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Help with Bipolar, Narcissistic Sibling- Family Gatherings & Future Plans

Hi all -sorry this is LONG-
I have a sibling that has exhibited signs of bipolar & more so, narcissistic behavior for many, many years, though sadly, does not recognize it in herself and cannot seem to "hear" or accept overtures made for her to help herself. The long and short of interaction with her is limited to holidays & brief gatherings spent walking on eggshells. Even a few days per year leaves a year's worth+ of frustration for everyone she comes into contact with. As a newlywed in my 30s, my husband and I are starting to think about having a family very soon, and after more of the same at Christmas this year, we're trying to figure out how we can protect our future children from her behavior and influence while still exposing them to the family we love (my parents, her husband and two remarkably well-adjusted young children we both adore).

Holidays gatherings are marked by tension and eventually are controlled around her moods or lack of time management. I could go on and on with anecdotal evidence of the affronts she wages, insulting condescension she makes, and deluded manipulation of situations she causes over insignificant matters. Her husband is a very sweet man, but completely passive and it's difficult to tell if he is snowed by her lies or just a husk of a man too tired to deal with it anymore. I'd like to ask him what he thinks can be done to help her for the sake of her kids, but I wouldn't want it to get back to her if he is seriously still buying into the BS. Her young kids are what make the family gatherings meaningful and probably what keeps them going in the first place.

I have heard it's best to cut off siblings or relatives that create constant drama - as in zero contact - but that could mean losing contact with her kids, which would be devastating to my parents, my husband and myself, and unfair to future kids who should know their cousins. I worry for her kids, growing up around a person that behaves like a child herself (frequent pouting, tearful outbursts over silly things like where her old toys are in my parents basement, berating her kids for things like "bunny ears"  or silly faces in pictures, comparing the values of Christmas gifts, making up lies about how our parents basically marginalize her in deluded ways that cannot be true, etc)... my husband is adamant that he does not want our future kids to be around that sort of thing, but that could be at the cost of not seeing family we do love and care about.

What can we do? I'd like to see about an intervention to help her get well, but I think that's difficult with mental illnesses. 
Has anyone had any experience balancing these fragile relationships or at least a safe one from a healthy distance so my kids can know their grandparents and cousins. Definitely need help, advice, anything. Thank you so much.

Re: Help with Bipolar, Narcissistic Sibling- Family Gatherings & Future Plans

  • Kids are resilient, and no one's family is perfect. I can understand cutting off people who are abusive, but the behaviors you described, while annoying, aren't dangerous. And it's unlikely that your child would notice them anyway. My sister has many, many mental and physical health problems, but she also adores my son. He's not going to notice her issues at this point, and by the time he's old enough, I hope I can explain them in a compassionate way. In the end, it's up to you, but it sounds like behavior that's more frustrating to adults, not stuff that kids would recognize or be affected by. If you feel like she would harm your child in any way, that's a different story.
    Sillygirl45MommyLiberty5013
  • Leftie22 said:
    Kids are resilient, and no one's family is perfect. I can understand cutting off people who are abusive, but the behaviors you described, while annoying, aren't dangerous. And it's unlikely that your child would notice them anyway. My sister has many, many mental and physical health problems, but she also adores my son. He's not going to notice her issues at this point, and by the time he's old enough, I hope I can explain them in a compassionate way. In the end, it's up to you, but it sounds like behavior that's more frustrating to adults, not stuff that kids would recognize or be affected by. If you feel like she would harm your child in any way, that's a different story.
    Amen to all of this! Unfortunately, we all have to accept and deal with our less than perfect family members. It seems parents these days want to shelter their kids from anyone who is the least bit questionable. We should be teaching them to accept others differences and be grateful for our strengths. It doesn't mean their choices are ok, it just means they have chosen a more difficult path. 
    chiualoverLINDSYRP
  • Leftie22 said:
    Kids are resilient, and no one's family is perfect. I can understand cutting off people who are abusive, but the behaviors you described, while annoying, aren't dangerous. And it's unlikely that your child would notice them anyway. My sister has many, many mental and physical health problems, but she also adores my son. He's not going to notice her issues at this point, and by the time he's old enough, I hope I can explain them in a compassionate way. In the end, it's up to you, but it sounds like behavior that's more frustrating to adults, not stuff that kids would recognize or be affected by. If you feel like she would harm your child in any way, that's a different story.

    I agree with all of this.  I recently had an experience w/ DS and a classmate of his that proved the above. 

    I will say, though, that you have to be realistic.  You want a relationship w/ her family- wonderful.  But you have to know that it's not going to be THE relationship that you want.  You can keep them in your lives, but there will always be a wall/ a barrier that will prevent you from REALLY being involved.

    I think you know that.  I think you need to start adjusting your expectations appropriately. 

    And I also kind of wonder if you should stop "walking on eggshells" - if not for her, for her DH.  Perhaps is people stopped pandering to her, HE would start to realize how serious the situation is with her. 

    "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."
    ~Benjamin Franklin

    Lilypie Third Birthday tickers
    DS dx with celiac disease 5/28/10

    chiualoverTofumonkey
  • It's always hard when kids are involved, particularly when cutting off a relationship with a family member means missing out on them. 

    I grew up in a family with an aunt who is bipolar and refuses medication or therapy.  She also has two children and a husband who could pass for a lump on the couch.  However, I didn't even realize there was something wrong with her until I was almost 11.  As a child, I was completely oblivious to her constant arguments and need to be the center of attention.  My parents were very careful about me around her, and I cannot even remember a time I spent with her alone.

    When I think about whether I would let her around my future children - the answer is flat out yes.  She's family; mentally disturbed or not.  She's not a threat to my future children and I would be really sad missing out on seeing my cousins grow up if my parents had cut ties with her.  Would I let her babysit - hell no!  I'd also not let her berate my children or cause them grief.  I'd include her as a family member, but set real boundaries and not let them be crossed.

    Good luck - it's never easy.

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