Man Loves His Sister Too Much

Q: For many years now I have been seeing a man, even though, I'm ashamed to admit, most of the time we've been apart. That's because he selfishly continues to live with his sister. He said he can't afford to buy us a home or even a piece of land. I offered to help build a house for us on a plot of land.

His sister thinks nothing of undressing with her door open, as one example of the shocking things I witnessed. I had to move out of there, though I didn't want to give up on the relationship. He lives in denial of her far-from-innocent daily sexual behaviors.

I know I should let him go but I cannot stay away. His sister warned me that he would never marry me and that he loves her more and they would be together forever. I have suffered in sheer misery knowing that this is true. Yet he and I are still in daily phone and internet contact that makes it impossible to forget him. I find myself missing him and wanting him in my life. I want us to finally get married. He speaks of his duty to his sister to make sure everything is smooth in her life. I can barely stand it living in terror of what she will do next. And his enjoying this as he continues to live with her.

What is wrong with me, and how do I break this vicious cycle eroding my peace and my dignity?! My being an older woman is part of why I haven't left. I desperately want to go, yet find myself trapped in this mouse cage running after someone who has me caged. — Sandra, 62

Dr. Susan: You may be "older," but you're still far from old. From what you're saying, it couldn't be any more clear that you're wasting your time with this fellow. He's chosen his sister over you. Whether their relationship is incestuous or just way too close and co-dependent, there doesn't seem to be a place for you. She taunts you with the truth, that he'll never marry you. It doesn't matter that he isn't aware of her sexual behaviors. Or maybe he is aware and just takes them for granted and enjoys them. What's important is that he doesn't care enough about your feelings to figure out a way for you to be together in a comfortable way. No matter how hard it is to break a long-standing habit, you need to simply stop. No calls, no emails. If he misses you, he'll have to make some changes. If you miss him, find yourself some other activities to keep your mind off him. And, by the way, no need to feel guilty or ashamed or as though something is wrong with you. Any of us can get hooked to someone and find it incredibly hard to let go. Break out of that cage, as you're really your own jailor.

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