Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
Entitled sister, enabling mother, father and the rest of us at wits end!(50 Posts)
whinged written about my younger sister before - mainly her inability to put her hand in her pocket - but I'm getting really fed up with her behaviour, as is my older sister, and I have no idea what I can do to make it better. Does anyone know how to deal with a nearly 32-year-old who acts like a spoiled teen when one parent seems to not be able to put a stop to it?
To try to make a long story short - she's 32 soon and has been living at home since she graduated 10 years ago, aside from a small disaster when she tried to move out. In this time at home she hasn't contributed to the household, and has managed to rack up tens of thousands of pounds of debt - to any/everyone including my parents, the bank and HMRC. My parents are due to retire soon and DF wants to move to the coast. Sister shows no intention of moving out/being independent so this is scuppering his retirement plans (hell, he's only worked his entire life to finally have time to do what he wants, why should he get his own way?) DM is enabling this by pandering to DSis - she says we can't ask her to leave etc and won't parent her. It's very frustrating.
She seems incapable of holding down a job. In her past 5 jobs she has failed probation and had to leave, been put on poor performance and quit in a huff and been fired three times. The story put forward by her and DM is that she's too intelligent for the roles she's doing though privately DM now admits that she is the common denominator for these jobs and maybe it might have something to do with her.
She's like a teenager - her room is fetid, she needs to be reminded to wash, she reads teenage books and watches teenage programmes/films. Now we all love a chick flick, but not exclusively! These things point to me that she hasn't grown up since her early teens.
She lies constantly, either for attention or because she was caught out. It varies in seriousness from saying she has done the hoovering, to saying DF was dying from cancer. When challenged about these lies she'll deny all, in spite of evidence and DM will step in defend her and say we have to trust her.
Last year she stole £700 from DF, admitted to £200 (moron) and the only sanction was she had to pay it back.
Now she's really acting the teen - she's throwing parties when my parents are away, lying before they happen, lying when she gets caught out with photos on Facebook and my older sister and I are getting blamed for stirring when we point out the lies!
I saw DF last week and he said to me that she will never move out, so he thinks he is going to have to pack a bag and leave. He said he tries to parent her but she runs to DM and then the two of him side against her (he even gets stick for asking her to tidy up or similar). It broke my heart to hear him talk that way as he isn't prone to histrionics or ultimatums and I don't know what to do. Obviously I'll welcome him to my home if he needs somewhere to go, but I would rather help him and DM to sort things out before it gets to that point. The other thing that worries me is that my parents aren't getting any younger, and one day they won't be here to support DSis. What do we do then?
Sorry it's long, if you've got this far can you advise on what I might do?
I assume your Parents need to sell their house to move to the Coast?
Do you think you need some kind of intervention with your older sister and Dad to spell out that things will be changing when your Parents retire and she won't be going to the Coast with them.
As you say at some point in the future they won't be around to carry her, will that fall to you and older sister and more to the point would you even let her in your house.
She is clearly able to manipulate your DM whenever she needs to, perhaps you need to get DM alone and spell out how your Dad feels, I imagine DM would be gutted if her Husband left.
Start by talking to your DM, explain that DF could move out as at the end of his tether, explain to DM that she's not helping younger sis by enabling her in her pseudo teenage behaviour. Point out to DM that what Dsis needs to learn is to become a responsible grown up. She needs to build her own life, get work experience, learn to live on her own, manage bills, dela with reality. How is she supposed to meet a man if she still lives at home?
Then, get your younger sis, your older sis and your father in a room all together and point out the reality of what she's doing. Maybe have your DM there as well but don't allow her to interfere.
Reality catches up with all of us. The earlier this happens, the less painful it is...
You need to tackle your mother here because without her being on board any attempt to deal directly with your sister's behaviour is doomed to failure. Perhaps a stark warning that your father is seriously contemplating leaving over it might be the kick up the backside she needs.
Your father is taking the only course that will have any kind of effect. And that effect will be to free him, because it is unlikely to change your DM and DSis, since they are masters at making sure that DSis never has to face up to any responsibility. Although there is a very tiny chance that it will be the wake-up call your DM needs. Your DF moving out at this point is the only thing that has a chance of giving her that wake-up call.
I advise that you let him get on with it and give him your emotional support. And then shield yourself emotionally from the histrionics that are likely to come from DM and DSis. That is, if your DF follows through with his (very wise) plan.
It's tough to talk to DM as she battens down the hatches and closes off when I try. She seems to think we all attack DSis and is constantly lamenting "why are you all so awful about DSis" whenever we try to address the issues.
Unfortunately at the moment any time we try to get her to behave (DSis, that is) DM tells her we're being rotten and that she is fine, thus it never changes. Take, for example, her inability to wash - I will ask her if she's had a shower and she'll say no, so I'll suggest she have one and she resists until I say (nicely) she smells and needs one, to which DM will say "No you don't, Foxtrot just has a very sensitive nose". WTF?
I don't want to be responsible for her when my parents are no longer around to put up with her. I worry that I will because it'll be hard to watch her fail
I don't want to be responsible for her when my parents are no longer around to put up with her.
Yes it will be hard to watch her fail, but taking on the care of her (as your parents are doing now) just enables her to continue being irresponsible, stuck in her teen phase, and not maturing.
Tough love is actually the kinder path in this situation.
Nothing will change unless everyone (including DM) is prepared to let your sister fail, and fail again until she learns to be independent.
I am not sure an intervention would work, because it would probably entrench further the dynamic at work here: DF and 2 older siblings on one side, DM and youngest sibling on the other.
Your father can spell out what he is and is not prepared to do on retirement, and go from there. That's all he can do-neither he nor you can make your mother and sister do anything.
Sorry, I meant to say also that my heart goes out to you, because it sounds absolutely awful and upsetting.
I know, HotDAMN, and I will let her fail. It'll just be very difficult to watch, particularly if my parents are still around and not able to support her - guilt works well in my family. I bloody won't help her though. Thanks for spelling it out though
Eldritch - you've hit the nail right on the head, anything we do will entrench the divide further. Poor old DF though, he has to live with it all. I saw him today and he looked defeated
What a horrible situation.
What would happen, do you think, if you were to step right away from the whole setup, apart from offering your dad a place of refuge and an ear should he require? The trouble is, he may be at his wits' end too, but he is kind of enabling your mum in enabling your sister as things stand. Sounds like he needs to get tougher himself.
Hard though, if you're nice people!
I'd suggest picking your battles though. Telling her she smells (which you're basically doing) will make her defensive and bemoaning the state of her room treats her like a child. I would focus on the fact that she needs to move out and pay her own way rather than presenting her with a long list of her failings.
Thing is though - by expecting your parents to "put a stop to it" you are treating her like the teenager she is acting the part of? The woman is a grown adult and needs to be treated like one.
gin - love your user name by the way - I'm not expecting them to put a stop to it, I'm expecting them to stop enabling her, bailing her out, giving her a free place to stay etc. You're right that she's a grown adult and should be treated like one, so I expect them to treat her like one too.
Bingo - the smelling thing is an old example, I now no longer spend time with her if I can. Bemoaning the state of her room is done more privately now. The things I pull her up on are not paying her way (we had a massive spat about it over DF's birthday), yet again DM "sorted" it by giving her money she could pretend was her contribution. But you're right, we do need to pick our battles.
clam - that's what I'm trying to do, I just always end up being sucked back in - like when she got so pissed she shat herself she was in London (where I live) so I went to deal with it rather than leave her stuck in town, too pissed to do anything and covered in bodily fluids. I dread to think what might have happened if I hadn't though, and expect (much against my better judgment) I'd do the same again. It's really hard.
God, I sound as bad as DM.
What is your DM's position on moving to the coast? Will she refuse if your DSis doesn't want to move out (I'm assuming your DF does not want your sister to move with him and your DM)?
I suppose your DF and DM really need to talk, which isn't something you can (or perhaps should) get involved in.
But if your Mum is happy with the arrangement then who are you to say it's wrong? If your Mum chooses to have her living there the way she does (even at the expense of her marriage) then that is her choice?
Has anyone asked your sister what she intends to do when your parents sell up and move? Or what she intends to do when your parents are elderly and requiring care - will she be the one to do it?
It may be that she can't imagine what will happen in the future, but if she thinks the whole family is assuming that she will become carer to elderly parents since she will be living with them, it might focus her thoughts a little.
I do feel for you, and you DF. I think he is suggesting the only action he possibly can in the circumstances.
I don't know, Eldritch. I think she is fed up of DSis too but doesn't know how to change her behaviour - or if I'm being uncharitable she likes to have something to moan about and feel needed by my DSis now the rest of us are grown and capable.
gin - I think it's incredibly unfair on my DF if that's the case, as he wants to be with DM, and it's not normal to have a 32 yo teenager living in your house when you're in your 60s, surely! Also, if it's what DM wants is it not a little selfish to infantilise DSis in this way? One day she will have to cope on her own and won't have the tools to do so. I also worry as to whether she is happy - it looks to me like she's still in the starting blocks not realising that life started over a decade ago for her.
Just wondering also, is it possible that your DSis could have mental health problems?
Possible, probable even, but if she has they do need addressing/treating rather than her being protected from the world, surely (I speak as one who had a massive breakdown some years back).
All I can think of is to suggest to your DF that he and DM go away for a weekend to talk it through away from Dsis and agree a plan of action for their future, not just where they live and whether it is with her, but also whether they will support her financially, can they present a united front etc.
I worry about my parents over a different kind of issue, but unlike my younger sister (who has leapt in trying to 'fix' everything), I am quite frank with them both that they are adults, its their marriage, their issue and if they did need mediation to come to a decision on it, or marriage guidance then as their child I certainly would not be offering to provide it-said much more kindly, of course. (I read The Dance of Anger: A Woman's Guide to Changing the Pattern of Intimate Relationships by Harriet G Lerner (2004) which really helped. It's transactional analysis for girls, basically).
They have to fix things themselves, in the same way your Dsis has to make a life for herself, or fail to and live with the consequences herself.
I was also going to ask about MH problems, as I have one sibling still at my parents' for that reason, but that is because they want(ed) him where they knew he was safe, and both of them back that. There is also a longer term plan that he is getting his own place now he's recovered and moved on in life, but until he had moved on from the friends which led him to drink and drugs that was out of the question.
Agree that if that is the case of your sister she needs help, quite badly if it has remained the case for 14 years.
Is your sister the "baby"?
Is your mum protective for a reason? Does your sis have aspergers or a mental health problem? Have you made it clear to your mum that you will not be stepping in once they are gone? Might help focus your mum a bit. Does your sis claim benefits and if she is depressed can your parents be registered as carers? We have had to flag up a similar situation with social services as my parents are now 'vulnerable' as elderly carers
Does your sister throw tantrums if she's confronted? Is this why your DM spends her time trying to appease her rather than face her down.
I know of a case with a family dynamic like yours though not so extreme. In that case it is suspected the person has some form of NPD. In which case there is bugger all you can do but disengage.
It's odd - it seemed like she was completely normal until her mid teens and then stopped maturing. Honestly, everything she does is very teenage. I expect there is some kind of MH/personality disorder at work but we're now at the point where her behaviour is likely to have a lasting impact on my DF's happiness and that's why it's coming to a head now. My older DSis says that everything she does is compulsive, and that's true - she compulsively spends, lies, eats, drinks etc.
She doesn't claim benefits aside from jobseekers, and whilst I expect she's depressed she's now using it as a stick to beat people with - when she moved out and took so much money from DM, DM got to her wits end and said she was cutting her off, which led to DSis threatening suicide and her being allowed home again. I am probably too close to see it kindly, but really didn't think her threat was anything other than manipulation.
She does throw tantrums when confronted, but so does DM (and her DM). If she doesn't get her own way or if she's challenged she stomps off/cries/bemoans her fate. I don't know whether it's a PD or learned behaviour, because I used to react in a very similar way (it was the model we had in childhood, in my defence I didn't know much different) until I really addressed my behaviour/happiness in therapy.
Join the discussion
Please login first.