Back in February, my little sister was unexpectedly dumped by her boyfriend of three years, just three months prior to their wedding. Breakup was done in cold, cowardly fashion, and even though she’s over him, she’s understandably having a whole host of emotional/trust issues.
This has also led to some behavioral changes (drinking, random encounters with men). Prior to this, she had been an extremely “together” person — definitely the golden child between the two of us.
How long do we give her to figure things out before starting to worry there’s been long-term emotional damage? I know there’s no bright line on this, but just wondering at what point somebody should step in and give some firm advice.
You seem unaccustomed to having people wander off the sanctioned path in your family. You also seem to be testing the idea that your sister is overreacting to the breakup, bad as it was.
I believe, though, that this was much more than a breakup for your sister, and that you’re under-reacting to her crisis — one she’s having because this is all so new to friends and family.
“Golden” children tend to live by a do-what-I’m-supposed-to model of behavior, gradually forming an expectation that this will result in the life they’re supposed to have.
When, instead, these exemplary choices send them into a ditch, often the next place they find themselves is smack in the middle of an existential crisis. That’s especially true if her sense of self derived from her golden status. Getting dumped challenged the validity of that definition of herself, and if she’s not golden after all, then what is she?
The absence of a strong sense of self, or at least the presence of one that’s contingent on outside approval or predictability, would certainly explain her sharp turn into self-destructive choices.
Yes, she does need her family right now, but not to tell her what to do or set her upright and return her to her dollhouse. She needs you to recognize that you all mistook her good behavior for emotional maturity — and that she has to find her own way back to making good decisions for her own, internal reasons. Loving her for who she is, versus what she accomplishes, is the best map you can give her for this difficult road ahead.