Friday, September 12, 2008

Unanswered questions

My mother called me at nine this morning to ask what kind of engagement ring my sister would like.

That being said, my mom is not looking to propose to my sister. Instead, she received a call from T, my sister's on-again boyfriend, asking for help in his selection of a ring. I suppose the 9am call was a way of sharing the happy news in an indirect manner. While I had a sense this was coming (and there is no doubt in my mind that she will say yes), the elation I always expected I would feel at such news, is being overshadowed by a brick of apprehension sitting in my stomach.

And I feel horrible about this.

More background is probably needed...

Lil Sis and T were together for around two or so years. They, by all appearances, were leading a pretty ideal life, complete with a house to themselves and her dog. I thought very highly of T. He was funny, down-to-earth, and grounded enough to balance the two of them out quite well.

But things began to go downhill. I first noticed it when I was at their place for the Christmas holidays, and the usually social T barely said two words to my then new boyfriend, after I had assured the Duke that they would get along great. T and Lil Sis were in the midst of some crazy stressors, including looking after T's father, who was ill with cancer. My sister got thrown into the rather thankless job of taking basic care of him, with relatively little gratitude flowing back her way.
As well, my sister was beginning to grow sick of the city, and spoke of wanting to return to HomeTown sooner, rather than later. T humoured her in this regards, but never fully engaged in the idea with anything other than words. The final straw came when he told my sister he wasn't sure he believed in marriage, a fact that probably should have floated to the surface before they moved in together, and that he didn't intend to leave the city.

She left him soon after this revelation. He was crushed, and begged for her to return, planning an elaborate wedding proposal. She began dating, perhaps seeking that freedom that one's early 20s are supposed to bring. Their occasional interactions seemed to generally be somewhat conflictual or awkward, including the incident in which she called, over six months after their break-up, to talk to him about her sick dog, and he began yelling about a date she had with another man.

A year after their break-up, she formally decided to leave the city behind, and moved back to our HomeTown. This decision was pushed along by her burgeoning re-friendship (and apparently more) with an ex-boyfriend.

So you can imagine that I was shocked when, a week after she'd moved 8 hours away from T, she announced to me that she was back in love with him.
Apparently, during their final goodbye before her move, they had both broken down and confessed their love for one another.

If that wasn't more surprising, he has now completely canceled plans to move to an entirely different city with a friend, and is shopping around for a house in HomeTown (which he is not from). They also have planned a trip to Hawaii. And now, after less than two months of long-distance rekindlement, in which they have seen each other a maximum of three times, he is buying an engagement ring.

I want to be happy. I want to pretend that nothing ever changed between the two of them, that they are still the same couple they were in the past.
But I can't.
Sure, he is doing all the right things, all the things she wanted to change. But to me, it isn't really about just proposing and moving. It is about the problems in communication that led to these issues not being addressed in the first place. And I am not convinced they have had the opportunity to resolve these issues.

Yeah, time can do wonders. But it isn't guaranteed to do so. I would feel a lot better if they would at least move back to the same city before falling into house buying and wedding planning, to make sure things are back to good. Everything about someone else seems rosy when you only see them every month or so, and you can only whisper sweet nothings over the phone, rather than the real life discussions of topics like money and work.

It is not that I don't want them to succeed. I think that he is a wonderful man, underneath all the difficulties they have had, and I know my sister deserves to be happy. I just don't want them to be in such a hurry that they stack the odds against themselves.

I think this lump of apprehension comes as much from my worries about their hurried romance as it does from the fact that I can't discuss it with my family.

My sister is stubborn, and takes any questioning of her choices as a personal affront.

My mom is supportive to a fault, such that she will stand wholeheartedly behind any decision my sister makes, no matter how ridiculous. This results in some incredible contradictions at times, like her praise for a guy that turns into criticism when my sister has decided to end things with him. As such, her trepidation about Lil Sis and T's relationship resurgence has quickly morphed into a full scale celebration of him and their romance.

I sense that my dad, the eternal observer, may feel more than he says, but generally keeps silent.

I also know that my criticisms can be easily written off as jealousy. I would be lying if there wasn't a tinge of that floating around. I do get envious of my sister's seeming ability to do everything so effortlessly, to be able to move or buy a car or go on a vacation with little foresight, while my bloody PhD seems to block any semblance of impulsivity. She, at three years younger than me, does get to plan a wedding and owning a home while I plan a dissertation. However, jealousy is not the underlying factor to my concerns.

It's hard enough being the responsible person in the family, the one who asks the hard questions. But it's harder even to be pondering the questions no one really wants to hear.

36 comments:

Ant said...

Oh man. From what I gather your sister is a bit of a feisty one and may find herself in situations like this more than once in her life. It bugs me a little that your parents don't want to say anything, but then my own parents have been like that in the past (they defend it by saying that they respect both me and my sister enough to leave us alone).

On the other hand, I love telling people what I think (much like this comment) so maybe you should get that bad feeling that you have on the table...?

PS Your life seems to be full of weddings and engagements right now - is this usual? :-)

SMARTBuddy said...

Rubbish situation. I dont really feel qualified to comment, but: By writing a post like this your thoughts are clearly very strong on the subject. I dont think you should sit on them for the rest of their engagement/marriage (whether its short or long). I think that you should talk to her and voice your concerns, even though (as you say) she might not take it the right way.

I can almost appreciate how difficult that might be to do.

missyphd said...

I have the same feeling as smartbuddy -- that I am nobody to comment on something as personal as family matters.

But then again, since you've laid everything so nicely on the table, I figured I'd tell you this -- you really should talk to Little Sis. But maybe you could invite Little Sis and T out for dinner or something, and then subtly ask those questions you wanted to ask?

Or perhaps get them a little engagement gift to show that you're not doing this because you're jealous?

Anyway, good luck!

Arielle said...

Ah, not being able to speak up is the worst. But hopefully if he does go through with the proposal that it all works out for them. It does seem a little bit hasty to me but maybe it'll turn out to be the right thing for them.

poodlegoose said...

Uh oh, marriage does not solve things like this. Like, uh, not wanting to get married? And especially not unresolved issues and/or compromises from a previous relationship. I feel like this is a scene right out of my family with my brother, and it really is so hard to know when to say it and how to say it.

Maybe they'll have a long engagement?

Beth said...

I'm experiencing a similar situation with one of my sisters. It's tough. Despite your (my) doubts, one can only hope for the best. Unsolicited advice is not appreciated (nor would it be listened to) and would only cause friction and estrangement.
Your role (and mine) is to be there to pick up the pieces if (and when) it all falls apart.
Let's hope we're both wrong...

PrincessB said...

It's a tough situation, but the bottom line is that you're her sister. If it were my sister, I'd sit down with her and talk things over. Tell her you love her and support her, but are concerned. Tell her this stuff once. Then be there to listen if she needs it.

I wouldn't feel good about myself if I didn't say anything. And I have been in this situation with a friend. I told her I was concerned, but still supported her on her wedding day. The relationship was tense for a while and things seemed to have worked out well for her. So you never know. BUT she told me last year-5 years after her wedding-that she was glad I spoke up.

dmb5_libra said...

i don't really know your family and shouldn't be commenting what other people should do in their lives, but i just gotta say something cuz your sister was me about six months ago.

what a pickle of a situation. i think you should definitely voice you concerns to your sister....i went back to an ex much to sisters consternation. she warned me that we had broken up for a reason and all his promises of change and grand gestures to show he was changing would soon wash away and we'd be back to square one again. she was right.

your sister might not like to hear what you have to say and neither did i when my big sister told me...but i feel you are doing her a big disservice if you say nothing at all.

distractedspunk said...

Yeah. This is definitely a tricky situation. Namely, because you can see things a bit more logically, and also, you're a bit tempered by what already happens. We all seem to have this problem of falling so easily back into things with a past lover, for various reasons.

On one hand, we crave support from those who were more than happy to denounce the back-again. On the other hand, we don't want to be criticized, because we're already putting our heart on the line and that's a bigger step than most people acknowledge. It's not an easy situation - I think the best thing you can do is when you do talk to her, suggest a long engagement. Of them living in the same place, making sure they're compatible, etc.

I have no doubt that you can figure out how to suggest these things without being offensive.

Deutlich said...

matters of the heart suck.. and it's really hard to see others go through things because there's really not much to be done about it

Ana said...

I agree with Beth on this one (although, thankfully I am not experiencing a similar situation). Hey, she could surprise you and say no. I'll cross my fingers.

Younger sisters are usually the family darlings. My parents are similar with my little sister, but not quite as compliant.

All that aside I don't think I could keep quiet in this situation... I am not good at not giving my opinion. Good luck!

Jess said...

I think you're right about the underlying issues, and I don't see how those could have been resolved in all this. I think you need to say something. If my family had thought there was some big issue with Torsten, I would definitely have wanted to hear about it. You can trust your family to have your best interests in mind, even if you don't like what they're saying.

the almost right word said...

Love, and the excitement that comes with love, can make things a little...blurry. I would say something to her, in the right moment.

Then again, I believe divorce is a common result of a marriage and I'd prefer to avoid that entirely. I can't help but wonder about a hurried romance, one that escalates quickly after such a disconnect. If I were you, I'd probably hate to see my sister wind up heartbroken and who is to say this may not be how things end?

Hang in there.

nicoleantoinette said...

If you don't say something, these thoughts are going to eat at you. And that never, ever ends well.

jenn said...

Oh man, that's a tricky situation.
I think it's worth sharing your doubts. But who knows, the wedding planning process is a big one - if they're not happy together, maybe that will bring out any stress without you having to intervene.

Just don't sit on it too long!

Katelin said...

i would feel the same way you do for sue. it's hard to feel completely happy for someone when their relationship has been so tumultuous that you can't be sure it's for the best. hopefully it works out for your sister and her boyfriend though.

Your Ill-fitting Overcoat said...

Oh, this is so hard. It sounds like they were both going through a hard time and I can imagine how the thought of rekindling an old love (that was once a healthy relationship) would seem like a great idea. It does sound like they're rushing into things, but who knows? Maybe T has realized the error of his ways (if he truly was a great partner before his father's illness, etc.) and is committed to your sister now. Let's hope so.

If you do talk to your sister, maybe you could first check out a book at the library on the topic of Having Difficult Conversations? You might get some ideas of ways to phrase things so that you don't hurt her feelings. The last thing you want is for her to pull away from you, since that will only make her feel more dependent on him... and less likely to break it off, if she's as stubborn as you say.

Good luck!

ToughGirl101 said...

I hate to say it, but much like your Lil Sis, I did something like that, and I think my sisters wanted to pull me aside and slap me and tell me I was being an idiot-and I was.

Obviously, my marriage is done. Divorced. Finito. But to this second, I know that back when I made the mistake, I would not have listened to anyone either. The best thing you can do is be supportive. Let her make her own mistakes. And try not to rub it in when it turns out you're right.

Yoda said...

That's pretty much the worst thing you can do -- get married for the wrong reasons. A Marriage proposal isn't supposed to be the way you win your girlfriend back.

There is MUCH family drama happening the Yoda household regarding failed marriages ... a post is due :-D

chasinglibby said...

oh jeez...that's tough. and i don't think your thoughts should have to be written off completely. it's not as though you have no basis! but she's an adult and, well, i hope it all works out for her! who knows, maybe it'll be a long engagement!

Psychgrad said...

I can understand you hesitance. Hopefully they'll have a long engagement.

Although it sounds like a pretty risky situation, credit to your sister for not settling in a relationship that was (initially) not leading in a direction she wanted.

sequined said...

I think you should consider if your sister would be open to any advice or questioning about the relationship, and if you think she would be, then it would be great to broach the topic in a gentle and caring way. Just an, "I'm worried; I hate to see you hurt," might be enough to start a conversation.

But if she's sure, all you can really do is support her. That's what she probably needs.

Jenn said...

It's tough to stand by and watch when all you want to do is shake them (or slap them) and ask what the eff they're doing. I hope, for your sake and your sister's sake, that she makes the right decision. If not, I know that either way you'll be there to support her cause you're cool like that :)

Dan Mega said...

I can understand where you are coming from. You want to make sure your sister is hurt again. That means you are good peoples, which you are.

t.k.foster said...

Science, you had me scared for a minute there at first. All I have to say is be genuine with the situation: she may not appreciate it, but it's better than sitting on something you feel and not expressing yourself.

Crashdummie said...

Its a difficult call, but you have valid reasons to be doubtful. I agree with you, it feels that they are in love with the idea of being in love rather than being in love with each other.

they are going through a honeymoon period now having a long distance relationship, but when reality hits them, how will they react?

I truly wish the best of luck, but one should be certain and think clearly befor they take that leap out faith into the unknown.

Mrs4444 said...

This is one of those times that it's so cool that you are an anonymous blogger! (Jealous of that, sometimes.) There's not much you can do about it, is there? Let's hope that feeling in your gut is just indigestion.

Surfergrrl said...

Well, from you other stories about your sister, she seems to act before she thinks sometimes. I too would be a little suspicious under the circumstances. Unfortunately, I don't think there is much you can do but let your sister go through her thing. Sometimes it's hard to sit back and watch though.

lissa said...

i think your concerns are very well justified. if i was in your place, i would definitely encourage my sister to take a long engagement and make sure that her bf's changes are actually real. people don't change as easily as he seems to have.

Sheila said...

I am witness to a similar situation between my nephew and his wife (of a few months). His wife is such a free spirit and every time that she and my nephew have an argument, she talks about going "back home to California". There are many times I think she truly does not understand what marriage is all about - and therefore should have never gotten married.

Hopefully, your sister and her intended will figure out their communication problems before the word "divorce" is thrown in the air.

verybadcat said...

Being a big sister really sucks sometimes. My sister is a lot like yours, and I carry the same ambivalence about her on again off again boyfriend.

I just tell her what I think. I tell her that she has to be her, and that I don't expect her to like what I say or follow my advice, but that I care enough about her that I'm willing to risk annoying or angering her if it gives her some food for thought.

Because I am incapable of keeping my mouth shut. I love her, and she's like a bull in a china shop, and my Mom just tells her what she wants to hear, because they're BFF, so someone has to play bad cop, and I step up to the plate.

Sometimes I go awhile without hearing from her, but if that means that I pissed her off good enough that she's still thinking about what I said? Worth it.

Bayjb said...

I think you're a very good sister for looking out for her well being and I'm not really the best person to comment on this. I know it'll all work out.

Daisy said...

What a difficult situation!! It's amazing what love can do to us and how everyone reacts differently under the influence of it. Your mom is supporting because she loves your sister, your dad is silent because he loves your sister, your sister may be making a huge mistake because she loves her boyfriend and her boyfriend apparently decided he DOES believe in marriage because he loves your sister. Then there's you who gets to feel frustrated by the whole thing because you love your sister too.

Z said...

Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. Such a tough situation.

I agree with you - this seems too much, too fast. They should at least be together (in person) for awhile...

But I also know you can't say anything. And that must be killing you.

Jocelyn said...

Here's the saddest thing of all: they aren't even engaged yet, and even we readers can tell that they will probably end up divorced one day...or should be.

the frog princess said...

Ouch, that is rough. I sort of feel the same way about a friend (well, more-like-former-friend-cum-acquaintance) who is currently pregnant.

However, while a pregnancy definitely means a baby is coming, an engagement does not definitely mean a wedding is coming. If any issues are going to surface, let's just hope they do so before the vows as opposed to after. Cynical, perhaps, but when you can't voice your concerns, it is the best you can hope for (other than no issues surfacing at all, of course).