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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.
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
Yep your dh is right.
She likes to be centre of attention.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 ) 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?
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).
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.
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.
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.
Glad you have DH to hold your hand though.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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