Toxic sister

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-15-2003
Toxic sister
5
Mon, 09-15-2003 - 8:29pm
My younger sister and I were always close growing up and well into our 20s, even after we both married, and despite the fact that we're in different states. Then, something changed and I'm not sure what it was or why it happened. Now, we barely even speak. I know why that is...During the past few years, she kept making excuses that she was "too busy" to visit or attend any events (birthdays, etc.) and I finally had enough. I kept asking what was wrong and she made up excuses about being stressed about work or this or that. It came out through the family grapevine that she'd had a health scare and had undergone some medical procedures and she choose not to share this information with me, although she told other members of the family.

About a year ago, our whole family went on a vacation where she and my brother kept to themselves the whole time instead of us all doing things together. It seemed to me that they were avoiding *me* so I confronted them. My brother quickly apologized and said he didn't realize they were doing that. My sister got defensive and started whining. I cut her off and told her that I wasn't interested in what she had to say because our relationship had deteriorated to virtually nothing over the past year.

I've had my own family issues to deal with...I have a terrible in-law situation and my DH and I have gone through counseling because of it. I haven't had time to deal with my sister's dramas. You see, I am the older sister who has always assumed the role of her protector and friend--no matter how terrible she's treated me. My brother nicknamed her "Frosty" when we were teens because she is so COLD. Everyone accepts her selfish and manipulative nature because when she is good, she is very good.

After the confrontation during the vacation, we didn't talk. Then one day, I got a card in the mail where she wrote that she just wanted to let us know that her "dog" was going to be a brother or sister. Yep, that's just how I always pictured that my sister would tell me she was expecting her first child...especially since I went out of my way to tell her my big news in person and before anyone else knew. I was stunned! I called my parents and told them about the card. My Dad said he was tired of hearing about this (say what? I'd never brought it up before) and that I should just call my sister to straighten everything out. He also said my Mom (who is very ill) was heartbroken and sick about the whole thing. So I obediently called her, despite the fact that I couldn't have felt more hurt than if she had stabbed me repeatedly.

On the phone, she actually cried and said she was "too scared" to call me. I played big sister and told her I would always be there for her, blah, blah. She said she wanted me to be a part of her baby's life, blah, blah. When I got off the phone, I called my parents to let them know everything was OK. My Dad said he knew I'd do the right thing. I told my Mom that I was disappointed that they hadn't let me know all of this was going on and that my sister had been talking about me to them behind my back. She just sighed and said, "What would you have done if it were your daughters?" Well, I know that I wouldn't have chosen to listen to one and not the other...

My sister's words were meaningless. She called me twice during her pregnancy. Once on my birthday--a short message to tell me how tired *she* was and that she'd call back later if *she* was feeling well. The other to tell me that one of her friends would be calling me to see if I wanted to help with the baby shower. You've got to be kidding, I thought. After the way she's acted, she expects me to put on a show! She wasn't sincere. She just wanted a gift.

I didn't go to the shower but I sent a gift. However, she didn't send my DD a gift for her birthday (second year in a row that she's stiffed her, although she gave presents to my other children) that was around the same time as her shower. My parents also chose not to attend my DD's birthday party so they could go to my sister's shower--this was the second shower they attended. In counseling, we learned that a lot of family problems occur because people hold their family members to a different standard than their friends. Some people take advantage of their family because they know they're always going to be there for them...others let their family members walk all over them because they are family and they love them.

I have enough toxic relationships in my life. I don't need to indulge another one. So I decided to let go...but not without trying one last time. About a month after the baby was born, my sister invited everyone to her home to celebrate her birthday. We went and I even bought her a nice present. She was polite, but cold. I even called her a couple of days later on her birthday. She was cold again. She sent an impersonal e-mail to thank us for the present and I haven't heard from her since (that was in June).

The thing that stung even worse was when I realized that she had sent a baby announcement to my MIL, a woman that she's only ever seen a handful of times and has no relationship with whatsoever. Other than trying to solicit a present for her baby because my MIL is rich and pretty generous with expensive gifts, I can't imagine why she would send her an announcement...except to add insult to injury. I started to call and confront her with this but I stopped, realizing that I need to just let it go.

Now, my BIL has sent out a group e-mail about the baby being baptized. I don't want to go. If my sister had lifted a finger to try to make this relationship whole again, I would go. But she seems determined to keep the hostility alive and well. I'm not going to be the one to make this all right. I think I've done my part. My DH thinks I'm being unreasonable and thinks we should go just for the baby's sake. I can't make him realize how much I've been hurt by her actions. I've always gone out of my way to make her a part of my life and it seems that all she ever does is try to keep me out of hers. It hurts...so I'm trying to move past the pain.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2003
In reply to: annamaria94
Mon, 09-15-2003 - 9:07pm
I agree with your husband! It takes two to tango. You sound like you have a bit of a chip on your shoulder about all this and if you are not careful its going to turn you into a bitter person. I think you should be the better person and just ignore her if she is cold. You don't have to fall all over her but one person cannot have an argument.
iVillage Member
Registered: 09-15-2003
In reply to: annamaria94
Tue, 09-16-2003 - 10:00am
You're absolutely right. I *do* have a chip on my shoulder because I feel like I'm always expected to be the one who has to make things "better" and she just gets to do whatever she wants. I know it's making me bitter. That's why I posted to see if someone had any advice other than just ignoring it. I've tried talking and she won't be straight with me about what's wrong. I hate to just give up because I really do love her. But I think I'm having a hard time getting over the hateful things she's done to hurt me and exclude me from her life. It also makes me sad that she's dragged other family members into it. I find myself avoiding family members and/or events because I feel uncomfortable because she's talking about me behind my back to my family (esp. my parents). Thanks for your input. I appreciate another perspective!
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2003
In reply to: annamaria94
Tue, 09-16-2003 - 12:55pm
That is what I am saying -- YOU be the better person and put an end to this. I know what I am talking about.

For years and years my Mom would come from England to visit me and then my sister. She always criticized and both my sister and I would feel guilty before she came because we knew we were going to get stressed out and after she left we would feel guilty again because we argued all the time.

Then - all of a sudden the light dawned!! I realized that she was just provoking arguments and pushing my buttons and I jumped right in there. So I decided - that is IT. From that point on - I would not argue with her. If she said "Julian is a lazy idle good for nothing." I said "Hmmm - do you want to cut up some apples and I'll make the pastry for an apple pie?" If she said "You are stupid - I don't know why you let those kids get away with ....." I said "Boy, the weather is nice. Why don't we take the dog for a walk?"

Pretty soon I think she realized that I wasn't going to take the bait and we have gotten along like a house on fire ever since! Honestly!!! Since that day I do not think we have had one argument. Her visits changed from stressful to pleasant. It just needed me to make the decision that whatever happened, I refused to argue. It wasn't me backing down. It wasn't me giving up. It wasn't me letting her "win". It was me being sensible and realizing that the arguments were ruining our relationship. You should do the same if you can.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-17-2003
In reply to: annamaria94
Tue, 09-16-2003 - 1:00pm
Try to be patient and maintain the relationships you have with other family members. If she truly is talking behind your back, it is only a matter of time before everyone figures out just what kind of person she is. In the meantime, focus on what makes you happy. My sister has tried to ruin so many things in my life, it is amazing how she gets away with it. I am just waiting for the day when my mom realizes that my sister is a manipulative meanie. It's hard though, reading this board and talking with other people who have similar problems does help a lot. I feel less bitter towards my sister because I am able to talk about my situation with poeple removed from the emotional stress.

My sister has reassured me she has stopped talking behind my back, but will that make us any closer? No way, damage is done, she and I will never have a special relationship, we are just family, and only see eachother when necessary.

Good Luck

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
In reply to: annamaria94
Tue, 09-16-2003 - 8:21pm
So what? You have a chip on your shoulder. Its hard not to when you have done everything you can to heal the rift even though it is obvious you are the only one interested in doing so while everyone who isn’t, and shouldn’t be invlolved is pointing their fingers at you and telling you that you are not doing enough and babying your sister who just happens to be the one who created and is maintaining the rift. Been there, and I am no longer speaking to my sister. I won’t go into the gory details because that would take a book, but I do know how you feel. All of those people who attributed my problems with my sister to sibling rivalry and my immaturity have now gotten a small taste of what I had been experiencing for years and are calling me in order to vent and to find out the best way to deal with her chaos. Without me in her life to use as a scapegoat, she had to find other people. Vindication is good.

You have a couple of issues here besides your sister’s coldness, but let’s deal with the coldness first. She is telling you exactly what kind of relationship she wants, give it to her. She doesn’t want you in her life in any kind of meaningful way, don’t be. Lower your expectations of her, she may not be capable of giving you the kind of relationship that you want.

Then there is your parent’s involvement. It might be time to sit them down and let them know exactly where you stand, and what your plans are for dealing with this situation. Tell them that you want nothing from them, no sympathy, not to take sides, and especially not to interfere. Tell them that the best chance of the situation changing will be if everyone simply stays out of it. Let them know that you have done what you can, and now it is up to your sister.

I have a couple of conflicting thoughts about the children “not paying” for the parent’s problems. You and your children are a package deal, and the same goes for your sister and her child. It sounds like you and your sister don’t have all that much contact anyway, so I don’t see how the children would be suffering by having even less contact with their aunts. Relationships with children are not about showing up once or twice a year and giving them a gift. Do what you are comfortable with.

About the bitterness and anger, that is entirely personal and has nothing to do with your sister. You choose to feel this way, and you can choose not to let it affect the quality of your life. This is something that I struggled with and really worked at. I was 35 before I had finally gained enough distance that I wasn’t loosing sleep over it. It is tough, but you can do it. BTW, I haven’t really forgiven my sister. Our relationship goes no further until she apologizes, and I don’t care if it takes 20 years for her to do so. I need to know that I won’t be digging any daggers out of my back when she is around. I HAVE let go of the hurt, and I am not bitter or angry anymore. What she has done doesn’t bother me, and I don’t think that she can hurt me personally, but she can harm me in other ways, and I won’t allow that anymore. The book “Dances with Anger” really helped me a lot.