Support for Sister in a Toxic Home

By Annie Lane

November 20, 2018 4 min read

Dear Annie: My sister and I grew up in a pretty troubled home. Thankfully, I got out of the house by leaving for college, but my sister has not been so lucky. School has never been easy for her, so she is still stuck in a toxic home environment. I make sure to show her lots of support and listen whenever she needs someone to talk to. I know that helps, but I always wish I could do more. Our family is struggling financially, so we cannot help pay for her to move out. While she's still at community college, it seems that her only option is to spend the next couple of years saving up her earnings from a part-time job until she can afford to get a place of her own. Is there anything else I could do? I hate seeing her suffering this way. — Survivor's Guilt

Dear Survivor's Guilt: You say you wish you could do more, but you are already doing more than you seem to realize simply by showing your sister support and listening to her whenever she needs someone to talk to. Those are not small things. They can mean the difference between hope and despair. A trouble shared is a trouble halved, after all. Keep being the loving and supportive big sister that you are, and trust that your sister will get through school and out of your parents' house soon.

Dear Annie: Another helpful piece of advice for "Sitting Around," who lost her job and is feeling idle and lazy at home, is to get exercise. She already has the built-in structure of meeting with friends for coffee. Maybe a few times a week, instead of or in addition to that, they could exercise together. It could even be something as simple as going for a 30-minute walk. The physiological effects of exercise are similar to those of antidepressants. Exercise releases endorphins, which help a person feel good (and maybe would give "Sitting Around" the energy boost she needs to be more motivated and productive). Volunteering could also make her life more meaningful and have similar positive effects. — Catherine, RN

Dear Catherine: It's amazing how invigorating exercise is. I suppose it's related to one of Newton's laws: Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Once you get your body moving, it's much easier to get your mind and spirit moving, too. Thanks for your letter.

Dear Annie: This is in response to your reply to "Staying Faithful," the woman who is upset that a promiscuous woman is being hired in her husband's department. You said that as long as the woman keeps things professional, her personal life isn't anyone's business. Maybe I'm missing something, but if she is having men to her department, I think it is someone's business. What she does at home is her business, but sexual relations at the workplace are another matter. I haven't worked in a few years, but is this acceptable behavior now? Just wondering. — B.H.

Dear B.H.: In no way, shape or form is that sort of behavior OK. I'm sorry if I worded things carelessly and gave the impression that I condoned it.

At the end of the day, who her husband's employer hires is not up to her — or us, for that matter. "Staying Faithful" should be able to trust that her husband is staying faithful, no matter who he works with. Thanks for writing.

"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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