Dear Dr. Michelle:
I moved to take care of my sisters and now I am finding out that they are lying to me about everything. They cost me every penny I make, then they lie to me and yell at me to stay out of their business. I’m about to lose my mind.
It sounds like you are in a very difficult spot; I am sorry that this family situation is taking a toll on your sanity. It can be very disappointing when our attempts to help others turn sour.
If your sisters are small children and you are in a position where you need to take care of them, I would encourage you to consider your role to be like that of a parent. As a parent, you must take charge of the situation and set appropriate limits. Based on your description, it sounds as if this may not be the situation, and therefore, I would suggest a different approach.
There is nothing you can do to directly change your sisters' behavior. What you can do, is control the decisions you make, and the information you share. Start by asking yourself if you really need to continue to help. If the answer is no, this might be the time to change course and stop helping.
If you feel you must continue to help, ask yourself why.
Here Are Some Questions to Consider
- What initially motivated you to help your sisters?
- What will happen if you don’t help your sisters?
- How were your sisters taking care of their needs before you helped?
- Do your sisters want your help?
- What is your current reason for continuing to help?
- What are you getting out of helping them?
The goal for reviewing these questions is to aid you in re-examining your purpose for helping and to shift your mindset. Sometimes our biggest problem is ourselves – particularly when we convince ourselves we “have” to do things, and that we “have” to do things in a certain way. It is possible there are other ways you can help your sisters that are better for your own mental and emotional health. Often there are multiple solutions to solve a problem and perhaps you need to find a different way to be helpful.
When someone offers help, it is rare that they do so without any expectations in return. Even when we think we are offering help with no strings attached, this is not usually the case. Therefore, we either need to give help freely with absolutely no expectations or be clear about the rules surrounding it. It is always ideal to talk about our expectations before offering help as it provides an exit strategy if things do not go as planned. Even if the expectation conversation did not happen on the onset, it is never too late. You can always reassess your ability to help and to re-evaluate your expectations at any time.
How to Be Clear with Your Expectations
If you do continue to help your sisters, the next step is to be clear with yourself about your expectations. What are you willing to do or not do? What do you need in return from your sisters? The clearer you are about your limits and expectations the better control you will have over the situation and the greater ability to manage your disappointment.
Finally, communicate your expectations to your sisters. If they do not meet your expectations, you need to be prepared to act and stop providing them help. It is not fair to you or to your sisters for you to offer help when that help will only lead to resentment.
If you decide to stop offering help, make sure you tell your sisters. It is better to be transparent and honest about stopping your assistance when others have become used to it.
Dear Dr. Michelle blog posts are informational in nature. The posts are not meant to take the place of consulting your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health providers regarding your well-being or the well-being of others. Submitting a question does not establish a client/therapist relationship.
Submit Your Question on mental health and/or family relations to Dr. Michelle K. Murray.