When Family Freeloads
Q: My husband's sister is staying with us "temporarily," but it's been two years. She's not working, and she doesn't try to get a job. She got laid off before she moved in with us and blames her old boss for ruining her life. Who would want to hire her? She's always got greasy hair and wrinkled clothes. She piles her dishes in the sink and watches TV all day long. My husband says we are family and have to help her. But he's not helping her and she's not helping herself. We're just letting her be a freeloader. She complains about my cooking and doesn't lift a finger to help. I love my husband, but I'm getting fed up with this raw deal. Should I kick her out and risk my husband blowing his top? Or should I tell my husband it's her or me? - Wanda, 35
Dr. Susan: Before you bring out the big guns of an ultimatum, how about you and your husband have a calm talk without your visitor around. Let him know how fed up you are. From my vantage point, your husband is enabling his sister in the worst way, and it's at YOUR expense. He ought to have set some rules for her way earlier. She should be doing some of the cooking, she shouldn't complain about your cooking, she should take her turn washing the dishes, and she should be actively seeking employment.
She sounds depressed. Has she been seen lately by a doctor and/or a therapist to see why she's so stuck in her life? Your husband is asking too much of you and not enough of his sister. Tell him that if he isn't willing to set up some rules, maybe even a time limit on her living with you, then you'll talk with her yourself. Good luck!
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.