Advice from Amy: Sister Gives New Meaning to ‘Cruise Control’
“She counts on us to provide her with all her socialization”
“My sister is a widow and counts on us to provide her with all her socialization,” says the writer – including the cruise that the writer and her husband have planned with longtime friends. See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson recommends to manage these unrealistic expectations.
Two years ago (prior to the pandemic), my husband and I went on a cruise with longtime friends. They then asked us to join them again.
The date is approaching, and we are having a huge problem letting my sister know we are going. I know this is a first-world problem, but my sister is a widow and counts on us to provide her with all her socialization.
My husband has been a saint in making her a part of all our vacations, dinners out, etc., with no complaint. We have been married for 52 years and my sister has been widowed for 20 years.
She is always complaining of how she is bored and feels no one does anything to provide her with “things to do,” or asking her to be part of vacations, dinner parties, etc.
We are at a loss on how to tell her we are leaving without her on this trip.
She is wealthy, we are not, but she has no one to go with her on adventures.
Past experiences when this has happened have been incredibly unpleasant. She becomes very depressed and will go for weeks without speaking to us.
It makes us feel guilty for going without her, but we also believe we are entitled to have our own life. There are many past familial issues with my mother who was mentally ill, leading to feelings of abandonment and guilt.
Is there any way we can tell her we are leaving for nine days without her feeling left out and abandoned?
We have considered offering to go with her on a trip of her choosing at Christmas, but we don’t know how to approach the situation.
It is causing me (and my husband) much anxiety.
I actually vomit due to anxiety over this.
What can we do?
Your sister is something of an emotional vampire, and your generosity toward her over the last 20 years has enabled her to control you to the extent that you and your husband have already determined that you won’t be able to enjoy a wonderful vacation without her.
That’s how powerful and successful her training has been!
If you had established some reasonable boundaries years ago, your sister might have her own life by now.
There are many wonderful opportunities for guided travel available to solo travelers with the means and motivation.
If you don’t have the backbone to tolerate your sister’s tantrum, then you should just give in, stay home, and devote yourselves to her needs.
However, you might liberate yourselves from this control if you prepare yourselves for her reaction and simply choose not to be triggered by it this time.
You say, “We’re leaving for a cruise at the end of the month and will be gone for nine days. We’re pretty excited and looking forward to it, and we’ll see you when we return.”
Do not offer her alternate vacations in order to appease her. That is just reinforcing behavior which you are seeking to change.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2021 by Amy Dickinson