Question: Dear Luise: I’m 32 years old and my husband has been hospitalized for months. His family has dysfunctions including drinking, drugs and enabling. They bring their arguments to the hospital and each gives me “their side” of their arguments. I’ve never mediated their issues, and am unsure why they expect it now. I suspect it’s because I’ve been strong for my husband, and they now look to me for the same support. My husband is seriously ill so I don’t have the time to become their matriarch. When his older sister flew in, I thought she would help keep them under control. Instead, she has gone off the deep end herself. She’s always had a sexually-charged sense of humor, but it’s not funny right now. She has asked my family for money, hints about using my car, and dresses in skin-baring clothing when my husband’s friends visit. But the worst is her smothering. She is always at the bedside stroking his hair, washing his face and kissing him. If he’s transported out of his room for tests, she holds his hand and runs down the hallway with the stretcher as far as staff allows. Often, other visitors can’t get near him (including me). If my husband is having a bad night he asks everyone to leave except me. But she refuses and hugs me as I’m lying beside him. She tries to talk me into leaving so she can stay with him instead. As he’s sick, I’ve been careful to keep my concerns to myself because he loves his family and needs visits. But in private he’s asked me to keep them out of his medical decisions. And, he’s said it’s time for his sister to go home so we can take care of ourselves. He’s too sick to handle this himself, so it’s up to me. This is difficult, as his sister now introduces herself to doctors, family and friends as my husband’s “other wife”. I’ve talked to his family about boundaries and they behave for a while, but then slide back. His sister is going home soon, but hints about moving here to “help us”. How do I protect our lives as a couple without completely chasing them away? S.
Answer: Dear S.: I don’t think you can take a stand that effectively will resolve the zoo his family is promoting. I think you are going to have to step into tough love whether you want to or not. Either that or give up.
As a last ditch stand, I would go to a psychologist and present the whole story, asking if you could get a written recommendation that would establish you as his only visitor. You would probably have to have the hospital administrator’s cooperation and even then, they simply don’t have the time or staff to police thoughtless people bent on loving him the way that works for them, not him…(and certainly not you.) It would have to be all or nothing at all. They aren’t able to use judgment, obviously, or you wouldn’t be in this position. His doctor, too, would need to write a “wife, only order” to back the psychologist up but the price would be high.
His sister is disgusting and you don’t have time for any of this. Look for an advocate if you feel you want to take them on…or just keep letting them run over both of you if you feel that would be the best way to support him. How sad. Blessings, Luise