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Don't know what to do about relationship with half-sibling

(31 Posts)
MmeDubonnet Fri 07-Feb-14 12:24:26

Well I didn’t think I’d find myself posting in Relationships, but I just don’t know what to do about this and need some input. Sorry if it is long. I think it will be.

(FYI I am a regular but have NCed: Brian from Hull, naice minge, Gluezilla etc)

I have a half sister who is about 15 years older than me. She is the only child of my Dad’s first marriage. I am the only child of my parents’ marriage (parents are still together and are in their 60s). Sister was taken to a very far away country to live shortly after her mum and my dad divorced. She would have been about 7/8 at the time, I think. She has spent her whole life there since, and was estranged from Dad for quite a long time, until I was about 15 I think. She got back in contact with him and they have been rebuilding their relationship.

Here is the part I still struggle to get my head around: Dad, Mum and all the family on both sides concealed the fact he’d been married and had another child from me. They even went as far as lying about who she was when I met her at a family wedding when I was very young. It remained a secret until I was 17 and all was revealed in a grand TADAAA! moment. Needless to say this has profoundly affected my relationship with and opinion of Dad and his family in particular. I want nothing to do with his family (most of them are dead now anyway).

My sister, on the other hand, has known about me since I was born and desperately wants a sibling relationship with me. We have met a couple of times. I have been to visit her twice, once with mum and dad and once by myself, and we email or FB message each other infrequently. I am just about comfortable with that level of contact. Every now and then she gets very overwrought and sends me a very emotional email about how she wants to be a proper sister to me and how she’s loved me since I was born and all the rest of it.

I end up feeling awful for her that she didn’t get to grow up with her parents together or with me in her life (there’s a big wealth disparity between her upbringing and mine too), and not wanting to add more emotional crap to her life, but simultaneously angry about the deception all over again and angry about feeling forced into a relationship that I’m not sure I want. She’s a nice person, but we don’t share any memories or history together as siblings normally would. She wants an intensity of relationship that I don’t think I can handle. I have just never had the mental space in my life for a sibling - I always thought I was an only child. My father obviously wants us to have a relationship too.

I got one of these emails this week, written in the middle of the night her time. Maybe I’m a complete bitch, but I am just so angry at being put in this position over and over again. I want to tell her how I feel but I am worried about hurting her and worried about whether anything I say to her will just go straight to my father and whether I’ll get a massive guilt trip from him too. It is made more difficult by the fact I have moved back in with my parents atm while I am looking for a job.

What can I do? I feel as though I’m expected to put up and shut up for the sake of not rocking the boat for everyone else. But why can't my feelings be important for once?

Quitelikely Fri 07-Feb-14 12:31:49

Mmmmm I think you resent her in someway. No one can force you to have a relationship with her but having a sister might enrich your life and those of your dcs (if you have any). Do you think you might feel jealous of the attention she receives? Hard question to answer but I really can't see why you won't welcome her when she has done nothing wrong. She is your half sister, she exists and if you don't want to have a relationship with her for no good reason then I think it's your loss, no doubt it will hurt her.

I think you might need clsome therapy to help you make sense of it all.

Beamur Fri 07-Feb-14 12:42:59

It does sound like you are being unfairly pressurised here. It also seems as if your sister has a lot of issues she could be trying to offload.
I'd tread carefully as you have also a complicated relationship with your Dad and her because you've been lied to.
What kind of a relationship with this woma.n are you comfortable with?
I have a personal curiosity to your situation as I also have a younger sibling to a subsequent marriage i have virtually no contact with (not my choice) and i hope one day, whe. she is old enough that might change. But i wouldn't want to upset her to do so.

phoolani Fri 07-Feb-14 12:46:30

Why don't you just tell her basically what you've written here? It explains your position very well and she should be able to understand where you're coming fom.

MmeDubonnet Fri 07-Feb-14 13:02:50

No, the situation isn't of her making. I agree that it's not her fault. But then why does it follow that I should be the one whose feelings get trampled on?

Interesting question about whether I resent her. I am pretty upset about the fact she had a much closer relationship with my dad's family. She was apparently very close to our GM and to the cousins on dad's side. The cousins have always been quite distant from me, and paternal GM was a super-bitch to my mother. I was only able to make sense of all that after it all came out (Catholic family > hate second wives). It was quite confusing as a child.

It's also been quite hard coping with the fact that my dad has this whole other emotional life that I knew nothing of - she has children, so he is a grandparent. It almost feels a bit like he's being emotionally unfaithful to the family unit that me and my mum have with him. I know it's unfair to think of it like that, but it is a huge shock to have all the family relationships turned on their head like this and to keep figuring things out after the event. I have had counselling, but it doesn't seem to have done much good!

EllaFitzgerald Fri 07-Feb-14 13:19:58

I think it's quite natural that you would feel like that. I can't imagine what your parents were thinking would be the benefits in telling you as late as they did. However, it's not her fault and I would imagine that her issues are equal to yours.

What about emailing her, thanking her for her email. Tell her that you're having difficulties with the level of deception from other family members and, as a result, if there is to be a successful and long term relationship between you, then it needs to proceed very slowly and carefully.

MmeDubonnet Fri 07-Feb-14 13:26:55

Beamur I think I am OK with the odd email update now and then for my dad's sake. However I know dad is telling her a lot about my life that I am not really comfortable with - in her latest email she knows about something I have been doing this week which I know I haven't told her about. I guess he has done that my whole life without me knowing.

I don't know what will happen when dad is no longer with us. I might feel differently by then of course, but I can't really imagine us having a close relationship then either. As we don't live in the same country there just isn't the opportunity to get to know each other slowly on our own terms.

What worries me is that I think she is quite emotionally fragile. As I said she basically was estranged from dad for years and gets very needy every now and then. I think she has had depression too (I have as well, a couple of years after this all came out). I want to be kind to her, but I think she is being unrealistic about the prospect of us having a really close relationship.

Maybe I am just a fucking cold fish but I don't see why I should have to manufacture a close relationship with or love for someone I barely know. I have sisterly relationships with my closest friends. They will always my closest peers. And if I have children I don't want them to have someone in their lives who pulls this sort of guilt trip thing.

MmeDubonnet Fri 07-Feb-14 13:35:00

For example, I know what has triggered this latest thing - her dog died this week. So understandably she is very upset (and I sent her an email saying I was sorry to hear about him), but I do struggle with getting a deluge of emotion from her every time something totally unconnected goes wrong for her.

Beamur Fri 07-Feb-14 13:44:45

That makes sense and I don't think yr being cold. I think you are responding self protectively on many levels, from what you have said a relationship with her could be draining and painful for you.
I dont think you can stop yr dad talking about you to her, but it must be very weird to think this happened before. No wonder she is mixed up.
I find my relationship with my dad hard. He'd like us to be closer but i just know from bitter experience i'll end up feeling hurt, so our contact is on my terms only. We email and text and occasionally speak on the phone. He wanted to visit me a while ago but i got so stressed at the ptospect i refused.
I'd recommend having the level of contact that is right for you. Be kind to your sister but not at the expense of your own peace.

mistlethrush Fri 07-Feb-14 13:46:53

We have got a situation in my family that is somewhat similar - except its not half-siblings. My mother was born about 12 years after her oldest brother - there is a second brother in between. The oldest brother left home to join the army when he was 18 - and it sounds as though he had little to do with my mother before then. He went abroad after the army, and married there, and his wife decided that she didn't like his UK past and wanted as little to do with his family as possible. Roll on the years - its only in the last 10 or so years that my mother has had any more contact than a card at Christmas - moreso after his wife died. He has recently died. I think my mother may well have shed more tears for someone else that also died recently who has had other connections to the family than my uncle.

So, even siblings might not have close relationships - I don't think that you need to feel guilty - and you certainly need her to back off and let the relationship go slowly rather than push it.

MmeDubonnet Fri 07-Feb-14 14:18:52

Thanks everyone. I find it hard to judge what's appropriate because I don't have any other sibling relationship to compare to.

I sort of feel guilty that seeing as I didn't make a huge fuss and make it clear to everyone how angry and upset I was when it all came out, that I want to make one now. I wish I had, but I was just too stunned at the time and was trying to process all the deceptions that had taken place. My sense of what I was "allowed to feel" was really distorted, because I couldn't reconcile the deception with how loving my family generally is.

It's still hard to know how much of the truth I am being told about anything that happened in that period.

We have occasionally had quite personal and close conversations - but sometimes I want to pull away from the relationship too. I can see that must be confusing for her, but I don't even know what I want most of the time tbh. And it's something that is easy not to think about because she is so far away.

I am going to take some time to write an email.

Quitelikely Fri 07-Feb-14 14:22:38

This, I believe is at the heart of your problem but its not your sisters fault.

'Interesting question about whether I resent her. I am pretty upset about the fact she had a much closer relationship with my dad's family. She was apparently very close to our GM and to the cousins on dad's side. The cousins have always been quite distant from me, and paternal GM was a super-bitch to my mother. I was only able to make sense of all that after it all came out (Catholic family > hate second wives). It was quite confusing as a child.'

wontletmesignin Fri 07-Feb-14 14:29:34

I dont think you are in the wrong for feeling the way you are, i think it is quite expected and probably still confusing for you.

I can also see from your HS pov that she has known about you since being a child, which i expect would be quite annoying for you. So she is ready to fully commit to a relationship she has probably been dreaming up all of these years.

I think you both could come to some form a nice, meet in the middle relationship, and i think you could both benefit from it.

But i think you need to take things slowly. I think you should explain this to her.
From what i can see, this is all her excitement since childhood coming to life, whereas this is all new and confusing for you.
I am sure she would understand, if you explained how you feel over the whole situation.

spindlyspindler Fri 07-Feb-14 14:51:32

"She wants an intensity of relationship that I don’t think I can handle. I have just never had the mental space in my life for a sibling - I always thought I was an only child."

I'm an only child and I think if this had happened to me I would feel the same as you. As an only child I think you quickly learn not just to cope with solitude but to need it, in a sense. As a child I went through a period of intense desire for a sibling, but by the time I was 10 I realised that it wasn't going to happen, and I also started to find that I had to have time away from other people to recharge my batteries - I literally could not cope with company all the time. I think it's probably difficult for people who've always had siblings to understand, just as it's difficult for me to understand how they could cope with nearly constant company at home.

Joysmum Fri 07-Feb-14 16:14:49

Another only child here, and I agree.

You can't force a relationship, it takes time and shared experience, and there's no shortcut to that.

Being related, isn't enough in itself to make a relationship. My DH has a sister he used to be close to in childhood, doesn't have anything in common, except for dad, in adulthood and so they are really in touch other than for FIL

Your half sister sounds very fragile, but if you explain you are too as you didn't have the benefit of knowing about her as she did about you so it'll take you more time, hopefully she'll understand.

This relationship doesn't have to be an all or nothing best buddies senario. You won't know what it'll be until more time has passed.

BrunoBrookesDinedAlone Fri 07-Feb-14 17:03:58

The thing that made my blood boil a bit for you was your comment that you don't want to say the wrong thing and 'get a guilt trip' from your father, and your comment that of course your father would like you to be close.

How dare he? I mean - how fucking DARE he? Does he even begin to understand the massive, massive way in which his decisions have fucked up your relationships with him, her, your paternal family, and have affected the way you see yourself?

Your sister is pretty much the innocent in this, but your dad very much isn't. Do you think that one of the reasons you feel so not in control and conflicted about this is because you know you have a right to be angry but the person 'in the firing line' (your sis) isn't the person who deserves to cop it?

I think if I were you I would think about tackling your dad about this, perhaps with reference to your sister's demands of you. Explain that it's only now that you feel that you are coming out of the shock, so to speak, and that you need to say a few things - and take it from there.

He has let you down MASSIVELY.

sykadelic Fri 07-Feb-14 17:19:12

I will PM you if you like with more details but suffice it to say, I am a child of the "last" marriage with half-siblings.

I never really knew about the other siblings when I was little (maybe I did but I didn't understand) but as I grew older it wasn't a secret, but I knew nothing about a couple of them (there's more than one).

One of my half-siblings I've known for a long time but she's much older than I am and I don't see her as a sibling at all. Her daughter is closer to my age (but still older) and I don't really see her as close family either.

When dad passed on I met my half-brother at his funeral. It was strange I think for mum and it was strange for me too but there's been no attempt to force a relationship.

I also have half-nieces and nephews as well as great-half-nieces and nephews.


From my viewpoint, I think a lot of what you feel is jealousy coupled with betrayal. Such a HUGE secret to keep. You probably feel a little like you've been cheated on by the people you trusted the most... and I wonder whether you've actually sat them both down and said "What you did was shitty. I'm really struggling to deal with this and you have no idea what this feels like. I've tried to just go with the flow but it's eating me up inside. I was lied to my ENTIRE life. I was denied a relationship with my extended family, with my SISTER and now I'm forced to play happy families? No. I'm not ready. I need you ALL to back off and give me time to come to terms with this. I feel betrayed and let down."

But at the same time, your half-sister is probably really happy to FINALLY be able to talk to you. She probably felt like a dirty little secret that no-one wanted or wanted to talk about. She wants so desperately for you to love and like her she's totally over-compensating.

You're being expected to form this "insta-bond" with this girl you could have just met on the street. Similar DNA does not a relationship make. You are perfectly entitled to NOT like your half-sister. People who grow up with their siblings don't always get along.

I think you need to find your groove in dealing with her. You're being made to feel like you need to form a "sister" bond right away but you don't. You need to find a way to form a friend bond. Stop thinking of her as your half-sister and start thinking about her as a cousin or some other such distant relation that you've just met. Build from there. If you don't get along, you don't.

Try confiding in her little-by-little. Little things. Try talking to her about superficial stuff "saw the cutest dress today" and work from there. If the overly emotional emails are getting to you, think of her like an acquaintance who's having a tough time. How would you deal with it then? Would you ignore it or would you reply with your generic replies and then let it go.

Most of all, I think you need to talk to your parents. Tell them you do NOT appreciate being "reported" on and it needs to stop now. If they want you to build a relationship, and if they want you to trust them again, they need to work on it too.

Hope that helps!

MmeDubonnet Fri 07-Feb-14 17:46:32

Bruno believe me I am well aware of my father's shortcomings. Everything about this situation is his fault. He made the choices which were emotionally easy for him. But I know if I even tried to talk to him about it he would just break down and cry about how awful it all was at the time and how he thought he was doing the best thing for me. And he'd be distraught at me not wanting a relationship with her and beg and beg me to not be angry. And I am living with my parents atm - I just cannot handle that conversation and dynamic while I am living under their roof. I am afraid of what will happen. I don't know exactly what

And the problem is he has legitimately been through an awful time. I mean, having your child taken to another country and them refusing to have contact with you for years and years is pretty much one of the worst things that can happen to you as a parent. I think he thought she would never ever get back in touch with him, so he could avoid confronting his feelings about it all, or deal with me asking questions about her. When they first told me about her, they said they thought it would confuse me to know I had a sister that we never saw.

I am also pretty pissed off that my mother (and the whole of my family) didn't put me first. They chose to do what he wanted. And my sister was an adult for some of this too. She could have refused to play his game, and not had contact with him unless she was properly acknowledged.

I just feel like literally nobody in my family was looking out for me in any of this. I mean, ffs, if your brother or son or dh or whatever decided to conceal one child from another and wanted you to go along with it, wouldn't you say "No fucking way!"? What was everyone thinking? Did they all think it was all going to magically turn into the fucking Waltons at some point?

MmeDubonnet Fri 07-Feb-14 18:04:23

sykadelic Thanks but my HS and I have very little in common. I am actually closer in age to her children than to her. When I talk to her, I see her as part of a different generation. She has had a settled, married "grown-up" lifestyle for years. She has also totally assimilated to the culture of the country she lives in - we don't really have any common cultural frames of reference, even though she still thinks she is English - which you would never guess if you met her.

I have no wish to send her links to "cute dresses". I don't see the point. I can deal with being FB friends and exchanging the odd email. If she's in Britain I'll meet up with her. But it's been 10 years now since the grand revelation, so I don't think my feelings about not wanting a particularly close relationship are going to change.

Pigeonhouse Fri 07-Feb-14 18:56:28

I think your feelings are entirely natural, OP - there's absolutely no need to justify them. Even if you had known about her existence all along, I don't think her attempts to press for an insta-bond would feel any less odd and forced.

While you come to term with your own feelings, I think Ella's advice up the thread is good - contact her and say that if you are to continue to have a relationship, it needs to happen very slowly, and at a pace that is more comfortable for you. She needs to respect that. It's like the advice given to adopted adults making contact with their birth parents - the most successful reunions are those with the most modest 'ambitions', where no one expects an intense familial bond immediately, or perhaps at all.

You should also make it plain to your father than if he wants you to continue to have any kind of positive relationship with your half-sister, he needs not to pass on information you wouldn't be comfortable with him sharing with a complete stranger. Which is what she is to you, by virtue of his decision to 'hide' her.

Pigeonhouse Fri 07-Feb-14 18:59:16

Sorry, OP, I missed the fact that the 'big reveal' was a decade ago, so this isn't a new situation. But I hear you entirely on the forced relationship thing, perhaps all the more so because I have full siblings with whom I grew up, but to whom I am not at all close.

Isetan Fri 07-Feb-14 21:12:16

You're angry with her because she knew of your existence. You're angry with her because she was and is updated about your life. You're angry with her because you think she was favoured over you. You're angry with her because she was first. None of these things are of her making.

The problem here is your unresolved anger towards your parents and extended family. You won't confront your dad because he will guilt trip you and as you live him you don't want to rock the boat.

Be firm but gentle about not wanting a relationship with her because it wouldn't be fair to expose her to your unresolved and misdirected anger.

elmerelephant Fri 07-Feb-14 21:47:36

my Dad and his new wife did this to their chidren, and didnt tell them that they had half siblings until my grandmother, his mother died and we all went to the funeral.
this as very difficult for me growing up as my dad didnt want me in his life at all. but he obviously wanted his new daughter.
Your sister probably has a lot of the same difficult and hurtful emotions towards her father and you that I have. I hope that you can all find a way to be comfortable with each other

Chipandspuds Fri 07-Feb-14 22:00:32

Honestly if you don't want to have a relationship with your half sister then don't.

sykadelic15 Sat 08-Feb-14 00:10:32

I missed as well that it was ten years ago.

My half-sister, the half-sibling "closest" in age, is older than my mother. I am 30. My half-sister is about 60. My half-niece (her daughter) is 40 this year. She is most definitely a different generation.

Given your more information, especially the fact it was 10 years ago, then all you can really do is ignore her ranting as an annoying acquaintance.

Her feelings aren't more important that yours, they're just more obvious.

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