Thursday, August 29, 2013

Real Talk With Rachel: Out With the Inbox

by Rachel Kurzius

Before we begin with this week’s letter, I wanted to quote a thoughtful reader who responded to last week’s column.

"The housemate suicide issue is not a trivial one and a terribly sad experience for anyone. You may want to steer these well-meaning young people to the top evidence-based resources available....Two excellent resources I’m aware of are the Suicide Prevention Resource Center - - and the American Association of Suicidology, which has an active Suicide Survivors group - .”

And if you are considering suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

With that, on to this week’s letter…

Dear Rachel,

My sister and I are three years apart and have always been pretty close. She has been with her husband for five years. I’ve never been his biggest fan, but he makes my sister happy and so I try to be a good sister and a good sister-in-law.

Recently, my brother-in-law started sending me weird texts. I thought that maybe it was just me reacting strangely, so I just stopped responding to them, but he sent me a dick pic the other night.  I didn’t respond, but it was so gross. Now I just feel disgusting. I can’t look him in the eye and I can’t even talk to my sister.

I want these messages to stop, first of all, and I want to tell my sister what is going on. But I am afraid that if I do that my sister might divorce her husband and never find anyone else, and I will be responsible for her being alone. I also am embarrassed that our parents might find out. What do I do?

Texts from Hell

Dear Texts from Hell,

I understand that you may feel embarrassed, but let’s get one very important matter out of the way here -- you have done nothing wrong. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Though you find yourself in a very awkward situation, know this -- these texts are not your fault.

When you tell your sister about these wholly inappropriate and disgusting texts, it will shake things up in her marriage. It may make it difficult for her to talk to you for some time. Your relationship might never be the same. But here’s the question you’ve got to ask: if the roles were reversed, would you want to know? I know that I would.

Her husband is an absolutely disgusting creep who needs help. I think it’s fair to assume that you might not be the only recipient of these texts, which constitute harassment, at minimum. Your sister deserves to know this facet of the man who shares her bed, especially before their commitment deepens with children or mortgages.

Invite her to a private place and warn her that you’re going to have a tough conversation. Then show her the text messages. You don’t need to tell her how they make you feel or provide any side commentary. The texts should be enough. She can take it from there.

Sometimes, people will try and blame anyone but their significant other. There is a chance that your sister will try to pin the blame for these messages on you. Hopefully, the one-sided text conversation should be enough to disprove this, but angry and confused people often lash out. Try to take this in stride, though it will be hard and your sister might say some hurtful things. Again, remember that this is not your fault.

When people act the way your brother-in-law is acting -- thoughtlessly, unfairly, bone crunchingly idiotic -- it’s tempting to steer clear and hope the problem goes away. This one won’t, unfortunately. Your brother-in-law will continue with his harassing text messages until you do something about it. He has put you in an impossible situation and you just need to act with as much grace and strength and you possibly can.

You deserve a supportive group of people to help you cope with the aftermath of this whole shebang. You’re going to have to make sure that these people aren’t family members, because your sister deserves privacy as she figures out what to do next. Your parents may never know what happened, or they may learn snippets but only bring up the situation with them if they ask. And once more -- you've done nothing wrong.

It’s not up to you to decide whether your sister will be forever alone. If you want to be the sister she deserves, you owe her the courtesy of being upfront with her.

Also, I know it’s a hassle, but I would recommend changing your phone number.

All my best,



Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv,, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel via or advice @

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