Dear Thelma: My sister is dating a sex-addicted ex-druggie and giving him money

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Dear Thelma,

My older sister is 26 years old and secretly dating an ex-drug addict who is 36 and still staying with his mother.

My sister was a smart and hardworking university student before she met him, and everything changed after that.

It all started last May when she met this man, H.

H chased her and my sister gave in to his sweet talk as my sister was never in a relationship before.

My sister has close to no friends in her secondary school and university due to her introverted personality and that made her very naive to the outside world. She gets obsessed with every single person who tries to befriend her, not knowing that some people have bad intentions towards her.

They dated for a few months without our knowledge and broke up around July. My sister was devastated and had no appetite for food. She cried herself to sleep every night after H left her.

After a few days of observation, I decided to talk to my sister about the reason she was so heartbroken.

She told me that a man broke up with her because he thought that my sister had no time for him.

My sister is a university student, studying one of the toughest subjects. Her grades dropped so badly after she dated H.

She then told me about his past with drugs and blamed his friends for influencing him to take drugs.

I was shocked to know that my sister dated a man with such a background, knowing that my parents would be mad when they found out.

She also convinced me that he went through rehab and is now completely clean.

She blames herself for the break-up. I tried to console her. I repeatedly told her that it's not her fault, but I was secretly happy that they are not together anymore.

Soon after, I found out that my sister had written her prayers on pieces of papers. She prays that this man is doing fine and not giving in to sexual temptations and getting prostitutes like he used to do.

He also had a so-called "sex addiction" that required my sister to fulfill. My sister, being a pious person, believes in sex after marriage and so declined his demands.

I was dumbfounded. I've always known that H is trash, but I did not know he was that trash.

My sister also prayed that God would remove the devil in his heart and that he would get back with her. My sister believes people who commit crimes or wrongdoings have devils in their heart.

But at that time, I was convinced that they wouldn't get back together so I decided not to tell my parents about this. I made a terrible mistake.

Some time in November 2020, I found out they were back together and my sister was secretly lending money to H. She even transferred a lot of money, that my dad had given her for her tuition fees, to this guy.

After days of hesitation, I decided to tell my dad about the situation. My dad was so mad that he forced my sister to give him back the debit card and printed out the bank statement, where we all saw the recent transactions of money to H. He then withdrew all the money left inside the bank account to prevent my sister from "lending" the guy money.

My sister rebelled by shouting and telling us that we had no right to control her life and whatnot. She then lied to us, telling us that they had already broken up since May and no longer contacted each other.

We knew she was lying but decided to give it a shot to advise her about the relationship. My sister then promised us that they were no longer together and would not contact each other again.

On Jan 10, we found out that she was still going out with this guy. She "lent" him her angpow money which she had saved over the years. We were so disappointed. That was the first time I saw my dad crying.

My dad threatened my sister that if she did not give up on this man, my dad would hurt the guy the moment he sees him. My sister cried and blamed me for betraying her secret. She then secretly asked me to lie to my dad that they are no longer together and it was a total misunderstanding, but of course I refused.

My dad then sat down and told her to delete H's contact in front of him. My sister did so. Since then, my sister never talked to me again.

Then, a few days ago, we found out that she was secretly meeting him again. She was lying to us the entire time about visiting my grandma in the evening, but was actually meeting the guy behind our backs. My dad was again disappointed but had no idea what to do next.

She even told us once she graduated, she would move out of the house and live her own life without our control. We don't even know whether H really went through rehab and is already completely clean. We don't even know if H has any STDs and might infect my sister with it from getting prostitutes in the past.

From our perspective, H is always playing the victim and my sister, being naive, pities him and decides to love and care for him.

Until today, I still feel so guilty about not telling my parents in the first place where she told me about H. But at the same time, I also feel guilty about telling my parents about the relationship and blowing things up for her and making her hate me.

Would it be better if I had told my parents earlier, to prevent her feelings for him from brewing during the breakup, or would it have been better if I had kept my mouth shut and be her favourite baby brother.

I love my older sister and only want her to be happy and have the best, even if she hates me for the decisions I make.

Please advise.

Troubled younger brother, Mr Dee

Dear Mr Dee,

I am so sorry to hear this. From your letter, your sister has long-term issues with communication and healthy social connections. There is also a lack of open communication between you all as a family. Now someone has come in, and taken advantage of this situation.

What are you witnessing is the process of abuse: how a victim is lured in, manipulated and controlled.

Essentially, the process works like this. The abuser gives the victim a fairy-tale experience of love. They are there for them, sweet, gentle and perfect. The victim believes they have found True Love. They give their heart, thinking they are in heaven.

Then the abuser steps away. Usually, they manufacture a fight. Left suddenly alone and hurt, all the victim can think of is what they're missing. They'll do anything to get that good feeling back.

When the abuser resumes showering them with love again, the victim doesn't think. Instead, all their focus is on relief.

But subconsciously, they are afraid. They've learned a lesson: if they upset their abuser, they will be punished. In order to avoid pain, they will do whatever their abuser wants.

The abuser then alternates between love and punishment. In between, they wear down the victim's self-esteem, continuously criticising, gaslighting and being subtly mean. They also try and isolate the victim, so they have no outside voices.

Gradually, there is less and less "honeymoon" time and more and more abuse. By the time the victim realises they are trapped, they cannot walk away because they have lost all their confidence. They feel guilt and shame. Also, their abuser will have isolated them, so they have no more friends and family to talk to.

That is how abusers get and control their victims.

Frankly, I wish this were taught in school to teenagers, and again at college. It would save a lot of people from a lot of heartbreak.

But to get back to you. You feel guilty but that is irrational. It is not you who is abusing your sister. Put the blame where it belongs: the abuser is guilty.

You feel you should have known. With respect, how could you? Abusers typically start working in secret so that they can get a hold on their victims. That's why they're so dangerous.

Speaking up was the right thing to do. Your sister is currently not capable of clear thinking. She's feeling shame, guilt and anger but it's due to her abuser, not you.

Thanks to you, the affair is now out in the open. That's a good first step. Now, what can you do?

Most importantly, you cannot force her see the truth. If you give an ultimatum, the abuser will simply tell your sister she has to choose between him and you. At present, he has all the power. She will choose him.

His aim is to isolate her from everyone who loves her and drain her dry. Keep his aims in mind, and frustrate them.

Thankfully, your sister is still living at home. That is good because it means he hasn't managed to isolate her completely.

First, she may not be talking to you, but you can make a simple statement. "I'm here for you. No matter what happens, I am your brother and I love you."

When you say that, you must understand that her abuser will go to extraordinary lengths to dehumanise her. He will erode her self-esteem until she is convinced that she is beyond redemption.

So your line is to keep the door to her escape open. That means gentle talk, telling her you'll welcome her no matter what, and no ultimatums or judging her.

Second, aim to be her safe spot, a person she can always trust to be sweet. Hopefully, she will contrast this with the life she has with the abuser. And when it gets worse, she will come to you.

In the meantime, go and speak to a mental health professional who works with abuse victims so that you get insight and support. You are suffering, too, and you need someone to vent to.

This is a family issue. It's important you all support each other during this difficult time. Share what you learn in therapy sessions with your parents. If they are open to it, sign them up for their own sessions.

Read and educate yourselves on what is happening. Know you're not alone.

Third, he is after her money, so any cash she has goes to him. Pay her tuition fees directly to the school. Make him see that she is no longer a useful money resource to him. Hopefully, he'll dump her and move on.

Frankly, that last hope is not a strong one because abusers are very patient and they tend to keep several victims on the go at once. But do it anyway.

If he does dump your sister, be sympathetic and get her proper counselling as soon as you can. Again, not someone who lectures, judges or shames her, but a skilled mental health professional who works with abuse victims.

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Couple relationships , abuse


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