Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships
Dear Stacy: I am really worried about my younger sister. She seems to move from relationship to relationship (more specifically, from guy to guy), with no end in sight. She once told me that she thought settling down like our parents would be a “death sentence.” But now, she’s about to turn 30. All of her friends are getting married and she says it’s getting lonely and that she’s depressed. But yet she takes no real steps toward being partnered in any way. What can I do to convince her that finding a partner is not like serving time in jail? I’m worried she’ll never have the joy of finding somebody to live with and build a life with.
–Worried Big Sis
Dear Big Sis, I have great/excellent/amazing/inspiring news for you. This is not your problem. The fact is, I’m not entirely sure it’s a problem at all, but regardless, you’re totally off the hook on this one. Take this advice for what it is: a clinical professional begging you to get off her back.
Please be realistic here. If all of her friends are choosing to get married, it’s likely that Little Sis truly comprehends that there is some value in following suit. Her statements about jail sentences are a defense and, frankly, some of us need our defenses when all of our friends are suddenly partnered and we’re left feeling like we’ve done something wrong.
I do trust that your worry comes from a good place – the best place – I honestly do. But please tread lightly here. No matter how much empathy and goodwill you have in your heart, it’s very hard to make unsolicited advice not come across as anything other than criticism. If she’s directly asking for advice, and saying she is lonely and depressed, then help her. This could mean helping her think through her relationships, helping her feel better about herself, or helping her find someone else to talk to – in no way does this mean that you “convince” her of anything. Taking that route will only make her feel like you don’t understand her (even though that actually may be true), which is going to make her feel even lonelier than she felt before.
Stacy Notaras Murphy (www.stacymurphyLPC.com) is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist, practicing in Georgetown. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to firstname.lastname@example.org.