Help for sister

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. I am seeking help for my sister. She is 29 years old, very beautiful and sexy, with a successful career at DOD. Recently she got engaged with a wonderful sweet man who is completely in love with her. She was very happy and were making wedding plans. She went for work overseas for couple of months and came back a complete changed person. I know that she has a sex partner overseas, and cheated on her fiancee. Since the age of 24 when she first started to date, she has someone new in her life almost every month. Currently, she is still engaged, has relationship with the guy overseas, and another guy think that she is in love with him. She admits none of these, and tells everyone that she is still a virgin. She does not know that I found about her relationships with the other two guys. She flirts a lot. To put in a simple term, she has turned into a slt. She is my only sister and we have many brothers. Our family is very loving and caring, high income. None of us has experienced abuse, our parents have been married for almost four decades, and our brothers would give their life for my sister and I. I know that my sister is suffering from some kind of mental disorder, but not sure what. Probably she has a very low or too high of self-esteem. If my parents or brothers find out about her relationships, it will break the family apart, and she will lose all of us. She has now reached an intersection in her life and must choose between her family or her boyfriends. My parents are starting to question her behaviors. No one knows anything about her relationships except me. I want to help. I want to tell exactly what I know about her and that she will have to choose between her family and boyfriends. But before I do that, I want to know if you think she has mental problem or is just enjoying her time. Also, when she was in high school she kept telling her friends and I that a guy in her school is completely in love with her, she told stories of thing he said to her and how he always is asking her out. She bought a key chain once with his name on it for him. Overtime she forgot him/stopped talking about him. There was no guy, such a guy by that name never was in her school. She just made him up. Please tell how I can help her.

A. Without a much deeper investigation I don’t know and I can’t know why your sister has this sexual lifestyle. This may be very healthy or it may not be healthy for her. It depends on whether she does it truly by choice or if she does it because of some unconscious need or drive. The real problem here is that a 29 year old woman has to hide her life, her personal life, her sexual life, from her family. At what point in your family structure does a sibling become an adult? At what point does this child become its own person? Certainly by age 29 you should respect her, as should your mother, father and other siblings. You should all respect the choices made by your sister. You may not agree with her choices but you must respect her right to make those choices. I find it to be sadly ludicrous that you suggest that your sister is going to have to choose between her family and her boyfriends. Is this a form of blackmail? Your sister does not have to have family approval for her actions. It’s time the family accepts her. Many families withhold love, or use love as bargaining tool. Families reject members, parents disown children and they do so simply for leverage, to try to control the child. The purpose of parenting in childhood is to raise a child to the point of maturity, to the point that they can leave home, get an education and start their own life. From the way you describe things your sister truly won’t be free until all the members of her family have died and then she can make her own choices. I think that whether you like what your sister is doing or not, whether you would do it or not, is certainly not the question. The question is do you respect your sisters right to make choices that don’t agree with yours? If you don’t then you are trying to force you will upon you sister. When you talk to her, you can love her, you can advise her, you can try to guide her, but you cannot order her around or threaten her with withholding your love. My personal advice to you is to go to your sister and tell her what you know, to talk to her. At that time you can give her advice and try to probe deeper into the situation. When that’s through, when all the talking is over, it should then be up to your sister as to whether or not you share this information with other family members. If you truly feel that your sister’s life is in danger or that she has some serious medical problem that she is suicidal or homicidal or truly “self destructive”, then you can break your confidence with your sister and share this private information with the rest of the family. Until then, you have to respect her right to do and make choices that all fall within accepted cultural norms.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 May 2005

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2005). Help for sister. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2005/05/04/help-for-sister/

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