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I've had a strained relationship with my sister for most of my life. As a child I used to blame myself (and be blamed by my parents) for our spats because I was the older sister and I shouldn't have done things to make her so upset. *Note to self: If I am ever lucky enough to have two children I will not always blame the oldest for arguments. As we grew to be adults I had hoped that our fighting would get better. Sadly this was not the case. Our arguments have continued over the years and I have found myself pulling away from her just to keep some sanity.
Why do we argue so much? I think it's because we are so very different. She is a very emotional and dramatic person. She needs constant reassurance and praise. She lives her life on an emotional roller coaster. But she's not content to ride this roller coaster alone, she insists on dragging everyone in her life on it with her. I am a logical, level headed kind of person. I despise drama. I like to think things through and make decisions based on that. I hardly ever get myself whipped up into a frenzy, and when I do I try and keep the people I love out of it. *Maybe the husband would disagree on this last point, but you get what I mean. I dislike confrontation and will often just walk away seething about something rather than saying anything.
So you can see the problem. The things that she needs are things I can't give her and vice versa. My ideal sibling relationship would be calm and supportive. A two way street where we can talk about things in our lives that are bothering us, or what funny thing happened that day. Her ideal sibling relationship would be where she could call me daily with every crisis and allow me to talk her off the ledge each time. I just can't handle her drama. It stresses me out and makes me miserable. Especially since she never takes advice and gets defensive if you challenge what she is doing.
Things really blew up when I went home to visit family back in November. It was my first time seeing the family since my son died and I was in a very vulnerable place. As you can read in that post, things did not go well and I came back from my trip very angry with her. But instead of not saying anything to her which is my normal method of dealing with things. I actually told her how I was feeling.
Since then we have been working hard on our relationship. After I finally told her all about how she's upset me over the years, she also shared with me how she has been feeling. She told me that she did notice that I had been pulling away. She thought this meant I didn't care about her. I told her that I do care, but that I have felt frustrated that she always makes everything about her. Amazingly (well not really) she told me that the reason she talked all about herself that night in my room was because she thought it was a good way to encourage me to talk about my son. I am still baffled at her logic. I told her that there was no room for me to talk about my son because she had made it all about her. I told her that a better way to find out how I am feeling is just to ask me.
It may seem like such a simple and basic thing to do, but it never occurred to just tell her what I need. As much as I know we are different, I still somehow expected her to know how to be a good sister. Apparently she needs me to be very direct with what I like and don't like. So I have been doing that, and it's been working. She is now emailing me every week or so to fill me in on what's happening with her and to ask about what I'm up to. This is huge because in the past any contact between the two of us was either initiated by me, or came via our Mom telling us what the other is up to.
I have forgiven her for making me feel so unloved that day back in November. I know she means well but she's just not good at doing anything that isn't all about her. So if I want a good relationship with her I have to teach her. I'm sure it won't be easy because the rest of the family still caters to her every whim and mood. But maybe what she learns from me will benefit them as well.
So I'm getting to know my sister again, almost like you get to know a new friend. I have no illusions that we will never have another argument. But I am hopeful and optimistic for this new beginning.