My sister and I are 11 months apart. We have always been close growing up, like bread and butter. I didn’t realize it at the time but as the older sister, I always felt like it was my responsibility to stand up for her. Every battle that she started with someone else I always had to end it for her even when I didn’t want to. That’s just how close we were. Now we’re in our 20’s and things have taken a complete 360 and at times I regret being there all the time for her become I’m wondering if that has become a cripple for her. She has become such anxiety at times in my life to the point where I don’t even want to be around her at times and I almost feel bad for feeling that way because I am aware of how precious and short life is and I hate this feeling. I just want things to be okay.
To sum things up, my sister got out of a relationship and I opened my doors to her because I love her and I knew how toxic it was. She then tried to go back with the guy and get me thrown in jail because I tried to stop her ( I am aware what I did was wrong, but I just wanted to help her from being with someone who was ruining her) she hurt my feelings so bad to the point that I did not want to be a part of her mess anymore. A few months later he leaves her on Easter with nowhere to go and who has to pick up the pieces? Me. She lived with me for a year, rent-free, and still treated me so wrong where it is causing me to have a nervous breakdown. I’m so hurt. She talked about me to her friends, manipulates stories to benefit her, used my expensive camera to benefit her, and always asks me to help her but when I ask for something simple she’s way too busy or not feeling well. My partner and I couldn’t afford a two-bedroom but she said “ I am tired of sleeping on your couch and need my own space” I told her if she feels she can handle that responsibility then sure. We did it and now that she’s back on her feet I’m trash to her again and I feel so hurt. There’s so much more, but that’s just a small example of what she is putting me through.
When we give out more than we get back for any length of time, the person we are giving to is a taker. This is a guaranteed drain on your well-being and there is no end if you keep giving to her. Technically this type of giving is called “enabling” because is actually enables the person you are trying to help stay the way they are. Your sister hasn’t adequately grown up — and a large part of this as you have rightly determined is that you are enabling her to remain as she is. It doesn’t matter if she is playing mind games with you or not. What we know for certain is that she is a taker.
The 12-step program Al-Anon has offered help to those individuals who are family and friends to people who struggle with alcoholism. Much of what they promote for their members is detaching with love. I think this is a good suggestion but have found it can be enhanced if people are given the task of detaching with compassion. I believe is necessary here. I think having compassion for your sister while staying unhooked from her is the right thing. You have to live your own life without this constant thankless drain from her.
The difficulty in doing this has to do with the guilt people usually feel when they stop supporting (enabling) their loved one. But the guilt is something you can manage whereas the resentment you’ll feel by getting roped into her shenanigans has become toxic. I’d be blunt with her and not mince words. Let her know that it is too much to continue and that you now need to take better care of yourself. This can include informing her (and perhaps yourself) to find a support group either online or in person. Here is our comprehensive list from PsychCentral for these groups.
Finally, I highly recommend that as you do this you develop some self-compassion for your self. There is an exercise here that I’ve developed for my forthcoming book Learned Hopefulness, that you can find on the bottom of the page. I’ll encourage you to develop these supportive feelings for yourself as you detach with compassion from your sister.