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OT - Fine, I Won't Help Anymore

lieutenant_dad's picture

This is going to be a rambling:

My sister is 26 years old. She got the raw end of the parenting deal in regards to our childhoods. Her life has been harder than mine. I totally understand that.

She has come to me time and again - like, more than monthly - asking for advice on how to adult. She has mental health issues, namely depression and anxiety. She is medicated, but doesn't (and didn't when she had health insurance and an EAP) go to counseling because she demands that a counselor be female and LGBTQ+. The older she gets, the more she acts like our mother who is bipolar.

Anyway, my sister has issues. About a year ago, her girlfriend moved to Anti-Canada so they could live together. GF also has mental health issues, though she is totally untreated partially because she has anxiety around going to the doctor.

My sister has complained to me more than once that she's stressed because she's working full-time and going to school full-time, and GF is only working heavy part-time. This has put them in a financial bind that has only been made worse by COVID.

So, being young and inexperienced, she calls me multiple times asking for advice, and each time I tell her the same thing: GF needs to work more hours, Sister needs to work two jobs in the summer while she's not in school (she is one year away from graduating), they need to get a roommate (side note: they purposefully rented a larger, more expensive apartment to get a roommate, which they had lined up last year and said no to because they wanted to live together as a couple instead), and they need to do some research on budgeting/take a financial management class.

How many of these things have they done? Precisely none. In fact, my sister has continuously told me that her GF is too social anxious to work more or find a different/better paying job. She feels like she's babysitting. There are other issues with the relationship as well, but nothing abusive. Just typical "this doesn't seem like it'll work" stuff.

Anyway, as of late, I've gotten more vocal with my sister about what she needs to do when she calls and asks for advice, including telling her that if GF isn't pulling her weight, then she needs to consider what her future will look like. This is in addition to all the other stuff mentioned above.

Has my sister acted on any of it? Nope. Not a single effing word. Recently, I let her borrow an extra car I had for her to get back and forth to work while her car (reality: a car my dad owns that he allows my sister to use) was in the shop. She kept telling me, for MONTHS, that the car was still being worked on, it needed parts that couldn't be delivered, etc. Fine, cool, I'm WFH anyway so I don't need the extra vehicle, and my dad uses friends to fix his cars and it's not unusual that it takes forever for a vehicle to get fixed so that he can pay substantially less in labor.

Lo and behold, the car had been fixed for weeks and had been sitting in my dad's driveway. My dad said he had tried getting in touch with my sister, but she wasn't calling him back. I finally told her I needed my car back after that convo, and magically she and my dad connected within days.

Annoying, but I let that part go. She called me again late last week complaining for the umpteenth time that she's financially in a hole and, by the way, our dad was signing the car over to her because he was tired of constantly fixing it. And she's MAD about it, because she could have bought a car last year but Dad insisted on fixing the car and now she doesn't have money to fix it because it broke down again and it nor GF's car have A/C, etc.

So I just point blank told her that I get frustrated with this crap. She has a free car that she doesn't have to pay insurance on. She has a job that she can pick up extra hours at. Her GF has the ability to find another job, and if she won't, this cycle continues. I was loving, but I stopped coddling.

Here's where things hit a head today. I saw a local part-time gig that is the same work GF does that is nearby. It's not glamorous work, but I know it's opposite hours of her other job. So I forward it to my sister to let her know about it to pass it along to her GF. This isn't the first time I've done this.

My sister texted me later and asked me to stop texting jobs. Okay, easy enough to do. You don't want that help, despite asking for it before, that's fine. Then, I get a phone call. My sister is sniffling on the other line and tells me that GF thinks I hate her and my sister talked to her about needing a second job and about how I think they need to break up, etc. Then she gets pissy-crying saying she'll just figure it allllllll out herself and no one needs to help her, blah blah blah.

So I hung up on her.

I'm over it. Yes, she got the crappy end of the parenting stick. Yes, my life has been easier than hers. But FFS, she's 26 years old with Dad paying for her vehicle and cell phone, and our mom supplementing cash when they can't make rent, and neither of them have done a GD thing to help themselves! Hell, my sister called my mom and I on vacation because they didn't have money to make rent and pay their bills and she was losing her mind!

I've learned my lesson. My sister doesn't want my help, so I guess I won't help. No more loaning cars. No more giving advice when she asks. No more listening to her vent. Just no more. I'm tired of feeling used and trying to be helpful in ways she asks for help only to get kicked in the teeth for it. She can go be an adult and figure it out on her own. I'm over the drama.

There is a lot more than just this that I think a few people know. I just don't have the bandwidth to go further right now.


JRI's picture

She's a good columnist, many people your sister's age ask for advice.  She has covered your situation several times.  To paraphrase: tell her that her problems require more professional help than you are capable of.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  Of course, that's only if you start talking again.

lieutenant_dad's picture

We'll talk again. I'm not done with my sister, just done with her BS. Thank you for the resource. I'll have to both check it out and give the response of "I can't help at this level".

justmakingthebest's picture

Unfortunately there are times when you have to step back from family. I am so sorry that you have to deal with additional stress.

lieutenant_dad's picture

I know I have to step back. I think I'm mostly angry because I know I just became Public Enemy #1 to her, and I've tried to be helpful. I'm not interested in being villainized.

Thumper's picture

Here is another,  someone wise once  told me:

When you sister starts spewing all this stuff---simply say 'I know YOU will figure this out"

OR "sorry your going thru a rough spot, I know YOU will figure this out".


ESMOD's picture

I think a step back is warranted... when you do start having more constant dialogue.. you may just need to tell her that you can't be her sounding board for her problems.. you have tried to give her your best version of advice in the past and in the end you get turned into the bad guy.  

I think I would limit my responses to... "gee, that sounds tough.. you must be stressed.. I'm sure it will all work out". 

Aniki's picture

Rented a larger, more expensive apartment to get a roommate...but now want to live together as a couple instead.

Evil Aniki thinks they initialy planned to find a third and become a throuple, but one (or both) of them is too jealous to share and the throuple idea is out the window. SO. Time for them to downsize since they obviously do not want to make the effort to work harder to keep the apartment.

LD, I would stop sending any/all job opportunities. They are adults and I'm sure they have access to the same job sites and search engines that you do. IOW, perfectly capable of job hunting IF they truly want another or better job. I suspect they have no desire to work harder.

Sis is being gifted with a vehicle. Oh, boo-hoo, the a/c doesn't work. Put on a head scarf and roll down the windows. Give yourself an extra 5 minutes so you can do your makeup upon arrival. It's a car that RUNS and it's FREE. Not happy with the car? Decline the offer and start taking public transportation, buy a bicycle, or buy some rollerblades. Cross country skis for Winter. NO sympathy from me about the free car that does not meet her standards. 

She got the raw end of the parenting deal in regards to our childhoods. Her life has been harder than mine.

How is that YOUR fault? Did you beg your parents... "Mom & Dad, will you please please pleeeeeease be sure to give younger sister the crappy end of the parenting stick? Pretty please with nuts, whipped cream, and TWO cherries? I SO want to feel guilty about it later in life, so you'd be doing me a YUGE favor."

My dear, dear LD. {{{HUGS}}} It's neither your fault NOR your responsibility to pick up for your parents' crappy parenting of her. Parents do not always parent equally. Mine were MUCH harder on me because I was the youngest. Now, in no way am I trying to compare my childhood with whatever happened to your sister (my Mom was not bi-polar). But I also suffer from anxiety and depression (I make no secret of that here), with the added bonuses of ADHD, OCD, and PTSD (all professionally diagnosed). Have I struggled at times? Definitely. Have I wanted to give up? YES. DID I give up? HELL NO.

I agree with Thumper. It's time to tell your sister "I know YOU will figure this out" or "Sorry you are going through a rough spot. I know YOU will figure it out." Add in a dash of "Oh, that's too bad." or "Gee, what a shame." and change the subject. 

SHE may make you into HER Public Enemy #1, but MANY people know better. As for being villainized - by whom? Your sister and her gf? Pffffffft. A whopping club of two. 

I say this with much love. YOU are not a villain. You ARE a lovely, loving woman who is allowing an unequal childhood (over which you had no control) to fill you with guilt. Not your fault and time to stop letting it be your problem. Sis needs to put on her big girl panties and deal. xoxoxo

tog redux's picture

Have you ever read The Dance of Anger? It's a great book for this kind of stuff. It helps you look at the whole situation (stuff you know, like she plays helpless and and you feel guilty) and how to address it while still keeping a good relationship with her.

The summarized version (though it's a process to get yourself to where you can do this with warmth) is to tell her warmly - "Hey sis, I realize I've been acting like I know everything and have all the answers, and I don't. I have my own problems right now to deal with and I can't give you any good advice. But you are a smart woman and I know you will figure it out ..." (Or some version of that that feels right to you).  Then you stand back and stay in touch, stay warm and caring, but don't fall for her efforts to pull you back in the pattern.  It's surprisingly hard to do, because patterns protect everyone from anxiety. You will feel anxious that she's going to fail at life, and she will do dramatic things to pull you back in - like ending up in the hospital for a suicide attempt or something like that.

Great book for handling these challenges.

Gimlet's picture

LD, you've been MORE than kind and generous with your sister. 

I know it is hard to be villianized when you're actually being helpful and level-headed (I got this to some degree with my family but it was more that they thought I was SOOOO judgmental for telling my parents that maybe they should stop opening credit cards for my brother to run up, but hey what do I know) but you can't control how she is going to react. 

I agree with the others to put it back in her court.  She's not listening to your solid advice because it doesn't fit with what she wants to hear, and it's easier to make you the big old meanie than it is to do the hard things she needs to do.  She's going to continue with the excuses and external locus of control and there really isn't anything you can do about that.

You also cannot make up for her childhood experiences.  It wasn't your job to parent her then, and it's not your job to parent her now.

((hugs)) lady.  I know this is tough.

BethAnne's picture

I think that backing off is a good idea. There is more than one way that your sister could get herself out of her hole and letting her work out what works for her and her girlfriend is the best way to help her grow and develop. Sometimes we just want to hear that our family believe that we can cope and believe that we can work things out, we want them to realize we are adults and can find our own path. Not hear a list of things we "should" do that don't fit with how we want to live our lives and be told that is the only way to proceed. 

My mother acts like you do. She makes helpful "suggestions" all the time. Her suggestions are not unreasonable or outragous, they just don't fit with how my husband and I want to live our lives and don't fit with who I am as a person. It makes me feel judged, unsupported and makes me avoid talking to her about anything deeper than the weather. 

Go back to a supportive sister role and stop trying to mother her. If she asks you for your advice you could turn it around and ask her what options she has thought of, which one does she like the sound of, what does her girlfriend think of those things etc and then offer the general platitudes that others have mentioned. 

It is an easy trap to fall into wanting to fix everyone's problems and knowing that we have a solution that would work for them. I do it all the time, unfortunately that is how I take after my mother - I am just as judgemental as she is. But I am trying to train myself out of it. I am trying to avoid offering my suggestions, advice and opinions unless the person has asked and I think that they really wants to hear what I have to say (not everyone who asks your opinion whats to hear your true thoughts, a lot of the time they just want their own opinions validated). It is not easy to change.