From the author of the "Surviving Ophelia," "Girl Wars" and "Mean Girls Grown Up" comes a new self-help book about how to deal with the women in your family.
Dellasega asserts that women hurt each other more than men, particularly when they're related. As a result sisters, daughters and in-laws often find themselves in abusive relationships that they don't know how to stop. "Forced to be Family" recounts stories of these types of painful female relationships and offers insight and strategies to cope.
Trina is middle-aged, white, twice divorced, and one of seven sisters. She works as an administrative assistant and has a son and a daughter as well as a brand-new granddaughter.
Renae is a decade younger, black, and still married to the father of her son. A high-level executive, she is the older of two sisters. Trina and Renae have never met, yet they share a deeply personal connection: both are in conflicted female family relationships, a situation many of us share.
Trina, a petite blonde with a slow smile and thoughtful brown eyes, describes herself as the family outcast, a role she thinks her children have inherited. She has six sisters, in birth order: Lydia (who died traumatically at age twenty-one), Lisa, Annie, twins Marie and Carrie, and Nan. Trina is now the second oldest, with the siblings all separated in age by only a year or two.
Trina recognized early on that she was the odd sister out. She explains: "It's funny, when you look at pictures you can see how Mom dressed us in groups, and I was always dressed differently, even early on. Lydia was also a rebel who dropped out of school and was always in trouble with drugs and boys. I looked up to her because she had guts and was bold, her own person. After she died, I kind of took her place, going off to the military and leaving the family, then getting divorced, and so on.
"Lisa was first in everything -- she was my competition, but we did have a time of getting along really well when we got older and lived near each other, but then had a falling out because she's an alcoholic. My parents wanted us girls to patch things up --t hey even asked me to give her a car, something they wouldn't do themselves.
"I stopped speaking to her, and to this day we are estranged. I go places knowing she'll be there, but we don't talk. It really bugs me that she deceives our parents about her alcohol problem and pretends to be so good. She's the 'needy' one, but one of mom's favorites. She'll do anything for Lisa.
"Annie is the sister I feel closest to. Even though she is my next-youngest sibling, she is the one who took care of me. When I got my period, it was Annie who found out what I should do. Our relationship has gone through many cycles. She moved away and we were distant; then I found her a job where I worked, and convinced her to move back north. For seven years we worked together and went to lunch every day. Then she up and quit to work somewhere else.
"The twins are loud and boisterous. They have a love-hate relationship with each other and have even gotten into physical fights. Nan, the baby, lives close by my mom and spends all her days off with her. We're close, but that might be because there's a competition between Nan and Annie, so Nan sides with me on issues and supports me in my conflicts with Annie."