Family Counseling – Among my three siblings, I grew up the closest to my second sister, Liv. That’s probably because our big brother was too far in age (ten years older) for me to share a common interest with him, while our younger sister and I only had a one-year age difference, so we were constantly crashing. Though my second sister was five years older than me, that was enough for us to get along well.
My closeness with my sister continued even when we both got busy. When Liv was a senior in high school, I barely started in middle school. When I entered high school, Liv was graduating from nursing school. She was no longer home as often as when we were kids, but she would always call and ask me how I was doing, which I genuinely appreciated.
After passing her licensure exam, Liv made the biggest decision: she joined the army. Granted, she would be there to tend to the wounded soldiers and assist the doctors, but it alarmed the entire family. That feeling intensified when we found out that she would be deployed to Iraq. There was an ongoing war at the time, and that’s where she was heading. Still, Liv insisted on getting deployed, so our parents had no choice but to let her go.
Throughout Liv’s service, I was in college, studying to become a programmer. Our conversations became much less than before since it’s difficult for her to find a signal overseas, but whenever we could talk, it was as if we were not on different continents.
Learning About The Unexpected
Then, one day, I was surprised to see a missed call from Liv. She had just been deployed for the sixth time in five years, and it was not in her nature to get homesick easily. Still, I decided to call her back.
“Hello, Live. Did you call me?” I asked when my sister picked up the phone.
“Yes, John. I am not in Iraq right now. I am actually in Vegas, about to get married to Link, my boyfriend in the army. We’re pregnant!” Liv announced excitedly.
Her announcement and the fast way she delivered it made my head spin. For one, no one in the family knew that Liv had a boyfriend. Whenever we asked about her love life, she often said that she would only find love once she achieved her tenth deployment. And now, she told me she’s about to get married – and I was a soon-to-be-uncle?
As it turned out, my sister was not pulling my leg. She called us all to our parents’ house that night and introduced her new husband to us. Mom asked where they decided to live, what about her job, etc. All my sister said was, “Relax, guys. We have savings; we will get an apartment nearby tomorrow. I am retiring from the army, but my husband will still be a soldier, so that we will be fine.”
Then, Things Became Far From Fine Pretty Soon
The first year of Liv’s marriage passed blissfully. She had her baby girl six months after her big revelation, and then her husband got deployed right after that. Everything seemed to be going well for her until her husband was dismissed in the army to use illegal drugs with three other soldiers.
It was awful news for many reasons. Liv was counting on her husband getting a pension at least once he retired. However, since he got discharged dishonorably, they could most likely kiss that pension goodbye. Then, he also needed to enter rehab, which was technically not cheap at all. On top of that, they had a baby whose financial needs tend to be bigger than that of an adult.
Who did my sister ask for help? That’s me. Of course, I could not say no to Liv, so I sponsored her husband’s rehab and shared money for some of their house bills. I did it for a few months without our parents’ or other siblings’ knowledge so that Liv could still save face whenever we would get together.
But I had to get counseling for myself when another year passed, and Liv and her family continued to rely on me. At that point, her husband was already sober, though he refused to find a job. The same went for Liv, who could have applied at any hospital nearby.
The counselor encouraged me to try detaching myself from Liv, especially since it was evident that she wanted me to support them forever. The counselor said, “There is never an easy way to do that, unfortunately. Your sister will get upset with you; she may even stop talking to you for a while. However, you should be okay with that if it means it will force her to practice self-accountability.”
I followed my counselor’s advice and told my sister that I would stop giving her monetary allowance. As expected, she got mad at me and even tattled to our parents that I was awful. Hearing about it hurt me, but I stood my ground and kept my head down.
After some time, Liv reached out to me and apologized for her behavior. I was glad to know that she and her husband started working again, and they finally got their lives in order. Our bond only became stronger than ever once we moved past our previous issues.