How do I respond to my sister-in-law's email?


My father is a rage-aholic. He's been drinking like a fish to self medicate it away. I was the target of his abuse as a child. My brother not so much. He has validated the abuse for years, and his status as the golden boy and mine as the black sheep. I'm the family scapegoat. I was the first to react, I was the first to set boundaries as a teenager, I was the first to say enough, and my father held it against me. My brother kept validating the abuse over and over... and my struggle with it. I haven't always handled it well, but I have changed. I used to just freak out being around my father as a kid... I dunno. It's complicated. I haven't handled it all perfect as an adult but the mistakes I made were more than 15 years ago. I was very young. Everyone in the family recognizes my mental health is ok enough now, whatever that means. All the same, my brother said out of the blue 7 years ago that he felt like he had to pick my father or me. He picked my father. Again and again. We used to be really close until he started doing that as an adult. My door has always been open. And broken.

Someone in our family died young of alcoholism and my brother was here to visit for the memorial. It was strange to see him after 7 years. He spoke to me, and eventually after two days of family gatherings, and seeing he was acting really strange about my father... we got a chance to talk. Just the two of us. He seemed really down, thousand yard stare, shakey. I chit chatted with him about life, his kids, all that... just to reconnect. He had been making remarks to everyone about our parents being a handful, so I mentioned if he needed help with our mother, I'm here. Just a phone call away. He then disclosed to me that he became the target (his word) of my father's rage recently and cut him off. No contact. My parents used to watch his kids daily all day. Now? My father can't be around them and my mother only gets a supervised walk for 30 minutes once a month. She's safe when she's away from our father, she's just unwilling to to stop him. Good boundaries by my brother. They make sense. He said he understands why I responded the way I did to our father.

Meanwhile, my father is being really weird, trying to be friendly to me when usually he won't even admit I exist. Oh yeah, my parents are here. Holy moly...

It's now just my mother and father out here (with various extended family members). They leave tomorrow. I spoke briefly with my mother. We were being cordial and I was giving a tour of my city to extended family they were all inside a store while we waited outside.... and we had a quite moment to ourselves. I told her I talked to my brother and I was concerned and I hoped our father would get help, like counseling. My mother only commented she would work on helping these men get along. "No mom. He needs help. He needs to stop scaring everyone. This isn't we all need to just get along. And when I set boundaries you didn't try to make anything ok, you told me to get a new family. That's really hurtful to now say you will try to make this all ok. You can't. Dad has to get help. He won't if you keep trying to make it all ok all the time."

She shrugged it off as she always does... my brother lamented about this too...

That's the context of the situation.

Here's the thing:
After talking and then leaving for the airport, my brother's sister in law emailed me - I haven't connected with her in 7 years... and she said she was very thankful we reconnected and that their young kids ask about me.

My question I could use feedback on:
Any thoughts about how I respond to my sister-in-law's email?


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Your brothers wife (your sister in law)?
Or your brothers sister in law?

Im assuming s-i-l

What makes you hesitant to respond?
getting sucked into crazy family dynamics?

you could probably just tell her you were glad to reconnect with your brother? i think you said you were- or it sounded like you were anyways....
Maybe let her know why you hesitate to reply?
If you do or do not want to continue to communicate with her and your brother...?

if any of that's helpful..... but I dont know your whole family dynamics or your trauma and how much you worked at getting away from it to where you are now etc
your story.

i think mostly just decide if you want to reconnect with his family and kids, if it would challenge your boundaries or wreck them.
If the pros of reconnecting would outweigh potential cons?

I'm not really close with my sister. She's a lot younger and I'm the crazy older brother but we talk, quietly away from our dads interference via text and we get along ok that way. It's way weirder when our dad's around, because she would lose a lot if she picked a side. I try to not put her in weird spots where she has to pick, but it's our dads favourite game.
But I also live with my parents so there's no extra no-contact boundary or anything like that in person. I enjoy our text chats at times though, and we usually keep it light.

I hope whatever you choose to reply, if you do turns out well for you.


@Justmehere I have a brother that I don't speak to. Similar scenario but I never excommunicated my parents until after one died. My son text messages his uncle but my brother is such a douchebag he makes no effort to be a real part of his life. He is a real shitshow and has this ideology that he owes no one anything and he can come and go from peoples life and we should just be happy he graces us with his presence. It's such bullshit. Anyway, when you bring kids in to the mix of relationships, you should really make sure your relationship with your brother is on steady ground so you don't suddenly have to stop a relationship with him and the kids get hurt. Just my opinion. I have seen the grief my son has bc my brother isn't consistent or present AT ALL.


@Justmehere , i suppose it depends on whether you want a relationship going forward with your brother and his family. You could be cordial and reply saying it was good to re-connect , or go further and open up the conversation with plans to stay more in touch. I wouldn’t raise the ‘lets talk about Mom and Dad problems’ - maybe let your brother do that.


My own family dynamic, so it may not apply.

People 'supporting' me is not an absolute. It's most often supporting "to the degree that they are willing/able".

To you, it sounds a bit like family members who maintain a relationship with your dad are not 'supporters' in your mind. That approach in my family? Would absolutely leave me completely on my own.

My mum will support me. Conditionally. Her support is contingent on me not asking her to choose between me and my dad, and not coming between their relationship.

Same with my siblings.

I can get some support from them. So long as I'm not requiring them to choose: him or me.

Maybe I'm the sucker. Idk. But it is a choice. How much you want them in your life, and how much you're prepared to compromise for that. Not being prepared to compromise is a totally valid choice.

But, it's not the only option. My boundaries when it comes to my relationship with my dad are mine. I can't dictate the boundaries other family members have with him. If I can accept their relationship with him is their choice, and can have a relationship with them outside that? I can have a relationship with them. But the minute I require them to see things my way with respect to him, or require them to change their relationship with him? I lose, and get shut out completely.

My feeling is that's common with families, even in the face of a family member that they know has suffered horrendous abuse. Supporting that victim is one thing; asking them to compromise their own relationship with the abuser is an entirely different thing.

Take what's helpful, leave the rest. Because your situation is far more complex than I can wrap my head around, and I'm very aware that I don't have all the relevant background of what you've suffered and the consequences for you.


I'm sorry you are going through all that
The email from sil sounds like an olive branch? I'm glad your brother finally gets what you have been saying all these years.
I'm sorry your mum and dad are still going round their unhappy merry-go-round.

But if there is hope in having some sort of relationship (on your terms, with your boundaries) with your brother and his family, then that sounds really nice?


This is really helpful feedback. I needed to run it by folks outside of my head and not my offline friends here on the ground who would be nothing but shocked at the trainwreck that is my family.

I am waiting until I get past the emotional hangover of sorts of being around family and will email her tomorrow to thank her and throw an olive branch back that doesn't mention my really messed up parents. I'll reach out on that to my brother next week... and hopefully, it will be of worth to him. It will at least let me know I tried.