Jo Lamble advice: Sibling drama

Psychologist Jo Lamble answers questions from readers looking for expert advice on social dilemmas and relationship problems.


My sister is one of my best friends but lately I’ve been feeling burnt out by the drama in her life. She has gone through some genuinely tough times – and is still going through it.

At first, I was there for her constantly, but I find that it has started to affect me and bring me down. How do I set boundaries without upsetting her?

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Jo’s Answer:

It must be so special to have a sister who is also one of your best friends. And it sounds like you’re an incredibly supportive and compassionate friend and sister.

Hopefully she would do the same for you if you were going through a tough time.

But remember, it isn’t selfish to think about yourself. To be truly selfish, others need to suffer in order for us to get what we want. You sound like you’re on the other end of the continuum – at the selfless end.

To be truly selfless, you need to suffer in order for others to get what they want. The aim is to live somewhere in the middle – not selfish nor selfless.

Try to remember this motto: “I matter, too.” You don’t matter more than your sister, but you don’t matter less than her, either. When you consider both her and you, you can make different choices.

You may reduce contact for a short period if you’re feeling low yourself. You may delay your response a little to give yourself some breathing space. And you could explain that although you know how hard things have been for her, you’re also trying to look after yourself.

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