Hippo Manchester
October 27, 2005

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Pinings: Bad Breaks
by Sherry Hughes

Dear Sherry,

My sister-in-law (well, technically, my girlfriendís sister) came to live with us four months ago. We are really close to her and I like her a lot, but the living situation isnít working out for me. She ran into a series of bad breaks ó she was laid off from her job and then had to have major surgery ó in the spring, so she was really struggling to make ends meet. We offered her a temporary place to stay, which I still think was the right thing to do, but she hasnít lifted a finger to do anything to get out of the situation she is in. Sheís relatively healthy now and able to work, but she hasnít really even looked for a job. Because of that (and because of some enormous medical bills) she has no money to offer us for rent, food or anything. Our lives have changed dramatically since she moved in. And my girlfriend and I disagree about what to do with her. She thinks we should just wait a while and be supportive and loving and sheíll come around. I think she is taking advantage of us and needs to be read the riot act. Even if she just cooked dinner every once in awhile, Iíd be happy. But she does nothing. I donít want to risk losing my relationship to this, but I am starting to feel a lot of anger toward my girlfriend.

- Edward

Dear Edward,

Iím on your side. You and your girlfriend need to present a united front here. Your Ďsister-in-lawí may or may not be taking advantage. She may be depressed. She may just be lazy. No matter, she needs to start to take action and the only way thatís likely to happen is if you push her to start being more responsible.

Sit down with your partner and discuss what will and wonít work for both of you (maybe she can take on some household chores, like laundry or cooking) and present your list to her. This isnít about kicking her out on the street; itís about helping her to help herself and keeping your relationship out of harmís way. Suggest counseling too, if you havenít already Ösheís been through a series of life-altering events and she might benefit from help from a professional.

Sherry Hughes welcomes e-mails from readers. Contact her via e-mail at sah103@hotmail.com.