My mother is annoying but loving and always supportive of me and my sibs, in her own way-whether it’s our preferred way or not. We are all grown up but one of my sibs cannot abide her-also she has just bought a vacation condo near this sib. I hate that this sib can’t just let her be who she is and not be who she isn’t. The very things sib complains about her–that she is not selfless etc, sib seems to be guilty of. Have tried to reason with sib but that’s easier said than done. Any advice? -Dove

Dear Dove,

One word, five syllables: triangulation.  Don’t do it.  Here are two more things on your DON’T list.

1.  DO NOT take responsibility for the relationship between your mother and sibling.  They are both adults who reap the benefits and consequences of their behavior toward each other.  How your sibling behaves is not your responsibility. Same goes for your mother. Let the responsibility of talking to your sibling about his/her relationship with your mother fall to someone else.  And if there is no one else to do it, leave it alone for now and pray that someone comes along to do it.  Because as a sibling yourself, you will ruin your relationship with your sibling by being that lone voice.

2. DO NOT talk with your sibling about your mother and don’t talk about your mother with your sibling.  I know it’s frustrating to see how easily a relationship could benefit from a more generous and forgiving spirit from both parties.  But, as you mentioned earlier, everyone is grown up and therefore they make their own decisions.  The next time you want to “reason” with your sibling, RESIST THE IMPULSE.  

Should either your mother or sibling attempt to speak with you about the other person, DO NOT ENGAGE.  Stay silent when possible.  Answer questions tersely.  Ask a question in response. Change the subject.  Avoid. Distract.  Maintaining a relationship with your sibling that is separate from your mother (and a relationship with your mother separate from your sibling) will help you and them.

On the other hand, here are two things that you can do.

1. Have hope for your family.  Yes, it’s difficult to watch the train-wreck-in-process known as family drama, but instead of thinking of it as a lost cause, I like to think of people stuck in their ways as hibernating.  We all have that need sometimes to hibernate in our insecurities, fears, bitterness, lonliness etc.  Sometimes it’s just not the right time to confront those things and emotional hibernation can be comforting and necessary.  One thing I can say for sure is that YOU have no control the impetus that will cause change in your family.  What you can do is have hope.

2. Be supportive of your sibling.  Not in a substitute-mother kind of way where you feel responsible for her actions.  Support her as a sibling.  Her bad behavior comes from some kind of unmet need, or hurt that she is carrying, otherwise she wouldn’t be acting that way.  Love your sibling through this and leave the reprimanding to someone else.  Even if there is no one in your siblings life to point out how unreasonable and unkind she is being to your mother, life has a way of reprimanding us and moving us to change.

Wishing the best for you,


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Pepper currently resides in Oak Park, IL.  She is happily married and is mother to two young boys.  She holds a B.A. in History and an M.A. in Systematic Theology.  Born and raised in Southern California,...