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She treats the house like a lodging, coming in and leaving when she pleases (Photo: Shutterstock)

I am the second born in a family of five girls. I got married two years ago. When I had a baby last year, my elder sister came to live with me and my husband so that she could help me in the first few months since she did not have a job. A few months ago, she got a job but she does not contribute to bills and doesn’t help in the house at all. She treats the house like a lodging, coming in and leaving when she pleases. I have tried talking to her but we end up arguing. How do I handle this? I can tell that my husband is not happy with the arrangement.


What the readers say:

Soni, your sister has grown horns and needs to be trimmed. Talk to her both of you as husband and wife and let her know that you are the owners of the house and responsible and you pay all your bills without her support. If she does not change or follow your two instructions, I rather you complain to your parents to come and talk to her or take her to their custody. One day she will really embarrass you with your visitors.

Onyango Outha

I am sure it’s not a must for her to stay in the house. Share your feelings with your husband so that whichever decision you come to is owned by both of you. However, the bottom line is that she must leave the house for your own peace and comfort.

Tasma Saka

Soni, your sister has developed what is called contempt. She could be doing this because you are her junior according to her. Be categorical and factual with her, let her know that she now has a job and can rent her own house. Remind her that her recent behaviour is causing friction in your marriage with you and your spouse. Sobriety is key in dealing with this and you have to be firm and candid with her.

Ouma Ragumo – Sifuyo

Take charge of your house. Although she is older than you, she’s under your territory and she must respect that. Since she has a job, you can ask her to start planning to get her own house where she will be free to do as she wants. If this doesn’t work out, talk to your mum and let her speak to your sister. 

Kevin Moen

Boke says:

Dear Soni, 

Your sister is overstepping the boundaries and abusing your hospitality. Just because she came through for you when you needed help is not a ticket for her to behave the way she does. For your information, family, particularly in-laws interference ranks high among the  causes of divorce. Therefore, you need to take this matter seriously. 

It may not be easy to talk tough to your elder sister. Now that she has a job, she needs to get her own house. That is the honourable thing to do. Hold this discussion with her again and let her know that her conduct indicates that she needs her space and freedom. That is a kind of independence she can only find in her own place. Even without her unbecoming behaviour it is still not wise of her to stay with you. 

The reason your husband is silent about the whole thing is because he expects you to  handle it. But pushed to the wall he will get her out of that house in a flash. This will be messy, and him being an in-law it is prudent not to involve him. So do not allow this to get that far.  

If she does not heed to your plea, you could involve your parents or a senior relative that you know she will listen to. Give her a reasonable timeline so she does not give excuses. You can also offer any help to facilitate her moving out.  

There could be many ways to get her out of your house but start from those that still leave you with a talking relationship with your sister. 

Hilda Boke Mahare has a background in Counselling Psychology 

Simon says:

Soni, this is a battle that most people fight at one time or the other in their lives. We all want to help our siblings either through school, college and as they ‘tarmac’ we want to ensure that they have a roof over their head and a hot meal in the evening before they become stable and start a life of their own. However, this usually turns out to be a recipe for disaster and it is often a battle you cannot win. Your husband appears to know this very well and this is why he is choosing to keep his mouth shut and out of this.

The trouble starts when these siblings start getting a sense of entitlement to where they are being hosted. This manifests itself in many ways including coming in and going out of the house at whatever time they want, becoming overly defensive to a point that they cannot be questioned over anything, being rude and cagey over anything they are asked and many other indifferent behaviours.

In her mind, you cannot touch her because she is your sister and you husband cannot reprimand her because she is your sister. Again in some instances putting things straight between her and your family. This often turns tragic when they run home and tell anyone who cares to listen how you mistreated them, how evil you are and how you are not willing to help anybody so they cannot be as successful as you.

For this one, you will have to get a family member to have a sitting with all of you where you share your frustrations and read the Riot Act to her. The absence of another family member will make whatever you say subjective and it will be taken in bad taste regardless of how well you say it. You either do this or keep your peace until she finds a stable job and is able to move out.

Expecting her to contribute is a long shot. The most reasonable thing to do in this situation is to encourage her to move out and get her own place. Until then, anything you say or do regarding her conduct will always be taken to mean that you don’t want to assist her and are looking for every way of kicking her out of your house.

Simon Anyona is a relationships counsellor

The Standard
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