Broken Sibling Bonds
Karen* has a similar situation with an older sister who resents the fact
that her father was not in her life. However, parental influence did not temper
the jealousy and negative feelings which ruled their relationship, it inflamed
it. Their mother was so focused on the feelings of her first born, (who was
being raised in a household where she did not share the same father with her
other children), that she became overly protective. Feelings of favoritism
surfaced and her sister became accustomed to having the advantage in sibling
disagreements. While their mother encouraged strong sibling relationships, it
was usually for the benefit of the older child. So, as the older sister gained a
sense of entitlement (which complicated her adult relationships), Karen gained a
sense of family loyalty.
Every effort was made to maintain a good, functioning adult sibling
relationship, but Karen soon realized she couldn’t do it alone. While Karen did
not back away from her sister, she found it too stressful to keep putting
herself second for the benefit of a relationship. Over the years they have
“cleared the air” multiple times but they still only moved forward because Karen
reached out. One day she just didn’t make the customary call to keep in contact
and noticed that she didn’t receive one either. They haven’t spoken in over a
Karen is not angry with her sister. If the mood struck her, she would
gladly pick up the phone and call her tomorrow. She just found a certain peace
with not having to walk on eggshells or jump through hoops to keep her sister
happy and, by extension, their sibling relationship workable. She admits love is
important but she also admits that love alone is not nearly enough to sustain
This situation actually struck me ... because after my dad died, I was the older sibling, my sister was the baby so it was all about making sure she was ok, not upsetting her, etc ... and it's been that way ever since. I swear, if I had a dime for every time I heard the phrase "Don't upset your sister"(to this very day!), I would be a freaking millionaire. It wouldn't matter who was in the wrong, it always came down to making sure my sister was taken care of. It was what it was. She was the baby and needed taking care of ... but shouldn't this behaviour have stopped when we became adults?
I always wonder at my sister's lack of family loyalty or responsibility and my need(for lack of a better word) for family and this article makes me really think hard about the reason behind all of it ... Case in point - my grandmother. My Grammy helped raise us. She had more input into our lives while we were growing up than any of her other grandchildren. When her hip started getting bad, when she had her hip replacement surgery, and the subsequent years after, I never once thought of the time I spent with her as a burden or a responsibility. It just was. She was my grammy. So I spent what time I could with her. My sister didn't. I was always puzzled as to why she never felt the need or the desire to spend time with Grammy.
I have tried to talk to my sister about our relationship. It never works out. No matter how I approach the topic, she'd immediately get defensive and I'd get the same old line: "you're being over-emotional!". After a while, I just gave up. It was like beating my head against a brick wall. Obviously the situation wasn't going to change. I always ended up pulling back, not talking to my sister, gaining some distance; like the aforementioned "Karen", I gained some peace. But then, I would also get the guilt trip from my mother - she's your only sister, when I'm gone she'll be the only family you'll have, etc... And I would let myself get sucked back in and end up in another situation like this past week.
I know that every relationship has some amount of friction. That's normal human dynamics. But should friction dominate a relationship? I have tried to explain to both my sister and my mother how I feel, but I just get the impatient, disgusted look and the disappointed look, respectively. How do I step back from my sister to gain the peace and distance I need while not disappointing my mother? I honestly don't think it's possible.
Hello Rock, meet Hard Place!