Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Sisters don't see eye to eye over affair with married man
Sister, and the Affair: My sister said she wanted me to meet the man she's currently dating (he's married with kids) on my next trip to see her. I said in my most calm voice, "I really don't think that's a good idea right now. I would be glad to meet him once he's separated from him wife and he's chosen to be with you exclusively."
I was called all sorts of names, told to cancel my trip, and at one point she actually said I should accept her relationship since my family had accepted that my boyfriend and I live together. She kept trying to convince me that since they are in love, it makes the affair okay.
I canceled my flight two days later (I wanted to give her time to change her mind). While I fully acknowledge that people can fall in love in bad circumstances, I think having an affair is the worst way to handle that. All I could think about were those poor kids.
But I hate to think that my decision not to meet the guy has, for the moment, ruined our relationship. Was that too harsh a stance? Should I have agreed to meet him?
By the way, she shouldn't have been surprised by my decision. When I first learned her boyfriend was married, about six months ago, I had a very long conversation with her about why I thought it was a bad idea. I haven't harped on it since then, but when she has asked my opinion I've expressed my concerns.
Carolyn: It's not what I think that matters. You had to do what you thought was right.
She is an adult who makes her decisions for her life, and you are an adult who makes decisions for your life. That's where the boundaries are, and the unspoken compact between healthy adults is that you stick to your side of the boundary.
It sounds as if you were mindful in both cases of your sister's right to make her own choices, even bad ones. For one, six months ago, you said your piece and then backed off until she invited you to comment. Then, in refusing to meet the man, you were in fact guiding your own behavior by deciding whom you would meet and when.
No doubt she sees it otherwise, and believes you're judging her. No doubt there's truth to that, even in light of your cautious approach.
Still, if your sister's name-calling and fit-pitching are the only reason you're second-guessing your actions, then please realize that she crossed far over the line.
She presumed to tell you both what to do and what to think of her relationship. And, her decision to punish you for taking a stand — entirely your business to do so — was the clearest example in this whole mess of trespassing onto another adult's territory.
It actually mimics her choice to rationalize dating a married man: She thinks it's okay to treat others as a lesser priority (her lover's wife, and now you) when they stand in the way of what she wants. Right now, at least, that's who your sister is.