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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5762
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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Stuck in the middle, Codependent sister

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I am very close with my sister and always have been. She doesn't have many friends (none that are really close), isn't married, and has a teenage son who is often working or with friends. She depends on me and my partner of 14 years for company and entertainment. She and my partner clash is some ways and neither of them seem to really enjoy sharing me with the other. They're a lot alike in that they're both classic firstborn adult children, outspoken, controlling, etc. My sister has been trying to get us to commit to going on a vacation with her. We travel every year and we consider it our time together to escape and reconnect. We probably can't afford more than one vacation this year and, even if we could, my partner is not interested in going on vacation with my sister. I just don't know what to say or how to handle my sister telling me that she doesn't have any friends to go with and she just wants to go somewhere and have fun. I don't want to hurt her feelings but I also know the relationship with my partner has to come first. I'm stuck. Thank you!

Hello, I'd like to help you with your question.

It can be very difficult when someone in your family is co dependent, which is what it sounds like your sister is right now. She is depending on you and your partner to be there for her anytime she needs you to fill in the gaps in her life and help her feel better. And that expectation can be overwhelming.

Usually when someone is co dependent, they seek the other person to fulfill a need that they themselves are either unable or unwilling to address. So instead of saying, "I feel lonely so I need to make more friends", the person puts their needs on someone in such a way that they create guilt and pressure in order to get what they need.

In order to address this issue with your sister, there are some things you can do. One of the first steps is to decide what your boundaries are going to be with her. For example, deciding that going on vacation is too much but spending two holidays per year together is ok. Once you decide what you are willing to do with her and what you will not, set those boundaries and stick to them. If you waiver, your sister may not take you seriously and not learn to respect the boundaries.

Learn more about co dependency so you have more tools in order to deal with your sister's behavior. Here are some resources to help:

Codependence and the Power of Detachment: How to Set Boundaries and Make Your Life Your Own by Karen Casey

Facing Codependence: What It Is, Where It Comes from, How It Sabotages Our Lives by Pia Mellody, Andrea Wells Miller and J. XXXXX XXXXX

Make it a point to focus on your own needs. Although your sister is going to try to make you feel guilty for doing this, you need to put yourself first. Otherwise, your sister will try to take the time and energy you do have for herself and use it for her own.

Suggest to your sister that she try to talk to a therapist. If possible, go with her. There is something going on that she needs addressed and therapy can help her find out what it is and how to deal with it.

I hope this has helped you,
TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you!

You're welcome! Take care.


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