been under much pressure from elderly mother and recently reached out to her over the holidays. Here's the problem: in just two short weeks I discovered from my son that she was again planning behind my back with my son (ostensibly to overrule/embarrass me regarding some travel plans) in front of the rest of our first family (parents and sibling brothers). It's as if she is trying to put a wedge between me and my son.

To make matters worse, a beloved relative just died and I have been making plans to attend the funeral. You guessed it: she also plans to attend and has already begun trying to direct all arrangements. I was close to this particular relative and his family and want to devote my care and attention to them, but my sister is trying to make the occasion about her and her needs. At this point I really regret contacting her again, especially in light of what I have just learned--she is still engaged in the same destructive pattern of behavior that is so damaging to me (undermining confidence etc.--part of larger pattern of emotional and verbal abuse growing up). How can I handle this? It is important for me to attend the funeral but I have no desire to restart any relationship with her. I also suspect (based on earlier correspondence) that she isn't actually interested in having a relationship with me personally, but my husband (an 'exotic' European) and my son (who also lives overseas). I'd like to have a plan on how to deal with her at the funeral. She is particularly good of acting nice in front of an audience and spreading vitriol privately). Any advice you can give would be most appreciated. Thank you!
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Dear friend,

Your sister seems like she may have a narcissistic personality disorder. She treats many people this way, I am sure, You must not take it personally, although, because of years of family dysfunction, she is very good at playing you, and you always walk into the same trap and respond the same way.

This time you will make it different. First of all, understand that you are not the only one who perceives her in this way. Just because she tries to put a wedge between you and anyone else does not mean that she will succeed. Most people know her routine and have heard her vitriol before.

She may be looking for a negative response for you, even a body languate response to tell her that she has succeeded. You can also play the game of being friendly and amicable no matter what you think. You know what to expect from her, so don't be surpised when she is totally predictable.

Take the high ground. The higher the better, for it will be a contrast to her mean spirited ways.

At the funeral, you will be there to give comfort and remembrance to her loved ones, not to hob-nob with her. If she wants to direct events at the funeral, that has nothing to do with you. Ignore her, without comment. I'm sure that she will win no popularity contest for her inappropriate behavior.

You are a separte individual. Arrive without her and leave without her. Be civilized and professionally friendly. That is all you need to do.

Don't let yourself be sucked into any of her games, and don't anguish over the upcoming event. You can do this and be proud of yourself afterwards. You might have to take a few deep breaths to keep yourself calm, but you CAN do it.

Warm regards,

Elliott Sewell, LPCC, NCC, CCMHC
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