My sister is in her late-30s and a single mother of one little girl. She's stuck in an endless series of crummy jobs, severely
dependent on our mother, and she is incredibly defensive and vitriolic about pretty much everything. I'd like to help her somehow.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total)
I don't know, really, if it's selfish of me or what to think that I need to "help" her, but it is something I think about pretty often when I'm home, like I am now for the holidays. I hate to bring such a question to AskMe at a time like this, but it always gets me thinking about family.
I love my sister. She's just very, very deeply dependent, and despite a few stops and starts along the way, I don't think she's ever really found a good direction for her life. She's had a string of ultimately-failed relationships with men who she's fallen head-over-heels and then some for, she's never lived very far from mom for long (her dad, my mother's first husband, died a year or two ago). The father of her (very cute, very intelligent) daughter is not a topic that really ever gets discussed, but as far as I know she doesn't really know who he is (my assumption, though I ended the discussion at that point, was that there are many possibilities.) I am pretty sure she had a daughter not because it was a good idea at the time, but because she was lonely and wanted some sort of direction (see above) and felt she was running out of time. She works at a pretty boring downtown office job with (as far as I can tell) not much room for advancement.
This is all okay, really, so far, it's not fun but it's stuff that can be dealt with. The part that is so difficult, for me, is that so much of her life centers around her relationship with our mother. My mom is very resilient, and totally selfless, and she has many many things she'd like to do with her life now that she's nearing retirement age, but she's here, because she wants my sister's daughter to have absolutely every opportunity and the healthiest childhood she can help her have, and so whenever my sister needs the slightest little thing, she's right there.
But my sister, who has gone through all of these things she's gone through, has been clinically depressed at (I think) more than one time in her life (there was some hospitalization involved, though I don't know all of the details), etc etc etc, has developed a personality that is completely corrosive. I try to be nice and understanding, but the slightest suggestion or correction or lack of agreement sets her off into this amazing level of passive-aggression that I've never seen before, and it isn't just because I'm her brother. The tone of her voice instantly changes into this horrible cold hatred, though she seems to act as though nothing's wrong, she gets louder, she snaps, ... it's more than that, it's hard to explain properly. I have never been very good at describing emotions although I've always been pretty good at picking them up, and it just feels like hatred. If you're out in public with her and someone does something she disapproves of (e.g. is fat, is loud, whatever, despite the fact that she is neither skinny nor quiet herself, though I think she used to be) she will very loudly announce to you how much she disapproves, very much within earshot of said person.
There's more; I don't really know how to boil it all down for an AskMetafilter. It's nothing explicitly horrible, she's not on drugs, she doesn't stab people. She's just become seriously painful to be around or talk to, she has very few friends and the ones she has are miles and miles away, she obsesses about this one love interest who moved on months ago, and she leans on my (willing, though increasingly privately unhappy) mother for so very many things, emotional and otherwise.
I'd really like her to be more positive, I'd love for her to meet new people her age, and go out more, and all sorts of things, but I don't even know where to start, or how to approach it without being yelled at or cried at or just completely ignored. I don't live at home anymore, or even in the same country as home, but even if I were here I don't know what I could really do. I don't even know what to tell my mom, other than to stop letting herself be my sister's crutch, but that won't happen.