Sunday, February 25, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Tell Me About It: Sister-in-law’s abuse of trust is shocking

Sister-in-law’s abuse of trust is shocking

Q: I recently found out my sister-in-law shares everything I say about my mother with her — including screenshots of texts and exact quotes from phone conversations. My mother is a difficult person, and my sister-in-law and I have spent years commiserating over her overbearing and trying ways.

I’m completely shocked by this!

I asked for an apology, but she says she did nothing wrong, and that my mother deserves to know anything that is said about her. I asked my mother for an apology for spying on her adult daughter, and she said I should apologize for the things I’ve said.

This has made me feel like an outsider in my own family. Can I hold out for an apology? Or is this basically where I have to decide between an apology and ever seeing my family again?

Overshared by Sister-in-Law

A: That is a jaw-dropping abuse of trust.

I can’t imagine anyone who would betray you that thoroughly and profoundly would ever apologize sincerely.

So no, there isn’t much promise in holding out for an apology, but you can accomplish quite a bit on your own just by accepting the reality of the people you’re dealing with.

Your sister-in-law — "Silvia" — used you to gain favor with your mother. That she did this over years, without detection and apparently without remorse, makes this an extreme case, but otherwise it’s actually a common form of family dysfunction.

With no realistic chance of an apology from Silvia or your mom, you’re looking at a decision between having nothing to do with your family again, or remaining a much wiser, arm’s-length participant in its activities. Maybe you’ll work toward getting along with your mother again, but remain estranged from Silvia.

You can also give your mom a sincere apology, but not the one she thinks you owe her. Apologize for airing your complaints to someone else and not to her directly. She won’t like it, I expect, but it’ll help you get right with you.

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