Amy: 'Pushover' sis chooses chaos

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • Chicago Tribune
  • December 1, 2012 - 3:52 PM

Dear Amy: I have a sister I love dearly, except for one thing: She is a total pushover when it comes to her kids. Her oldest son is 38 years old, lives at home, has no job, runs all night and sleeps all day.

He has three children by two women whom he is not supporting. He has brought a new girlfriend into the mix, her new baby (by another man) and her dog that pees all over the house. My sister has a daughter (32 years old) who also lives there with her daughter and her dog. And my sister has a dog.

None of these ingrates contributes to the household expenses. We have the same conversation over and over again. She refuses to throw anybody out.

I have tried all the avenues I can think of to help. Any advice?

Amy says: Your sister has it within her power to live her life completely differently, but she is making choices every single day that put her at the center of this dysfunctional, chaotic household. You need to assume that despite what she may say to you, her family system is cranking along pretty much the way she has designed it to, and that this pattern goes way back to her kids' childhoods.

The only thing you need to do differently is to stop having the same conversation over and over. I give you permission to stop offering solutions she has no intention of enacting. You can be her concerned and loving sibling by responding: "I'm so sorry you're unhappy and frustrated. This sounds really tough." Do not offer one more suggestion until she says: "I can't do this. I want my life to be different. Please help!"

Trust issues after ex cheated

Dear Amy: My ex-wife and I split about a year ago because she had an affair, and now I have deep trust issues.

My fear of being hurt again and the lack of trust have caused me to push my girlfriend away multiple times. I want to be a better person, the person I used to be, but every chance I have to prove it I squander the moment. What can I do?

Amy says: The solution for you lies partly in making conscious and rational choices not to make your girlfriend pay for someone else's behavior.

The person who needs proof you are worthy of love is you. You can "behave" your way out of this by moving slowly and having successful experiences with your girlfriend you both feel good about. Tell her you want your relationship to work out. Ask for her patience. Trust is the greatest gift, but first you'll have to believe that you are worthy of this treasure. And then you'll give it to yourself.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at

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