My sister's creepy boyfriend messes with my stuff

I wake up and he's sleeping on the floor in my room -- but my mom and sister don't see what's so weird

Published December 14, 2010 1:15AM (EST)

Dear Cary,

My sister's boyfriend is a weird creep. He goes through my things, tells bad lies that I can't really call him on because my sister is too thick to realize he's lying and my mother is almost too indifferent to care about (and he is apparently too conscienceless to be shamed by). He's said and done a lot of weird things that made me feel uncomfortable and insecure in my home, but by far the weirdest so far was the time I woke up to find him sleeping on my bedroom floor. This was at a time when he and my sister lived in their own apartment. There was no reason at all for him to be in our house in the first place (he wasn't there with my sister, he was alone) much less in my bedroom, lying on the floor next to my bed. He wasn't drunk or anything. He was just there.

When I told my mother about it she practically shrugged. I finally got her to agree with me that it was "really weird," but she couldn't get overly bothered about it. I realize she feels she can't do anything about it but her relative lack of sympathy makes me feel like I'm living in some nightmare where nothing that feels real to me is real. He's always so friendly, it's like his friendliness is meant to pave over his creepiness. And we're all supposed to act like everything is normal but nothing has been "normal" for me for a long, long time now.

Classically, my sister gets angry at me for anything I tell her about him. She claims I make things up and have a bad memory and am paranoid.

Well, yeah, I am paranoid. And I hate it. I hate that every time I let my guard down a little, new things happen that remind me why I had my guard up in the first place. I don't feel like I have any privacy or security. It seems he can do anything he wants at will and nobody can or will do anything about it.

I would love to leave this house but I can't right now. I'm stuck for the time being. Besides, if I did move out he would still be in the family, which I would have a hard time dealing with no matter what. My sister has been with him for a long time now and it's a fat chance that they'll break up any time soon.

Part of the problem is mine. Not his untrustworthiness but my inability to have a "que sera, sera" attitude about it.

I mean, as long as he does nothing to me, personally, I really shouldn't let it bother me if he steals my things or invades my privacy, if there's nothing I can do about it, should I? But it's difficult for me to have that attitude. I've always been a very private, protective person. Sometimes, a part of me wonders if this isn't all some sort of karmic punishment for that overprotectiveness of mine. After all, things are only things, aren't they? And what should I feel I have to hide that his invasion of my privacy should worry me that deeply? Maybe I hold on to a false sense of security too strongly and this torture is just the universe's way of trying to shove me out of it. Or at least maybe that's how I should train myself to think about it in order to be able to maintain my sanity (so far I'm failing ...).

I don't even know if I'm asking you a question. I just don't know what to do or how to feel.


Dear Annoyed,

You told your mother and your sister how this guy's behavior affects you and they didn't do anything.That bothers me. 

Maybe they don't understand. Maybe they don't believe you. Maybe they do not care. But you told them there is a problem and they didn't do anything about it and that sucks.

However, the mind being what it is, repetition is not likely to increase their comprehension.

So you're going to have to handle this yourself.

Is he a violent gangster with a prison record who is usually armed with a knife or a gun? If so, don't do what I am suggesting.

But I assume that he is not a violent gangster with a prison record who is usually armed with a knife or a gun. I assume he's just an asshole. I'm thinking you can probably handle him fairly well on your own. (If he is a violent gangster with a prison record, or if for any reason you fear being attacked or intimidated, then don't do what I'm suggesting. Instead, talk to somebody in a position of authority whom you trust outside of the house -- a teacher or someone from school, or a neighbor, or a cop.)

Otherwise, you have to talk to this guy. You have to tell him that what he's doing is unacceptable and then you have to just start unaccepting it. You want to talk to him privately but not while you're alone together in the house. Talk to him privately while your sister and your mom are in the house but out of earshot. Tell him that from now on he is not to speak to you, or go near you, or touch you, or go in your room or touch any of your things. Period. End of story. Say, "You are not to talk to me. You are not to go into my room. You are not to touch anything that is mine. You are not to talk to me or try to touch me. That's all I have to say to you." Look him in the eyes and do not be afraid.

And that's it. Leave.

I was going to say you should say something really tough-sounding like "Do you understand?" but I realize how dumb that is and how it's so much like in the movies.

In the movies, whenever a person delivers a very important and urgent message, then they will say, "Do you understand?" Then they'll say it louder: "Do you understand?" And then they'll say it louder plus slower: "Do. You. Under. Stand!?"

I love that. Then the camera will come in close on the face of the person who is receiving the important and urgent message and either the face will be defiant or there will be fear in the face and the face will nod, or somehow signal assent.

But I don't think it's necessary to do that in real life. His reaction doesn't matter. What matters is that you deliver the message and then begin a systematic and unvarying course of enforcement.

And then enforce it. Do not let him into your room. Do not talk to him. If he starts to come into your room, escort him out. If he takes your things, take them back from him. Don't talk to him. Just cross him off your list.

Cross him off your list and go about your life as if he didn't exist.

Oh, and if you're curious about gaslighting and people who don't have a conscience and things like that, try reading the book "The Sociopath Next Door," or just think about author Martha Stout's 13 rules for dealing with a sociopath.

Good luck. Don't let this guy ruin your life and intrude on your privacy any longer.

That Special Time of Year

What? You want more advice?


By Cary Tennis

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