Q: My sister calls me at least 3 xs a day complaining about her life and she goes into every detail. I want to be there for her because she recently lost her job and has been on an endless amount of bad dates, but it’s draining! I roll my eyes everytime I see her calling. How can I set boundaries without hurting her feelings?
A: This is definitely a tough place to be in. Sounds like you need to have a heart to heart with your sister and let her know you love her and want to be there for her, but you just don’t have the time and energy to chat multiple times a day. Easier said than done. If you want to let her know where you stand, but want to say it with a side of sweetner, try one of these options…
“I know you’re going through a tough time and I want to be there for you. I’ve got a lot going on right now, too, though so I’m not able to pick up everytime you call. I’ll call you back when I can.”
“I’m not able to talk 3 times a day. Why don’t we catch up over coffee once a week instead?”
Boundaries are not rules for other people’s behavior, but rather guidelines for yourself.
Once you tell your sister that you won’t be able to talk 3 x’s a day and she continues to call, then it’s on YOU to follow through. That means you have to silence her calls and not pick up if it’s not convenient for you. Stick to your plan and call her back 1x per day or meet for coffee once a week. Will you feel guilty? Maybe, but look at it this way-By sticking to your boundary, you are saving the relationship. You already said you roll your eyes everytime you see her name pops up on your phone. This space will help you to avoid becoming resentful or exploding on her. Also, think about if you were making her feel like this. You would want her to tell you, right?
When people are going through a difficult time, they tend to dwell in the negative. That’s why you’re feeling emotionally exhausted after talking to her. Try shifting the convo to be more solution focused. Ask her what she can do to move forward.