I stumbled across your blog about toxic relationships and it really resonated with my current friendship. I’m 56, been married 35 years and have a wonderful marriage. However, my sister-in-law, has been a friend that I try and keep at arms-length due to the way she treats me. I think it’s a toxic friendship. We will call her “Vanessa”. She shows up at our house unannounced to borrow things she needs. She never returns anything and when we ask for it back, she calls us rude and makes comments on ‘how we have the money to just buy another one, so why are we being selfish’. On several occasions she has dropped off her kids with us because she is going out to the club. We get no warning, it could be 9pm and she just shows up. We’ve watched the kids for fear she would leave them home alone if we said no. We’ve tried setting boundaries and expectations but it doesn’t work. She told my mother-in-law that I’m a terrible wife, but then is constantly texting me to go hang out with her. She’s told my husband to divorce me, mostly because she wants to move in with my husband. She is in a new place every few months. We have a modest 3-bedroom house and a teenager. I’m at my wits end, because now she is starting to talk negative to our daughter. We bought her a nice pair of sneakers and a few outfits from Macy’s for back to school, and she saw the price tag on my daughters’ shoes and told her she was lazy and didn’t deserve $150 shoes and how she’s the reason she can’t pay her rent this month. My daughter cried and said to return the shoes and give the money to her aunt. Vanessa begs us for money constantly, we always say no. So, in her mind if we didn’t spend so much on our kid, we could provide for her. Vanessa is 46 and has a job where she makes more money than I do, her spending is out of control. She’s very selfish and says cruel things about me every chance she gets, even though we do our best to help her. She’s toxic and I don’t want her around my daughter. I’m at a loss, do you have some advice for me? ~Kim
Thank you for reaching out and reading our blog. First, I need to point out that I’m not a professional therapist, but I do like to give advice. But take our advice with a grain of salt, and consider meeting with a therapist if you need additional help.
Vanessa sounds like she is a hot mess. She’s making more money than you but is always broke. This could be her being bad with finance and digging out of high interest debt, or it could be something a little darker like drugs or alcohol. It is hard to say, but I do feel bad for her children, so I see why you and your husband help her out from time to time.
First, I would set hard boundaries with her letting her know if she drops the kids off, or shows up unannounced you won’t even open the door. If I was you, I would call the kids if they are younger to make sure she doesn’t leave them home alone. Also, during your talk I suggest your husband set the limits, that way she can’t blame you for the message, it might be clearer coming from him. Have your husband know that your daughter is off limits from her rants. Tell her how her comments and her behavior have made you feel for the past 35 years. She likely won’t understand, she may through a fit and storm out. But she may start to think about what you said and do some self-reflection. If that doesn’t work, then you may have to stop speaking for a while until she gets it. The tough love approach sucks but its causing stress to you and your family and thats not ok.
Your daughter sounds like she has a kind heart, and as a teenager maybe you can level with her that her Aunt Vanessa was inappropriate and explain the situation a little more. As for Vanessa’s kids, if you think she is doing harmful things like leaving them home alone or doing anything neglectful you will need to intervene if you can. Or even reach out to child protective services to see if they can pay her a visit. This may be the hardest thing to do, but if you suspect drugs or alcohol abuse it’s the right call to make. Maybe a family member can take the kids until she gets it together. Best of luck, and keep us updated. ~Zoey
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