How do I convince my twin sister that a relationship with someone from online is OK?
May 5, 2005 9:56 AM   Subscribe

My identical twin sister is getting married in September. I'm throwing her a party for the foreign relatives that can't attend in June. After that June party I'll be visiting a long time dear friend from the 'net to see how we get along, and if it works out I'll be moving there in September. The problem is, my sister doesn't approve of what I am doing - in a very patronizing and closed minded way - and I am honour bound to celebrate her wedding and be supportive and positive, without regard to her attitude about my joyous event.

And that hurts quite a lot. Manners, duty and protocol dictate that I must bear this pain and celebrate her marriage despite her attitude about my choices. I am trying, intellectually, not to compare, but it's emotionally impossible, especially in the context of identical twins.

She seems to think that if it doesn't work out my life will fall apart. She says she's worried about me, but she's not listening to my reassurances, facts and information. She won't move from concern to celebration.

Well, I've already got contingencies laid out and many safeguards and protections arranged for myself. They just don't make sense to her.

I wish I could push a button and Not Care about how she feels, but it's pretty much impossible.

I'm looking for your personal stories and anecdotes on similar situations in your lives, links to research about the outcomes of these sorts of relationships, or anything that can open the mind of a closed-minded person. Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total)
Why are you supporting her if she's not supporting you? Any relationship is a two-way street. Sounds like the one with your sister isn't.

If you are going to go ahead with your plans despite her feelings, why does it matter if she agrees with you or not? Why is her approval so important to you? It may well cause problems between the two of you for many years to come. You are the only one who can decide whether the relationship with your sister is more important than the relationship from the 'net. You shouldn't have to make this decision, but it sounds like your sister is forcing you to.

If a sibling put me in this situation, I would be incredibly resentful and probably wouldn't care if my choices caused a breakdown in our relationship. My family has been through this several times. Sometimes the parties make up (after several years in one case) and sometimes they don't.

You have to be willing to accept the consequences, bad or good, of the choices you make.
posted by suchatreat at 10:22 AM on May 5, 2005

If you ask me your sister has a problem with style, not substance.

She ought to be nicer and more supporting in how she expresses it, but it seems entirely reasonable for her to worry a great deal about you making plans, even tentative ones, to move in (near?) with someone you've never met in real life.

Contingencies and safeguards are fine, but they still presuppose a base-case of move in, when the far more prudent thing would be to have no such presupposition. The problem with "but unless" decision to move in is that it biases you to see things one way, when you really ought to be eyes-wide-open objective about them.

She is most likely aware that people are inevitably going to differ face to face from how they act and appear on line. Many of the most important things in relationships don't communicate very well, or at all, such as (for example) non-verbal communication, respect for privacy and personal space, balance of time and engery among significant other, friends and family, propensity to use hysterics or even physical force to resolve disputes, neatness, financial responsibility, physical compatability.
posted by MattD at 10:25 AM on May 5, 2005

Ahhhhg. You're planning to move in with someone you've never met, if all goes well during a short visit. This is going on when your twin is getting married, lending the impression that you might be motivated by panic over the loss of a close bond with her, or a sense of failure that she's marrying and you're still in a chat room. I don't mean to be harsh, patronizing, or close-minded, and I suspect you might not listen to my "apprehensions, facts and information", but just reading your post, I too am not ready to "move from concern to celebration". I'm not trying to be mean here, but I think your sister has a point.

But if you back off the plans to move in, I suspect everyone will significantly relax. Spend some time visiting your 'net friend, then see what it's like when he visits you at your place, if several visits go well, then think about moving in -- when it is the natural result of events, not preplanned before you ever lay eyes on your friend.
posted by orthogonality at 10:28 AM on May 5, 2005

Do the right thing with regard to your sister. If you choose not to be supportive of her, you'll regret it in the long run.

Also, recognize that what you're doing is somewhat unconventional, and it may just take her some time to see that you know what you're doing. She will come around eventually, and then you'll be glad that you were a stand-up sibling. Plus, you'll have a lifetime of moral superiority!
posted by anapestic at 10:29 AM on May 5, 2005

You might want to consider that her lack of excitement is motivated not by some kind of malice but out of genuine concern. You can imagine how it seems to someone who really loves you that you are making plans to pick up your life and move somewhere to be with someone you've never met in person. Take a step back from your own excitement about this and realize that it is very risky. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Life should be risky. This will likely be a fantastic adventure - but adventures rarely get the full support of those that are concerned about your emotional and physical safety.
-on preview - what everyone else said-
On the other issue - My sister just got married to a man I find stomach turningly awful. I did the bachelorette party, the shower and stood next to her in a pink dress because - at the end of the day - you don't get to ever go back and do that over.
posted by Wolfie at 10:33 AM on May 5, 2005

Your netbuddy is from another country? Or?

That you guys are twins is the overarching consideration, if it's presumed that you were very close until this situation. Otherwise I'd think if it wasn't your twin you might approach this differently.

I'm thinking about responsibilities and securing the relationships.

Your sister has been informed. So that box is checked.

Your netbuddy relationship is unseen to the world at present. So continuing that shouldn't have to give rise to further friction.

You are of course going to help out and attend your sister's wedding. You just will.

It seems to me that you are also faced with a big unknown when it comes to netbuddy. Everything may be hunkydory online and on the phone but as you say, you have to see.

I'm thinking a compromise of avoidance of the subject for the timebeing for the mostpart might be the best idea. Your sister sounds quite assertive in her position. It seems to me that intellectual persuasion may provoke further quarrels. And she sounds unlikely to become excited for you (and really, how could she, without having met netbuddy and seen you two together - it is a big ask, especially because she is your twin - the idea of caring and concern figures strongly for her, no doubt) unless you actually hit it off IRL with netbuddy.

So perhaps leave off discussions with your sister of your plans until they become more concrete after your netbuddy arrives. Until then, support your twin towards her wonderful event. That's obviously going to be a big thing for you as well as her --- you have so much history of togetherness that this issue can't prevent you from doing what I'm sure you always knew was your dream and responsibility - of watching your sis. getting married.

In the meantime I suspect the greatest difficulties might arise if your sister was to snark about the netbuddy situation or actively criticize you and your decision making. For that I can't help but think that you are going to have to placate and soothe and as far as possible not fight back or try to hold a grudge - I understand it's easy to write the words or contemplate it even, and much more difficult to put in play. But I would not expect to be able to mend all the fences in the very short term unless your sister decides from her own thinking to come around. If you can carry on as normal as possible but avoiding netbuddy's prospective role for the timebeing, then your sister may warm to the idea or at least realize, especially if you can be the soothing placator, that she has some responsibility to be civil to you. Also, with this passage of a few months, she'll be able to see that it's not a flight of fancy, that you are reasonably serious, which may also have an effect on the way she comes to view the situation.

Smile. Realize that your sister loves you and is concerned. Don't fight her. Don't try at the moment to change her mind. Be the smooth operator so that her plans can be fulfilled and in turn, such behaviour may generate your desired result a little bit down the track. The best of luck. And smile, just a little.
posted by peacay at 10:34 AM on May 5, 2005

I've been happily married for nearly 3 years now, to a guy I met online. Considering that my prior boyfriend was also someone that I met online and the breakup was as unfriendly as you could get, my family was rather concerned when I announced that this strange Canadian guy was moving 4000 miles to be with me.

She's worried, but like my father has an awful way of showing it. Has your sister ever met your friend? Is this a person that you've mentioned in the past, or are you just springing it on her out of the blue? If it's out of the blue, I can understand why your sister is concerned; I know that I'd be concerned if my sister announced she was visiting a net friend with potential plans of moving away to be with the friend as long as things worked out over a visit.

In my own case, I think the only reason why my family has been as supportive as they are is because I talked about this guy constantly and they were able to meet him before we'd moved in together, even if it was just once. Even then, my father believed that my husband was only interested in a green card, and most of his side of the family hasn't spoken to me since just before the wedding. My inlaws didn't get to meet me until 2 days before the wedding, and my own family had met my husband a handful of times in the month before our wedding, but between phone calls and email we all knew and were comfortable around each other.

If moving is what you want to do, you'll need to figure out a way to Not Care and move on with life, regardless of what your sister thinks. And what she thinks should have no bearing on your support of her wedding - that's her special day, not yours, so attempt to have a truce for at least that day. My biggest regret for my marriage was not being able to have my sister in the wedding because of how things ended up happening.
posted by chickygrrl at 10:39 AM on May 5, 2005

I do think that it is great that you are supporting her, and not stooping to her level. She has every right to share her opinion, being a person in your life she has the responsibility to be fully herself and honest, but she cannot impose her judgements on you. She has to respect your choices even if she may not agree with them. If she can't do that, then you need to take care of yourself and put some distance between you two.
posted by scazza at 10:52 AM on May 5, 2005

On preview, I like chickygrrl's comments a lot.

Also, weddings make people crazy. She may feel that you're competing with her, in a way. Well, you are, in a way. As you pointed out, it's impossible not to make comparisons, particularly as you two are twins.

If your timing for moving can be shifted as to not coincide so closely with her wedding, I bet this would be a lot easier on both of you.
posted by desuetude at 10:58 AM on May 5, 2005

I moved 2000 miles to move in with my gf after meeting her once at a wedding...been here ever since. So, good luck with that, it worked out for me.

In my experience with siblings/family getting married, people are soo anxious and highstrung that they can turn anything into a big deal. Maybe this is just your sister (i am assuming that you are/were very close) projecting her own self doubt onto you.

If your timing for moving can be shifted as to not coincide so closely with her wedding, I bet this would be a lot easier on both of you.

I agree.
posted by schyler523 at 11:09 AM on May 5, 2005

Also, weddings make people crazy.

Double, triple, quadruple amen. I bet once the wedding is done, things will be calmer, and you'll be able to talk about this in a serious way.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:14 AM on May 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

Talk about how you're excited to meet this person, because he is x,y, and z. But it will strain your visit with him, and your relationships with your family, if you're putting the horse before the cart. It's great to be excited, and I'm glad for the people here who have met the person once then moved, but in my own experience and those of my friends doing a similar thing, it's also a normal response to be a little disappointed. Just go with the expectation that "you want to see how it goes," not that you're already planning on moving the same month as your twin sister is getting married. That screams to me that you're a little unsure about this twin sister getting married first, and that you've got to have something similar set up too. This then gives you something equally as romantic and fun to look forward to, and talk about; that does NOT mean that you're not independently excited about meeting this guy, but just take it all in stride. Go down to see him, see what it's like, and sure - move if that's what ends up happening. But, yes - weddings make people crazy, twins make people competitive, and it's your family's job to be worried. Realize all of those things, go see him, and after the wedding and parties, then decide what you want to do, independently of all the other stresses.
posted by fionab at 11:39 AM on May 5, 2005

Twin relationships are very strong. That means you can get away with a lot (as your sister is currently doing), but YOU can get away with a lot too.

What to do really depends on the character/personality. So this might be exactly the wrong thing, but I would remain supportive, yet if patronised over the same thing for the hundreth time, be shockingly blunt, a verbal hard slap in the face with an ultimatum - either you start listening, or I stop listening. Completely. Only for that topic of course, but leave it crystal clear that unless discussion on that one topic is going to be actual grown-up discussion befitting of her intelligence, then you're going to save her from embarressing herself, her manners and her intellect by killing any pseudo-discussion by whatever means are necessary. All the while remaining friendly and supportive on all other topics.

I'm a perhaps a little too genial, as I get the impression that some people partially rely on cues from the other person rather than common sense to realise when they're seriously out of line. Thus being uncharactaristicly blunt (ie, more like most other people in my case) is sometimes what it takes to make them sit up and realise that what they're doing is a transgression by anyone's standards. Hell, maybe you being supportive might have unwittingly resulted in a supression of some of the cues that would have told her to buck up a long time ago.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:54 AM on May 5, 2005

her attitude about my joyous event.

People who don't really live in the online world don't see the first time netbuddy meeting that you are describing as a "joyous event," they see it as a first date in the planet they live on. My life is different from this, and yours seems to be, but it will be hard for your sister to share your appreciation of what is happening in your life because she's from a different culture in some senses. Give her a free pass until after you meet your new friend -- less than two months from now certainly -- then you can share pictures and stories and all the other junk new partners like to show off about the other one. It may be that in your mind you and your twin are moving along parallel paths towards partnership with others, but to outsiders, the roads just aren't going to look the same. Are other people being supportive of this new person in your life, is it just your sister, or is she sort of indicative of a general lukewarm trend towards online romance?

I live with my boyfriend who I met online and he's wonderful and it makes sense to me. I wish you luck with your meeting-and-possible-move-in because it sounds exciting for you and I know how that goes. However, the fact that your sister doesn't see it like you do is understandable. The fact that she is being a pest about it and making you feel bad isn't cool and is probably a side-effect of being the bride-to-be. She's probably going to have trouble coming around until your online buddy becomes more concrete in her mind, however that has to happen, and at her own pace. In the meantime, give her some "all about her" time and demand the same from her when/if you and this special someone decide to make a more permanent commitment to each other, whether by moving in, getting hitched, getting a joint web site, whatever.
posted by jessamyn at 11:58 AM on May 5, 2005


Wow. I'm gonna be an ass.

Get the chip off your shoulder. Your choice to make, what could be an ill fated decision, involving blind things that you can only see; that your sister doesn't have the reassuring voice in your head that says your 'joyous event' will turn out right.

All she has is her love for you that has fear for all those concerns you have answers for.

Why should she, under her major life changing stress (public speaking, police lights, marriage and death) decide anything other than the idea that if presented with the same choices, that she wouldn't make them.

And as it gets closer to the wedding, she's under a heavier pressure cooker.

She must feel:
uniquely qualified as she's your twin sister
and is making judgments on your past behaviors.

Wanna open her mind?
Tell her you have legitimate concerns about your own choices - and you'd like her to be your backup. Does it involve a 1000+ mile travel where you may move (and be far away from her?) Work out a safety schedule, if mr. stranger that you know from the net isn't right.

If it works out - you can say thanks for her being there.
If it doesn't, she can help extricate you from a tough situation.

Bonus - why connect these two things at all? Why not wait, three or six months after the marriage.?
posted by filmgeek at 2:04 PM on May 5, 2005

HA! I also am a twin, and my twin sister is my best friend, who is also extremely overbearing and protective of me, as well as her husband (even more fanatically). She is also in a very successful "real person" relationship, as opposed to my ephemeral relationships. Anytime I bring someone new into my life, he is treated with severe consternation and immediate disapproval based on past patterns of dating men that I like, but men that do not appear in their narrow social circle.

You are being queer. If things don't work out with the new guy, you will feel horrible for even thinking your current thoughts. I think you might be projecting your feelings of fear of losing her to her new husband into her disapproval of you. It sounds like you are trying very hard to make her the enemy. She just wants what is best for you. Put your twin first. You have a very special bond with her that you are lucky to have. I don't think you can change her mind, so I can't give you any advice there. I personally usually defer to my twin because she is the most important person to me in the world, and her happiness is inherently my own, too. And she's been right in the past so it's easy to follow her lead. How do you know anyway that she's not seeing something that you are blind to? I'd speak to her more about her reservations concerning the new partner in your life to find out really why she doesn't want him around you. But don't let your annoyance of her closed mind take away from her marriage. It’s childish.
posted by naxosaxur at 2:34 PM on May 5, 2005

I'm sorry to hear about the disapproving tone. That sounds like the real problem here. Married people and people about to be married can be really arrogant and self-absorbed. Above all, our culture rewards those who marry and breed, and people can get big heads around the time they tie the knot. For some, overconfidence is also a way to overcome doubts and insecurities they may have over such a big step. You do, to some extent, need to just forgive this. There's not much you can do.

However, I think your sis may just be looking out for you, beneath all the derision. Having a provision to move to be with someone you've never met yet is in fact getting ahead of things, and if I were close to you I'd probably be questioning what you're doing too. This has nothing to do with meeting people online. I've done that too. But my experiences have taught me that much of what takes place in online-only relationships is driven by optimism. It's easy to think the world of someone you've never met, and hope springs eternal that they will in fact be everything you've ever hoped for. You *do* need to contain yourself and be cautious, and I don't just mean taking safety precautions.

You are comparing your first meeting with someone to your sister's wedding: "my joyous event." This suggests that your emotions are pretty powerfully invested in this, and I think anyone closeby is rational to be worried. Not to be rude, not to be dismissive, not to be mean, but worried. That what we do for people we love.

As for whether you should be a dick at your sister's wedding or not... no. No you shouldn't.
posted by scarabic at 3:44 PM on May 5, 2005

She won't move from concern to celebration.

If your date works out, maybe this will change.

Unless you immediately proceed to moving-in-together after one meeting, at which point concern is once again called for.
posted by scarabic at 3:46 PM on May 5, 2005

Of course you know you can't snub your sister's joy. Her joy is hers, and its valid, and that has nothing to do with your situation.

Sadly, those urging you caution in your situation are all too valid. I once moved in with a guy I'd written with for months. We spent some brief time together then I moved. 3 weeks latter I spent a Monday morning packing in a big hurry and departing without warning. He turned out to be an abusive drunk that couldn't apologize once sober(the abuse was only verbal).

Another man I met and courted by mail and phone I spent 6 years with before we broke up. He never expected it to be a life-time commitment. It was okay, we're dear friends. Then there is my beloved, lawfully partnered. I met him on IRC. Its been 8 years and going strong. Main difference, we met in real life a few days after meeting on IRC.

The most difficult thing about net-relationships that are long is the way people build images in their minds. The longer you go without meeting, the more solid your mental image. But the real thing is likely to be quite different, and that is a jarring experience.

Its all to easy to discount that reaction so much you can't, at the same time, make a good judgment in a short time. There lies the problem you are facing. I don't doubt that the mental image you have could be accurate. But it may not, and only close contact over time can really give the complete picture.

It doesn't help you at all to have your sister giving you a hard time when you are preparing to take a chance, yet may need further support if it goes bad. The chance you take probably is worth taking! Almost certainly, IMO, but the pursuit of a mate is, to me, a top-priority activity.

Best of luck to you. Just remember who you are, and maintain your self respect. Don't sell yourself short just because you can't handle your sister playing the I-told-you-so card.
posted by Goofyy at 2:10 AM on May 6, 2005

I am not a twin, but my younger sister and I are very close. We used to live in neighboring towns, and spent a lot of time together as friends. A couple years ago, she and her family moved four hours away from where I live, and at the time, I was very upset with her, thinking and even telling her it was a huge mistake.

However, this was me trying to control her actions. I quickly realized it was none of my business where she moved to, and that I could not control her. I could only continue to be supportive.

Perhaps your sister is having a similar problem, feeling that she will miss you so much if you move away. Perhaps she is just overly stressed out about her own upcoming wedding. Perhaps she is afraid to lose you.

Talk to her about the situation.
posted by cass at 9:22 AM on May 6, 2005

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