Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax: She bows too much to sibling’s demands

 

Dear Carolyn: My only sibling has highbrow tastes and the income to match —a Type-A perfectionist who expects all who cross her path to be likewise. We have aging parents in common.

I have two major concerns. First: How do I deal with all the events she plans for them or decisions she makes on their behalf and then wants me to help finance and execute to her standards? She assigns me tasks and I find myself wanting to say no, no, no, but I also have to keep good relations due to our parents. I do push back, but not as much as I'd like. I feel I'm taken advantage of and not respected for the low-key lifestyle I chose.

Second: She's all alone, after several failed marriages. I'm her only family and I really don't want to associate with her anymore. Do I abandon her when I no longer have my parents? Amazingly, she's very family oriented in her own way.

Anonymous

It's so sad — yet understandable, and quite common— that the first resort when dealing with a difficult person is to play along, play along, play along ... until the opportunity presents itself to just wash your hands of the person entirely.

But. While some relationships have damage that exceeds their value, and the only sensible answer is to declare them totaled, that's a last resort, not a first — especially when you're dealing with a family member whose emotional problems clearly are internal and therefore with everyone, not just you.

The answer that makes sense is for you to decide how far you're willing to go to accommodate your sister's insecurities, draw that line clearly for her, and then politely decline to cross it. Say you have a budget.

What you do need to worry about, or at least decide on, is the right balance between indulging your sister to protect your parents, and standing up to her to protect yourself. Right now, I'd say you're out of balance. If you think about what your parents want, surely it's for your bond with your sister to survive them.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at washingtonpost.com.

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