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Abusive Older Sister

Question:

I have an older sister who has always shown signs of a mental disorder, possibly a personality disorder, I am not sure what. My mom has confided in me now that I am an adult and a parent of two, and she explains how helpless she felt ever since my sister was a small baby. She knew something was wrong, but couldn’t find anyone to help. Often she was told that she needed to give more attention to my sister, or that she was giving too much attention to her. Throughout my life, I have story after story of problems with my sister. In my early twenties I saw a therapist and made a conscious decision to remove myself from her life whenever possible. We didn’t even attend each other’s weddings. But when we had kids, we became civil with one another, choosing to be around one another so that our children can know each other.

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p> Recently my sister’s husband called my parents in crisis. He said that he didn’t know what to do anymore and that he needed to let them in on what is going on in his house. He described behavior that was similar to what I saw growing up, much lying, hysterical fits of anger, and always a finger pointing at everyone except my sister. My brother-in-law also confided that my sister has been verbally abusive to her three-year old daughter. She has called her “ugly” and a “piece of sh-t” This absolutely breaks my heart, my parents’ hearts, and I am sure the hearts of the little girls she is supposed to protect and nurture and love. Please give me some advice. I am certain that my sister will not accept professional help, she believes that the only reason that one goes to therapy if because they are crazy. She doesn’t believe she is crazy.

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Answer:

If your sister is in denial, but nevertheless is abusing and harming those around her, then the only practical thing that can be done is for those around her to change how they are handling the situation. You learned this lesson yourself as a young adult when you entered therapy and ultimately chose to cut off your relationship with your sister. It will be somewhat more difficult now that small children are involved, but the principle is the same for your brother-in-law. It probably is not constructive to give your brother-in-law the full history of your sister’s condition. However, it is very appropriate for you to sympathize with him and to suggest to him that marital therapy is in order if they both will choose to attend it, or in the event that this is not possible, that he should attend individual counseling himself for assistance in dealing with the situation. It is not particularly acceptable that your sister is verbally abusing her children and husband, but only her husband is potentially in a position to do something about it. What you can do (by suggesting counseling for him) is to help insure that when he finally does get upset enough to do something about his situation, he does something that is constructive and carefully thought out so as to best benefit his family.

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Comments
  • elissa

    I am an older sister .I have had an on again off again "relationship"with my sister since we were both very little.I believe it started when we were about 3-4 yrs.old.We both had very long hair .Our father used to brush MY hair for hours !Really !So much that my mother had to remind him he had other children.Well one day my sisters hair was cut! Very short.This is when it started ...She resented me even back then.When our father would brush my hair for hours he'd push her away .Our parents divorced when we were about 5-6yrs. old.As a young girl Ineeded lots of physical attention.My sister had a chip on her shoulder .Like the world owed her something.Not to mention ,she hated me !Through out our young years we'd fight .About everything all the time.When my sister was just out of the 8th grade she kept running away.Finallyour parents(mom now re married)agreed to an exceptable "new home" at a friends house for her.At least we all knew where she was .As we grew we lost touch .She moved away and so did I.Never having any communication till we were in our twenties.She was about to be married (i was not asked to be in the wedding)only at the very end when a girl had to bow out did I stand in.I did so happily.I wanted a relationship with my sister .She wanted nothing to do with me.Six months after her wedding I moved home to be with the family.College in another state proved too rough for me .I wanted to be home.My sister and i began to build on our relationship.As I got married and each of us had children Ithought we were getting along well.However, things went well only if we did them her way !I was fortunate enough to be able to stay at home when Ihad my child .My sister was not.She let me know this all of the time.I kept her daughter much of the time .As parties were much more fun for my sister than being a mom.As her daughter grew closer to me .My relationship grew further away from my sister.There were times when my sister didnt speak to me for 3 years because her daughter chose to confide in me not her.I can hardly be responsible for the choices others make.Yet my sister didnt see it this way.And the whole family knew it !It didn't matter what I'd say or do she wanted nothing to do with me .Oh but if SHE needed something ...I have been there for her in her times of crisis.yet she couldnt even call after my husband and i lost twins.Nor did she help me after my own major back surgery>I helped her and her family for months on a daily basis after hers.Now she is going through a very bad divorce ,again.And once again i go to her aid .My husband and i bought with cash lots of her furnature.We also paid 200.00 to deck our attic to store many of her things .Weekend after weekend in the 100 plus heat the family would run to her aid _"oh i'm going to be locked out of the house ,i have to have all my things out today!"This is what she'd do -call us all-we'd drop our lives and come to her aid.While she'd run off to dinner or the lake for the weekend.She couldnt even be bothered to come help with what she wanted in the attic and what she wanted in the house ! Well last week -after 3 months of nothing from her about getting her things.I get a call from her daughter saying she wants to come pick up "her couch">needless to say we were all like ,what ?We paid for that stuff.?Then i get two threatening calls from my sister saying how dare I keep things that are not mine ! Oh and she went on to say I'm a liar and called me every name in the book .i tried to calm her down -no use.i told her that i was not going to be spoken to this way and if she didnt stop i'd hang up .She carried on saying she wanted her things NOW !

    Well my husband and i would be more than happy to have her come and get her things .(only it 's our dad & my husband whod be moving it -AGAIN)Yet not the things we bought.And that she'd have to wait till after hunting season when my husband could get the things down from the attic.....She goes to our parents and all He-- goes down>Who knows what all she said?! But now our parents have declined for Thanksgiving Dinner in my home. Wow !Mom sasy she doesnt want to be in the middle .Hasnt she put herself there?What can I do ?I have offered to pay for therapy for my sister and I .We are the only ones who can repair our relationship.My sister wont go ! What do I do ?My dad says to her(sister) you have no idea how much we all have done for you .She doesnt care .It's just all about what can she get and when.How everyone has wronged her ! Well, that I have wronged her.What can I do ? Please help....oh she also gave us a used garage door opener for all of our help .NOW she wants us to buy it !We said we didnt want it she could have it .Please help ...I would like to have a relationship with my sister .But I fear all I'm wanting or praying for is for the sister I never had !

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