My Sister is Ruining the House

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

My sister has self-diagnosed and is using that to get her way. She has started seeing a therapist, but all she does is use what the therapist says to again get her way.

Examples of this are how she takes great liberties in telling me anything she wants, and then claiming “You can’t tell me I can’t say that to you, because my therapist says I am allowed to have an opinion.” She doesn’t work or go to school, she likes to sleep strange hours (5 am to about 3 pm) and then claim her bad mood is because she can’t sleep. She can’t clean, cook, do laundry; she’s constantly trying to force all of us to do things for her (like yelling at me if I don’t feel like getting her clothing downstairs, or getting mad at my mother for not washing the right bra). But while this is all old news, since she’s started seeing this therapist, she’s gotten worse. We had a fight the other day, because my food on the kitchen table came within 1 foot of her underwear (the problem here CLEARLY being that the underwear were on the table… but she did not see it this way), she has decided to start name calling, and she barricaded me in the kitchen the other day because I told her she wasn’t allowed to call me names. While she is terrible to everyone in the house, she is the worst with me because even though I am 22 years old, she has decided that I am in need of guidance and that she should be the one to do it. Between her checking my outfits and throwing fits if she does not approve, and her observing my eating habits, I am obviously at the end of my rope (I should point out I don’t dress provocatively and I am a personal trainer and my eating habits are beyond healthy)

Something is obviously wrong with her. While I cannot do anything to change that, life is terrible in this house. My mother has given up and she sleeps a lot. The house is filthy and no one bothers to clean it because there is no point… my sister just dirties it up again within the hour. I have started getting stomachaches and headaches whenever she is home, which is always. I cry a lot, and am starting to get mean because I feel like a bear in a cage. I tried talking to my mother about this but she just cried and told me if she knew we would all be this unhappy, she would never have had us. It is interfering with my social life, my work, and my relationships…

I have no idea what to do anymore, or whom I can call for this. Shouldn’t her Therapist know what’s happening? What does someone do when they are terrorizing the household?

Thank you for your time.

A: I do not know what is wrong with your sister, but one thing is certain. She doesn’t realize that whatever the therapist is saying to her is equally true for others in the household. Of course she is entitled to an opinion, but so are you. The difficulty is with your sister’s interpretation, not the advice she is getting. Think about it. She misinterprets everyone and everything in the home and twists it to her advantage. Doesn’t it make sense she will simply do the same with information she gets from the therapist? She is the cause of the turmoil in her life, not anyone else. But to get her to understand that may take a long time, if ever.

I would recommend two things. First, each time she does something “off” and uses her self-aggrandized interpretation, be clear with her that you have the same rights, and don’t see it the same way, and that you have as much right to your opinion /perspective as she does. Do not let her bully you into anything. Confront her at every turn, every event, and every inappropriate comment. Reclaim your personal power with her. Don’t let her pathology usurp your individuality.

It is also time for you to develop a personal plan to move out of the house. It might take a year, but you need a concrete plan for moving out and on with your life.

You indicated you were a personal trainer. What would you suggest to a client who wanted to be healthy, but everyone they lived with smoked in the house every day and they were complaining that their clothes and hair smelled bad and they had started developing a cough? You would encourage them not to allow smoke to be blown in their face, but to make plans to live somewhere else. No matter how healthy you are, if you go back into that kind of environment it isn’t going to be okay. This is the emotional equivalent.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Mar 2011

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2011). My Sister is Ruining the House. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/03/20/my-sister-is-ruining-the-house/