Controlling Aunt Driving My Sister to Violence

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Reader’s Question

A series of events led my twin sister and me to move out of our home and in with my aunts. I lived with one aunt and my sister lived with my other aunt across the street. I always felt like my sister got the bad end of the deal.

The aunt I lived with was loving, caring, and an all-around good parent. The aunt my sister lived with wasn’t. She loved my sister, but she controlled her. I remember she used to tell my sister that there were cameras in her house, so if she ever misbehaved, she would always know. I’m only 17, but even I know that every child should be able to live in the safety and comfort of her own home without being convinced they are constantly being watched. My other aunt would also buy us stuff and use it against us later on. She is the queen of guilt trips. She was diagnosed with three types of cancer a few years back and she even uses that fact to get her way with everyone.

As my sister got older, she started to fight back. My aunt would try to control her, and my sister would rebel. My aunt is good at making my sister look bad in everyone else’s eyes. She instigates fights by doing little things that she knows will make my sister mad. Then when my sister acts-out either by violence or profanity, she makes sure everyone in the family knows what happened and twists the facts to make it look like my sister somehow started it and that she is the poor aunt who gave her the world and is now being treated disrespectfully.

About six months ago, my sister had a baby. We thought that would make their relationship stronger. But it did the opposite. Not only did she still control my sister, but she used the baby as a tool to do it. She wanted to be in control — of where she took the baby, what she fed the baby, the baby’s sleeping habits, etc.

My aunt would instigate fights, and after hours of instigation my sister would just haul off and deck her in the face. Then of course everyone else would be told that my aunt tried to offer her some advice and my sister only gave her attitude and started a fight which escalated to her being punched. Once my aunt called me and told me that my sister had hit her several times and that she was “scared” of her and that she wanted me to come over and make sure that she didn’t hurt her anymore. I went over to see what was going on. My sister was in her room and my aunt was in the living room already on the phone with a family member letting them know what had happened. I stayed there to make sure they didn’t fight again, but my aunt kept going into my sister’s room and stirring things up more by saying things like “I’ve given you everything and this is how you treat me,” and “don’t plan on having a phone anymore” or “I hope you can live without internet.” These are things she knows will only make her more mad. Eventually I told her that I wasn’t going to stay and protect someone who was showing the actions of someone who could protect themselves.

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My sister finally moved out recently. My aunt, out of fear of losing control, is making my sister’s life hell. Every time my sister would call my aunt and ask to pick something up that she needed (such as the baby’s insurance card, bassinet, even her birth certificate, etc.), my aunt would call everyone in the family and twist the conversation. She would say that my sister called her demanding things and threatening her, making my sister look bad and my aunt look like the victim.

I refuse to abandon my sister, but I don’t want to cross my aunt. I can be a manipulative bitch (which I’ve learned from her). But she’s the queen of such things and could probably destroy me.

What do we do? How do I be a good twin brother and a good nephew at the same time?

Psychologist’s Reply

The situation you report appears complicated, and of course it’s impossible to render a fair and accurate assessment. But a few things appear abundantly clear. There’s a lot of unhealthy finger-pointing going on about everyone’s behavior. The truth is that each person is responsible for their own choices and actions. Your aunt doesn’t have the power to “make” your sister angry, and there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for violence like punching anyone in the face.

My best suggestion: you’re old enough now to stop using your aunt, your troubled past, or anyone or anything else as a scapegoat. And quit trying to build yourself or your sister up by denigrating anyone else. Look good by being good. Take responsibility for your own behavior and encourage your sister to do the same. If she doesn’t, her young and innocent child might face some of the same difficulties you and your sister faced growing up.

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