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Difficulties with sibling, elderly parents

(12 Posts)
RidiculousVehicle Tue 14-Feb-17 22:23:55

I've got a somewhat strained relationship with my DSis. Although we weren't close growing up, we became so in our 20s, but since we both got married and had DC things have been strained (although she is younger than me, her DC are older as I had infertility problems). There is no one reason for our strained relationship but a whole lot of small ones combined with some personality clash. Overall though I feel the main problems are that she is jealous of me (especially my career - unfortunately we are in the same line of work but I am more senior due to different decisions and less time out). Since I had my DD it has been impossible to find the time to do the kind of 'relationship maintenance' I used to with DSis.

I think she probably had PND although she wouldn't discuss it or seek help. I tried very, very hard to be helpful and supportive during the 5 or 6 years that she was having problems and got shouted at a lot and told 'you couldn't possibly understand', which I didn't realise at the time could be a symptom of depression and in any case I found hurtful because of the infertility - we had to have about 5 years of treatment to have our DC. Her reaction when I told her we were ttc was 'but you are my role model of a successful career woman who doesn't want children' hmm

DSis seems better now, has a job and some hobbies, but although we meet up every few months as our DC get on very well, every meeting seems to end (or start!) with us upsetting the other in some way and words being said. I am also finding it hard to move on from some of the things she did and said when she was having problems. She never refers to this period - it is almost as though she doesn't remember how bad it got at times.

To be honest, if she was a friend rather than my DSis and if it wasn't for the DC getting on, I would have given up by now. I work very long hours in term-time and just find the whole thing painful.

I don't generally have problems getting on with people but I am sure there are times when I haven't helped things with her by for example giving careers advice (generally only when asked, but I also realise now that probably I should have just sympathised and not tried to solve problems).

The problem is that our parents are getting on and it is beginning to look like they need more support. I live nearer to them but DSis has more time available. I feel like it would really help if DSis and I could form a united front. I am despairing at the thought of trying to work together with her to support our parents (DH is civil to her but finds her annoying and sometime rude too...to be totally honest we are both a bit scared of her when she is really cross). DPs attitude can be summed up as 'DSis is who she is, deal with it'.

I would like to know any tips anyone has of how to improve or mend a sibling relationship like this and any dos or don'ts regarding trying to work with a sibling to support elderly parents. I think my DSis would like our relationship to be better.

Sorry for length.

crunched Tue 14-Feb-17 23:36:03

Sorry, I don't have advice for you but loads of empathy.
I am struggling with similar issues with my two DSis regarding the future of my increasingly frail, elderly DM.
It seems to be a battle, with each of us frantic to justify our individual point of view. With 200 miles and 12 years of age between us, this is not a easy situation.

665TheNeighbourOfTheBeast Wed 15-Feb-17 07:50:36

I am a bit bewildered by your post. I know it's hard to sum up a situation as complex as this succinctly so there seems to be a lot of stuff that might be taken several ways.
The key thing that comes across to me is what you don't say though.
Why, for instance do you feel you need to show a "United front" ? Are your parents difficult? Or are you concerned she won't take equal responsibility unless you have a solid agreement.?
You also seen to base some. / A lot of your thoughts about your sister on assumptions..
you " feel" she is jealous
You "think" she might have been depressed
You "think" your ds would like to make the relationship better

And she doesn't refer to the past. " Almost as if she didn't remember"

Is your family dynamic not to discuss problems? To avoid them? There is a vast amount of baggage in your relationship, in fact even from this one post its apparent you have so many elephants in the room here that it must be difficult to be even civil to each other. I'm not surprised your relationship is abrasive. / explosive .
Do you ever confront any of these problems, or ask if what you speculate about has any truth in it? I'm not trying to be critical here, just wondered if you'd noticed this pattern?

Phineyj Wed 15-Feb-17 10:23:06

Yes I have on several occasions tried to talk about these issues to DSis but she has blown up. We are very rarely alone anyway - her DH is a constant presence and there are always DC around (eldest DNiece is very anxious and tends to pick up on adult convos).

DSis has made it clear she is jealous from things she has said and from behaviour. I was trying to be fair to her in what I wrote. She has had a lot of problems.

Yes the entire family is conflict avoidant and I do think DPs will be difficult as they age. DF is a control freak who likes to be in charge and distrusts all doctors and DM has never 'done money' so doesn't know how bills are paid, where their investments are held etc.

The only good thing is they are well off so if they need care, they will be able to afford it.

I think DSis will intend to be helpful but past experience suggests she won't be - she has never been any help to me before!

Phineyj Wed 15-Feb-17 10:41:39

Sorry to hear that crunched - trying to make decisions with three must be difficult!

Zebrasinpyjamas Wed 15-Feb-17 10:48:52

Op have you had a name change fail?

It's a hard situation. Would it help to have an open conversation along the lines of "I want us to have a close friendly/supportive relationship forever but at times recently I've felt we've been too busy to do this. What do you think". . . Ie not dragging up history and no blame. It might prompt her to speak and agree she values the relationship too. Don't discuss other people. Just make it about you.
You need both of you to be less quick to "react" for long term change.

665TheNeighbourOfTheBeast Wed 15-Feb-17 13:11:01

Until you have resolved your conflict any decisions you try to force about your parents care with your sister will be about that conflict and "whats fair" will have deep anchors in the past.
If your parents have the resources, rather than force a confrontation now, it might be better to enable them to get in a little professional help for the odd thing now. Small things such as getting someone to come around to do odd jobs and a bit of gardening.
Whilst initially they (parents) - and you, might find it challenging to consider - the real cost of this kind of work, in terms of enabling them to stay in their home, and in lack of resentment and conflict with your sister- is tiny in comparison to what is saves. It is also a good preparation for future - perhaps more intrusive care.
It might also give you time to build some bridges with your sister without being under such intense pressure to do so. When there are other agendas that require solutions at speed inevitably each of you will be frustrated by the other.

You clearly need to meet with DS outside both your homes and away from the intrusiveness of other people. Consider starting not from a position of demand but from weakness. "I need your help, I don't know how to start moving forward with......(considering future care for DPS) ? I wondered if you'd thought about it, and if you had had any ideas ?"
rather than
"We need to....so you need to...."
Zebras suggestion is a good one.

RidiculousVehicle Thu 16-Feb-17 06:57:53

Yes, that was me above - sorry, different devices are defaulting to different usernames.

These are great suggestions. Thank you, I will think them over. We definitely need to meet on neutral ground and try to get rid of all this baggage and move forwards.

Lordamighty Thu 16-Feb-17 08:10:53

I have a similar tetchy relationship with my sibling. We fell out really badly over elderly DM. Some good advice I was given by a Dr was not to try & do too much ourselves, get as much outside help as possible, even if the parents resist. It puts so much stress on family relationships that a fallout is almost inevitable. My sibling & I didn't speak for 4 years but have managed to mend some bridges recently.

RidiculousVehicle Thu 16-Feb-17 21:01:01

That's encouraging, Lordamighty, thank you.

I have contacted my sister today and suggested a meet up (no kids, no DHs, maybe a bottle of wine) to clear the air. Hopefully she will take me up on it.

I also had coffee with DM today and (although I was very worried about bringing up the subject of old age) she was glad to discuss it. I probably would have chickened out if I hadn't posted this thread, so thank you all.

ReginaGeorgeinSheepsClothing Thu 16-Feb-17 21:15:14

I think you have to be mindful that it doesn't come across that you are going to be taking a directing staff role and she sees this as you dictating her free time? You say you are geographically closer but she has more time to do things, how closer are you and how much more 'free time' will she have?

RidiculousVehicle Sat 18-Feb-17 21:02:10

I am 30-40 mins drive, she is 2-3 hours drive. There's no question it's more convenient for me and DH to go there, especially if it's urgent, but we work many, many more hours each week than she and her DH do (as in, more than double).

It's academic anyway, there's no need at the moment and work situations could change. I have just been thinking over whether there's any way to improve how we get on.

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