Sister's behaviour since my father passed away is creating too much stress.
posted by noella to Human Relations (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My sister is is 10 years older than me, we are both over 35 and lead very different lifestyles. Both female, UK. However, since childhood we have got along just fine, accepting of our differences, and have generally never had issues with each other.
Until my dad died last April.
Prior to this, we rarely saw each other, yet when we did we got along ok. I knew that she had a horrific temper and was prone to shouting and screaming in public whenever she was in a confrontational situation, but I never had much opportunity to witness it first hand. But since my dad died, and for the few weeks of his illness beforehand, I had to frequently see her and experience these behaviors. Her issue appears (to my untrained eye) to be one of control and anger management, mostly focused upon her relationship with her partner and my mother. Since my mother became a widow, she has taken a keen interest in her affairs and has developed a pretty odd relationship with her that seems to revolve around control and possessiveness - although she is accepting of my role in my mother's life, we both sense a sort of resentment of me, although it is mostly kept in check.
She leads a rather tightly controlled lifestyle (anxiety driven), and does not spend much time actually with my mother, mostly just helping her out, driving her to appointments, etc. She dominates many of these areas of my mother's life, yet will not allow my mother to stay at her house or even visit because her partner is partially disabled and they have a sick pet, which she says becomes worse when people visit. So they live in a kind of self inflicted prison....I don't know a better way to describe it, but that's the general picture.
Now for the actual ask:
Recently, she drove my mother to my home for a visit. They parked outside and as my mother was about to get out of the car, they had a disagreement which resulted in my sister screaming and shouting at the top of her lungs at her, until I came out and asked what was going on. The entire street would have heard this, as my own partner was upstairs at the back of the house and heard every word. I was utterly mortified and embarrassed, went out to her and quietly asked her to please leave if she would not calm down. This was a truly awful experience for me, as I hope you'll understand? Her response was to yell even mostly at my mother, but she made it quite clear that she was deeply offended by me having asked her to not shout.
Since then, she has somehow managed to develop a real issue with me, personally.
I am not sure how to negotiate this, as although I can avoid her most of the time, we are unwittingly connected via our mother.
OK, my mother herself does nothing to help matters; she will invariably pretend nothing is the matter, and often puts herself in situations which make the problem with my sister worse. I have explained, calmly to my mother that I would prefer not to get involved with my sister's issue at present (or in the future), hence I will consciously seek to avoid her or any similar situations, and my mother has agreed that I should do what I have to do and says she fully understands. Still, when my sister kicks off, my mother has a tendency to 'side' with her for the sake of peace, even to the extent of painting an unpleasant picture of me- I guess this is her effort to keep peace, although it's a pretty irritating way to go about it. I feel that my mother envisions this perfect sibling relationship between my sister and myself, which is entirely unrealistic, but she will overlook the damage it does me (and herself) in the process.
A few examples of my sister's mindset:
* I calmly ask her not to shout in front of my home again. She explodes, denying it happened, and tells me I am trying to impinge on her human rights to express her anger. When this occurred I decided not to argue the point and just to walk away, yet she persisted in following me, screaming again, that I am trying to blacklist her, that I hate her, and that I am trying to ruin her life (WTF?).
*When you attempt to talk reasonably without shouting, it seems to annoy her more, and she kicks off in an unhinged fashion saying she is being persecuted, as if my calmness is an insult to her. This really confuses me, psychologically. It is as if she would prefer me to become as explosive as herself.
*She has a history of creating hysterical situations both at home and in public. Her neighbors have complained about her many times. She always sees this as their problem, that they are persecuting her. The very slightest thing sets her off, and it only has to be something simple, like saying you don't want a lift somewhere: so the slightest insignificant thing affects her as a personal offence and the bomb goes off. She tends to not do this with me, usually, as I think that she knows I would not take it, if that makes sense, so if she is upset with me, she raves at my mother instead.
*Due to feeling some guilt over not allowing my mother to visit her home, she often makes issue over this indirectly - never admitting the guilt, but constantly complains to us that she is overworked, never sleeps, can't cope with her pet's illness, partner's disability, etc.
*She appears to see everyone as the enemy out to get her. Although I have never been a definite target in the past, I am now experiencing it first hand. She is telling a certain amount of lies about me to my mother, which is stressful for us both. All that I have been able to do is shake my head in disbelief. I honestly don't want this in my life.
*She often insists upon sticking her nose into my personal affairs (house move, vet appointments, etc). Instead of hassling me, she does it directly through my mother, so creating a dynamic where my mother is a go-between. For example, I went to view a new property a few weeks ago and my mother came with me. She later complained to my mother that she was being 'excluded', and that we were deliberately shutting her out. This was a shock to me as before my dad died she never showed any interest in my personal affairs.
So how do I continue to have a healthy relationship with my grieving mother, whilst this insanity is permanently brewing around her via my sister? I am happy to remain civil, but somewhere along the line, they both tend to 'gang up' on me if I don't play the scapegoat for this or that problem.
Before my dad's death, I never had to experience this, so I'm not sure how to navigate. She was similar then, of course, but had no opportunity to control my mother's life like she does now. She also never used to concern herself about my personal affairs, which she often does now.
How do I stop this without creating a worse dynamic or upsetting my mother? I adore my mother more than the world and do not wish to distance myself from her. What can I do???