Ask Amy: Crisis-prone sister needs slightly tougher love

FresnoJune 14, 2014 

Dear Amy: My sister has ongoing crises in her life (her son is an addict and her partner is abusive).

Recently she reached out to me, and I tried to help. After several weeks of frantic calls to domestic violence hotlines and brainstorming possible solutions with her, I watched her return to the same toxic patterns with the son and the partner. This was the fourth time in recent years that I have been drawn in, but this is the first time she seemed willing to walk away from these desperate situations.

She is a bright woman, but her life is a mess. I have been a mess for most of my life but have turned my life around in a significant way after years of hard work with a therapist and a 12-step program.

After receiving a number of emails following the last debacle, I wrote a brief and honest assessment of my situation, saying I could not participate in her dramas any further and that she needed help beyond my capabilities. I received angry and abusive emails in reply, which I have not answered.

Our childhood was terrible. Is there a way to have a relationship with her where I don't get dragged into the drama? — Loyal reader

Dear Loyal: You have responded lovingly to your sister in the past, but the minute you drew a reasonable boundary, she acted out. Consider her behavior an expression of her panic. She fears she is losing you.

Your sister has the tools to adjust her dynamic (thanks to you). Now you should respond only with compassion: "I'm sorry you're so unhappy." "I hope you can improve your situation." "I want the best for you." You will offer no suggestions, solutions or commentary.

Your sister may continue to lash out. But once you do less for her, she might do more for herself.

Dear Amy: "Putting the Kids First" was asked by her cheating ex-husband to pave the way for their daughters to "like" his girlfriend more.

The girls are old enough to make up their own minds. As long as she's not making negative comments, it isn't mom's job to fix her daughters' relationship with the woman who helped turn their daddy into a part-time parent. — Dismayed

Dear Dismayed: Many people agreed that this mom should make no effort to ease the relationship between her teen girls and their dad's girlfriend.

 

You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamy@tribune.com., follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.

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