June 19, 2019 at 1:51 pm #299865
My sister and I are 3.5 years apart, myself being the elder. We don’t have any other siblings. From a very young age we have been noticeably different in our attitudes and behaviour. Our dad has called us “Chalk & cheese” since I can remember. Our parents divorced when I was 6 and our mother raised us with our alcoholic father intermittently being present (we have a better relationship with him now). My sister and I have always disagreed and fought. I am now 29 years old and have an overall happy and peaceful life which I believe is down to my choices and my creation. My sister on the other hand does not and I often feel she is the only constant source of extreme fear, anxiety and abuse I have left in my life. I often wish to disengage from her but I feel extremely guilty. I know she is hurting and that’s why she hurts others around her. I continue to forgive & love her and try to help her but I am beginning to feel it is at the detriment of my own peace and happiness and I’m so unsure of what to do.June 19, 2019 at 6:15 pm #299893
I believe in loving ourselves first. Sometimes in order to do that you need to set boundaries in order to protect yourself. I don’t believe you are the one who should rescue her especially if she is not asking for help. There is nothing more annoying is getting “help” when you don’t want it. Plus it sounds like unless she starts working on herself first then you would be throwing your time/energy/money down the proverbial drain.
You can love her at a distance.
MarkJune 20, 2019 at 2:36 am #299913
You sound just like me, a very similar tale. I am the eldest sister by 2.5 years.
My parents never divorced or had issues like yours, but they had plenty of rows!
My sister was the ‘favoured, golden child’ for my mother. I went my own way and learned to avoid them both if possible, as they would both turn on me, bully me and belittle me. My sister still does this. Although I don’t give her much opportunity to do so these days.
Like Mark says, you can love her at a distance. Look up ‘how to establish boundaries with family’ and see if you can put any of the suggestions into practice. Often this is simply letting your sister know that you will not tolerate her behaviour any longer.
In my situation, my sister reverts back to childish tantrums when she can’t get her own way, and hurls insults. It’s very tempting to retaliate in a similar manner, but that would give her the satisfaction that she craves, which is to upset me. I thought it was about time she grew up and I told her so. It didn’t make that much difference, but it made me feel good!
My sister knows now that, if she starts to create disharmony (she loves the drama she creates), then I will simply walk away. Literally, I turn my back and walk out.
Misery loves company. If my sister is not happy then she makes sure everyone else is unhappy too. You have to establish boundaries as to do anything else is both mentally and emotionally exhausting.
JayJune 20, 2019 at 3:04 am #299915
I can imagine your situation. Me and my sister are 3 years apart, me being the youngest. We always had and still have unresolved issues. She has aspergers syndrome, narcissism and intermittent explosive disorder syndrome. She was always attented more from my parents. To this day, in order to avoid her raging outbursts my parents “tutor” me or rather silence me, telling me what to say or don’t say to her… And the list goes on.
The first thing to consider is offering her to go to therapy. If she refuses then start thinking about removing your self from her life. Don’t completely cut off all ties, but rather pick- and- choose the ways and instances of your meetings /communication. Especially if you have kids, you have to remove them from their aunt in a gentle way (for example saying you want some sister/girls only time with your sister) and then, if she changes you can integrate her back slowly. In a word, monitoring. Monitor your relationship, communication and time with her and the way she is in your world.
What have you tried so far and what is the outcome?June 20, 2019 at 4:28 am #299925
Thank you all for your advice. We do intermittently take breaks from seeing one another as things get very explosive. I guess my issue is that I feel extremely guilty at the thought of taking a step back from her. I find it near impossible to not “take on” her issues and problems which can make me very unhappy, anxious ect but the thought of not being there to help her makes me feel like a bad sister. I don’t know what feels worse the guilt of not helping or the unhappiness and anxiety of being involved in her life.June 20, 2019 at 4:45 am #299929
Nothing creates distance like distance. If you live in the same town, move. If you live within an hour of each other, move. I know that’s not fair, but you will find your mental health improve in a dramatic way if you do.
Phone calls/texts: Limit how often you talk or respond. For one of my friends I s-l-o-w-l-y cut back to seeing that person once a year, talking on the phone once a month and responding to texts (limited one word/emoji answers!!) to once a week. Of course, you don’t tell them you’re doing this, and you don’t do this all at once. And yes, they hate it. And yes, there will be an eventual extinction burst where they act horridly horrid. But it’s totally worth it!!
Holidays: Break the family tradition and go away!! They will hate that, there will be guilt on all sides, but the first year is the hardest.
Read the classic book Boundaries by Townsend (I believe). It’s all about Assertiveness.
InkyJune 20, 2019 at 4:46 am #299931
Yes, the guilt is something you have to deal with. I feel the same with my sister. Most of her problems are self inflicted, but I was told by my grandparents to ‘always love and look after your little sister’, and so that’s what I was brought up doing. It’s a long ingrained habit for me, and was extremely hard for me to give up, especially the guilt. I still feel guilty sometimes, but it’s better than the anxiety it causes to argue or try to sort her problems out for her.
My sister is a fully grown adult, well over the age of 50, as I am, yet still blames everyone else for the way her life turns out. She is never wrong, she is a victim of circumstance. She would never admit her problems are brought about by herself and her own decisions, she is always the victim.
Was there anyone in your childhood that said something similar to you?June 20, 2019 at 10:41 am #299989
It’s only guilt if you are (not) doing something that you should do. I contend that you have a misplaced belief that you *should* be doing something for your adult sister especially to the detriment of your own well being.
Work on loving yourself rather than focusing on your sister.
MarkJune 20, 2019 at 2:42 pm #300045
Thanks all for your advice. In response to Sofioula I have tried to stay calm and say I won’t be spoken to this way/treated this way and remove myself from the situation but she has always displayed this type of behaviour and my family and I are quick to forgive so I guess she almost “gets away with it” and repeats the behaviour as soon as things are not going her way. I definitely agree she probably needs her own therapy. I agree with you Mark I think I do have a misplaced belief that I should be helping her and supporting her and it’s difficult to make that thought shift although I’ll definitely try :).June 20, 2019 at 5:30 pm #300051
I,ve had the same situation with my Mother, which always seems to trigger me. I was reading something i found helpful and thought id pass it on. You should say nothing do and be nothing. This way there is no reaction and let her comments slide off as though you are oil and her comments are the water that slides off the oil, like water off a ducks back.June 21, 2019 at 12:49 am #300095
I have tried to stay calm and say I won’t be spoken to this way/treated this way and remove myself from the situation but she has always displayed this type of behaviour and my family and I are quick to forgive so I guess she almost “gets away with it” and repeats the behaviour as soon as things are not going her way.
What you say here above is exactly the same as it is with me. The rest of my family (that is, myself, my father, and my grandparents) over the years have all done the same thing. We are quick to forgive and so the behaviour that my mother used to display (my mother now has dementia and is no longer capable of behaving this way), and the behaviour my sister still does display, just keeps on going. Someone has to break the cycle.
I believe my sister learned this behaviour at my mother’s knee as a child. Both her and my mother are/were drama queens, to put it politely – always wanting all the attention, always wanting everything their own way, always jealous of others, often selfish and self centred, always demanding attention…. and so on, and yes – always forgiven afterwards. So my sister learned that it was ok to say and do anything she liked, even though she knew it was wrong, and that she would indeed ‘get away with it’.
You have to stand up for yourself and make your sister understand that her behaviour is unacceptable. When my sister said something totally out of order, I said, ‘I’m going now. I won’t forget what you just said’. And you have to mean what you say. What you are actually saying is that she had better think twice about what she says in the future, because you are not going to forget it, and, by implication, not going to forgive her for it either.
I hope this helps.
JayJune 21, 2019 at 9:06 am #300179
Thanks for sharing your experience. That must have been tough with 2 people close to you behaving this way. My dad and sister share many similar traits so maybe it is similar to how you have suggested and that is is learned behaviour. I spoke with my therapist this morning and she has said it is a boundary issue. My sister does not like others enforcing boundaries and it is in all aspects of her life. She has always struggled to keep a job and we thought it was because she had issues with authority but I now realise it is in situations where she has to adhere to boundaries, for example she is not supposed to use her personal mobile phone during work hours due to client confidentiality (she can on breaks ect) and she has been in trouble at work because she struggled with this boundary.
The more I understand how other’s behaviour and choices affect me and how I feel, the better equipped I feel in dealing with those situations that make me feel uncomfortable. I am learning to have more peaceful and mature reactions and this is helping me deal with situations that would normally create great distress and anxiety for me. I am learning that I cannot control or manage other people’s behaviour, but I can become more equipped with how I react and deal with them which feels great and empowering. 🙂June 21, 2019 at 10:12 am #300203
It may be a good idea for you to arrange a family therapy sessions that will consist of you, your sister and the therapist you see, for a few sessions, so to examine core issues and most importantly, to learn how to communicate with each other, having an EAR for one another, (standing for Empathy, Assertiveness and Respect).
anitaJune 25, 2019 at 2:18 am #300659
The more I understand how other’s behaviour and choices affect me and how I feel, the better equipped I feel in dealing with those situations that make me feel uncomfortable. I am learning to have more peaceful and mature reactions and this is helping me deal with situations that would normally create great distress and anxiety for me. I am learning that I cannot control or manage other people’s behaviour, but I can become more equipped with how I react and deal with them which feels great and empowering.
You are on the right track here. keep with it.
A family therapy session with your sister (as Anita suggests) might be a good way forward.
Best wishes, Jay
- This reply was modified 2 weeks, 6 days ago by JayJay.