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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Question 2

Dear Dr. T.,

   I have a younger sister who earns four times the money I do at this point in our lives (we are both in our 60's) and we both have the same small but comfortable inheritance which pays us monthly much like an annuity. For all of our lives however, my sister has always, always expected me to give her money. And I used to give her money or my jewelry, furniture, you name it and she was my good long as I was giving her money in one form or another. I am now at an age where I know this cannot go on. Most recently we both received $100,000 from the trust. My sister came to me and asked for $18,000 of mine to help defray the cost she says of re-financing her house. I finally wrote her and said no, that I did not understand why she would ask me for money, that I was in no position to give it to her and that I had good use for my special distribution. She is now not speaking to me. I am sorry I have taken so long to get to the point, but how going forward do I have a relationship with my sister without sending her money?


Dear Lelley,

   It is a very good, but often hard thing to stand up for yourself. So I congratulate you for putting yourself first.
   When you buy a relationship you never get what you want and, worst of all, you lose self respect. So many of us wish to be close to and loved by someone else who does not reciprocate. This is a common dynamic in many families, so you are not alone. We often keep on trying until we are forced to accept that things will not change – and even then it is hard to stop trying. If you could afford to keep on giving money it would still not get you what you want. Now you are doing the right thing. But is there more you could do?
   You ask how, going forward, you can have a relationship with your sister. Well, it takes two to tango. You can let her know that you really do want a relationship, but not one contingent on your giving her things and money. You could also ask if she has ever wanted anything from you other than money or material goods which she has not gotten (the money she asks for may be a substitute for something else). It may take time for her to respond but, if she really cares about you and wants you to be part of her life, she will eventually let you know. If not you have to accept that she is not a part of your life and let her go. That will make you sad but should also leave you feeling better about yourself.

Dr. T.

1 comment:

  1. This is a common but difficult problem. What is unusual in this situation is the higher income sibling wanting money from the lower income sibling as typically it is the reverse. I understand how difficult it is to change these dynamics but support how necessary it is to set limits with family members who have entitlement and money dysfunction issues.
    Dr. Mary Gresham


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