For every bottle of wine you drink in your underwear watching Gray's Anatomy -- just to remind yourself you're an adult and you can do as you please -- there's a woman out there up to things that will make you wonder if you're actually still in high school, and it's all just been a merlot-soaked dream.
When these saboteurs cross our paths, those of us who put our self-confident panties on one foot at a time every morning might try to rise above it. But what if that person is putting a promising new relationship at risk?
That is the situation I found myself in almost two years ago when my boyfriend's sister became the biggest problem we would face as a couple.
I am an only child. I have great parents, who divorced when I was 14, but remained close. My mom and dad were traveling singers for 15 years before settling down, and went on to have a liberal touch when it came to parenting. I grew up with a lot of love, but also a lot of freedom and space to make my own choices.
The idea of my family butting into my personal life is absolutely foreign to me. I also don't understand what it means to have a sibling. I was genuinely excited when I found out my boyfriend had a sister who lived nearby whom he thought so highly of (which gives me a big Liz Lemon eye roll now).
My first clue that my boyfriend and his sister had a particularly tight-knit relationship should have been the first time he tried to introduce us over what would have been a casual drink. He took a call as we walked to the car, and when he hung up, he reacted as though he’d been grabbed by the balls.
“Um, I don’t think tonight’s going to be a good night. My sister’s mad at me because we haven’t hung out in a couple weeks. I think I should go hang out with her alone.”
I finally met her at brunch about a month in. She and the friend she brought grabbed my arms, asking loudly about my tattoos and giggling at my responses. They stared blank-faced as I answered their questions about why I wasn’t vegan anymore and my career plans having just moved to Los Angeles.
I cushioned the giant eye roll hanging over our table with a few high gravity beers, and left assuming I had just been overly sensitive.
I didn’t give her much of a passing thought for the next few months. My boyfriend and I grew and struggled, as new couples will. I didn’t love LA, and he had no desire to be anywhere else. His career already had a foothold, and I was struggling to get my foot in the door.
He confided in his sister about our basic issues, and at some point, she decided I wasn't right for him. She also, using the one meal and we'd had together and her incessant online stalking as reference for her insight, decided she and I were exactly alike, and that's how she just knew that it would never work out.
She had begun mourning her dream of becoming a famous actress around the time my boyfriend and I met. I was just starting out after college, and I’m sure that only prodded her insecurities. She was delving into a lot of self-help, which really only translated into unwarranted self-righteousness. She invited me to go to a Buddhist meditation class with her after learning I had recovered from drug addiction as a teenager through Eastern practices.
The puzzle came together while we sat waiting for the monk to come teach us about love. She set out her notes and books while quizzing me on my knowledge of Buddhism. Something I stood for, things intrinsic to my very being just seemed to just make her crazy.
Her resentment kicked into high gear after her birthday weekend in the mountains that she begrudgingly had to invite me to. It was obvious that some of her besties were hell-bent on being condescending to me. However, a couple of the women there decided not to hate me, and extended friendship. I thought they were great, and was thrilled to have a few new girlfriends in my new city.
My boyfriend and I eventually moved in together, and his sister seemed to miss the social clue that this was us becoming more serious, and perhaps less shakable. She wore her jealousy of my new friendships like a toddler at a dance recital whose bow isn't big enough. She decided to use the intimate details her brother had confided to her as ammunition against me, texting the ladies I had befriended to not even go to dinner with me, because my boyfriend and I wouldn't last long. She then began taunting my boyfriend, sending manipulative texts like, "Does she know she hangs out with [my friends] more than I do ;)," putting pressure on him to interfere in my friendships.
He and I began to fight about her. It wasn't a joke or quieted conversation anymore; it was a very real problem. I was frustrated by his inability to see her conniving, and he felt like he had to make an impossible decision between us.
I was baffled that he wouldn't stand up for me. I don't know what a sibling bond is like, but I couldn't imagine allowing anyone in my life, no matter how close, treat him in a similar fashion. To me there was a difference between politely telling her to back off, and disowning her as a sister. I made it clear, repeatedly, that I only needed the former, but that was still too much to ask.
Finally I wrote her a letter. I explained that we had gotten off on the wrong foot, and I wanted us to work through our issues. I elaborated that moving to a new city had been a rough transition, and the friends I had made through her were making that transition a lot easier. She apologized, came over to our apartment to break bread, and I thought it was all behind us.
But she only used it as an opportunity to get me to open up about more personal matters, and continued waging her little war. My boyfriend and I only fought about it more. I have lost respect for him for being so beholden to his sister despite her wrongdoing. He has continued to struggle with what to tell me.
I've never understood what she would have to gain by getting rid of me, ruining my friendships and my relationship. I haven't been able to grasp her obsession, following me and unfollowing me on various social media, prodding people to get me to reveal things that might help her “case,” not being able to be genuine with me even in the face of an extended olive branch.
One of my friends thinks she wants to be the only woman in her brother's life. Another friend thinks she's just "strange." My mom thinks she's going to show up to my house and stab me. Whatever the reason, I've never stopped questioning that even if she and I were able to find peace, I don't know if the entire conflict is something my boyfriend and I can weather.
I'd rather go straight to hell than have her ruin my relationship, but maybe having to deal with her for the rest of my life is the actual hell I should be afraid of.