August 8, 2019 at 3:58 pm #307207
My space is precious to me, but so is my family- I love people popping around for an evening or a day out but right now my sister is visiting for a month-she’s been here for over week now and I’m finding it hard to keep a sense of myself, as she is a very domineering person and I’m trying to make her welcome- but it is hard. I feel as if I’m just becoming an extension of her- for example she will emphasise how much we have in common when I don’t feel we do anymore-she says she knows I’m glad she shows me how to do things when I’m really not. I feel pushed into being snappy with her when I just want to be my normal self. How do I deal with this? I really feel that she doesn’t know me at all and just talks about herself all the time, when I try to say something about me she takes no notice or changes the subject… I’m starting to feel depressed. Help!August 8, 2019 at 5:23 pm #307223
Rule-of-thumb with our lives is to take care of ourselves first. Yes, easy to say and very hard to do. You did not way how old you are but my guess is that you are in your early 20s. Regardless of your age, you and your mother have a long history with each other. Are you seeing a family therapist? How long?
You also did not say how long she will be staying with you. Make a solid decision on what to do and then talk about that with your therapist.
MarkAugust 9, 2019 at 1:47 am #307265
Thanks for your reply- it made me smile as I am in my early 60s! And my visitor is not my mother who died several years ago, and wouldn’t I love her to pop in? My sister is several years older and yes, we do have a long history and at one time were very close, but she arrived unannounced and has now taken over my home for the next few weeks-she is not an easy guest and yes, it is hard to take care of myself when she is such a domineering person. I am not in therapy- this is just a normal occurrence I am finding difficult. I have to put strategies in place, such as giving myself some space and telling her how I feel when she makes decisions for me. I have lived alone for almost a year and it is hard when someone just turns up and puts you off balance. Thanks for taking the time to reply- I have to put her needs first for a while but this doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice my own. I am ticking off the days, though, (21) until she goes and that is very sad.August 9, 2019 at 5:11 am #307269
You’ve heard the expression about fish and guests only being good for five days, right?
I have some dearest friends in the world and beloved family, but I seldom allow myself or them to stay for weeks on end.
Tell your beloved sister that this is not working. It’s not her (well, it is, LOL) it’s not you, it’s that you are two older ladies. You both are set in your ways, flexibility is not your middle name, and that NEXT visit, let’s cut it down to a long weekend.
Change the script. Take a trip. Go for a walk. Don’t cook. Close the bedroom door. YOU visit a friend and leave her to housesit. Go to an event (alone) and stagger home late.
InkyAugust 9, 2019 at 5:45 am #307273
For your sister to arrive unannounced and decide that she is going to stay for a month is downright rude. I am assuming that she doesn’t live close by so what has happened in her life that she needs to take up residence with you. I might be inclined to research local hotels where she can stay for the second two weeks before she gets the impression that she has a permanent home with you.
Two weeks is long enough to be the welcoming, accommodating younger sister. You will have nothing to reproach yourself for and neither will your sister. If she takes offence, then let her but stand firm.
PeggyAugust 9, 2019 at 9:34 am #307327
“for example she will emphasise how much we have in common when I don’t feel we do… she says she knows I’m glad .. when I’m really not… I really feel that she doesn’t know me at all and just talks about herself all the time. When I try to say something about me she takes no notice or changes the subject.. I’m starting to feel depressed. Help!… I have to put her needs first for a while but this doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice my own”-
but to put her needs first does mean to sacrifice your own needs. Her needs is for you to not exist.. in your own home. In her mind and heart, she has space only for herself.
“When I try to say something about me she takes no notice”- she is not interested in you beyond providing her with a house to stay in during her visit, and maybe food, if you provide that, and a bed to sleep in and of course, someone there for her to talk to. It is depressing and distressing to having to accommodate a guest by… not existing beyond the provider of a house, furniture, food. We need to be seen and acknowledged beyond … beyond being used.
anitaAugust 9, 2019 at 12:59 pm #307377
My apologies about referring to your mother rather than your sister. I am glad you thought it was a compliment with me thinking of you being so much younger.
You have gotten good advice on how to deal with this. You are not being assertive to take care of yourself. You are getting indicators of how this is affecting your health by getting depressed. From what you are posting, you are suffering from her company. If you don’t take steps in helping yourself and allowing your sister to run over you then you are playing the victim.
It IS hard to break out of the family dynamic since I assume this is not new behavior of hers nor how she affects you. Usually how we treat each other and how we each play our roles come from early childhood to adulthood. We usually get stuck at age 8-12 when it comes with being with family.
MarkAugust 9, 2019 at 4:06 pm #307381
Thank you all for your messages- it is difficult and far more complex than space on here allows but today I set some rules for myself- first: if she speaks I listen, even if I’ve heard it before and it is trivial- I make a point to let her say what she wants and I listen- I find it helps not to focus on my discomfort but to just be impartial. However, if I disagree I say that I do, and she rarely counter comments. I think she has been used to provoking people into reacting so I refuse to do it. I really do think that ageing is frightening her and she feels vulnerable but won’t admit it. She is the eldest and we have always been a little deferential, but the adapting has to come from her.
I call her out when she makes loaded statements- she has nowhere to go to with these. Getting old means confronting long held assumptions of the truth which are no longer valid- she struggles with this and I don’t want to belittle her, but at the same time if she is wrong she is wrong.
I am learning that I can deal with it if I watch for the triggers- she has worked on these things all her life and is an expert but I find it rather sad. She thinks I am like her, that I validate her opinions but I am very different and I don’t share her opinions on many things. I have to speak my own truth to her.
Do I feel used? Yes, I do-but she is also very generous in lots of ways and won’t be here forever. When I was younger I idolised her so yes, we can get stuck in past dynamics which have little bearing on our current reality.
I may stagger home late- tonight I fell back on the drink- partly to wind her up!!
Maybe it is a game we can both play- it is very sad but very human too. Getting old is not easy for some people- I think she feels vulnerable which is why she has come to me. Maybe in the end it will be good for both of us. Thanks for taking the time to respond.August 9, 2019 at 5:32 pm #307385
You are welcome.
“she has been provoking people into reacting.. she makes loaded statements.. I can deal with it if I watch for triggers… Do I feel used? Yes I do- but she is also very generous in lots of ways”-
What if you ask her to stop her hard work in the ways that she is being generous and be instead a gracious guest? I mean, just be a nice guest, gracious to her hostess. You can tell her what it means specifically & practically to be a gracious guest (in writing, if you want, for her convenient reading), in case she doesn’t know.
anitaAugust 10, 2019 at 4:39 pm #307499
Maybe I’m wrong, but reading your posts, I think that your sister has the intention or hope of living with you in the future.
It also seems to me to understand that now you are rightly annoyed by your sister’s behavior, especially the fact that she arrived unannounced, but in any case you love her.
Maybe you could, if you feel like it, serenely explain to your sister what your reactions to her behavior are, making her aware that you have changed, you are no longer the girl she is so sure of knowing, and change is a healthy and inevitable thing.
Then, but only if it pleases you, you could suggest that the next time she wants to visit you, she can rent a space in an hotel or in a b & b in your city. In this way you could meet, she would feel reassured by your closeness but you would have your freedom. This, however, only if it is something you like, must not be a duty.August 10, 2019 at 11:00 pm #307523
Thank you Diletta- I think if my sister did decide to come home to live she would want to be in her own space, too. The reasons why she has come here at this particular time are difficult to explain and in some ways are unimportant-what matters are my reactions to what she does and says. She caught me off guard and so far my response to her visit has been very negative.
I am starting to get my own self back- and now say and do things that make me feel more in control. I think she knows I am not her ‘mini-me’ but she has to deal with that herself. I have called her out in a reasonable way on a few things and that has made me feel much better, for instant questioning her throw-away remarks and asking her to justify them, instead of just pulling a face behind her back! Also when she asks a question and doesn’t get the answer she wants, I now remind her that my answer was as valid as her question.
I like to think she will learn from it too, as you say, but that is is not my concern. My own health and well being is paramount here.
I do not know that if, after this, she will ever come to stay with me again- this may be her final visit and so I want to make it a happy one for her whilst enjoying my own time, too.
I have found these messages very helpful and positive for me- so I am grateful for people helping me to get through this. Thank you.August 12, 2019 at 5:56 am #307631
You seem like the type of person who has great experience working through their emotional problems and I am happy to see someone actively adapting their thinking in a positive way.
I have a feeling that you are more than capable of redirecting the tone of your interactions. It might be cliche to say ‘try finding something you actually do have in common.’ I will however suggest that you might be happy to discover things about your sister. Maybe ask her questions about things that have been going on for her recently, something as simple as ‘have you been considering any hobbies recently?’ These are obviously just suggestions, but if you sincerely hear her out and show that you have a solid footing she may feel more comfortable leaning in to that support and finding that commonality of letting you open up in return.