Advice: Stuck in the middle

Last updated 05:11 13/03/2014

She's found herself in the middle of her parent's divorce drama and she wants out. 

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Hi, 

This is more of a family issue than a love life issue, I hope that's ok. It's a long story but needs to be explained to fully understand the situation.

I'm 21 and in 2010 my parents split up. I was in my last year of high school and my younger sister was in her second to last, so it was a bit of a trying time for all involved.

I stayed living with my Dad and my sister moved to live with our mum, so just a complete split down the middle. My sister and mum moved in with a friend until they could find a house and before long they did. Now in that year, my sister and mum ended up living in three different houses, and it was in the last house where things really got complicated.

Mum started getting in touch with people she had gone to school with, one of the women, Brenda*, had just moved up from Christchurch with her two children after the September quakes. Now, at the time my mum was living with my sister and a man she had met. Eventually all of them (my sister, mum, mum's man, Brenda and her children) moved into a big house to save on costs.

A lot conspired in this house and whilst I didn't bear witness to it all, I heard stories from everyone. Basically mum and my sister had a HUGE argument with Brenda (I'm not even sure what it was about) but apparently Brenda called my sister and mum horrible names, my sister and mum called Brenda horrible names. It was just a huge mess. One which my sister and mum have still not been able to get over (even though it has been almost four years). So mum and my sister moved out of the huge house, leaving Brenda with huge bills (my mum owes her thousands). 

Then just over a year passed, and seemingly my mum and sister's hatred never let up. That was until the start of 2012, when my sister decided she would get back in touch with Brenda, which essentially started the most beautiful thing I have seen in my life.

My Dad and Brenda were introduced to each other and they are now married today. But in the last two years, my sister has had almost monthly cycles of loving Brenda then hating Brenda, with my mum on the side spreading awful things around about Brenda. The couple of months leading up to Dad and Brenda's wedding, my sister was alright with the whole situation, then a week before, she said she wasn't going to come to the wedding. My Dad was left heartbroken.

Brenda is one of the most beautiful women I have ever met and is an amazing, compassionate person and I love her just as much as I do my Dad. The advice I need is how to deal with the fact my sister and mum will not let up on their sad hatred of her and I just can't handle it any longer.

Just recently, Brenda and her daughter walked past my mum and sister and my mum called Brenda a w***e. What can I do?

I don't want to know such negative horrible people, especially when they so willingly say nasty things about someone that I love, but they are my mum and sister. I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I don't want to have contact with my mum and sister but I feel like a horrible person feeling that way since they are family, but they also make me so mad that they are so nasty to Brenda.

I don't even know if there is advice for this situation, I'm so stuck.

Thank you for your time,

Frustrated

*Names have been changed 

Hi Frustrated, 

Wow - well the good news is that we can offer you some perspectives to consider. Your situation is kind of like a blended family but not quite blended.

It's not unusual that your sister has taken the position that she has as in many ways she is in the middle. You said that when your parents split up she went with her mother and you went with your father and as you said it was a 'split right down the middle'.

Unintentionally, children can take up an alliance with the parent they are living with. When your mother was having a difficult time - moving lots, having difficulty settling, I wonder if your sister felt quite protective of her. When she had her argument with Brenda and your sister got involved it will have strengthened the alliance as she felt your mother's hurt and anger that has now become a situation that she has not been able to get over, probably not helped by Brenda having a relationship with your father and marrying him.

Don't get me wrong it's great that they are happy and you have a wonderful relationship with her. I'm really just saying that your mother will be furious that the man she spent many years with has taken up with the person that she perceives hurt her and 'his' daughter. 

It's interesting that your sister was initially ok with Brenda, I can't help but wonder what part your mother may have played in adding fuel to that fire? 

Nonetheless, the situation is what it is - for now at least. A suggestion you may want to consider is sitting down with your mother and sister and letting them how you feel and how this is affecting you.

You have said that you don't really want to have contact with either of them if they are going to be so nasty. You may want to share that with them as well letting them know that you no longer wish to be in the middle and are not willing to keep putting yourself in that situation. Explain to them that their perspective is their perspective and you understand that they don't have to like Brenda, but that you are not willing to allow them to be so nasty about her to you, or in your presence.

Basically you are letting them know the way you feel, how it affects you, and what you need from them both! It would be a very honest conversation and one that might surprise them. They may not realise how much you are hurting, but if they do, then you are left to make a choice having let them know your position.

On the other hand you could ask for a family meeting with everyone and ask someone that you trust to mediate the situation or you could seek professional help to navigate through this difficult time.

All the best. Take care, 

Louise 

For more advice and information on counselling, visit Relationships Aotearoa online or join them on Facebook.

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