Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
The reality show of our family Thanksgiving is over and I was left pondering an ethical dilemma around one of my more colorful family members; my brother in law, the Parasite From Planet Me. Every two Thanksgivings he visits with his new girlfriend, fiancé or wife, each of which are always the same- average looks, average income, middling to low self esteem and exceptionally sweet. Each one was devotedly in love with the Parasite. Every one of them felt they’d met their knight in shining armor.
None of them will be at Thanksgiving three years from now as by then he will have gambled and spent their life savings away. He will have become vicious, blaming and manipulative when they tried to make him get a job or cancel his line of credit. They will all have been emotionally emptied, their sweetness sucked from them. My question is: should I warn them that they are in love with a vampire? They are adults and he is a family member. Where should my loyalties be? I am not Van Helsing, it is not my job to deal with him; or is it?
I am not sure there is a correct answer to this question. The anthropologist approach to dysfunctional family is to observe but not to meddle with the wildlife. You can learn a lot this way. There is no ethical mandate to interfere as more than likely no one will listen to you anyway. Unsolicited advice is usually taken the wrong way; it often just makes people angry. Perhaps you could try something more subtle like, “Hey there’s this great blog you should check out. It’s about too good to be true usually isn’t true.” and drop this link and leave it at that. To that end here are some other links:
Remember- some people haven’t grow up and never will. Like a child they seem endearing and sweet but like a spoiled child they manipulate, throw tantrums and see life from the point of “it’s all about ME.” They dominate and feel entitled to everything you have. Life is great until you say no. These women with the Parasite have to learn self esteem and better judgment. Some people are just spoiled rotten to the core and need to be thrown away.
But you never know; maybe one of these women will have the balls to discipline him. Or perhaps after ten or twelve divorces he might stop ask “maybe is it me?”
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
The Granny Doctor would like to cite a common phrase: Kill The Messenger. No one wants to hear bad news and everyone wants to vaporize the person who brings it.
It’s tempting to want to warn these women, similar the urge we all have to yell at a horror movie, “Look out! He’s behind you!” But like the actor on the screen, people in real life can’t hear you. They will have to make their own mistakes. That’s the way the world works.
There is a story about a scientist who was watching a butterfly struggle out of it’s cocoon. The poor thing was exhausted and kept pausing and then struggling on. Finally, with compassion in his heart, the scientist decided to help the poor butterfly and cut it free. Soon after it’s wings fluttered open, the butterfly died. It was not strong enough to live. It needed to go through the struggle of breaking out of it’s cocoon in order to build the strength to live.
Let these women learn their lessons as they come. If one of them reveals their confusion or distress to you, that would be the time to give them the truth they seek. Those who seek the truth will listen to the truth. Until then, best to be the kind observer.