Ask a Therapist: Should I Feel Bad for Telling My Sister to Move Out?

Watching your sister move out might feel sad.

Verywell / Catherine Song

In the “Ask a Therapist” series, I’ll be answering your questions about all things mental health and psychology. Whether you are struggling with a mental health condition, coping with anxiety about a life situation, or simply looking for a therapist's insight, submit a question. Look out for my answers to your questions every Thursday in the Healthy Mind newsletter.

Our Reader Asks

My sister stopped talking to me after I informed her that she could no longer live with me because I'm getting married and feel too many adults cannot live under one roof. Am I wrong?”

Amy's Answer

You get to decide what type of healthy boundaries you want to set in your life. And if you think it’s best for you to not live with your sister, that is your choice. Just because she is angry at you doesn’t mean you have done anything wrong.

Make the Right Decision for You

You get to decide what rules you set in your home. And in your case, you decided you didn’t want too many adults living under one roof. That makes sense. It’s healthy for you and your partner to want some privacy after you get married. Asking your sister to move out is a reasonable request and it’s a decision that is likely good for your marriage. Clearly, your sister doesn’t like that you set this boundary. Now, she’s either trying to punish you with the silent treatment or she’s hoping her silence will change your mind.

It probably hurts to think about your sister not talking to you. After all, it sounds like you were kind enough to open your home to her. And her decision to stop talking to you somewhat implies your relationship is conditional—she’ll only talk to you if you give her a place to live. She is disregarding the fact that you don’t feel like that is in your best interest right now. 

However, your decision could lead to better results for your sister's life, too. If she’s experiencing financial difficulties, this situation may motivate her to create positive changes for herself. Or, if she’s lonely living on her own, she may choose to make some changes to her social life. Either way, her problems are not necessarily your responsibility.

She may not be speaking to you now, but this doesn’t mean she won’t come around eventually. She just may be hurt, embarrassed, or anxious and she’s choosing to act angry toward you as a way to avoid taking responsibility for those emotions.

In the meantime, you may be grieving the loss of having your sister in your life. You might have been really close if you were living together. Not having her around might stir up a variety of feelings.

Don’t Let Your Emotions Talk You Into Backing Down

Whether you feel guilty, worried, sad, or angry, those feelings are all okay and they aren’t signs that you made a bad choice. Those emotions might have just gotten stirred up because of your sister’s reaction—not because of the choice you made.

Allowing your sister to move back in might temporarily relieve your guilt or your anxiety, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what you want to do. So look for healthy ways to cope with those feelings—like with physical activity, journaling, or leisure activities.

When you show you’re serious about sticking to your limits, your sister might decide to start talking to you again. You can certainly reach out to her and invite her to have a conversation, but don’t feel obligated to keep trying to talk to her if she isn’t interested.

Focus on Your Marriage and Moving Forward

You’re better off putting your energy into your new marriage. Work on establishing a close connection with your partner and maybe with time, your sister will see that she can still have a relationship with you even when she doesn’t live in your home.

Steer clear of the temptation to get other people involved. Turning to family or mutual friends in an attempt to get them on your side will only prolong the problem.

If someone asks why your sister moved out, you might offer a quick explanation like, “I’m getting married,” or you might simply say, “We decided it was for the best.” You don’t necessarily need to get into a lengthy conversation about why your sister is mad. And if someone mentions that they know she is angry at you, tell them you’re aware, but don’t talk more about the tension in your relationship.

Talking to other people about the situation will only fuel the distance between you and your sister. If you find you need someone to talk to, consider going to therapy so you can get some objective feedback from a mental health professional.

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.