Advice on Over Helping

Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2021 02:08 pm
Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

My wife, who I love very much, has three siblings. Two sisters and a brother.

The younger sister is a bit of a disaster. Very self entitled, lazy, miserable and always in a bad mood. She also makes it a practice to order steak dinners at certain restaurant and complain about the food, so that she dines free.

The older brother is a bragger. Despite that, he has managed to get himself into some legal problems after trying to fill a role on a professional board, out of a sense of self importance. Long story short- in over his head. Also he has three sons who are grown men. Each have turned on him and his wife. One is still at home, but terrorizing his parents.

The older sister is the not an problem. She has her own issues, but does not make it a point of visiting them on us.

Here is where the problem lies:

These siblings always lean on my wife for help. My wife tends to over help. For example, she has helped her younger sister with her legal issues, to the extent that we have now been served legal papers and are being sued- all because of her sister’s issues.

My wife is also over helping g her brother with his legal issues- which may end up endangering us legally as well. My wife has also taken to helping him deal with his sons, which also includes having her brother and wife wife seek refuge at out home, and even sleep here, when their son is out of control.

Her younger sister is in her late 50’s and her older brother and older sister are both in their 60’s. I told my wife that while I also want to help them, they keep maki g poor choices in life, and they are already past their prime. In essence, I am saying, you can’t teach a n old dog new tricks.

Our phone runs off the hook daily, with each of them calling us with their existing problems, or new ones. We have been putting off home renovations for years now, because we are always entangled in their messes.

I have spoken to my wife about over- helping, but she can’t say no to her siblings. Worse still, they do not have the decency to leave her be. The problems they bring to her are relentless, never stopping to think that maybe they ought to give her a break; or maybe, her husband may not want to hear about them.

Does anyone have any advice? It’s not that I do not like my sister in laws and brother in laws. I just wish that they would deal with their own issues and stop bringing them to us.

What makes it worse, is that my wife will never hold her siblings to account. Rather than confront them with how their actions are resulting in the problems they are creating for themselves, my wife makes excuses for them and allowances for they behaviour.

For example. I said to my wife- you know, having three grown sons, who are men, turn on their parents, might suggest that perhaps there was something wrong with the parenting. She immediately jumped on me, saying that her brother and his wife could not have possible made. mistake etc. I still think that three sons, all hating their parents- may suggest that there may be a problem.

So, her covering for them makes any real and meaningful help impossible.

Any advice would eb greatly appreciated. I'm 60 years old and I don't want to spend my next 10 -20 years dealing with their issues. I would like peace.
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Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2021 02:16 pm
She (and you) needs to set some boundaries and maybe read the book "Co-dependent No More".

We don't do things without getting something out of it. So ask her, what is she getting out of this behaviour? Feeling needed? Feeling superior? Feeling good? I don't believe there's such a thing as altruism - every gift we give rewards us somehow.

Don't you also have a say in things, such as letting your in-laws move in? Yikes - I would never do that. They created the problem with son so they can live or deal with it.

You can always not answer the phone. You need to set some limits with your wife. She can always blame you when she can't help them.

But most of all, she really needs to analyze her reasons for being the saviour.

I would be exhausted!
mark noble
Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2021 03:37 pm
I've always found that people forsake their own freedom due to the baggage they willingly tether to themselves. I don't do 'relationships' because I can stand on my own two feet. I don't do 'family' for I have none - I am free from baggage (Earthly tethers/Chains) - And you will Never meet a happier person. My advice to you, is - Follow your own advice.

Have a lovely day
Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2021 03:55 pm
To add to this - get your wife her own phone. With her own bill.

You won't have to hear any/most of it, and there will be yet another cost for her behavior (although if being served process wasn't enough of a cost, then a cell phone bill won't be, either).

Let me ask you - is your home an empty nest? Does your wife have hobbies? Friends? Work? An exercise routine?

If the answer to all of these questions is no, then maybe your inlaws' BS is her entertainment, if you will. What would happen if you took your wife on vacation, or started weekly dance lessons, or joined a gym? And you told her-- these are dates, and date time only gets interrupted if you're in a building that's on fire. Otherwise, it is your private time as a couple and it is sacred.

Do you pay for everything? Rush in and fix everything? Maybe stop doing that quite so much.

Give her other places for her attention, and less automatic support for this kind of behavior.
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Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2021 05:05 pm
Thank-you for all the advice. Just being able to hear from you is very helpful. I will try to respond to the questions

I once asked her why she goes to those extremes. She says it give her purpose; however, we are talking about a bright woman who has more than her fair share of hobbies, associations and activities. She is certainly is not bored. She is a leader in many things.

I should have been clearer- I did not let my in laws move it. They showed up distraught and we allowed them to sleep over for one night. However, they were coming over often to talk about their issues etc.

And yes, she is exhausted. Sometimes, she ip up until 3am- probably at least 3 nights a week- working on researching legal stuff etc. for these matters. I told her that I am looking out for her best interests (whihc I am ), and I doubt any of her siblings would ever think to back away and let her have some peace.

My wife has her own phone but despite that. there is no escaping it. I end up hearing all the conversations and, I end being dragged into it. I have certain expertise, and thus, I am often called into things. I try to resist, but when my own finances are in jeopardy, I can't just ignore it.

I love the idea of diverting her attention. We re-established date night months ago and went on a couple of dates (with each other of course- just to be clear ;-)) - which we both enjoyed. But suddenly, drama night took over date night. The drama with her brother and her son was relentless. Datenight soon went out the window,. I am sure we will re-establish it- ....until the next drama.

The other day, I asked to reflect on how hard we worked in life (we both did for many decades_). I reminded her that nobody gave us anything- we worked for what we have. So, she should not feel guilty for having more than her siblings.,That they made different choices, when we were out working- and now, they have to live with the consequences.

For the record....we have a very happy marriage. the only issue, is the one I have been describing.

Thank-you to everyone for listening and commenting. I will check in here regularly.

I should add that my wife's nature is that she helps everyone. Family. friends....people she just meets. She is just a kind person. I love that about her. But the difference with that, is that friends know when to reign it in. Her siblings are relentless and do not stop.

Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2021 06:51 pm
@mark noble,
what about the beans? you forgot that bit.
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Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2021 06:58 pm
Again... boundaries. Set some. What you will and won't do, as a couple, as individuals. Your wife sounds lovely, as do you. But some people don't know how or when to set boundaries. Boundaries are extremely important. For example, "Wife and I are out on a date (or whatever) so we are not accepting calls". To wife, "didn't we agree not to financially bail out/help/fund so-and so?" Be as one, you and your wife. But you have to stop the phone calling and requests somehow and only you and your wife can do that.
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Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2021 08:28 pm
Thank-you. I am perfectly fine with setting boundaries, and have tried. My wife rebels against my attempts because, as I say, her siblings can do no wrong, in her eyes.

Here is an example. It was our 33rd anniversary a few weeks back. It was a beautiful day and our plans were to spend the day in the pool (we have a 14' temporary pool- nothing fancy), and then go out to supper.

The brother calls- he is just down the street from our home. He comes in with his wife. He does not want to talk to his son. who has left his house and is threatening to take a greyhound somewhere far. The brother wants me to talk to his son. I told him that it is best that he speak to him. He says- you talk to him and whatever you decide is fine with me. I said, No Way- he is your son and you need to talk to him.

The drama ate up the whole day. My wife and I went to a public park to mediate between the son and the parents. By the time we were done, it was 7pm. We grabbed a quick supper.

Not a word of apology from the brother in law. We got a Luke warm "happy anniversary" before we called it a day. I won't say my wife was not upset, but she again felt that we needed to get involved, even though it ruined our day. Again- the siblings call the shots.

I have debated speaking to them individually and tell them that they are asking too much and they are having a dire affect on my wife's health and they are straining our relationship. But, they would tell my wife and it would be back to., they can do no wrong, and I'm wrong.
Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2021 08:38 pm
By the way. My 40 year old daughter is aware of all of this and is squarely on my side, but my wife won't listen to her either. I honestly think her extreme commitment to her siblings is because she feels guilty that we are better off than them . We are not rich by no means, but her siblings are always mired in problems. Her younger sister is flat broke, needs a lawyer, entangled us in her legal mess, and now expects us to hire a lawyer and have her case spoken to. It's crazy. But she may have backed us into a corner.
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Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2021 11:08 pm
I don't care about your examples. You need to set a boundary with your wife. End of story.
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Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2021 09:04 am
Good luck in trying to get your wife to change. Most likely this is her “sibling role” in the family: the rescuer, the fixer. That comes from being raised in a dysfunctional family herself. She is entrenched in this role and has no way or desire to get out of it.

The best you can do is to insist that NO financial or legal entanglements allowed. Put your foot down on these two categories because they will affect your future.

Counseling might help her see her co- dependent behavior but she really doesn’t want to change. She likes being the martyr rescuer of the family.
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Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2021 10:20 am
Mame and Punkey

I think your last two posts have nails it. It's exactly the situation. I will get more assertive, however, there are two risks now:

1. We have been served legal papers related to the younger sister's mess and so, we have to deal with this. I just can't walk away.

2. I am no wimp. I have taken on lawyers, and others. I retired as a senior exec. I hope I am not coming across as bragging, because that is not my intent. It's just that I am a stranger here, and I could very well be a wimp for all you know. But I'm not. The risk is, that if I up the assertiveness, which has gone as far as it can without ruining my own relationship with my wife, it will certainly do that.

I feel I am trapped.

Also, I recognize that I have presented a no win situation. I do not expect a magic answer, but being able to talk this out with totally objective people such as yourselves. is therapeutic.


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Reply Sun 12 Sep, 2021 10:29 am
As an interesting aside, the oldest son of the brother in law (he moved out and is married now but holds a lot of resentment toward his parents ) called us last week. He called to talk about his situation and the fact that his youngest brother (who is still at home), hates his parents.

But,,the difference is..he started the. call by saying. "I am sorry sorry that my parents have dragged you into this. I know how hard that is because I have been in that situation myself with them. It's not fair to you."

I thojught- wow- someone who actually gets it. However, the brother in law has my wife convinced the older son is a pompous ass. Ironically, he's the only one who has said anything that made any sense and was appropriate to the situation.
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