Unraveling family patterns

Joey Garcia

After a 10-year estrangement, I am trying to have a relationship with my older sister (as children we were both molested by an uncle). We have never addressed how her affair with my husband ended my marriage. My husband abused me for five years. When I learned that he was molesting our 4-year-old daughter and having an affair with my older sister, I confronted him. He nearly killed me. It gave me the courage to divorce him and leave the state with my children. He kidnapped them and made my daughter believe that I didn’t love her. She still believes that. I have asked my sister to tell my daughter about my ex-husband’s abuse. My sister said that she does not want to ruin her relationship with my daughter or her own children by confessing the past. Do you think that I am asking my sister for too much?

The request is acceptable, but now you must accept your sister’s refusal. Even if she talked to your daughter, there’s no guarantee your daughter would change. Believing otherwise is a setup. It invites you to hold your sister responsible for repairing the broken mother-daughter relationship. It also invites you to blame your sister for the continued estrangement. She becomes a scapegoat.

Are you repeating a family pattern? For example, in childhood, you may have hoped that your older sister would protect you from the uncle who molested you both. Perhaps you expected her to tell the truth about his behavior. But in reality, you reported the crime (according to your original letter to me). Since your older sister did not protect you then, what inspires you to believe that she will now? Remember that when life repeats itself, our role is to respond differently.

I support your desire to talk to your sister about her betrayal, but let’s be clear: The affair did not end your marriage. It ended the moment abuse began. It’s important to have compassion, though, because your sister unconsciously repeated the childhood pattern of abuse: illicit sex with a shared partner.

In the sixth grade, I was teased by students, parents and teachers because I had no boobs. It really lowered my self-esteem. In high school, I began to accept myself. But now, at 15, I compare myself to other girls and feel bad. My mother says that I am perfect the way I am. My boyfriend says that I am beautiful and that I shouldn’t compare myself to others by bust size. How I can better accept myself?

Emphasize your uniqueness as a beauty trait in much the same way that Barbra Streisand gloried in her unconventional nose. Also consider that, culturally, breasts are symbols of comfort for infants. As our country becomes more fear-based, the societal fixation on breasts increases. So, notice, for yourself, what thought or emotion precedes your cycles of comparison. For example, let’s say a teacher calls on you in class, and you’re embarrassed because you don’t know the answer. A minute later, you’re comparing your breasts to another’s and feeling worse. Then, you take your concern to your boyfriend or mom and he or she reassures you. It’s a lengthy process to get what you need. Instead, use self-talk to go directly to the reassurance when the incident first occurs: “It’s OK to not always know the answer. I’m smart. I’ll study and be prepared tomorrow.” The more you actively self-soothe, the less you will need a symbol to drive you toward the reassurance of others.

Meditation of the week
“A genius breaks all the rules, but only after learning them thoroughly,” critic David Kipen advises. What rules have you embedded in the very fiber of your being? Are you willing to break free so you can answer a higher calling?

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