The Washington Post
A laborious issue with her sister
Dear Amy: My younger sister is 54. She has been divorced three times and has a teenage daughter. Both of our parents are deceased. My sister currently has a nice boyfriend she has lived with for a few years.
The issue is that she cannot seem to keep a job for longer than a year. She has been terminated from at least six jobs in the past 10 years.
Although she blames others for these terminations, it is obvious that she is the problem. I want to discuss this with her without her getting defensive.
I am recently comfortably retired and always feel somewhat guilty about her financial problems. I’ve had people tell me not to worry about her, because she always lands on her feet.
Any suggestions on how to help her realize that she is the common denominator when it comes to losing these good jobs and to figure out what she is doing wrong?
— Worried Older Sister
Worried: My inexpert observation is that often within a family system, the people who might benefit the most from therapy are the least likely to seek it, while those around them seek professional help for how to manage the challenges of the troubled relationship.
It is natural for you to want to take care of your younger sister. However, your sister is not asking to be taken care of. She is not asking to be “fixed.” And you not only want to try to fix her, but you’d also like to control her reaction to your efforts.
She probably believes that if the rest of the world would only line up and play fair with her, then she would receive the credit and stability she believes she deserves.
However, if she currently enjoys a stable and positive home life, then she is a success along the most important metric by which human beings can be measured. Her partner is a nice guy who presumably loves her, her daughter is growing, and she has a caring older sister who is in her life. All good!
If your sister ever asks you for your perspective, you should offer it.
Until that day, you should relax into your big sister role and accept your flawed but scrappy younger sister, just as she is.