How Do I Deal with My Sister?

Updated on February 11, 2011
T.R. asks from Claremore, OK
10 answers

My much older sister has always held a lot of resentment toward me and we've had a very hard time with our relationship. We don't have any other siblings, and when I became pregnant with my son (december 2008, he's year n half) we found a way to become friends. In the past when I would try I would get burned. She can be a very toxic person and has a very hard time accepting other people. She in general is very self centered. She is very focused on the past and has a hard time letting go of anything, she holds grudges for a very long time, and accepts NO responsibility for any of her actions. She's spent her entire life avoid accountability for herself. She doesn't accept much about me and can be extreamly judgemental. Before getting pregnant I had established really good boundaries with her and we were able to tolerate each other very well without any issues. She is a mother of 3 and I felt that it would be a good opportunity to find a way to connect to her.

Things were going very well up to about 2 months ago. We were seeing each other a few times a month, our kids were all getting along, we mostly avoided anything outside of being moms. Our Aunt (moms side) got diagnosed with a terminal disease and has been given a very short amount of time left. This Aunt would bully me horribly when I was a child, favoring my sister, and feeling like this was a way they could bond. As I got older it got worse, so I did what most people do when dealing with someone so toxic, I have stopped interacting with her. At family functions I don't talk with her, and avoid her completely every chance I get. I haven't spoken to her in about 9 years, and still feel VERY hurt by some of the more recent bullying that's gone on. (letters, emails, social network messages, trash talking to other family, etc) My sister REALLY wants me to go visit her, and about 2 months ago started pushing me and telling me I needed to get past what had happened, pretend that none of it existed and just go visit her. That as long as I don't bring any of it up she'll pretend that none of it happened too. I'm not sure if I want to do that, and I know I don't want to be pushed into it. I feel that this is something I need to be ready for, and more importantly want to do before I do it. I also feel that my aunt should be held to some amount of accountablilty and apologize to me for how horrible she's treated me. I don't expect to get it and it's hard for me to walk into a hospital room, and see how close to death she is and just pretend that everything is great and we're best of friends.

I tried a few times to talk to my sister about this and she would just blow me off and keep pushing me instead of listening to me. So finally a little more than a month ago I confronted her a little more assertivly and told her that she was pushing me, and I needed her to give me space. I would go see our Aunt, but I would do it on my terms not on hers. That I understood what she was trying to do, but that I didn't need or want her help in making amends with our Aunt. She really flew off the handle, brought up a ton of stuff from her past (that had NOTHING to do with what we're talking about) and hung up on me. I got VERY angry, and called her back right away, and told her how angry she had made me. She that same day sent me this HORRIBLE email, filled with hatred and awful things to say to someone. She finished up the email and told me I was not capable of being her friend and that going forward she didn't want to have anything to do with me socially. That at family functions she will pretend that nothing is wrong and she will "smile" and expects me to do the same. I deleted the email soon after reading it so I would go back and keep reading it over and over, I waited a week, and called her. She didn't answer so I left her a message and told her that I wanted to work things out but not through email. That I expected an apology from her and things didn't have to be this way.

That was just over a month ago and not a single peep from what do I do now?? I feel SO ANGRY towards her. When my parents bring her up (I haven't talked to them about this) I just get ANGRY, and I want to lash out. I don't want her to know anything that's going on in my life or my childs life. I want to delete her from my social networks, but at the same time feel that I'm behaving childishly and that I need to just go back to the boundaries I set before. I NEED an apology from her but how far do I take it? How do I move forward with any relationship with her if I exect an apology that will never come? I don't want to end my relationship with her kids, and I want my son to know his cousins, but can I have that if I'm SOOO ANGRY?

Any advice or insights on this are welcome...please I feel I need some guidence.

EDIT: I just wanted to add that I know I have responsibility in this and have apoplgized to her, although it's had to be on voice mail since she won't take me calls.

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answers from Honolulu on

Okay, so your Sister has mental problems.
For which, Only a Therapist or meds can help.
But first, SHE has to see, that she has a problem.
She Obviously has, Personality Disorders.

She uses you, as her Door-Mat.
Again, she will not see that. Unless she realizes it.
She is Toxic.

I, have a Sibling that was like that. Just like that.
All her life.
It was only when my Dad died... that she began to be more human. She got Therapy help. She really became a different person. Still cannot fully 'Trust" her, but she improved.

You cannot change her.
But you need to protect yourself. Maybe see a Therapist too.
Anger in you, about it, is harmful.
It is unbearable.
I know.

This is a Toxic dynamic.
Of which, you either be a part of or not.
Toxic people, ALSO make others "sick" too.
So, know that.

Your Sister is mentally ill.
It is not normal.
But she now, after all this time of mistreating you, is making you.... mentally harmed.
Do NOT let that happen.
It is hard... to crawl out of a hole like that... when others make you, a door-mat and mentally unhappy.

Toxic people like that, MAKE others at 'fault.' Even if it is not, their fault.
That is the dynamic... of mentally ill people and Abusers. Which your Sister is.

Get your bearings and center yourself.
KNOW what is right and wrong.

You CANNOT expect all of them to "apologize" to you.
Even if they did, it will NOT change anything. It will not change them. It will not change you.
So get past, having to hear an apology.

You can only, make yourself better and get past it.
Get away, from Toxic people.

Do not let... a mentally sick person, make you sick too.
Or it will be a dynamic, that you cannot escape... and you will always then, be only reacting to that person. Thereby, they are controlling, you.

You cannot rationalize with people like that.
Don't expect, 'normal' behavior from them.
They are not, normal.

all the best,

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I don't want to be intrusive, but I do wonder: are there mental health issues in your family with some members? To me, the relationship between your sister and aunt sounds like some sort of narcissistic codependent/enabling situation, from what you've described. Or perhaps it goes deeper?

I have people like this in my family, and found that counseling really helped for me. You have awareness that you are responsible for your own actions, and that's important. Do they have any equivalent level of awareness? I know that what really helped me was to figure out how much I could do to make things right, and then to accept--even when it was very painful to-- the limitations of the other people involved.

I'd advise you to take care of you and your own family first. If it is a situation where a personality or mental health disorder is present, I know how much confrontation can mess with your self and your heart, so I'm not one to tell you to get right in there and confront. One question to consider: can you live with yourself if you don't visit your aunt? It sounds to me like a difficult choice, because from what you describe, she seems emotionally dangerous. (and I don't say this lightly)

There are also boards online for people in situations such as yours, forums a bit more specific to what you are describing. I'm not putting anyone on Mamapedia down, however, it really helps to have advice and support from people who have experienced some of these similar situations with their families. So that's one option, but I do think talking to someone who is well-versed in mental health issues will help. (no, I don't think YOU are suffering from them, but this is just such a textbook description of behavior disorder with indications of narcissism, or borderline personality disorder and the enabling family relationships that go with it) Especially because you don't want to involve your parents-- having a more objective third party who can help you figure out how to address this sort of situation can really help.

Good luck,

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I think Susan put it well. I'd just like to add that I had an aunt who actually was always super nice to me but just horrible to my mother. As I kid I was pretty oblivious but once I was an adult and realized how bad she'd been and how much my mother hated her, I decided to cut off ties. My sister didn't go this route so when my aunt was dying, she did visit. I also lived very far away at the time. But my feeling is you don't get off scott free for living a bad life. She had no respect for my mother so that had consequences. So I agree with your handling of your aunt and your sister sounds impossible. She sounds incredibly controlling and you're now letting her control you again by letting her make you so angry. She likely enjoys it... I would'nt reach out, realize she's sick and unfortunately you drew a bad lot in the sibling category. Since she may be enjoying all this, I'd put a smile on too and ignore her for now on. Nothing else you can do and by acting like you don't care, you may beat her at her own game. And do your best not to care bc there's no winning with someone like her...

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

Do we have the same sister? Mine is younger than me but she goes on those degrading email writing trips as well. She will say really hurtful things and then act like nothing ever happened. She will say horrible things to me about things I've done or said and make me look like a monster when really she's so insecure she loves to put others down as much as possible. The last few years she's made it known to the whole family that she is the one doing crazy things. I just keep my distance and talk to those who make me feel loved. I also put a lot of time into loving my kids and I feel so much better at the end of the day instead of when I was dealing with the nonsense. Don't waste your time with it. If you want to see pics of your nieces and nephews and can see them through the internet sites don't delete her. Even if u don't post what's going on in your life you will still be able to see their pics and that might be worth it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Stockton on

Forgiving someone is not for THIER benefit, it is for YOUR benefit. As long as you stay angry at her, you are letting her take control of you and your energy. You are wasting too much of your time and energy on being angry at her.

I think that if you want to have a relationship with her (which you have stated that you do for the kids sake), that you are going to just have to accept her the way that she is, and not expect for her to give you an apology. You know that she is uncapable of doing that. To tell her that you expect her to apologize is just ridiculous. That is not a REAL apology anyways. Realize that she is the way that she is and just don't let her bother you. You are givig her too much control over your life. What she says and thinks doesn't matter. When she gives you her advice just tell her "Hmmm.... I didn't think about it from that point of view, thans for your advice, I'll take that into consideration when I make my decision" and then let it be. Don't argue with her about her advice or her opinion, it does NO GOOD!! It is not worth the headache or heartache.

As far as the Aunt goes. This may be your only chance to see her and say goodbye to her. Once again, forgiveness is not for HER sake it is for YOUR sake. How will you feel in 20 years if you never got past this while she was still alive. You have also stated that your sister holds on to grudges and never forgives etc.....but it sounds like you are doing the same thing with your aunt. Just sayin'......

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

Sometimes I'm glad we've always lived at least a thousand miles away from relatives (our own children not included).

I was trying to think what I would do about your aunt if I were in your place. I would hope that perhaps I could walk into her hospital room, see her simply as a person whose life, such as it was, is nearly over, and be able to speak civilly to her. But I don't know if I could do that. Maybe I could if, as you thought of doing, I went by myself - not with my sister - and could steel myself in advance for whatever the aunt might say to me. But I'm not sure.

Aside from the aunt, however, I'm seeing two issues here: your sister's actions and your responses. You can hold your sister responsible for her bossiness and her harshness, but you can't blame her for YOUR anger. (She evidently has a big enough supply of her own that she's responsible for.) I admit that sometimes it seems the only way to react, but the anger is still yours, and it's hurting you.

Would you consider finding a counselor to help you learn how to deal with this? Even justifiable anger has to be managed or it will turn into bitterness and swallow us (and our families) up. And there are always pesky people to deal with - if not relatives, then other folks.

You can't force an apology - not a real one - from your sister, so you just have to do without it. If she wants to delete you from her life, let her do it. She's made her statement, and you can take it at face value. Let her go. Don't attempt to reconcile again right now, since she has spurned your previous attempts. At the very least, look on this as a cooling-off period. She will probably talk about you, but that's what this sort of person does.

You can send cards to her children (and even to her) on birthdays, and you will need to find some new friends for your little boy (and, by the way, watch what you say about your family when he's around; the old saying is true about the little pitchers having big ears!). Perhaps the cousins will be able to reconnect some time down the road.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

So your sister is allowed to hold a grudge against you for things that she was hurt over in the past and not have a relationship with you but you're not allowed to choose to do the same with your aunt? I'm not saying holding a grudge is ever a good idea, but I do believe we teach people how to treat us. I believe in boundaries and I believe you've set a proper one with your aunt. I might be tempted to go see her and if the opportunity presents itself and you feel OK about it - I would say - I just want you to know that I have been very hurt over things that you've done in the past. I want you to know that it wasn't OK for you to do those things but I've forgiven you. If she tells you she's sorry, then great. If she doesn't then that's HER problem. Someone here said that forgiving someone is for YOU, not the other person. You will feel so much better afterward. Be the bigger person.

As far as this thing with your sister - ugh. I would have printed the email to have as evidence to show your parents should the need arise. I wouldn't expect them to take sides, but at least you wouldn't look like the crazy one. Your sister needs some therapy and maybe you both should go together. I'd set a boundary and let her know that it's not OK to push you around. Send her a note to tell her that if she wants to sit down and discuss the situation calmly, you will be happy to. If she chooses not to, that's her decision. I'd really try some kind of family counseling.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Modesto on

I had a sister, she died of a brain tumor about 30 years ago. I miss her very much. Do what your heart tells you to do.

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answers from Dallas on

Don't waste your life being bitter. Not with your sister, aunt or anyone. You can't change anyone either, so don't expect anything from her. From an outsider reading this, I feel sad for everyone involve. There is so much bitterness everyone is holding onto that is toxic. Forgive your aunt for being mean to you, she's on her death bed. Maybe she wants to tell you she's sorry and you are still holding onto childhood feelings. I'm not saying your feelings don't matter, I just think you have wasted too much time already, your whole family has, by keeping grudges. Why live like that, why harbor such negative energy for so long?
Forgive everyone and move on. If your sister wants to be bitter let her, just don't waste your life being bitter, angry upset... Enjoy life, we only have one...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Bloomington on

As the older sister i feel like i probably am more like your sister. I can be pushy and assertive and get very defensive.
However i feel that in this situation you are correct with sticking to your decison about seeing your aunt.

My sister and i went through a similar situation years ago when i was encouraging her to see our estranged grandparents whom i had started visiting.
She stuck to her guns and refused to visit due to the way they had treated us throughout our childhood. I eventually gave up pushing her because i realized my efforts were futile.

My advice to you would be to try to agree to disagree with your sister.
Although you feel as though she owes you an apology, she probably feels as though what she did was the right thing to do in the situation, just as you do.
Therefore i would suggest you not wait around for an apology because she probably wont give you one.
What you have to remember is she is your sister and she will always be part of your family.
Wait for her to call and be pleasant, dont expect too much from her, be the bigger person and tell her that you love her and since you are sisters try to put the whole thing behind you.

If she brings it up again tell her you are sorry if her feelings are hurt, but that is the way you feel about it and you arent going to change your mind.

Good luck :)

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