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

(68 Posts)
FishfingersAreOK Sat 18-May-13 22:25:18

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.

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

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

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.

FishfingersAreOK Sun 19-May-13 08:53:01

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.

FishfingersAreOK Sun 19-May-13 10:00:38

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?

Pannacotta2013 Sun 19-May-13 10:41:27

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.

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