updated 17 Jul 2012, 10:19
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Sun, Jul 15, 2012
The Star/ANN
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Don't be cowed by sister

I am the third in a family of four boys and two girls. My sister is three years younger than me. Ever since the time we were children, she had been jealous of me because, she says, our mother loved me more. That is not true but she believes it.

I think my sister got that idea because she has always been the black sheep of the family. She stopped schooling in lower secondary and had a boyfriend even then. They married young and had five children. For some time after that, the family did not have much to do with my sister.

Many years later, her husband left her and took all their kids with him. Now my sister is alone and needs money to support herself again.

Every time we meet, she talks about not having enough to spend. She works as a promoter but says the pay is too little.

Our family has helped her out many times before but her requests for money never seem to stop. I feel sorry for her, but it is not fair to keep helping her. I have my own family to take care of and my salary is not much too.

I want to be close to my sister because both our parents have died and we siblings only have each other left. But I don't know how to help her without giving her money.

Problem sister

When people think they are being treated unfairly, it is difficult to convince them otherwise. This is even more so when it is a case of a child claiming that her parents loved her less than her siblings, or that she was treated differently. It does not matter what you do or don't do - nothing is going to change their mind.

The one person your sister wanted affirmation from - your mother - has died, so there is little point in you trying to change her opinion about this. She has made some bad choices in her life and she may be unhappy thinking about that. It is a lot easier to lay the blame for this on others, than take responsibility for her actions.

It is important for you to understand this because now, your sister is shifting the blame for what went wrong in her life to you and your siblings. From your letter, though, it sounds like you are the most obvious target of this.

You are right - you do not have to support her financially, nor should you be expected to. And the more you give her money, the more she will expect you to. You will not be doing yourself, or her, any favours. The only thing this will do is make you feel less guilty, and make your bank balance that much lower. I am sure that is not what you want.

Having said that, surely this was not an easy decision for you to make. It must not be easy for you to watch your sister go through difficult times in her life. You may also feel a little guilty that you have an easier life compared to her. If you feel this kind of tension, then it is best to stop now or you will end up feeling more resentment and anger towards her, and it will get worse with time.

You are not a selfish person. When you say no to someone like this, she is going to guilt-trip you. You are going to have to hear about how much she has suffered, and I'm sure she'll throw in how you have caused some of the suffering in some way or another.

You are going to witness crying and other very heart-wrenching emotions and expressions. Do not be cowed. Giving in here would mean that you are trapping yourself in an endless cycle of dependency.

If you are ready to cut off financial aid for her, stay firm in your decision. You may feel bad, but that is because of what she says to you. Also, we have been socialised and conditioned by our upbringing to help our siblings and stand up for family. This is important, of course, but up to a point. When a sibling expects too much and does not do much to help herself, you can stop.

What you can do perhaps is to help her develop some skills that may, in turn, help her find a better job. She does not have to go into full-time study, but there are many programmes with which she can pick up skills while maintaining her current job.

Or, help get her a loan to start a business. Even for this, she will need skills to keep the business running. Finally, you can help get her a job which you think may suit her and will pay her more than what she is earning now.

If the amount of money she is earning is not the problem, then maybe she needs some skills in managing her cash. She may find it intrusive when you ask her these questions, but it is worth the discomfort she will put you through. Just remember - hold your ground.

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