What to do when your sister is in a bad relationship

Being a sibling isn’t always easy. In many ways, it can mirror the relationship between a parent and child.


If you’re close to your siblings, you feel that same insane, protective instinct to guard them against chaos at all costs.  And unfortunately, chaos comes, often in the form of something tall, dark, and handsome.


When your sister is in a bad relationship, it’s important to remember that, while you hate her decision to stay, it’s her choice to make. All you can do is offer her the support and guidance she needs to leave if and when she’s ready.


I know it feels impossible, but you can do nothing to stop your sister from dating someone she truly wants.  The more you try to push her against the current, the more it’ll pull her towards him.  


Listen When She Speaks


Whether she is praising his redeeming qualities or complaining in times of trouble, you must stay available whenever you can.  You may be the only one.


One of the most common steps that an abusive or manipulative person takes in a relationship is to isolate their partner. They sweep in like a savior, wooing their partner with intense affection, gifts, and/or attention in a strategy known as “love bombing.”  


Later, if anyone speaks out against their poor behavior, this partner can point to all the fantastic things they previously did.  The manipulative partner will turn any well-meaning advice against your sister, forming a wedge between her and the people she loves. It’s why you may recognize her spending less time with former friends and family.  

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As difficult as it is, the best thing you can do is bite your tongue. Advice is only accepted when it’s been solicited.  The good news is, if you lay a foundation in your sister’s mind as someone who is maintaining an open mind about her relationship, that request for advice is sure to come eventually.


Give your Opinion… without Judgement


Give your Opinion… without Judgement


When your sister does ask your honest opinion, you shouldn’t be afraid to give it! However, when you do, be sure that it is calmly, patiently, and without judgment.


Be sure that you are speaking to her from a place of compassion.  Your sister is with this person because she saw something good in him/her, likely something you yourself weren’t privy to.  Don’t speak down to her. 


Here are a few things you absolutely shouldn’t say:

  • “Your boyfriend/girlfriend is trash, and you should dump them immediately.”
  • “You always pick people like this.”
  • “It’s because of your low self-esteem.”
  • “Everyone talks about it all the time.”
  • “I think you should just give up dating and be alone for a while.”


Even if you’re joking, your sister is coming to you from a vulnerable place. If the relationship really is as bad as you suspect, she’s not likely to handle the situation overnight. Be careful not to say anything too harsh or isolating at this moment that may come back to bite you later.


Provide a Way Out


Often, when someone chooses to stay with a person who repeatedly abuses, neglects, or manipulates them, it’s because they don’t feel they have a choice to leave. The best thing you can do is make sure your sister is aware that she always has that choice.

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If they are living together, be sure your sister feels welcome in your home. When appropriate, let her know that you would have no problem if she needed to crash with you for a time. The security of knowing that she has options outside of homelessness will go a long way in helping her get her foot out the door.


Sometimes, the roadblocks to leaving a bad relationship may not be literal as much as mental. Even if you feel that your comments fall on deaf ears, remind your sister that she has options. Build her up whenever possible!  Remind her how amazing, unique, brilliant, and deserving she really is.  


As difficult as it is, you may genuinely find yourself in a position where you can’t offer her the help she needs.  Maybe you live far away or have such a busy schedule that your own life is stretched too thin to watch out for hers.  If that’s the case, point her towards other resources.


The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a fantastic resource.  Through this twenty-four-hour service, people suffering from domestic violence can call, text, or chat online with people trained to guide them towards the help they need. 


Be Patient


I know. It’s hard to be patient with someone who repeatedly makes choices you feel are far from their best favor, especially if that person is someone you love. For better or worse, though, that’s all you can do.


be patient to your sister


That being said, everyone has their limit. If your sister is coming to you, again and again, complaining about the same problems that have been plaguing her relationship since the beginning, you aren’t wrong in drawing a line somewhere.

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Be Firm


If you absolutely can’t stand to spend any more time watching this person you love make heartbreaking choices in her relationship, you are allowed to tell her.


As in all matters of emotion, it’s crucial to maintain a level head. Even if your heart is breaking, the worst thing you can do is take that pain out on your sister. In doing so, you may be causing irreparable, long-term damage to your relationship. 


If your sister is young, the chances are that she won’t be with this person forever anyway. Regardless of whether she eventually sums up the courage to leave or not, she’ll remember how you treated her at this moment.


Is it fair that someone you love might permanently cut you off for what you said about a temporary relationship?  Nope!  But it happens every day.  


Remember, as in all issues, you should be patient with her as far as you can without sacrificing your own mental wellbeing.

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