My sister has been engaged twice. Although if you remind her of this now, she will scoff and insist that she's only been engaged once and she married that man. However, what she has conveniently tried to forget is that once upon a time she was caught up in a relationship with Paul and she had every intention of marrying him. They were, by his definition, engaged despite my sister not having a ring, because as a hippy who shunned material things, "no diamond could express the feelings in his heart." In other words, he didn't have the money to buy one.
It wasn't just that he didn't have the money, but he didn't "need" the money. According to him, people don't need money; it wreaks havoc on the world and makes them greedy, selfish, and corrupt. It was also very easy for him to say this while he stayed home working on his "art" while my sister, the full-time college student, worked two jobs to keep them afloat. But she was "in love, " and I "just didn't understand what it was like to love an artist who was so dedicated." She was 22 at the time and clearly blinded by her artist boyfriend who, mind you, would sit on the toilet strumming away songs on his guitar about her while she showered. That's what artists do, in case you were unaware.
I met Paul once and instantly despised him. Everything about him rubbed me the wrong way. I also hated the fact that my sister, who was so consumed with supporting his dreams, was sacrificing her own in the process. We had both been raised to be very strong, independent thinkers, but something about Paul and his manipulative ways reached deep inside her and stripped away that independence. She wasn't just his puppy; she was his drone.
Everything Paul said about any topic in the world immediately became my sister's opinion, too. His stance on everything was now her stance, she gave up pursuing law because he told her the world had enough lawyers and because he was a vegetarian, he insisted she be one, too. In a matter of months, the strong-willed, stubborn sister I knew was gone; all that remained was a physical clone that had no insides to even give her a pulse. She was practically the walking dead.
While my parents admitted that she had changed a lot since meeting Paul, the consensus that helped them sleep at night was that maybe she had actually just found her true self. But I knew that wasn't her true self; that robot who only Paul owned the remote control to was not my sister.
Every time the topic of him came up, and it did often, my sister would viciously accuse me of being jealous of their love. How did she know I was jealous? Because Paul told her so. I was trying to steal her away from him, I was trying to corrupt her with mediocre ideas, I was trying to trap her with society's standards... and on and on she went just vomiting up Paul's perfectly scripted words.
When she announced that she was "engaged," it had become clear that Paul was definitely bad news. There were so many stories that didn't add up, so many parts of his past that didn't make sense and finally, by then, my parents could see what he had done to my sister.
So there she was engaged to a puppet master, without a ring and running off to get a third job so they could get married in Fiji. Of course, they were going to get married in Fiji! Getting married so far away would prevent too many guests from showing up who might interfere in Paul's manipulation tactics.
My parents begrudgingly supported my sister out of the fear of losing her if they didn't, but I wasn't going to give up so easily. I was going to get through to her somehow -- so the arguing started, then the boycotting of all wedding-related plans (I was supposed to be the maid of honor, although Paul felt that it was best if I didn't come at all), then the crying and slamming of phones, and finally swearing each other off. I told my sister, a woman who I love more than anything or anyone in this world, that if she married him not only was I not going to be at the wedding, but she could kiss our relationship goodbye. The sister I knew was gone anyway, so it's not as though it was going to be a major loss.
As plans started to get more and more finalized, my sister, for reasons none of us -- not even she -- can understand, started to come to her senses. She was slowly but surely coming around and was seeing Paul for what he really was: a controlling fraud. She could finally define his manipulation as abusive behavior, and she was ready to break free.
It was a long process, but once she finally rid her life of Paul, my sister came back to me; she came back to all of us still intact despite the thumb under which she had lived for so long. In time her opinions and thoughts were restored and Paul was a distant memory.
Although she doesn't like to talk about that part of her life, because even she can't understand how it came to that, she does admit that had she married him we probably would have lost her forever. And even though she hated me at the time for boycotting not just the wedding, but their relationship, she does understand it all now.
Sometimes you have to play the tough love card when it comes to someone who means more than the world to you. I would never advocate that anyone boycott someone else's chance at happiness, but if it's obvious that severe harm is being done, sometimes you have no choice. Sometimes you have to give them an ultimatum if you're to keep them safe from an inevitable disaster. Besides, had she married him, I wouldn't have my nephews (Paul didn't believe in having kids), and that would be the greatest loss of all.
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