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An unwanted guest: my sister

My sister and niece want to stay with me but it has never gone well in the past. Help!

Our elder thinks that some tough love might be in order.

Dear EWC

My adult sister wants to come to stay with me and my adult niece. Both are unemployed. They have both lived with me before and it has not gone well. My niece said she hated it and my sister can be verbally abusive and difficult to talk to (she does not listen to advice). She states she has been dx bipolar. She has recently been taking care of our mother in another state who is recovering from cancer. I live out of state and go home as much as possible. She wants to leave because she says my mom is harsh with my niece (who can be very sensitive). This scenario has happened many times and I have said yes, except the last time. I said she needed to have a job. She has not asked if I can lift that stipulation because she is tired of being there. In my heart, I want to say no but feel I am not being godly. I am exhausted from this merry go round. She lives a very erratic life.

Lincoln-Parker replies

You say this has happened before, but not how often or the circumstances. I can certainly see how this could be very disruptive and even more so if you have a husband and family.
I don’t think you are wrong if you say no to her, but I sense that it will be very difficult for you to do. You are torn because you are a good person; only you can decide what finally to do. If you agree to help further, you should stick with the stipulation that she, her daughter, or both must have a job so that they can contribute. That might relieve some of the tension by reducing the amount of time that you all spend together. It would also mean that they are contributing to household finances. If you decide to charge rent, make sure that you are not complicating your options of making them leave if you so choose. You may be able to find advice on this here.

In addition, she must understand that if her daughter hates living with you then she should live somewhere else. Make it clear that you are doing then both a favor and this entire situation is disruptive to you — that is, you don’t like it any better, but you are doing it to help them out. The same goes for verbal abuse from your sister. The latter may be a result of her bipolar condition, and I don’t know how you deal with that. One thing that you should insist on is that she takes any prescribed bipolar medication and keeps all doctor’s appointments while she is living with you.

In either case, I don’t think that you are being ungodly because you have tried in the past and, based on that experience; you feel that it is all give with no attempt to help on their part. If you decide to go ahead, it should only be after getting complete agreement on all of the above and anything else that you feel is necessary to ease the disruption in your house and also get them established elsewhere. You might also set an exit target for them to get out on their own. This may sound harsh, but as long as they can live off of others, there is no reason for them to do differently.

If you decide to allow this, you are a wonderful person, but you should only let it go so far. Do it with the same type of “tough-love” that you would use on a misbehaving adolescent who needs to know boundaries at which lines will be drawn and the repercussions for crossing those lines.

Letter #: 456857
Category: Family

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