QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I have three sisters and we are all close. We've never had problems with each other's friends. My younger sister, who is 25, has a possessive, controlling friend who is also her business partner.

Since my sister became a "follower" of her possessive friend, she no longer hangs out with her other friends and is no longer close to me. Her friend has a strong personality and always wants things her way. My sister seems afraid to displease her.

The first time I met the friend, I knew something was off. She made demeaning comments to me and tried to make me feel badly about myself. While this was happening, my sister ignored it.

My sister and I no longer talk or spend quality time together. If I do hang out with her, the friend gets upset and tags along. The friend constantly calls to see where my sister is and clings to her all the time; she excludes me from everything and only invites my sister. I think she feels threatened by how close my sister and I once were.

The possessive friend recently got into an altercation with my sister's best friend from childhood -- over nothing. The childhood friend spoke with me afterwards because she is concerned and scared for my sister's safety. My older sister recently warned my little sister about her friend and my mom also agrees she is too controlling and jealous.

My sister isn't taking our advice seriously although this friend is having a negative influence on her and our family. Anyone who was once close to my little sister isn't any more. I don't know what to do about this situation.

Sincerely,
Worried Sister

ANSWER

Dear Worried Sister,

It sounds like your sister may have gotten involved in a codependent or emotionally abusive friendship that is complicated by her work relationship with her friend. By cutting your sister off from her family and friends, her possessive friend has been able to draw her even more tightly into her web. 

Given everyone's concerns about your sister's safety and emotional well-being--coupled with her lack of insight--it may be useful to stage an intervention. Tell your sister that your mother, her other sisters, her childhood friend, and you want to get together with her for a family meeting. Express your concerns and find out if she has any concerns or discomfort about the relationship. 

If she wants to keep things as they are, you may not be able to do much beyond telling her what everyone else observes and feels---and continue to be there for her. But if she wants to change things, you can help her make a plan to move away from her friend, both professionally and personally.

I hope this helps and appreciate your concerns.

My best,

Irene

Some prior posts on The Friendship Blog about possessive friends:

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