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TherapistMaryAnn, Counselor
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 5798
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues
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My middle sister Susan is overly clingy. She is an adult and

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My middle sister Susan is overly clingy. She is an adult and a 60's senior citizen. She seems to think that I should take care of her as if I were her mother and father. Susan has never had any friends her whole life. She is painfully introverted and has clung to me and to my friends most of her life. She seems to think that I should take care of her somewhat, as if I was her mother and father. She is afraid of our older sister Kate. Kate is extroverted and has a large circle of friends such as I do, but she unlike me she is harsh and not respectful to Susan. Kate tells me she believes in tough love. Susan is jealous of Kate because Kate is married, has a big house, and travels frequently. Susan is very jealous of people who have money. This is largely because she never saved any income for retirement. Susan stopped working when she was 52. She has lived on a small stipend from our elderly mother for her whole life and now she has Social Security. She lived with me at one time and I told her that she had to leave. She then moved in with my elderly mother in a retirement home (where she wasn't supposed to live.) Eventually Kate got her to leave. She now lives in my condo complex, (where she rents) but still comes over every night. If she was an easy person to get along with this wouldn't be bad. But she is jealous of me having friends and a boyfriend (i think she perceives a boyfriend as a threat to her security) and she will create arguments with them to get them to leave, hopefully permanently in her mind i think. Please help. I really don't know what to do about this, it's gotten a lot worse over time.
Hello, I'd like to help you with your question.

It can be difficult to know what to do with a sibling that is coming to you for companionship and to help her deal with life. You love her and don't want to hurt her but at the same time you need to have a life of your own and not be responsible for her.

Your sister seems to be more than introverted. Introverts are people who prefer to be alone and actually enjoy staying in when others prefer to go out and socialize. Introverts are happy with one or two good friends where extroverts like lots of friends. Most introverts though do well on their own. But it doesn't sound like your sister does. As you described her behavior, it sounded like your sister might have a dependent personality disorder where she cannot function on her own without approval or the security of others being there for her. That would explain her insistence in living with your mom then you or at least being close by. She is afraid to be on her own.

When someone has a personality issue like your sister, the way they behave can make you feel responsible for them. After all, who could leave someone like that to struggle on their own? You feel like it would be your fault for whatever happens. But that is what they want you to feel so you stay close and take care of them. What is happening here is that your sister's needs have taken over the relationship between you both and you are unable to form a healthy bond with her because of it. It is all take on her part and all give on yours.

It may not be pleasant to do but what needs to happen is setting boundaries with your sister. She is going to continue as she is now unless you tell her to stop. That is easier said than done, I know. And at first it may be hard. But by setting limits, you can begin to feel better about your relationship with her and feel less responsible.

Try suggesting that your sister only come over at certain times. Set limits and tell her you are busy otherwise. If she happens to see you leave or come home, tell her now is not a good time. Keep repeating yourself as needed.

Also, suggest she see a therapist. If she is willing, that may help her address why she feels as she does and what she can do about it.

Consider moving out of your place if at all possible. Having her live so close only makes it harder on you.

Practice telling yourself that your sister's behavior is not your fault. This is on her. She is an adult and by now, should have a grasp on how to live on her own and get her own needs met. It is not up to you to do it for her.

Here is a resource that may help as well:

Emotional Vampires: Dealing With People Who Drain You Dry by Albert Bernstein

I hope this has helped you,
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Excellent advice. Perhaps I am enabling her. I am currently paying for her cellular coverage and she has no wifi or cable TV. This is why she comes over every night. It does limit my social life. When I set boundaries, she breaks them in time, very slowly, like water wearing down a rock. I then have to reset boundaries which can be emotionally draining. I can't move right now but when I do I'm planning to buy my retirement home. She wants us to live together and pool resources. She will receive inheritance, but I think this is a bad idea to buy a home together. I will read the book you suggested, this sounds good. Thank you! Dee
Thank you!

Yes, it does seem she keeps trying to pull you in and make you responsible for her. And I think your point is very valid. Buying a home together is only going to make what she does now even worse. You will probably end up feeling like a parent caring for a child. It can be very difficult to set those boundaries and keep them up, but the other choice is letting her run your life. And that will only hurt you. You may want to consider telling her that you will no longer pay for her cell phone and go from there. She won't like it, but it is what is needed so you can have a life.


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Customer: replied 4 years ago.
My last question is: how do I create a dialog between Susan and Kate? They continue to speak through me putting me in the middle all the time.
The best way to handle that is to refer each sister to each other every time they come to you to talk about the other sister. So for example, if Susan says to you that she is upset about Kate, then say "I'm sorry to hear that. I think Kate needs to hear what you have to say". Then either leave the conversation or change the topic. The more you stay out of it, the more they will have to deal with each other or at least not expect to involve you.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I will try. Thank you for your excellent advice!
You are very welcome! Hang in there. It is not easy to deal with someone who is dependent, plus you are caught between both sisters in their disagreements. Very difficult and stressful. Be sure to spend some time away from it all taking care of you!


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