Caroline West-Meads: She’s turning my daughters against me

Caroline West-Meads
Chris O’Donovan

Q. All my adult life I have been manipulated by my younger sister. Now she has cut me out of her life and, as she is wealthy, has been able to manipulate my daughters and cause problems in what was a good relationship. This is very distressing. She has sworn them to secrecy about something that I’ve apparently done wrong. I explained that I would be willing to apologise if I knew what I was supposed to have done. One daughter says she doesn’t know and the other has been told not to tell me. My life has not been easy and I became a carer to my grandma, mother, aunts and uncles. My sister describes this as ‘a lifestyle choice’. Our childhood was difficult, we were smacked and intimidated but I still cared for our mum in old age – she had dementia and paranoia. My sister chose not to have children as, in her words, she ‘did not want to share’ her husband with anyone. Sadly he died young and her behaviour has become more extreme. Years ago, when my husband left me with an empty bank account and two daughters at university, I became unwell and was referred to a psychiatrist. Her diagnosis was there was nothing wrong that keeping away from my mother and my sister would not cure. I wonder if my sister is suffering from paranoia or a personality disorder? I have tried to explain to my daughters, but my eldest told me they don’t want to discuss it because it is too stressful. It is so hurtful.

A. To not want to share her husband with anyone suggests your sister has a very possessive, controlling and jealous nature. I fear she could have a personality disorder, as you say, or deep damage from your troubled childhood – your parents sound unloving at best. Often, I would encourage people to restore relationships but, sadly, I don’t think she is going to change or accept the help she needs. I think she will just keep hurting you, so you need minimum contact. It is distressing for you that she has influenced your daughters against you and very hard that they don’t believe you. Unfortunately, sometimes people find it difficult to deal with conflict or emotion, so they distance themselves. They may also have been influenced by your sister’s money. Because your self-esteem has been battered by both her and your ex-husband, you have fallen into the role of victim. You need to be a little tougher. Stop apologising to your daughters for having done something wrong – or they might think that you have! Instead, tell them that you are sad that your sister dislikes you, but you know that you have never done anything to hurt her and they know you are a good person. Tell them how much you love them, remind them of how close you were, and say you don’t want your sister to come between you. I would also recommend counselling
as you have been through a lot and need support. Try Relate.

Will he ever leave her for me?

Q. I have been with my boyfriend for two years but he has a girlfriend (who he knew before me) and they live together. He has two phones and he manages to see me during the day most weekdays. Before the pandemic, we had managed to go away a few times but, of course, that has all stopped. I break down every few weeks over the situation. He says he loves us both, but I’m worried that he’ll choose her not me.

A. I once knew a woman who spent nine years as a mistress to a man who was married with children. He kept telling her that he loved her, he would leave, he only wanted to be with her but couldn’t face telling his wife or their children. He kept ending the affair and then telling her he couldn’t keep away – and restarting it. Eventually, this woman got pregnant and he promised that he would leave his wife and bring up their child. In the delivery room, he told her that he couldn’t leave his wife and he was ending their affair. It was only then she realised what a complete pig he was and that he was never going to be with her. So please don’t be like her – don’t go further down this road. The sad and painful truth is that your ‘boyfriend’ is never going to leave her – and if he did, how could you ever trust him knowing how easily he has lied to her for two years? He won’t change because he likes the situation and, unfortunately, you are letting him get away with this. It won’t be easy, and you will need help and support from friends and perhaps counselling (try bacp), but walk away as this is destroying you.