“Ask a Priest: What to Do About Emotionally Needy Relatives?”

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Q: I have two extremely needy family members who only have me to help, in every way but financially. They dump on me and give me a hard time. It is really difficult for me. I have to survive, and they are so draining. Please help me to cope. – C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I’m sorry to hear about your situation. It isn’t unusual that the biggest crosses in our lives can be the people closest to us. I don’t know any specifics about your life, so the advice here will be general.

In situations such as these, it is crucial to have a good prayer life. That is because you need the help of the Holy Spirit in order to be prudent, that is, to make the right decision in the right moment.

I mention this because it is one thing to help others in need. It is another thing, however, to let others form an unhealthy dependence on us.

Everyone has a cross to bear, and sometimes we have to draw a line and to let others carry their own cross.

This doesn’t imply that we should neglect others. But we do need to watch out for our own well-being and balance. We shouldn’t feel as though we have to give in to every desire of other people, to the point that we burn out.

Perhaps it would be good to look for a moment when you can share your concerns with these members individually. Let each know that you love him or her. But don’t be afraid to draw some boundaries if need be. Even a bit of fraternal correction can help at times, if done charitably and prudently.

For more reading you might find light and encouragement in Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to “Take Control of Your Life,” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

xOn a more positive note, remember that God allows difficulties in our lives to help us grow in virtue. They can push us to work on our patience and mercy. They also give us a taste of what Jesus himself faced as a human (for more reading see the Aleteia article HERE).

I hope some of this helps.


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