Dear Amy: My younger sister is 20 years old, and lives with her boyfriend. This is a crisis for my religious parents. They believe her boyfriend is a "bad influence," and that my sister needs to be rescued from him. They say that because I'm her sister, I should talk to her about it.

Now, they're guilt-tripping me, saying that I don't care about her.

What my parents do NOT know is that my sister began the affair with her boyfriend while he was still married, with two preschool-aged kids at home.

I do not want to tell my parents these details. But I'm having a hard time dealing with their lifelong belief that my sister needs to be coddled.

My sister has always been very good at looking out for No. 1.

How can I subtly let my parents know it's ridiculous to view her as someone who needs to be rescued?

Amy says: You don't need to be subtle with your folks. You should tell them, "I think my sister is trying to live her own life. This is what she wants. She is making her own choices. If you want to talk to her, you should get in touch with her to tell her how you feel."

The lack of subtlety should run in your sister's direction, too. She is quite young, and yes, as her older sister, you could be helpful by simply telling her that you care about her and are available to her, but that she will have to work on her relationship with your parents independently.

If you granted some nonjudgmental latitude for a young person making possibly poor longer-term choices, you would keep the door cracked open. You should not lie to your folks on her behalf, but — if you decided out of spite to volunteer the fact that she has made a move that is certainly immoral (in their eyes) — what greater purpose would it serve?

It is possible that their parental coddling indirectly led to this current state of affairs. You should feel some sense of relief that they didn't do this to you.

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