When setting boundaries backfires

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-14-2001
When setting boundaries backfires
Mon, 02-11-2013 - 1:54pm

Good day...I am burdened with guilt and I guess just need to vent and see if anyone can help me out.  My brother and common-in-law wife (8 plus years) have had a very diffcult relationship.  In the summer she left my brother and sole custody of their four children was granted to him.  Around Christmas time she came back.  I was very unhappy about this as I didn't believe that she had recieved adaquate counselling for all the unbelievable difficulties she has had and the alcohol abuse.  So I pulled back, tried to set boundaries that I would be there for the kids but that I could not support the decision that they were back together.   My brother told me many times that their relationship was back on track and that they were doing really good.  I didn't believe any of this because of things the kids would say and they way they were acting out.  So this weekend my brother was going to be coming up to my parents place which they have also made it pretty clear that she is not welcome.   Of course, she didn't want to be there and this lead to a huge fight and now my SIL has a restraining order against her.  My brother is devastated and I am feeling guilty because her inlaws which includes me made it pretty much impossible for them to be together.  My brother keeps saying we were doing so good so I feel like he is also putting some blame on us for not supporting them. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Mon, 02-11-2013 - 8:56pm

It's a difficult & complicated situation and being that we don't know the whole family history it's hard to say whether what you were doing was right.  On the one hand you don't want to see someone (your brother) keep making a mistake and you are right to be worried about the kids--but how much contact did you have with them to know if she had made changes or not?  I assume if the kids were telling you that "mommy was drinking" or "mommy & daddy are fighting" then you were right to be concerned.  If that is the situation, and it looks like things are going downhill, then maybe your brother just needs a wake up call.  

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2008
Tue, 02-12-2013 - 1:23pm
Well if he told you guys they were back on track and doing good, then maybe your family should have supported them and gave her another chance. It puts your brother in a very bad position to have to choose between her and his family. Does he still go visit if his wife is not welcome, knowing his decision might hurt his wife, or does he tell his family he's not coming because she's not welcome there? Either way someone gets hurt right?
Community Leader
Registered: 01-03-2004
Tue, 03-05-2013 - 9:00pm

I strongly encourage you, your parents, and anyone in contact with your brother and his wife to get in touch with Alanon.org. This is the sister organization to Alcoholics Anonymous. Alanon is for the friends and family of alcholics and they can provide information, education, and support for you as you cope with your alcholic SIL. Your brother should get in touch with them, too. He needs this more than she needs AA.

Community Leader
Registered: 05-14-2001
Fri, 03-15-2013 - 12:41am

It's a tough place to be and hard to find the right boundaries.  You're entitled to your boundaries and you should set boundaries for yourself - and your family is entitled to do the same.  At the same time it's hard to accomodate your brother while maintaining what feels right for yourself as well.  I agree wholeheartedly with Wisdomtooth that Alanon is a great place for you, your family and your brother, if he's interested, to go.  Perhaps not all at the same meetings at the same time, lol, but definitely a good place to learn about how to appropriately handle someone in your life who is an alcoholic.  You can find information on Alanon and meeting locations here:  http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/

~ cl-2nd_life