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Help me deal with my financially stressed sister

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hi. I just need some input. For years my sister and her family have lived at or above their means. There is always financial stress despite bringing in over 100,000. It is not a new thing. she has been layed-off for a year and very diligently searching for a job with no luck. IN that  time she has been getting unemployment but not cutting any spending (at least from what I can tell) They had some more bad luck with flooding and theiir home but they received a good amount of insurance money. They bought new expensive cars etc.


My issue is I can say NOTHING to her without her getting mad. I also have no job but I have mostly been a SAHM so I am used to it. We have one car, etc My dh is a teacher so we are fine but we live in high COL area and our morgage is more than it should be for sure so I hang clothes instead of dryer and cook from scratch etc. Today she was upset again and I listen and listen and offer no advice. She would like to stay home BTW. I was saying is there some kind of consulting you could do (she works one day a week) that would cover the bills if you made some cuts in spending? It might be worth it if your quality of life is higher.( Her job search is killing her and she has said she will jump off a bridge etc. (this isn't a real suicide threat but just so you know how bad it is)She got very upset  and defensive at this and said she's already cut these things. Not true. She just joined a gym (!!) ,and still has cable, I-phones etc. I try not to say anything but it is hard and she is impossible to talk to. I guess my option is to listen and literally just say."I am sorry that is tough" Even as I KNOW she could cut things? Agh. I don't want to interfere but this is an ongoing problem and we talk about this a lot. I guess this is a relationship question too! LOL What kind of response DO i give to someone? Just silence?



post #2 of 10
Originally Posted by Deir View Post

My issue is I can say NOTHING to her without her getting mad.


I think "say nothing" is probably your best bet thumb.gif


She's a big girl. She's not looking for advice. She doesn't need your judgment. It's not helping anything - right?


Not to say I don't completely sympathize with your point of view mischievous.gif But yes, just say "sorry, that sounds tough" and that's it.

post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

I just feel weird after a while saying "That's tough" You know what I mean? it is literally a conversation issue I think! When it is the only topic of conversatoin and you say "that is tough" or "Wow- sounds bad" for a half an hour multiple times.it is just awkward!


Also when your sister says" I am going to lose the house- i don't know what to do!" An so i say" yeah that's bad." ? Oh boy- I hope she gets a job soon!!! LOL


I feel bad for her and hope things work out but I also don't like feeling like all I do is tiptoe around landmines.



post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

Also- when i say nothing. I mean NOTHING. even "that's tough" gets me into trouble sometimes. I think my only option is to grunt. I really can't win.

post #5 of 10

Same situation as you OP but a different sister.  The last time I didn't say nothing and now she won't talk to me.  I mean how many times can I listen to the same vent?  Seriously?  It has been a nice 3 week break of hearing about it all the time.  Sorry- no advice just sympathy :)

post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

Oh Boy- thanks. I really don't want to have a problem between the 2 of us for so many reasons! For 1- I have a terrible chronic illness and need her help- 2- we have such a messed up family- I'd hate to have more issues.3- here kids and mine are really close oh and 4- I love my sister and value our relationship. But I totally know this is out of my hands.


Seriously when someone says they will kill themselves over lack of money do I just say "Hmmm- sorry to hear that" Argh.


Thanks for commiserating


I sent her an emil that reads "Hey- I am on your side- you are smart and resourceful. I know this will all work out eventually"


What do you think?


post #7 of 10

OK, so that reframes the situation away from "what can I say to her so she sees the light" and toward "I don't want to listen to her gripe anymore."


I agree that literal silence is problematic too - it's judgmental, etc.


I would try:


1) Shallow, brief support. "That sounds tough," "I'm sure it'll work out," "Hope it works out for you," "Sounds really stressful." Not in a sarcastic or blunt tone, say it sincerely, but that's all you say.


2) Change subject. "Oh, that sounds stressful. Hope it works out for you. Hey, did you hear Sue is getting married?"


3) If she is going on and on and doesn't take a hint and you don't want to listen to it: "Hey, sis, I know this is really stressful for you, and I wish I could help, but it's very hard for me to hear about this a lot. I know you'll figure it out, and I'd like to talk about things."

post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much!


I also wanted to clarify the convo I had with her earlier. She said her usual fears  and that she was even trying to get a part time job at Whole Foods. When I said "Is there anyway you could get some consulting work (she is very skilled)that would bridge the gap between your major expenses and your loss of income? Even if you have to do some cutting?" Or something like that. She said tersely "Don't worry about me I'm not an IDIOT!" Is that a normal response to what I said? I am really asking because sometimes I think I say all the wrong things all the time.

post #9 of 10

No, there's nothing wrong with what you said. But obviously she's not open to advice, and obviously isn't wanting to make any changes. She just wants it to work out without her having to work at it.


This is the way I look at it: Some people prioritize doing what is necessary to feel secure. Some people prioritize not worrying about security. And some people prioritize not making any changes or sacrifices. Your sister is apparently the latter. It's easy to judge but apparently not making any changes is really what's important to her. If worrying about it was so painful to her, she'd make some changes. If feeling insecure was really so painful to her, ditto the changes. This is her choice, and honestly, it's an ok one.


The problem really is that she is bringing her worries to you and asking you to share in some of the burden of worry. Well, the worry belongs to her, it's her burden. You don't need to carry any part of it for her.


I wonder - if you don't help her with the worry, maybe the equation will change. Maybe she will hate worrying more than she hates changing.

post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 

Laohaire- Wow thanks. That was very insightful.

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