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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5334
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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I have a controlling manipulative sister who has always

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I have a controlling manipulative sister who has always taken advantage of me. She is 65 and on medicare. She has always used guilt to me to do things for her. Our dad disowned her as a kid. She has never saved money and just blows the money as fast as she gets is. She also encourages her grown children to take advantage of me. It's the classic feeling of being unloved and abused I am a single 62-year old disabled retired veteran and get a pension and disability benefits. She expects me to take care of her and her kids in any financial crisis. The biggest hurt was when I recently was in the hospital for back surgery. While I was under anesthesia, she stole about a third of pain pills (percocet). Of course she denied it, but she was the only person that had access to them. She expects me to pay for her and her husband's funeral expense. I want to just get out of town and cut off all relationships. They are toxic and I am very unhappy. I am service-connected diagnosed wit

Hi! You know, to give you the best answer, I think I should ask you a few questions first that will help define the problem and the situation.

Your question is very evocative that there is so much behind the simple few words you write. Something is preventing you from simply saying no to them. After all, you have the position of power here but you give it over to them. Why is that?

What prevents you from just saying no?

Why would you have to move to a different town to say no?

Your question got cut off in the middle of a sentence. Do you want to continue? I think I got the question, but you might want to finish what you wanted to say.

Any extra information that will help, feel free to share.

Dr. Mark

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

I guess they have this power over me because I have been helping her and her family all of my adult life and they expect it. They know I have mental issues, especially with guilt. They use this to their advantage. How can I say no to a niece who needs to get bailed out of jail because she is a single mother. How can I say no when her three-year-old is sick and needs medical care?

To just say no makes me feel guitly.

If I am in a different town, change my number, and leave no way to find me, I hope I will feel free and at peace.

I know I am a big part of the problem because I have been so helpful over the years.

The cut off sentence was an editing mistake.

Other information: I know they do not love me, make fun of me, and talk behind my back. I have been nice to a fault and I am just miserable.

Thank you for the added information. It helps a lot. I believe I can now be of help with this issue.

First, let me say I can imagine how frustrating this situation must be for you. Because clearly you and they have gotten into a "vicious cycle". What do I mean?

You want them to love you. So when they ask you for money and things, you say yes. You get resentful. But now that you've said yes again, they understand they still have power over you and so they take this as you encouraging them to keep asking in the future. So they ask again. And the cycle repeats.

And this is actually the key to my answer to you that you need to consider and think about. You are buying their love. I know I am being very open and honest with you here. But we can't get you out of this vicious cycle if we are not honest in facing what's going on. And what's going on is that you are buying having a relationship with them. Let's face it:

You don't have to leave town and change your phone numbers. If you would start saying no, they will soon stop calling you. They'll stop having any relationship with you. They'll try to tell you what a bad sibling you are, what a bad human being. But after a while, they'll disappear themselves. Why?

Because they aren't getting what they are seeking. It's possible that if many years ago you would have said no that they would have just expected that you are not there to be used but are a relative. But that's doubtful. They seem very, very self centered and selfish.

So let's address the two main things you write that you will have to correct if you want to get over this. Because I doubt very much you're going to leave town and change your numbers. But if you actually will do that, I will support you in that.

The first thing is that you say you can't just leave your niece in jail. Why not? Because you'll feel guilty. But you miss the main problem here: enabling. Your bailing her out of jail is enabling her to continue with her bad behavior and to use up police time, etc. without changing her life. Because she knows you'll bail her out. That's not healthy for HER. You might feel better, but it is not helping your niece. This is the problem with enabling.

Next, let's discuss the main problem you bring up: they have power over you because you've been doing it so long and they expect it. That's saying they have power over you because you can't bear to say no. But again, that's enabling them. Because you can't say no, because you keep wanting to buy affection and family love you are enabling people to be users and to behave badly. That's not healthy. For them or for you.

Here are two important and good books you can recommend she get from the library or buy online or from a bookstore about enabling:

Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing for Struggling Parents by Allison Bottke. She comes from a Christian perspective but it is not a religious book and non-religious people have found it extremely helpful. Now your sister and your niece are not your children, but the principles are EXACTLY the same. And you're acting like they're your children: like you're a well they come to whenever they want anything, and they dip into you and pull out whatever they want. This is not healthy.

The Enabler by Angelyn Miller. This is also excellent and not just for the usual enabling of alcoholism, etc.

Okay, again, if you would really be willing to move and change identities, then I'd agree. But I don't think it's practical and I can't imagine you'll really do that. So instead, please consider learning about enabling behavior and stop doing this. Just because your sister is controlling that doesn't say anything about YOU. You are the one who controls your actions. And you so far are too afraid to lose their love even if it's bought love. That needs to change for your own wellbeing and for theirs as well.

I wish you the very best!

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