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Is DH right? Is my sister toxic? (Long sorry)

(68 Posts)

Have namechanged for this. And am going to post 2 OPs here - 1 the basics and 2 some background so I don't get accused of dripfeeding - so sorry if it is long.

My Dsis is 2 years older than me. She has just split up with a lovely guy she had been seeing for just over a year. She was going to finish it as he was unable to commit to taking the relationship to the next level, he did not show her enough love, affection, sex. As it turns out, before she had the opportunity to finish things, he finished with her - he was honest and said he just couldn't feel or give enough to move it forward. So, as of last weekend, and due to choices she has made in her life, paths taken, things which happened she is now 44, childless and single. Despite the fact she was planning on finishing it, she is understandably hurting and upset. She is feeling incredibly broody and her life aim (marriage, children) is looking increasingly unlikely.

As soon as I heard last weekend (I was on my way out to a farm with the DC and my best friend and her DC) I said to come and join us - to bounce on the trampolines, feed the animals etc and have hugs and distraction. I (and my friend) were sympathetic but not overly "woe is life/poor you." Though there were certainly hugs/tea etc. We had a chat over the phone during the week. I offered some sympathy but also tried to be jolly with her.

She then called me last night just as I was serving tea up to DD and her playdate. I answered the phone and said I couldn't talk and I would try to call her back later. However, playdate went home later than planned and by time I had got DCs to bed, chatted with DH and collapsed on the sofa I forgot. I am bad. I forgot. I realised when I went to bed and sent her a message to apologise.

As soon as I had a chance this morning I called her. I knew instantly from her tone that the call was not going to be a good one. I instantly said sorry for not having called her back. She was sounding very miserable and mopey. I tried to sound bright and breezy and invited her over. She went all teary and said she couldn't her flat was a tip, she needed to do her ironing, her washing up, fix a light. I suggested she leaved it, or used some of (not inconsiderable) salary to just pay someone this time round to do her ironing, fix the light. She bit my head off saying it took so long to organise this stuff and her head was in a bad place and having her flat a tip was making her feel worse.

Argghhhhhh. To be honest it is her constant refrain that her flat is a tip. She always leaves piles of washing up and ironing to build up and then whines when she has to do it. I have lost count of the times I have gone to visit her and ended up washing up for her (everytime I go I think). FFS she is 44! She lives alone. No-one else is there to make the mess. No-one else is there to clear it up. If you hate living in a tip keep it tidy.

If she had asked me I would have gone over and helped her. BUT I was not going to offer. I have done that before and had it thrown back in my face (her sitting down being miserable with the "well you offered to come over so get on with it".

Oh god, sorry. Am waffling. So. She then started shouting at me for not telling her it was all going to be OK and she was going to feel better. That she had jobs to do. How was an invitation to mine going to help her. She needed sympathy and poor me comments - not offers to come over. I told her I had invited her so she could come for some love and sympathy and to take her mind of things. That I was sorry I had not given her what she wanted but there was no need for her to be rude.

She hung up one me, I tried to call back. She did not answer.

I went and spoke to DH about it. He told me to not let it bother me, that DSis would not have been happy until she had upset me/ had an argument. That regardless of what I had said DSis would not have been happy. And this pattern had been going on for as long as we had been together (13 years). He said I should try to disengage. My sister was only ever happy about/with me when I had problems. Her life was all about her, her, her. That he dreaded it if she ever called at the weekend because invariably that something about it would upset me.

Well wow. That was a bit of a heart-blow. He was BTW incredible gentle as he said this. He also, as the oldest of 8 very close brothers and sisters, knows about sibling relationships.

He reminded me of several examples - in the post below - no need to read if you don't want to...but some of this is for my clarity - and to show this is not one-off.

I am in tears writing this. She is my Sister. I thought she was my friend too. I thought she wanted me to be happy. I thought she was there for me.

But I am horribly scared DH is right. She is just self-absorbed. She is hugely jealous of my life (DH, DC). She had told me so. She has been jealous of me all our lives. I was more popular at school. I was better at exams. She says has has low self esteem as our mother loved me more that her. This is my fault? Oh god. Is DH right? It this a classic case of you cannot chose your family?

What do I do?

She is needy, demanding and clearly hurting at the moment.
But - she is like this 80% of the time - and it is always someone else's fault.
I do not think that anything I could do or say would be enough.
She is lovely to my DC. I cannot cut her out of my life. But I think I need to change stuff going forward. I cannot change her. I need to change me. How I react to her differently? Or is DH wrong.

So confused.

Sorry is so long.

Just some snippets. These are just some of them. But they are how she reacted to major life events of mine. I think the similar stuff happens on a daily basis but I just brush it off.

1) Her calling me at 3am in the morning when the married man she was seeing (don't start me on that one) told her he was leaving his wife for another woman (ie not my Sis) as this other OW was pregnant. Yep she needed support. I was getting up at 5.30am in those days to drive 2 hours to work as had just moved in with DH but not changed jobs. Knackering times.
2) She wanted same married man (split up from wife and other OW but no way committed to DSis) to be invited to our wedding. He was horrifically controlling and unreliable. Sure enough he was 4 hours late - so my Sis who was supposed to be my chief bridesmaid was fretting and teary about him not turning up rather than me (sorry - selfish moment).
3) She had offered to sleep at ours on our wedding night to tidy up and make everything nice for our return from our wedding night hotel. A lovely gesture. Unprompted by us. We ended up with her in tears and asking up to hurry back the morning after our wedding as married man had "dumped" her that morning and she needed a hug. FFS the morning after her wedding.
4) She can never, ever say anything nice about anything of mine or anything I do. An outift "It would have looked better with xyz". My forever home which we totally renovated? That I had angsted for months over the decor and finishes? "Well I would have never have bought it." Even when I (a bit emotionally) asked her to please say something nice "Well it is not my taste".
5) Her constant references to me being prone to depression whilst pregnant. It felt a bit like a vulture waiting to pounce and say "well I knew you would get PND". When I did - her solution, to come and expect to waited on hand and foot, cuddle my baby and not listen, offer practical help. Nothing.. except a gleeful "I told you so".
6) I got a brand new car - I picked her up in it to take us to a concert. Her comment "phew - it smells horrible, that yucky new rubbery smell".

I agree with your DH, she sounds awful.

She would be justified in criticising my appalling name-change fail...opps blush

Yep your dh is right.

She likes to be centre of attention.

FattyMcChubster Sat 18-May-13 22:44:09

I think you know the answer here.
You can't choose your family I'm afraid. Just because she's related to you doesn't make her a good person to have in your life.
Ask yourself, what positives does she bring to the relationship?
This isn't a case of all or nothing, you don't have to cut all ties but you do need to stop her making you feel so bad.

Cerubina Sat 18-May-13 22:55:32

Absolutely everything she says to you is coloured by jealousy of you and I think she feels you are her greatest competitor. It's palpable in the examples you give. Your wedding day may have been one of the worst days of her life (I'm guessing) - if she had no proper boyfriend to invite then she had to have the married man there to save face, he behaved like an arse and she felt humiliated, it completely backfired on her. But she could bring you down too by dragging you home, so she did. The comments on your outfits and car are clearly brought on by jealousy - she feels she has to bring you down a peg or two.

This is just how I perceive her mindset to be, not how anyone should behave, clearly.

I'm not sure that makes her a toxic person generally because we only have your account of her, but your relationship is definitely full of enmity. You need to consider whether it would be productive to call her on it and say this is unhappy for both of you, can't you start again etc etc - it may well not be.

One thing I would say is that I can imagine she feels hurt that your responses seem to involve asking her to come to you, rather than the other way round. It's not always easy to drop things when you have children etc but looking at it from her viewpoint, if she's just been dumped and is asked to travel to you, join in with what you (happy family etc) were going to do anyway, it probably does feel as though you're not busting a gut to care that she's single again.

Ultimately it sounds like a really complicated situation to unravel, it is probably very deep seated with her and also if she's just generally the kind of person to brood, feel 'woe is me' and blame others, you probably couldn't do right for doing wrong anyway.

Maybe a starting point for now might just be to acknowledge to her how she feels and try hard not to make comments/do things that she might interpret as 'parading' your happiness and sorted-ness in front of her?

OK, so practically what can I do? A stock phrase when the "me, me, me" stuff starts coming? I did this with my DM when she did the "grandmotherly advice" thing - just stock phrase (half pinched from MN) and soon the advice stopped without any offence caused.

TBH I just wanted to tell her to fuck off. Or message or put something really PA on facebook. But I am glad I didn't.

What do I say to the PA from her? To the jealous digs? To the criticism. How do I not let her criticisms upset me.

I think I almost preferred being blind to this. sad

purplewithred Sat 18-May-13 22:55:54

I remember the moment when the scales fell from my eyes about my father - I'd painted this fantasy broken hero picture of him so I could hide from the truth that he was a feckless selfish snob. It feels like you've had a similar epiphany with your sister. It's tough, a bit of a bereavement. She sounds self centred and victim-y and a bit pathetic; I'm afraid dh is right. He has the benefit of detachment and it sounds like he could be fantastic in guiding you to a healthier relationship with her.

Cerubina - some really valid points there. And maybe some good clarity about how she may feel re the "parading" thing.

I suppose one thing I did forget to mention is that I am recovering from depression at the moment myself. On ADs. They are working and mostly I am now feeling good. I am still very "delicate" though - IYKWIM. Mostly though I am relishing the fact that I am beginning to love me life and love myself again. So I may be parading to myself if that makes sense because I am so glad to be on the mend. But should I be miserable or down because she has been dumped by someone she was going to finish with anyway?
I am scared this situation could so easily drag me down. So I am being selfish. Or is it self-preservation?

And to be really honest, I have run so many times when she has been dumped/been low/been miserable that I think I have run out of steam. And I know it done for my sister but some appreciation would have been nice.

Oh am still confused. Maybe this is more about me being a cow?

Opps, keep cross-posting. Bereavment is exactly how I am feeling. For me. And for her as well. That suddenly what I thought would be a wonderful sibling relationship for the whole of our lives actually isn't . It is actually flawed.

I want to fix it. But I do not think I can. And I know my sister - she will not take any responsibility or change. So I have to.

I want her to be happy. But looking at the relationships she has had in the past she has sabotaged them one way or the other (largely by being self-centred and needy).

OddSockMonster Sat 18-May-13 23:15:12

I agree she sounds very jealous to the point of resenting you. It kind of sounds like you could both do with a bit of distance from each other, though not full cutting contact. She would be able to get on with her life without feeling hard done by compared to you, and you sound like you could do with a break! Self-preservation is very valid, especially when you're getting over depression.

Cerubina Sat 18-May-13 23:16:52

No, no, definitely not that OP - being the envied sister is probably absolutely nothing to do with what you've done and only about what she sees/perceives. She undoubtedly has a very self-centered world view and it would be surprising if she's easy to be around for other people and only hard going with you.

I can sympathise with not running to her side given this is the latest of many similar events. It's not the wrong thing to do, but I hope I was clear that I was trying to illustrate how she might see things through her eyes.

Like I say, it might be impossible for you to do or say anything that she feels is enough, and therefore some kind of distancing from her must be a good idea for your mental health. What do your parents make of it? Do they see a jealousy dynamic in her?

My DF never makes any comment. My DM is aware of the jealousy. They have been on the receiving end for years of a daily phone call from Dsis when she has felt lonely in the evenings. During the last year whilst in the relationship this has reduced to a saner once or twice a week. DM said that the daily calls were draining and it had been lovely she was happy and not calling as much.

DM was worried that because she and DF are on holiday at the moment and relationship being over may cause Dsis to call me daily instead. DM told me/advised me just to tell DSis I was tied up with the children and couldn't talk for long. Not to let Dsis bring me down.. They are leaving their mobiles on whilst on holiday (unheard of them - their mobiles are never on grin ) and told Dsis to call them.

She is lonely. I wish she wasn't. I wish she was happy. Whether on her own or with someone. But her loneliness is not something I can fix - is it?

Mumsyblouse Sat 18-May-13 23:48:59

No, you can't fix it, all you can do is decide what you have to give, offer that, and get out of the way of the rest. There isn't any point in letting her pull you down too, especially when you are doing so well. Practice saying 'oh dear' in a slightly distanced way when she starts on her next 'poor me' speech- she needs an audience and an outlet, and if you fail to provide that, then she may simply not call you so much. Or set aside the time you are prepared to spend listening/with her- and stick to that, everything else, you are sorry but you are busy.

I feel sorry for her in some ways, yes the life she wanted is slipping through her fingers and she is deeply jealous but that's not your fault and you shouldn't have to carry her burden. I think if you pull away a bit though, and stop indulging her pity party and just get on with your own life (so no dramatic going over there, paying for her cleaner not appropriate) this may get quite a bit better, you are helping her by not indulging her too much.

I don't think you need to reframe your whole relationship, you can still love someone even though they are flawed, but you can limit how they affect you and this is what you need to do (and ditch the gilt).

Mumsyblouse Sat 18-May-13 23:49:24

Guilt, not gilt! Distracted and tired. I'm sure you know what I mean!

"Oh Dear". I like that as a starting point. I had discussed with DH a "stock" response but I could only think of "I am sorry you are feeling bad/lonely etc" but DH said not to apologise/say sorry as it is not my fault.

Thank you everyone ,this has really helped. Not totally toxic, but there are some relationshhipflaws and stepping back a bit probably wise.

And although I maybe delighted with how much more I am loving life I will be sensitive to not rub it in.

And her personal situation and feelings (unless to do directly with something I have said/done) are not my fault. Her jealousy not my fault.

OK. Deep breath. This will be OK. And DH there to hold my hand.

I may still have a little weep though. sad

bbqsummer Sun 19-May-13 00:21:24

It seems to me op that you just don't like your sister and that you haven't for a long time. The way you speak about her is very sad. derogatory and patronising about her life and no children etc.

Could you just not do the worse thing in her situation ie invite her over to your husband and kids-filled house when she's so upset? Instead maybe meet her for coffee on her own territory while your husband looks after your children etc?

But I think you just don't like her and are sick of her by the sounds of it. So just disengage because you can't give her the solace she needs. sad

bbqsummer Sun 19-May-13 00:23:48

You sound a bit therapied-out also - ie repeating 'this is not my fault' etc.

Do you have other siblings your sister can talk to? i am guessing not. It doesn't sound like your parents are people she can turn to either. sad

Glad you have DH to hold your hand though.

calypso2008 Sun 19-May-13 00:37:17

Firmly with bbq

Could you not have just gone to see your sister? You sound unkind and self-absorbed. You also sound as if you are not letting her talk about things - also you sound like you are delighting in the fact she is single and will not have children. You really do.

As for having 'a little weep' about you sister and how toxic she is, well - no, I am not buying that.

You sound really smug and unpleasant - sorry, but you do.

Poor sister.

forgetmenots Sun 19-May-13 00:38:30

BBQ are you the OP's sister?

Fwiw, I think it's very thoughtful of the OP to come on and try to look at the relationship in different ways, to look at how it can be mended. That shows me that she is willing to try different tacks in order to stay connected with a very difficult relative, something she is not in the least bit obliged to do.? If anything her sister has been the patronising one, who the fuck says to someone with PND 'I told you so'?

All power to you OP. I think you have to keep a distance and not feel you can fix all your suster's problems, but being a source of suppor for her is kind and I'm sure one day she will see that.

forgetmenots Sun 19-May-13 00:39:11

Apologies for really duff typing there smile

calypso2008 Sun 19-May-13 00:44:55

I doubt bbq is the Op's sister, neither am I.

Next time my sister (who is unmarried and childless btw) has a heatbreak, I will say - come and bounce on a trampoline and have some tea with me and my best friend and her and my children and not be 'overly poor you'.

Then I will post about it on an internet forum.

Great. hmm

forgetmenots Sun 19-May-13 00:48:46

I read it more as the OP trying to be sympathetic to her sister but also just being normal - works for some to just carry on. It obviously didn't for her sister, but I don't think it was heartless or unkind...

... Different interpretations of the same post might be helpful for OP figuring this out though.

calypso2008 Sun 19-May-13 00:48:57

Out of interest, why would you and your DM be discussing and not wanting to speak to your sister/daughter every day, in times of distress?

She calls you - you are coming up with excuses, the pair of you - horrible.

I don't get it. I don't get the conspiracy against her.

bbqsummer Sun 19-May-13 00:51:48

Oh dear, no am not her sister. confused

It just seems the op has a lot of support - from lovely dh and parents etc.

So I don't see the point of asking an internet forum how to help her sister who seems to have a lot of problems?

Op is very firm with saying she already doesn't feel any responsiblity towards her sister's problems or helping her solve them and has made firm boundaries in this, so why besmirch her on here and ask if her DH is right in describing the sister as 'toxic' ?

There have been very sad stories on here with family connections really and truly being bad but this OP just seems a bit smug married to me. Sorry but she doesn't come across as liking her sister at all.

calypso2008 Sun 19-May-13 00:53:00

I was more popular at school. I was better at exams. She says has has low self esteem as our mother loved me more that her. This is my fault? Oh god. Is DH right? It this a classic case of you cannot chose your family?

Yes, for your poor sister.

forgetmenots Sun 19-May-13 00:55:29

Sorry BBQ, was being a wee bit tongue in cheek there and it didn't come across. flowers

I thought as OP was on meds and as she didn't want to accept that her sister was toxic (not sure that she is btw) she just wanted a sounding board. Have done it myself when I could have asked people in RL but the MN collective wisdom even when it's conflicting can be helpful.

calypso2008 Sun 19-May-13 00:56:18

I am in tears writing this. She is my Sister. I thought she was my friend too. I thought she wanted me to be happy. I thought she was there for me.

I think she needs you to be there for her.

arsenaltilidie Sun 19-May-13 00:56:45

Okay you know yourself, you care and love your sister ie. if she is in trouble you'd help her.

Just dont let it bother you, accept she will always be like that and there is no point in trying to change her.
Once you accept that's how she is, her little jibes will bother you less. Things like the argument of why you didn't offer to go to hers will bother you less and less.
"its Sarah being Sarah again..hmm"

If she does something silly, call her out on it.

She is behaving like a child, then treat her accordingly.

bbqsummer Sun 19-May-13 01:03:58

arse has a point I suppose.

And also remember, always, that you are more popular and better at exams than your sister. And remind her of this. Often. Then she will eventually learn that you and your unforgiving H are not able to help her and that she really must learn to help herself and stop relying on her toxic family.


calypso2008 Sun 19-May-13 01:07:08

Yes, yes bbq - precisely smile

deleted203 Sun 19-May-13 01:15:43

I can't see any 'conspiracy' against DSis confused. OP doesn't sound smug married - she sounds at the end of her tether with a demanding nightmare of a sister. And personally, I can't see what was wrong in inviting her to come along to watch DCs bounce on a trampoline, etc. She was asked to come along and join them for hugs, tea and sympathy - plus a bit of distraction.

What should OP have done, as a matter of interest? Abandoned the DCs and run to sister's side? She was already on her way to a farm trip with friends. Sister is a 44 yo adult - who'd had a man she was planning on dumping very gently tell her he couldn't offer her what she wanted out of life. Boo fucking hoo! Grow up and get on with it. Why should anyone have to rush to her side and console her?

The wedding scenario sounds a nightmare - and there is no way I'd have rushed back the morning after my wedding to hug anyone who was upset over their own relationship. How fucking selfish can you get?

OP I think your DH sounds lovely and level headed and incredibly patient over how demanding your sister is - and how much she intrudes into your lives. She is jealous and self pitying, but at the end of the day no one can improve her life except herself. Yes, things may have not turned out as she hoped - but it sounds like a great deal of this is due to her own behaviour and poor choices. You cannot do anything about this. You have offered as much support as you can. I would not be bending over backwards any more for her. I would be briskly offering what I felt I could and if she whined or complained that that was not enough I would simply say 'Tough. I do have a family and life of my own.' I think your response to her phone call was perfect - up to the point where you tried to call her back. I would not have bothered. I'd have let her phone me - and then mentioned the fact that she put the phone down on me having shouted at me.

You are right that you can't change her behaviour. You need to distance yourself from her, IMO. She doesn't love or like you. She just wants someone she think 'owes' her the need to listen and respond to her demands for attention; someone that she has the right to manipulate. Being born to the same parents doesn't mean you 'owe' her anything, now. You have a DH and DCs and you have offered what you can. It has never been good enough for her. I get the feeling that however much you do she will always resent that it wasn't enough. She sounds desperate to be No1 in someone's life - but it can't be yours. You have other people you need to prioritise over your sibling.

garlicgrump Sun 19-May-13 01:16:50

I'm with Calypso and BBQ. I don't think either of you sound toxic, btw, just a pair of sisters with an imperfect relationship. Despite your cute self-deprecation over being a little bit "me, me, me," OP, you are! I reckon your sister's right and you are the Golden Child. This comes with its own problems, to be sure ... one of them can be failing to understand why people seem to get pissed off with you! Golden Children sometimes take quite a bit of privilege for granted, making them lack empathy with people who have the normal (or above average) amount of problems in life.

So - if you're willing to take various perspectives on board - why not take a two-pronged approach? Defuse your sister's angst with a liberal application of "Oh dear"s and "Poor you"s (actually listen, btw, or at least do a convincing impression!) but don't try to advise her or make promises you won't be able to keep. And put yourself out a bit for her while she's hurting. Take her out for dinner, just the two of you, or go shopping with her or something. Instead of slotting her into your life, make it more of a two-way thing and slot into hers as well.

I hope it works out between you. As I said, neither of you sound that bad and it'll be enriching for both of you if you manage to stop acting out your childhood battles smile

calypso2008 Sun 19-May-13 01:23:39

Great post garlic smile Absolutely about fitting into her life more.

bbqsummer Sun 19-May-13 01:25:17

Boo fucking hoo! Grow up and get on with it

nice one. Long post saying a load of diddly squit there.

I don't give a fig about it. You have a lot of RL support OP - as you have explained - so stop sucking oxygen out of internet ghosts who can offer you feck all as we don't know your sister.

<<hugs to your sister though - she hasn't even got a jacking trampoline>>

calypso2008 Sun 19-May-13 01:30:22


I might have 'a little weep' because I haven't got a trampoline either. Then, I might phone my mother about it and diss my sister, again. Then I will tell DH about it.
Then I will tell MN about it.
Then I will bounce on my trampoline and congratulate myself. Then I will feel sorry for myself about my 'toxic sister', rather than take her to the pub and listen to her for an hour, I will avoid all phone calls from her and phone my mother instead.

bbqsummer Sun 19-May-13 01:33:24


bbqsummer Sun 19-May-13 01:36:29

Op, I have a big bouncy trampoline and a litre of vodka. Pm me your sis mobile no, as between us I reckon we can earn £250 from YBF and still have coinage left for an icecream

I have to agree with bbq and calypso It shocks me how uncaring MN massive is, telling people to distance themselves and their perfect lives away from friends/family who need them. It about the 4th thread this week I have read with the same responses!!

calypso2008 Sun 19-May-13 01:40:47

You see - that is what your sister needs OP. You are no doubt in bed having 'snuggles' with your DH. But your sister needs vodka and a bit of empathy.

And bbq's trampoline.

She does not need tea and no sympathy and loads of children and your mother and you bitching about her. Not to mention your DH.

Right, I am in a different time zone but it is even bed time for me.
Good night bbq smile

olgaga Sun 19-May-13 01:48:39

Would you want to be friends with anyone else who made you feel so in the wrong for just being yourself and enjoying the life you have?

I noticed that after I had been taking anti-depressants for a while I did start to think differently about situations which dragged me down. I was less tolerant, because I stopped blaming myself for everything. That is a good thing - it is part of recovering from depression.

For someone aged 44, she sounds very dependent on her family. Her behaviour at your wedding is not that of a mature person at all - she seems unable to be anything but the envious sibling when she's with you. Partly that's because her life hasn't moved on the way yours has. If your mere existence is a constant reminder of her feelings of injustice or inadequacy, perhaps you would both be better off without so much contact between you.

I think you have to decide whether you actually want to be friends with your sister, warts and all. Whether you do or not, you certainly don't need to be in each other's pockets.

She's your sister, but that doesn't mean you have to be friends. She isn't entitled to grind you down and make you unhappy. And if you are making her unhappy, she needs to look elsewhere for support. Her happiness or otherwise is simply not your responsibility, it's hers.

While few adult siblings have severed their ties completely, approximately one-third of them describe their relationship as rivalrous or distant.

Snog Sun 19-May-13 06:55:38

Your sister isn't "toxic" but unhappy and I feel more sorry for her than for you although clearly this relationship is upsetting and tiring for you.
She looks to you for support and solace but you don't give her this even though you try to. Both of you are sound quite wrapped up in your own lives and lacking understanding or empathy for the life of the other one.

I think you need to work out an effective way to support and console your sister. Your ideas so far are insensitive ( you can't have a family so come and hang out with my lovely family to make you realise what you're missing)
If you could support your dsis effectively when she asks for it your relationship would be better.

Wow. Some interesting points. And I will take them on board. Very, useful to have different opinions though I feel some of them are really unnecessarily harsh and bitchy!

And to answer a few thought from people
1)bbq you are right, at this precise moment I do not like my sister very much. That does not mean I do not love her and want to support her. But after yesterday my "liking" level is low. It has happened before, it will happen again.
2) My mother and I talk about my sister. Yep. Wow. Amazing that. Family members discussing each other. Thhe description of the conversation was in response to another posters question and summarized. We did not bitch about her. My mother is allowed to vent though as she does find the phone calls draining sometmes. My mother has done huge amounts to support my sister over the years. As have I.
3) The reason I posted here was to get a wider perspective. Which i have got. It was not just to be smug or bitchy or horrid. FFS that maybe how some people use anonymous internet boards. I was emotionally hurting and wanted perspective before I built brick walls around my emotions re my sister. This thread has made me think some more. I know I cannot change her. I need to change my reaction to her. I needed and received viewpoints on that.
4)I invited her over becuase in the past that is what she has asked for in times of her hurting. And she has said before it is exactly what she needed. She loves my DCs is a wonderful aunt and can be fab company. So historically if you like I was not being insenstive to ask her over. If she had not been so viscious to me, or asked me I would have gone. But was not going to offer myself for the umpteenth time to be the one to go and clean her flat for her. Now, from the MN perspective maybe it was insensitive, but has never been an issue in the past.

I shall think on my own actions. I shall try to be less insenstive. I will offer support. But (and no I have not had therapy) her life choices, her happiness is down to her.

WinkyWinkola Sun 19-May-13 09:39:30

I think you could have made some one on one time for your sister. Tea and hugs without children around.

She does sound immature and needy though.

On your wedding day and morning after, did you tell her she was being out of order?

I think either you start being honest with her (without attacking her) or you cut your losses and fade from her view.

Were you the Golden Child by the way? That must be hard for her if so.

Yep, was the golden child. Spent most of my adult life apologising to her for it. Stopped apologising a few years back as didn't make her feel any happier, made me feel awful and not really sure what it achieved.

forgetmenots Sun 19-May-13 10:13:40

Might it be that the real issue here then is between your sister and your parents? She likely has unresolved issues with them if they have openly favoured you. I can understand this must be frustrating for you because you didn't necessarily ask or want to be the Golden Child. She may though need your support in talking about them, rather than you and your DM supporting each other talking about her, iyswim. Even if that's totally normal and supportive, it could look to her like triangulation (have a google if you've not heard of this, could be relevant) and that you are again being favoured.

Do you think (honestly) she has been treated fairly by your parents? You mentioned she got a lot of support from your DM, and it does sound like practically you have very much been there for her, but it may be that he still feels you are all a unit and she is excluded?

I'm really surprised about the pasting you've got here op! I do think calling someone at 3.30am following relationship problems is unreasonable, and that she is often attacking of you from what you've said, and expects you to make up her happiness with your own suffering (getting you to come and clean while she sits in the sofa! Spoiling your wedding!)

It is really distressing to start seeing a relationship in a new, more accurate, more disturbing way. But it gives you options, and your relationship can improve as a result. Yes your poor sister may have been less favoured; it's grim when everything always goes better for someone else repeatedly. But she behaves in ways that maintains her unhappiness unfortunately.

I would suggest taking a step back, temporarily, to think about how you'd like things to change. Yes she needs support, you can still give that. But talks in a coffee shop, or pub, away from your kids (may be very painful for her to see) but away from her home, where you seem to end up doing housework. I think you need to shift the nature of what cheers her up from being you suffering or her putting you down, to something more productive for you both - her talking about her feelings, her problem solving her difficulties, you pointing out her good qualities and opportunities, doing something fun together. And you putting down some limits 'please don't talk to me like that', 'I'm here to talk not wash up', 'I want you to be happy but not by putting me down' etc. if you google CCI assert yourself, there's a fantastic online self help thing.

calypso2008 Sun 19-May-13 11:31:14

The OP has not had a pasting, she asked for opinions and she got them, judged on what she posted about her sister and the family dynamic.

badguider Sun 19-May-13 11:38:05

It sounds to me like she is needy, she needs more from you than you do from her, and she's in a bad place in life and has been before, in fact isn't often in a good place.

It's not really an equal relationship, but it's also not your responsibility to 'fix' her. Sometimes nothing you say will 'make stuff better' but that doesn't mean it's not good to be there for her... if you can, as much as you can, but don't feel a failure if you can't 'fix' her.

We both have issues with our parents.. Who doesn't. They have given us a loving, secure upbringing in material things (not loaded, but they made sacrifices for us). But they gave us a "toughening" up upbringing. We are both quite sensitive and parents approach was to tease and push us to be verbally strong in response. So not much praise, self-esteem building.

Yes DM was not great at showing she preferred me. DF tried to counteract it. DF typical '70s/80s father - not much emotion shown but he clearly loved us. But you could not extract a compliment/praise from my father even if you begged.

I found that difficult for a while. And then I realised I could I either mope on it it, worry about repeating history or change, and get on with life. So now I praise and complement people and family. If my sister looks nice I tell her. If she has done something lovely I tell her. If my dad has been wonderful with my DC I thank him and tell him he is a great grandfather. Slowly my parents are getting more relaxed and more likely to say nice things rather than teasy-half-hearted stuff.

So golden child yes - in a way. But this is tough too. Way, way tougher for my sister. But really what can I do about this now? I cannot change the past. I cannot change the relationship she and my mother have. Though fwiw I have frequently stepped in to mend bridges between them and often gently told my DM to stop moaning about Dsis.

I have also suggested to my sister (this was a few years ago) that if she still carries a lot of angst about being unfavoured that she had choices. 1)To dwell and talk about it which was clearly making her unhappy 2) to have it out with DM in order to enable her to move on and forget it or 3) to seek therapy to help her move on and forget about it. I offered to help her with any of these. I made it clear though (gently) that I was no longer going to be used as her punchbag for these issues. It was not my fault.

Oh heavens how many times am I using that phrase. Maybe this is the issue. I am just learning I cannot fix her life. Support yes. Fix no.

I think I may walk away from this thread. It will not fix her. I want to help her be happy. But I cannot.


forgetmenots Sun 19-May-13 11:50:32

My point in asking wasn't being that you can fix it. It might help though to see that it's likely not her fault either (obviously as an adult she is responsible for any actual wrongs she has done, as are you).

I don't have issues with my parents. My DH does, though. It doesn't sound like your upbringing really facilitated warm relationships (including that between you and your sister). Perhaps more acknowledgement of that, whether between the two of you or with your sister in counselling would help. I agree you can't fix her. But it sounds like you have issues of your own around being the golden child the more this thread develops, perhaps talking through with your DH is a start?

imaginethat Sun 19-May-13 12:13:57

I wouldn't say that you or your sister were toxic, but clearly the relationship is not good at the moment. And from your descriptions, has never been too great.

I actually think your sis is way too old to be making daily poor me phone calls, that is very draggy.

It also struck me that you were very clear that you were the preferred child, you got higher marks, you are more popular, you are married with children and in general everything your sister is not. I thought it was very likely that your sister was acutely aware if your sense of superiority and it would be understandable if she resented you.

I also thought that expecting her to bounce on trampolines with your dc and generally rub her nose in the domestic bliss she has not achieved, was a bizarre idea. I would have suggested meeting her for dinner or drink or similar, she needed sisterhood not an exhibition of all she does not have.

So i think you could both make improvements. You can't change her so change yourself. Give her a time when you can talk and listen. Make time to do stuff together as sisters.

If you are really serious about improving things, maybe check in for some counselling as it may help you reflect and make positive change.

CheeseStrawWars Sun 19-May-13 12:20:37

Your sister sounds like she has been in a series of emotionally abusive relationships with these men.

Her self esteem is poor, and thus this more likely to throw her into these situations, desperation born of a fear she will never be good enough to be loved.

While this is not your fault, it sounds like you are reinforcing her low self-esteem, unintentionally.

It would be useful if you could start responding in a way which would challenge the perception she's a hopeless case.

Stock phrases:

"That sounds like it must be hard for you." (let her tell you how she feels, don't assume. Round up with "You're coping really well though, I'm so proud of you."

"You're worth more than that."

"What I love about you is the way you are so (warm/caring/independent/XXX). If he doesn't see and appreciate that, it's his loss."

Pay attention to the good things about her - she's learned how to get attention from you, but not in a positive way. Re-write that script.

If you can see situations like the 'unreliable married man invited to the wedding' scenario looming, which directly affect you, just say "sorry, that's not going to work for me" or "That's a nice idea, but with everything else taken into account I'll have to say no", or other stock phrase which heads off the impact on you.

Send her a bunch of flowers or something, to show you are thinking of her.

Lizzabadger Sun 19-May-13 12:47:48

I think you need to cut your sister a little slack. She's clearly had a more difficult life than you and it may be difficult for you to understand quite what that's like. At the same I think you need some boundaries on what help you're prepared to give her and stick to them.

Again, thank you for your input. Apart from the overly harsh and bitchy stuff up thread.

And for those who have focussed on the bloody trampolining! I was in my friends car, en route to a children's farm with my DC and her DC. Unless I stopped the whole day for all of us THE ONLY WAY I could have seen her was for her to join us. So I invited her to join us - especially as she admitted all she would do was mope and she needed to take her mind off it. She and I spent some time alone at the farm with me hugging her, her crying. But she enjoyed herself, we all bounced on the fucking trampoline and she said it had been perfect - the exact tonic she needed. So shut up about the fucking trampoline!!!

Maybe yesterday inviting her over was bad - but it had been the perfect tonic the week before and I am not a mind reader!!

But moving on.

I have actioned/will action some of this. Am totally taking on board that I do need to do some of the slotting into her life rather than just In fact came on to update that I have just called my sister. She did not answer, but have told DH that if she needs/wants I will go over to her town (not her flat) and we can hang out. Or see a film. Whatever she needs. (FWIW family commitments/lifts etc etc yesterday that was not an easy option).
Sis did not answer her phone but have left a message.

I accept that she is in a very miserable place and I can empathise with this. I have huge sympathy for her feelings. I am sure she feels her dreams are dashed. I am not sure that anything I can do or support I can give her will make much odds but at least I can try.

The smug/patronising harping on about me being married/having DC/being more popular etc etc this is not actually my view of "success" it is hers. It is something she constantly says to me - along the lines of "you cannot complain you have it all, marriage, children etc etc I want that. It is not fair". I constantly reassure her that herlife of evening classes, nights out, fantastic restaurants in London, worldwide travel is fantastically exciting and glamourous. That we have different lives but neither is better than the other.

My DH thinks I am mad to have called her. He thinks she will just attack me again to make it either my fault or to bring me down. I think that he may be right but she is hurting. And also I accept that I am doing this to support her. But also because it will make me feel better - I am not totally altruistic - this thread has made me realise I was not as supportive as I could have been and I don't like that. So part of this is selfishness on my part. So there is honesty for you.

WinkyWinkola Sun 19-May-13 13:48:07

I think you sound like a great sister actually.

Ignore the harpies.

CheeseStrawsWars - those are fantastic and your whole post is exactly what I came on here for, Thank you, thank you!

And DSis just called back. We had a polite little skirt around the subject - how are you kind of chats and then we both apologised for yesterday. I apologised that I did not offer her the support she needed and she apologised that she had been incredibly ratty and a bit rude.

I have asked her what, if anything, I can do to support her.

She is feeling better today and has a manically busy social life over the next few weeks. She very cleverly booked a load of this is knowing she was likely to be single so would need to be occupied. SHe has asked that if she calls it is because she needs to hear the voice of someone who cares. I have explained that if I cannot talk it is not through lack of sympathy/wanting to support her but the demands of family. I have not told her this but I will I will try to be wayyy more "oh thejobs/tea/bedtime" can wait and will try and chat even if for a few minutes. She has also said that she would be happy just to have a brief chat with DD if I am up to my elbow in poo/tea/bed whatever.

I told her she was coping well and I was proud of her. I also told her she had an amazing social life and I was hugely jealous of her shoe collection (I am)

We told each other (this is very rare) that we loved each other.

I am not sure I need to/can totally disengage. I don't want to. But I think I need to
1) Offer to slot into her life more than expecting her to slot into mine
2) Also make sure there are limits to this. She is my sister but I do also have other priorities.
3)DH does have a point - but I have to learn to emotionally brush off my sisters hurtful comments or behaviour - although directed at me they are more about how she feels. I cannot change some of her behaviour. I can change how I react to it.

Thank you for all constructive help. This has undoubtedly helped me not kill a relationship with my sister,

For those who are glad I am not their sister? Likewise I am sure.

Jux Sun 19-May-13 14:01:25

My brother was the Golden Child. However, I never blamed my brother for that - how could he help what the adults thought of him? We are actually very close and always have been.

My dh was the Golden Child, and his sister has always resented him for it. She messed up her life badly from the off really and has spent the last 30 years being an alcoholic, which is apparently her mum's fault. There is a massive amount of emotional blackmail going on in his family (and most of it comes my way now) and very little responsibility taken.

The best thing you can do is detach. It is sad that you don't have the close loving relationship you thought you did, and perhaps you never will. It is not too late for her to change - look at your parents - but she will have to learn that her choices are her's alone. Are your parents likely to help you in this? I mean, in slowly getting her to see that she chooses to behave how she does and respond with "Oh dear"? I don't know how helpful it would be for your mum to give her a bit of home truth (if you don't clean up your own mess no one else will/you're a grown woman so take some responsibility.... etc). I would love to do that with SIL, but it would lead to divorce.

Lizzabadger Sun 19-May-13 14:12:16

It sounds like you had a really open and constructive conversation. I hope your relationship with each other continues to grow and improve.

Mintyy Sun 19-May-13 14:21:14

Sorry, I haven't read the whole thread (I usually do).

Next time she starts whining about the state of her flat just say "Look, you want things to change but things won't change while everything stays the same! So why not start with small changes ... something really simple like becoming a person who just gets on and cleans up after themself without moaning about it." and then "I'll speak to you when you're in a better mood, goodbye".

garlicgrump Sun 19-May-13 15:40:58

I do like your recent updates, Fish. Well done smile Keep it up, both of you; it will be worth it!

forgetmenots Sun 19-May-13 16:08:08

Very pleased to hear the chat went well OP.

parabelle Sun 19-May-13 17:55:47

Are we related. You could have described my sister. I've taken a step back to be honest. It's sad but a lot less stressful.

buildingmycorestrength Sun 19-May-13 19:50:42

Well done, Fish. Please ignore the ignorant posters up thread.

I also have an overly dependent single sister who does not quite seem able to grow up. She is not quite as bluntly harsh as yours seems to be, and is instead kind of fawning, but still tricky.

I find there are good and bad patches in our relationship, depending on what else is going on for her. I cannot solve her problems, and really, she doesn't particularly want me to solve them. I have not cut her out of my life but I have to work hard to police the boundaries of our relationship as she is stifling otherwise.

I ask myself 'What would normal people do?' This is often a helpful guide if things start getting out of hand (which they do, even after quite a good patch).

I find it helpful to lend a sympathetic ear for about 10 minutes at a time, twice a week. If she starts really going on in a self-pitying way, I simply have to disengage by claiming a problem with the kids.

I then send occasional supportive texts and always make sure that I fully engage (as much as possible) with 'normal' topics of conversation and positive trends in her life. I keep visits short.

I don't ever criticise her or ask her about 'difficult' topics. I do what I can to keep things civil, pleasant, and adult. 'Normal.'

I also do not offer help anymore. I have done this repeatedly in the past, really going above and beyond for her, and it never ends well. I've learned my lesson now on that. I have my own, actual children to look after, so I focus on my responsibilities.

I also found it very enlightening to read 'Games people play' by Eric Berne. Short, accessible, funny and practical. Highly recommend.

Good luck. Come back for more support. smile.

soylentgreen Fri 07-Jun-13 13:34:14

Your DH may be partly right but he also said it because he knew it would make you feel better, which it has. He knows both of you too well.

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