DEAR AMY: My sister has ongoing crises in her life (her son is an addict and her partner is abusive). Recently she reached out to me, and I tried to help. After weeks of calls to domestic violence hotlines and brainstorming solutions with her, I watched her return to the same toxic patterns. This was the fourth time I have been drawn in, but this is the first time she seemed willing to walk away. She is bright, but her life is a mess. I have been a mess for most of my life, but have turned my life around after working with a therapist and a 12-step program. After receiving several emails following the last debacle, I wrote an honest assessment of my situation, saying I could not participate in her dramas any further and that she needed help beyond my capabilities. I received angry emails in reply, which I have not answered. Is there a way to have a relationship with her where I don't get dragged into the drama?

-- Loyal Reader

DEAR LOYAL: You have responded lovingly to your sister, but the minute you drew a reasonable boundary, she acted out. Consider her behavior an expression of her panic. She fears she is losing you.

Your sister has the tools to adjust her dynamic. Now you should respond only with compassion: "I'm sorry you're so unhappy," "I want the best for you." Your sister may continue to lash out. But once you do less for her, she might do more for herself.

DEAR AMY: "Putting the Kids First" was asked by her cheating ex-husband to pave the way for their daughters to "like" his girlfriend more. The girls are old enough to make up their own minds. As long as she's not making negative comments, it isn't mom's job to fix her daughters' relationship with the woman who helped turn their daddy into a part-time parent.

-- Dismayed

DEAR DISMAYED: Many people agreed that this mom should make no effort to ease the relationship between her girls and their dad's girlfriend.


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