Trouble Letting Go


Hi, Everyone,
This is my first post and I hope you all can help me. The short story is my sister in law was treating our family, including her brother, very poorly. We have told her that we love her and we only ask that we have a respectful relationship with her. She has been unable to do that and so we basically do not have a relationship with her. I have gone to professional counseling, read books and it all has led me to understand that she has personality disorders, probably narcissitic, and the professional counselor told me I knew about as much about it as she did (having read a ton of books trying to figure it out) and she agreed we should not tolerate the abuse. I don’t think we are doing the wrong thing in trying to have a healthy life for us and our children but I feel like I have a big black cloud I carry around with me because it is such a negative energy not only on us, but now on extended family as well. I pray for her all the time but how do you let go to find peace? How do I release this black cloud? How do I stop feeling like I have done something wrong or continue to have hope that she will change (which everyone that knows her agrees unanimously that she won’t/can’t). I want to be a good Christian and feel that this is an obstacle in my way.
Thank you for any help or advice you can provide!


You don’t have a problem.
Your sister-in-law has a problem.
She wants you to have her problem.
Send the gift back unopened.
You are under no obligation to include her in any family events. The problem your sister-in-law has will cease to look like your problem the longer you keep her away. You needn’t feel guilty about protecting your husband and family from abusive behavior.



Marie - Matthew is right. You can’t let her become your problem. I am going through something similar, only maybe a little closer, as it is my son. I am learning to be there for support for the good things and detaching from the negative. It is heartbreaking, but you need to create a healthy environment for you and your family. I pray to St. Rita and St. Jude a lot for this and ask the Holy Spirit constantly to guide me, and I have been able to begin to change my behavior and attitude about a negative situation and free myself from the pain. I have learned that I was the greatest obstacle to my finding peace with the situation. Remember that you cannot change anyone - they have to want to change. Continue to pray for her and I will be praying for all of you!:hug1:


Hello and welcome!

My advice is to see it as your moral obligation to your husband and children to back away. Perhaps it would help to see it this way? I know you care deeply for this person but she is your sister-in-law, not your immediate family. The fact that you went to professional counseling and read tons of books trying to figure her out suggests to me that you are too involved with her and that is unhealthy (just my opinion).

How often has your husband listened to you anguish over this? How often have your children missed out because you were sad or preoccupied over this? How often have you missed out on happiness because you were bothered by this? I had to make a decision myself to back away from someone because it was actually hurting my own family but this is hard to see sometimes.

Take all of the energy that you used to put into her and instead put it into your own family. Take all of the thoughts, preoccupations and prayers and instead put it into your own family. Then sit back and watch your marriage blossom and your family life grow!!! You are not in a covenant with this woman, but you ARE in a covenant with your husband and you ARE morally obligated to take care of yourself as best you can so you are a good mother. This will be hard. Satan will tempt you to call her and talk about her to others and get emotionally involved again. I will pray for you. Hope this helps.


My SIL also has a personality disorder, either borderline or narcissistic. I also have gone to a counselor. You have to protect yourself and your family from her negative influence. This doesn’t mean you have done anything wrong or that you hate your SIL.

You mention that you pray for all the time. That is the best, and maybe only, thing you can do for her.

We have been told that my SIL will only become worse as she gets older. We see her behavior and ability to cope with the world deteriorating, but we keep our distance. When she is really in trouble and calls us for help, we give it, but we try very hard not to become overly emotionally involved.

We have been raising my SIL’s daughter for the past 4 years so we can’t avoid my SIL completely, but we do limit our contact with her.

One thing that helps me when I pray for her or when she does something really stupid or irriatating, is to remind myself that she is in a great deal of emotional pain and that her disorder causes a lot of suffering.


What a wonderful group of people! Thank you all for your replies. They do help. My husband and I have been very united on this and it bothers him, too. We are all great until we have a family gathering that we will all be together at and she decides to use that time to be rude, insensitive, etc… I pray that we can be at those things and at the very least say ‘hello’ to one another and be done with it. Instead, she gives us the silent treatment, tries to talk to our children because she knows we don’t want her to (until she can treat us with love and respect) or will even put her hand up and turn the other way if I try to say hello. I can actually move on from all of that because sadly that is what I expect of her now. I also understand she does that to us because she knows we won’t make a scene at the gathering, she knows it drives us crazy and she stays in control. What I struggle with is does God think this is ok that we have cut off the relationship? It is definitely the healthiest thing for our family to do but I have realized that it probably will only get worse, not better, and have I/we done the right thing? Secondly, we now find out ahead of time if she will be at the gathering and if she is we either don’t go or don’t bring our kids. How sad is that? For those of you who have people like her in your life, do you tolerate the behavior when you absolutely have to have contact with them just to get through it?


Remember the second part of letting go-Let GOD!

You should trun your sister over to God with the knowledge that he will support you in this decision.

Two verses help:

1peter 5:7
"Cast you cares on the Lord for he cares for you"

and from Pslam 37"

The Lord makes safe the path
of the one he loves
though you may stumble you will never fall
for he holds you by the hand


Marie, think of it this way: “Does God want me to continue beating myself over the head with a rock?” :wink: Your concern for the welfare of your family must come first, so don’t allow thoughts of guilt over something about which you have no control (her behavior) give you any sleepless nights or worrisome days. Say an “Ave” for her every day, and then leave her to God.


Good luck to you. Mentally ill family members are very hard crosses to bare. I have a BIL who is very ill and very distructive. We keep are distance and never let the kids have anything to do with him for fear he would say aomething very damageing, as he had done to all of us. Remember to do what your head tills you is the right thing. Sometimes are heart can lead us into thing that are most difficult. God bless you and your family.:thumbsup:


You are completely wrong here…she is not in control, Satan is. The prince of lies loves to tear families apart by tempting us to sin against one another. She is not free and in control, she is a slave.

When you have to be at the same place I would avoid her. I would have suggested saying “hi” but that doesn’t seem to work. Do not let her talk to your children either, if she persists then you could take further action and avoid gatherings all together.

Repeating what I said before please put this from your mind as best as you can. Reading books and counseling over this woman are a waste of time. I will pray for you. Hope this helps.


Sadly, I know exactly what you are talking about. My mom has just gotten worse as the years go by… now one sister and one brother are acting the same way! My other sister and brother have had such a hard time! Well meaning cousins and friends try to get us to speak to our family members based on what the “sick” relatives tell them. Understanding the dynamic that they operate under is only half the battle. When you are hurt enough or worry about how this affects your children enough, you will learn that your immediate family (husband and children) have to come first. As for me, I was always the scapegoat in my family so it was easy to detach for the most part. My normal sister struggles terribly… well at least she did until she realized how it hurt her children.

I pray for my family members, but I don’t involve my kids in their sickness!!! Yes we still do the forced pleasantries at holidays, but as soon as my sister or brother snipe or mom starts her “stuff”, we leave…never mind that we drove 15 hours to get there (trust me, distance makes it easier). Usually The trip is not a complete loss… we go see my sister that lives nearby.

Let me give you an example… this really happened. My normal sister was being badgered by my mom about taking my sisters kid out for her birthday. My sister tried the polite approach… well, it’s the end of the school year and B is very busy, How about we all go out to dinner together to celebrate B’s birthday. Mom dropped it until school was out and didn’t speak to my sister’s family until she called in June to wish my sis a happy bday. as soon as she said happy bday, the next words out of her mouth were, "When can I take B out alone to celebrate her bday (meaning of course that she wanted to pump her for info under the guise of taking her shopping to get her the bday present she never shopped for at her bday). So my sister politely and cautiously told her that they had thought about it and she didn’t think it was a good idea, but mom was welcome to visit with them as a family…maybe go out to dinner. Mom asked why…well my sis isn’t good at lying… so she said, we don’t think that it would be good for B to be around you alone. Mom again asked why… sister blurted out, “because I think you have a mental disorder and we don’t think you are safe for B to be around alone” WELL!!! That sparked an immediate reaction! Mom whined and tried to guilt sister into seeing her daughter, within 24 hours the sick brother called and yelled at my sister… saying that it was wrong for her to cut off mom from her grandchildren… mom didn’t mention to him that she was welcome to see them all as a family, just not alone! Then my sisters husband got a really rude text message questioning his manhood because he didn’t stand up to my sister (he agreed with her) and let his daughter see her grandma. He sent 2 or 3 of these type messages. Then my sick sister called and yelled at sister too… then a cousin from 3 hours away…emailed and asked my sis about why she was withholding the grandkids from their grandmom and told her that mom asked her to talk to her because my mom thinks she has a drinking problem… geez!!! My poor sister drinks socially… not even as much as my sick brother or sister do… and trust me, I notice being a recovering alcoholic!

My sister called me for support…tearfully she apologized for not standing up to them when they all ganged up on me a few years back. I told her then, to expect now that I took a stand, not putting up with the behaviors, she would most likely be next since narcissistic people tend to have scapegoats… and when one is no longer available for abuse, they move on to a new victim. Now that she has stopped being their victim, we both fear that our youngest brother will be targeted. He is still holding on to trying to get along with everybody. We know he is going to get hurt, but all we can do is be there for him when it happens.


You SIL has a problem which may or may not be her fault. You cannot turn your back on her at the end of the day she may not be your blood relative but she is your husband’s sister. It must hurt him alot to see his sister behave in this manor. Does she act funny towards your kids, does she tell them the wrong things basically what I am asking is the issues that she has with you and your husband not the kids. If the answer is no then it is not fair to stop the kids from talking to her. The issues that you have are between you, her and your husband not with the kids.

I have had so many issues in my life but I have learnt to deal with it but I am dealing with it in a different way. I have had to learn to turn the other cheek and forgive 70x70 imagine how many times God forgives us for the things we do. How he died on the cross for us. I know it is not easy to forgive your SIL but try doing things differently. When she is rude be pleasant, polite and say “I am sorry you feel that way” or something on those lines. We cannot allow the devil to get the better of us. Or bring us down.

It is obvious that she has a problem and needs help she may not want it but killing a person with kindness, love, care and understanding. Just let it go it is easier said than done but hanging onto hurt, pain, resentment and bitterness makes things worse.

When you are offended or disappointed by others and allow the hurt to germinate in your heart, bitterness and resentment will take root. Characterized by an unforgiving spirit and generally negative, critical attitudes, bitterness and resentment are sinful and self-defeating. They will color your conscious and unconscious thoughts and actions. Allowed to fester, they will destroy and kill (Galatians 5:19-21). However, they can be dispelled with love.

Here are some Scriptures to read.

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:14,15).

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31,32).

“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (I Peter 2:23).

“Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing…” (Luke 23:34).

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14,15).

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:14-21).

God forgives and forgets sin. However, you may have made your best effort to forgive and forget and find that you cannot. God can help you to cleanse your memory. Instead of remembering with malice and hurt, remember with forgiveness. Then go one step further and ask God to forgive your offender. By forgiving and then asking God to forgive your offender, you release God to bless you and the other person.


I guess this is my whole dilemma-feeling like I should turn the other cheek, forgive and move on and be a good Christian but she is likely going to get worse, as this disease typically does as people get older, and she is abusive, which I have a difficult time allowing to happen. I think from my own emotional health standpoint, I need to continue to not interact with her, as it always rocks my world (which I understand I am allowing to happen and working hard on not letting her get to me in that way) and continue to pray for her and us to get through this in the best way possible. Maybe through prayer, I will be able to get to a point where I can let it go and turn the other cheek but I know I’m not there yet. I have moved down that path, though, and for that I am thankful.

I continue to appreciate all of your thoughts and responses. They have helped me tremendously and I certainly feel like part of the weight of this has been lifted.


Marie, I feel for you. I’ve had more than my share of these problems. I’ve taken them to priests and they ALL CONCUR, stay away from toxic family. Do NOT become co-dependent.

We have no contact with my in-laws since my wife revealed to me her childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her father. I will not allow him to hurt her further with his presence or let my children around someone like that. That was not just my decision by the way but my wifes as well.

I also have a sister who, besides mental problems is an alcoholic. We have tried to help her even to the point of moving her iinto my home. Nothing works. She is on her own now and still drinking, and not taking her meds. Only she can help herself. She can come over for dinner but she gets soda, no booze.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit