Fresh servings of pain on the hour
May 27, 2011 8:48 AM   Subscribe

I've been lied to by someone I love and trusted, and it's causing me chest pains and way too many tears. What can I do to cope or process it healthily and get over it as quickly as possible?

My sister and I live together, and are very close in age (our late twenties). I assumed she and I were very close. She's always been my best friend, my supporter and champion, and I her supporter and champion. I found out that she's been lying to me about things that don't matter and things that do, and I can't understand why she would. I feel really bad about it, like it's my fault somehow.

I don't understand why I'm feeling so terrible about it, why I can't just forgive her and move on this time. I love her so much, and I've done everything I can to be the best sister and friend possible, because we never could rely on our parents.

We've had virtually no friction in our relationship. We've had the same crowd of friends, we've seen each other through so much (especially in our twenties---our parents were pretty unreliable folks and so she grew up with my maternal grandparents and I lived with my dad and stepmother), so we never really even got to grow up together in a traditional way but we really connected while at college.

I'm in a postbac premed program right now, and she works. I can't go out much right now, but she still does when she feels like it.

The last few weeks, she came home pretty late at night and, the first time, I said something like, "Did they make you stay super late again at work, or did you go do something fun?" I love hearing about her escapades since I have to be chained to my desk. And she said something like, "No, I went to the gym, and then Kristin and I went to XYZ bar."

Last week, I got an FB message from Kristin that asked if my sister was mad at her, because they hadn't talked in months and my sister had ignored her emails. Apparently she and Kristin haven't spoken in months, and she hadn't gone to a bar with Kristin all those times she said she had.

I gently asked my sister about this just out of curiosity---she's not someone I thought lies, because I don't tell lies, and because I was really confused. But when I asked her about it, she said she'd been going to a meditation class, something she'd mentioned to me wanting to do several times in the past and I had even emailed her some websites and links for drop in classes in our area months ago when I went to meditation. She said she lied because was embarrassed about going, then she said she thought I would discourage her (which is bizarre because I encouraged her and sent her links many months back). I told her I thought it was great and that it hurt that she thought I would discourage her (I didn't have a very supportive parent and want to be someone she knows she can rely on for emotional support). I said I was sorry for whatever impression I might have given to her that made her think she'd have to hide it from me. I told her she didn't have to share everything, but I felt like telling me a lie made me wonder if she was hiding something more than just going to a meditation class. She said she was sorry, that she didn't know why she didn't feel like telling me, and that she really wanted to be open and honest with me and loved that about our relationship, that I was a great sister and her best friend, and she was genuinely sorry.

Over the weekend, a girl I don't know posted on her Facebook wall and said "Hey, Bridget wants to know if you're still interested in the room in her apartment or if you already found a new place."

I didn't know she'd been looking at apartments or for new roommates.

For that, she says she can't explain herself, that she's sorry about lying to me....I was okay at first and asked her if she wanted to move out, that she could if that's what she wanted, that I loved her and would always be there for her, I told her I understood if she wanted to have more "emotional space" (maybe we're too close, I thought, and she needs room to breathe---Lord knows I do at times). She said she didn't want to, she didn't know why (she's been looking at apartments since April, apparently), she couldn't explain it. She said she's so sorry.

I feel like it's all my fault. Obviously I've done something to make her think she can't come to me. She's a loving and caring and warm person on the inside. She's always given me the impression that she's really warm and open and charismatic. She's a great listener and a role model to me in many ways. She doesn't feel the same way about herself, and I've always been there knowing it was my job to be on her side. I'm scared she hates me, feels burdened by me, doesn't get that I just want us to be the family we didn't have, that we could trust each other.

I've loved her more than anybody in the whole world for so long, and I think I've lost her. I realize that she might not value honesty as much as I do.

Yesterday, I found an invitation to a wedding from my college friend in a discarded grocery bag thrown into our hall closet and only found it because I was putting all my winter coats in storage. It was a huge silver envelope that was postmarked from three weeks ago (my sister has our mail key and gets the mail which she puts on the counter). It was addressed to me and a guest, and the RSVP date is this week. I called my sister with the intention of asking if she wanted to go, because it was in our favorite beach town, and while I was explaining why we had to answer by the rapidly approaching RSVP date, she immediately became very defensive, saying she'd never seen the envelope, that it came from our mail slot with a lot of other mail and she never saw it. I lost my temper and said, "This is so fucking stupid. I was trying to ask you if you wanted to go with me and you want to turn it into a fucking defense plea." Then I hung up on her, turned off my phone, and cried and felt bad for losing my temper with her. I apologized on chat and told her I would see her later, and that I loved her and that she should know that I'd always be there for her no matter what and I was trying really hard to get over this.

The thing is is that the envelope was a third of the size of the bag and heavy, and hard to miss. When she came home and examined it, she said, "Geez, how could I have missed this? Weird." I don't really think she would have hidden it on purpose, because that would be crazy. She's met this friend a handful of times and we both love weddings (for the free booze, dancing, and dinner). But she seems really preoccupied and disinterested. She doesn't even seem to want to regain my trust, which is what I would have tried to do if I had been her.

She says she doesn't want to move out, but she might just do it secretly because I don't feel like I know what she's thinking anymore. I'm tired. I want to act like the gracious, loving refuge for her that she knows she can be honest with, but I'm so angry and scared and sad and have this newfound sense of loneliness from being so stupidly unaware of what was going on that it will probably take some time, and I don't want her to hate me, no matter what happens.

I can't tell our friends what's going on (though some of them knew she'd been thinking of moving out and thought I'd been aware of it and actually thought we were both moving together) because that would hurt her and hurt our relationship.

I just need to feel better so I can concentrate, and stop tearing up and wanting to cry. I want to know what I did wrong and how I can help her be more honest with me or accept that she doesn't want to be. I'm scared she'll leave without saying (her name is on the lease) and I'll come home to a half empty apt and a notice that I should leave (I'd have to move in with my mother who is deeply depressed and extremely needy). I don't even know what my sister is capable of now (I didn't really think she would lie to me or be defensive about lying to me) but I want to believe that she cares how I feel (which I'm not certain she does anymore, judging from the way she's been ignoring me and carrying on as normal, like I'm a wacko having a disproportionate reaction and boring---this was not the way things were between us a few weeks ago when I was unaware of everything).

I've been lied to in the past by bad ex-boyfriends and stuff, but this feels like an earthquake with aftershocks. I feel so much more heartbroken by this than anything else, and I was once very much in love with a guy who cheated on me. Even that didn't feel as horrible and painful as this.

How do I cope? How do I just get through this in a way that normalizes everything? Is that even possible? I can be okay for longer periods of time but then my heart just feels like it's being squeezed and I start to weep. I feel like I don't even have the brainpower to figure out what's going on in my head or what I'm thinking or feeling other than a lot of pain. I so desperately want to fix everything. I really wish I knew how, but I'll settle for tips on how to stop feeling awful. I'm trying to pretend it didn't happen, that my sister never lied to me, that I imagined the whole thing, but everything still feels really off.

Help please. I apologize if I come off as emotionally immature and incredibly naive. I know sisters do terrible things to each other all the time and they just forgive and forget. I really want to. I don't know how and I feel like a horrible bitch.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Whoa. Lots going on here, and despite the super long post it's hard to know much about the situation.

Is it possible that your sister just wants some more space and independence from you? I've had best friends and family as roommates in the past, and living together can be a tough dynamic on any relationship. Perhaps she's been keeping things from you because she doesn't want to hurt your feelings by telling you that she needs some breathing room?

Regardless, you need to talk to her about this. Share this post, or some version of it as a letter, and ask her for an explanation. It might be easier for her to write what she's feeling, rather than speak it. The truth might hurt, but it'll be the best thing for you to learn how to cope with the changes in this relationship.

Also, I know you feel betrayed, but you should try to stop analyzing everything your sister does and assuming that it is all lies. The wedding invitation thing, for example, could be an honest mistake. Assuming that everything is a lie is only going to make her more defensive.

I wish you luck. My own twenties were filled with earth-shattering dramas, that in-hindsight, really weren't that earth-shattering. I'm sure you guys will get through this.
posted by hamandcheese at 9:15 AM on May 27, 2011

I occurs to me that this might be about you at all, it's likely just her going through who knows what shit. I would disengage slightly (like don't make plans with her without a backup plan, don't demand explanations for lies, though exposing lies seems fine.) and just generally treat her as though she were on weird meds or god knows what and can't help herself.

In the meantime, hang out with a lot of supportive, loving friends and try not to complain TOO much about your sister.

Telling your sister ONCE, briefly, that you've noticed X,Y & Z, (leaving your completely justified! -reactions out of it completely), and that you're worried and hopes she's okay, seems okay to me.

To reiterate: I really doubt this is about you, so taking it personally will just add fuel to a situation that will already be painful to you. Treat her like someone who's hurting or sick and, if you have the energy, and it sounds like you do because you clearly love her deeply, take care of yourself so that you'll be there for her when she needs you, instead of you feeling so betrayed and angry that you can't do it or can't do it with love (instead of familial duty).

To reiterate: this is a hard time for you. In my experience there might not be any harder ones. It's very important that you find other people to support you emotionally, because for whatever reason, your sister's not up to the job right this second. It happens. It doesn't make her a bad person. It just makes her not able to be the support you've relied on in the past. Hugs to you! I hope I'm not sounding like I'm taking this lightly. I really now how it feels like the floor disappears out from under your world when someone who's been rock solid previously changes like this.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:16 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is it possible that she's dealing with some sort of addiction or untreated mental illness?
posted by wuzandfuzz at 9:17 AM on May 27, 2011 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: I apologize, this will sound harsh. It sounds to me like you want an extremely ultra-close emotional relationship with your sister where you guys share everything and never, ever leave each other or do anything without one another or sharing it with one another--and she does not. It is possible that at one point your sister enjoyed the extreme closeness of your relationship, but now your demands for her attention and the details of her life are beginning to feel oppressive and she is, consciously or unconsciously, attempting to pull away. She's obfuscating or outright withholding details of her life to have some privacy from your watch.

The lies may be because she knows how important this close relationship is to you and doesn't want to talk openly about drawing away for fear you'll flip your shit.

It's shitty for anybody to do things like look for a new roommate without telling the old one or throw away a roommate's mail, I'm not excusing those. You need to firmly state "Look, let me know if you want to move out and please be more careful with the mail, those things affect me," but without the "Because I love you and just want to know what you're thinking and just want to spend time with you" as the latter is the stuff she may have started resenting and is now interpreting as emotional blackmail.

To put things in perspective, the things she did, while shitty, are objectively not as bad as shit like cheating on one's partner. The wedding invitation really could be an honest mistake. Your reaction is more out of this need for closeness than the scale of shittiness of her actions. Take a deep breath. Imagine it was a regular roommate who did this, not your sister.

I suggest sitting down with her and saying "Look, it looks to me that maybe we both need a little more space. What do you think?" Try not to get too emotional, or say things like "I ONLY WANT WHAT'S BEST FOR YOU"--she knows this already, believe me. See where the conversation goes.
posted by Anonymous at 9:20 AM on May 27, 2011

Schroedinger has said more bluntly what I was getting at, at least based on what you've written above.
posted by hamandcheese at 9:27 AM on May 27, 2011

Umm, I'm sure this is going to be a minority opinion but your attitude towards your sister seems really unhealthy to me, somewhere between a parent and a lover. Possibly she lied to you about meditation because she is looking for some privacy in her life? Possibly she didn't tell you about the new apartment to put off the frankly overwrought floods of tears? Because honestly, you seem unnaturally attached, insecure, and dependent to me, to the point I would seek therapy.

You are not her mother. She is not your boyfriend. Those comparisons are not appropriate. Your reaction to this string of events seems likewise not appropriate.

I have no idea why you need to forgive or get over her dropping or losing an invitation. Mail gets lost; it was found before the RSVP date; no harm done. Get over it?

In short: I think this is about you, not her, and you should seek out a good therapist to examine the dynamics of a co-dependent, unhealthy relationship your sister seems to be growing out of or rebelling against.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:32 AM on May 27, 2011 [27 favorites]

Even if it's true that she wants more space, she's going about in about the most hurtful way possibly outside of an abusive rant. Maybe she just doesn't know any better, but it's baffling when people you love tell you lies that are obvious and so easily disproved that you don't even have to look. You start feeling like, "WTF? you have so little respect for me as that?!" Which is not a useful road to go down. Really the lying person is just kind of mental at the moment.

All this says to me, yes "more space" but for some other reason than JUST feeling too close. In my personal experience, the people I know who've been that way have been having some sort of post-divorce breakdown or addiction or some other Big Thing that they don't want judged or "helped" with. If this is the case, all the OP can do is let her sister know she's concerned and she'll keep food in the fridge (or whatever) and not pry or judge. When people are THAT close to each other, they often end up useless in fixing each other, ime. The OP is likely just not going to be able to fulfill that role. The sister will have to do it herself.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:38 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't know whether or not therapy is the right road for this one, but Al-anon or some similar group therapy would give support, no judgment, and lots of ideas on how to handle this kind of situation without going crazy. Maybe therapy would, too, but I run into people who've gone to therapy for 5 years and then end up making more progress more quickly in groups. As a bonus, you potentially end up with people you can socialized with, though not always. Of course, since I'm in the groups, that's the sample set I get, so it's not exactly unbiased.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:43 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree that you sound overly connected to your sister. These lies seem like a way of gaining her own independence without having to be totally up front, honest, and maybe hurt you. Yes, lying isn't the best thing to do, but, in this situation, I can't say I wouldn't be lying either, as reading this overwhelmed me.

All in all, be forgiving, give her some space, and be o.k. with not knowing all the details of her adult life. As you get older you are going to be less and less attached at the hip. Learn to be o.k. with that.

(for example, the "I love you and will always be there for you" response to if she wants to move out or not is really strange emotional drama overkill.)
posted by Vaike at 9:45 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not that my random context-free opinion matters, but I agree with schroedinger's assessment.
posted by StrawberryPie at 9:56 AM on May 27, 2011

I love her so much, and I've done everything I can to be the best sister and friend possible,

It's possible the reason why you feel so hurt is because you have tried to earn the unconditional love you have been lacking from other figures in your life, and the pattern is repeating (abandonment, withdrawal). You have given her everything you would like to get back in a sisterly relationship, but instead of earning her reciprocal love, she is pulling away and treating you in ways you don't understand.

You can't earn that sort of deep relationship. It's not a tit-for-tat arrangement. Even with sisters.

I suspect you feel the void from the lack of your parent's attention and care very deeply, and you very much want that kind of love and support from someone. The truth is, the only really satisfying source is your own heart. Learn to treat yourself as your best friend (or sister), and you won't feel the lack that leads you to try to earn it from other independent people in your life.

You need to put your hurt feelings aside and leave space for your sister to have and express her own feelings, because your reaction is so intense that she is being choked out. By making this all about you and your hurt, you are being selfish (not that your reaction isn't justified, but you aren't able to see beyond it). You are going to have to make an effort to pay attention to her and her feelings, and let her express herself honestly to you, because right now she is acting like she can't do so.
posted by griselda at 10:03 AM on May 27, 2011 [12 favorites]

My first thought reading this was "whoa". And then, "These problems go way beyond an RSVP."

Which is a bit harsh, but, again, "whoa". It sounds like you have had unfulfilled relationships from other caretakers and are putting all of your neediness eggs in one sisterly basket. This emotional reaction is extreme. I would probably lie to you about looking for an apartment too if I knew that response that would definitely follow.

The title of your post (Fresh servings of pain on the hour) illustrates how deeply you are taking these slights. I agree with the above posters: your sister is not your boyfriend, your sister is not your mother. It sounds like your sister is trying to explore her own self, and her own interests, without having to have you around as her supporter and champion.

Side note: why would you have to move in with your depressed, needy mother?
posted by amicamentis at 10:09 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have a friend that I lie to occasionally about what I'm doing, and the reasons are:

1) She is sensitive and dependent, and she will be hurt that I haven't told her what I am up to. I don't want to deal with this because I am allowed to have my own life and I don't want to answer 500 questions about what I am doing/who I'm with. I don't even want to answer these questions when I'm having sex with someone, why would I with a FRIEND? Lying is the easiest thing I can do in the situation and doesn't cause any hurt feelings.

2) She will invite herself and I don't want her to come because it's something that won't work with her there.

3) I've lied too many times and now have to lie about something dumb to cover up my previous lies.

4) I want her to think I'm better than I really am, i.e. I was doing this productive thing when I was really sitting around drinking beer and eating chips or something.

Basically, I think you're putting a lot of pressure on her and she is lying defensively. Ease up.

I hope this helps.
posted by amodelcitizen at 10:12 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

You are emotionally suffocating your sister. I'm sorry to be the one to tell you what she can't seem to say ( although her actions speak volumes, yes?)

Look. I understand how you became all romanticized and clingy, it's a result of emotional neglect in your up upbringing, but you need to grieve and move on. I could be wrong, but I think this is one of those huge life lessons we all learn. If you do not learn to be emotionally independent NOW you will keep re-creating this pattern until you get the message.

I'm not saying you can't find the level of reciprocal emotionally support you seek, but if you want an sort of relationship in the future with your sister, please recognize she can't give it to you. Not now, probably not ever. She can not fulfill the level of intimacy and support you are craving, the level of deep caring you were denied growing up. She's not the one.

Grow up (sorry - I don't know how else to put that) and learn to provide that deep level of caring and support for yourself, by yourself. When you get it right, you'll probably meet a life partner you can externalize this experience with, but even if that partner never comes along, you will still be OK.

In short - it's you, not her. Grieve everything that is missing from your family and childhood experience, and then start to provide those things for yourself. Work on your relationship with yourself.

The rest will work itself out.
posted by jbenben at 10:24 AM on May 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

Setting the wedding invitation aside, it sounds like your sister is using these lies to create more distance and privacy between the two of you.

From what I've read, she loves and cares about you as much as she ever did, but for personal reasons would like to have a larger private life that doesn't include her sibling. She likely lied or kept these things from you because she can't reconcile her need for space and her concern for hurting you.

Now that some of these topics are out in the open, I encourage you to simply give her more space. This doesn't sound like a crisis that needs to be managed, so long as you can set aside your hurt feelings over time.
posted by cior at 10:48 AM on May 27, 2011

I have to agree with jbenben here, tbh it sounds like she's rebelling. Not rebelling to get at you, rebelling to establish her own identity and boundaries.

Don't get me wrong, I feel for you and I see you want only the best for you both, just the way you're going about it is mistaken.

AskMe cliché alert: therapy? Because this is one of those things that will be tricky for you to figure out without help.
posted by tel3path at 10:57 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Okay. I lie like your sister does.

I get the habit from my mother, but for me it's about small things that I feel like... I want to keep private. I have this thing where I feel like if I have an experience, or a feeling, or whatever, and I share it, it's not "mine" anymore. Like if the other person puts their interpretation on it, it becomes partly theirs. Probably because this is what happened when I was growing up -- my parents would kind of co-opt my life and it was hard to feel like I had sovereign possession of my own self.

Because I got used to keeping things from people who were not going to be supportive (my father who would ridicule or discourage or my mother who would spin or co-opt), I do the same thing with people that I intellectually know would be extremely supportive and interested in a nice normal way. It's a habit. But if there were someone like you, always waiting at home, always wanting to hear what I had been doing and with whom, "always there for me" as you say repeatedly, that would trigger those feelings where I'd feel like I needed to hide things in order to keep them as "mine." Not that you are doing anything objectively wrong, but it is the wrong thing for your sister.

I joined a handbell choir about a year ago, and didn't tell anyone until about a month ago. Not my friends who were in college with me where I was in a handbell choir, not anyone in my family, no one. I lied to everyone, telling them I was working late or running errands or hanging out with such-and-such-a friend, when they wanted to hang out on a Monday night. I didn't think anyone would really have a problem with it; maybe people would lightheartedly make fun or say "wtf are handbells," but I was used to that from college. It was simply because I just wanted it to be mine. I didn't want someone asking me every Monday night "how was handbells?" and having to tell them. I wanted to be able to process it on my own. I wanted to be able to choose whether I wanted people showing up for our performances. Eventually I've started telling people, and no one has actually asked me on a Monday night how handbells was. Which is a huge relief. The thing is, though, that if I were your sister, you would be asking me that -- totally normal question, but it would be a problem for me.

So in conclusion, it's all totally my own problem that I take out on other innocent people.
posted by thebazilist at 11:26 AM on May 27, 2011 [10 favorites]

To go against the grain a little (or more), my first thought was, "Wow, your sister's getting worrisome."

Whatever her motivations might be, her approach is a little disturbing, all the more because

She's always been my best friend, my supporter and champion.

In general, with people who lie, a real good chance that folks don't know about all the lies... so there may well be more than you know.

She would be far from the first person who (for whatever reason or reasons) became a habitual liar. I've known more than a couple people who lied often, often about things that were less than trivial.

Have you thought about asking her, "What's up with the lies?"
posted by ambient2 at 11:28 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another possibility to throw out there: maybe she needs some of that emotional energy for someone/thing else in her life right now.

I also have a sister I live with (part of the year) and love dearly. The amount of sharing changes a lot, though, depending on our romantic relationships and other strong friendships. If one of us is putting a lot of energy into dating or spending time with another friend or even working intensely on a hobby project, that usually means she and I talk less, go out together less, keep a few more things private, etc. And that's okay. I know she's got my back if I need her.

It sounds like maybe part of the problem here is that, thanks to family history, it's hard for you to separate someone's short-term, visible devotion to you from their long-term commitment. From what you've said it sounds like she is intentionally pulling away, but also like she does love you. Those aren't opposites. If you can trust the longterm love, maybe it will be easier to cope with the recent change in how you interact.
posted by emshort at 11:44 AM on May 27, 2011

"Jane, I'm not sure what in the world is going on. If you need to move, just give me adequate information, so I can make plans. If you're angry, upset, in trouble, whatever, and it's something I can help with, let me know. Meanwhile, please be careful with my mail, and, if you don't want to tell me what you're up to, which is actually okay, please don't tell me stuff that's not accurate. It was weird to talk to Kristin and find out that way. "

The one possibility that might require a different response is if she's hooked up with a cult. That can make people ditch their families, but there's not a lot you can do about it.

It will get better. You're both young, and even if things are rocky now, they won't always be. Good luck.
posted by theora55 at 1:48 PM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

How do I cope? How do I just get through this in a way that normalizes everything? Is that even possible? I can be okay for longer periods of time but then my heart just feels like it's being squeezed and I start to weep

It sounds to me like she's just looking for a new orbit between her life and yours, and it sounds like you've been very close for a really long time and re-negotiating that space is kind of hard. It doesn't sound to me like she's a pathological liar or anything. It just sounds like she's not sure how not to hurt your feelings and maybe hasn't articulated for herself that she'd like a little more space between the two of you.

I don't think that means what it usually means, which is 'I'm breaking up with you'. I think you're just both adults and she'd like to see what it's like to figure some stuff out on her own, and figure out her opinions on her own, and try some new things on her own.

Who knows what her issues are. Maybe she felt kind of squelched or disrespected as a kid, or maybe she grew up thinking of herself as incompetent or less competent than you. Maybe she'd just like to not talk about things for a while. Maybe she's got a big crush on someone and just wants to keep it quiet for a while.

In the meantime, I think you could at least partially dust yourself off and do something different, on your own, and let her figure things out for a while. I don't think you're losing your best friend for the rest of your life -- I think it's just that things are changing right now and things will probably end up being different, but still okay.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:03 PM on May 27, 2011

While I agree with others above about you seeming unnaturally attached and clingy when it comes to your sister, I also think there is more going on here than we know.

For instance, I'm wondering if you and your sister come from a home where there were addiction or mental health issues and that's why you moved in together to begin with? Because the dynamic here seems to be that you feel like you need to "always be there" for your sister and "do anything" for her, and that suggests to me that you've had to go through quite a bit of drama in your own lives and you maybe had to take over from your own mom and start mothering your sister. If I am reading too much into this, just ignore me, but it reads like there is family drama here we don't know about.

And so while I feel she does need more space than you are giving her and that privacy is one reason she's not telling *you* everything, the fact that her former best friend hasn't seen her in weeks has me wondering if more than that is going on. The first things that come to mind for me are that she has a boyfriend you and her friend would not approve of, or that she is depressed, or dealing with alcohol or drugs. The last two would explain the wedding invitation; she is just too preoccupied with her own thoughts or caught up in what she is drinking/taking to pay real attention to everyday stuff. Is she letting other things go? Her appearance or school grades slacking significantly, important appointments just being missed, anything like that? Red flag, time to intervene.

But if she has a boyfriend, or if nothing seems really *wrong* with your sister, you're just going to have to accept that she needs some space, and you need to be able to talk to her without getting all emotional yourself and feel like she is betraying you when she tries to carve out her own identity, okay?
posted by misha at 3:20 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

When you're too close to a liar things just get real crazy real fast.

Move, as soon as possible.

She's not trustworthy.

Moving will help you find your ballast, help you find your way out of your family scene, and on into your own life. It's sounds like you've an interesting life going on, if a very busy one.

I'm not saying to cut her out of your life, more like hey, if she shows when I'm over here with our mutual friends, cool, if not, also cool. But any plans made only with her, you're setting yourself up for a fall. And any dependence upon her to be your friend, you're setting yourself up for a fall.

I'm in agreement with the sentiment here, in some ways, that this scene is a big mess, and that you two are -- or were -- really entwined in one anothers lives, but I don't think you're some clingy, desperate woman. Fact is, even if you are a clingy, desperate woman, this kind of shit will just exacerbate that. And in any case you don't deserve this treatment. It's bullshit. You'd never, ever take it from anyone else, nor should you, and why should you ever have to expect it with someone you've trusted?

And maybe she is an addict, or things have just somehow some way gotten totally wrong-footed for her, maybe she's fallen for some mope you just *loathe* or some such, maybe she's begun some kinky sex thing with aardvarks and brylcreem. Maybe in time she'll be back. In time, over time, bit by bit, you can -- if you choose -- allow her back into your life. But, first things first.

As I read, I really felt compassion for you. It's time to grieve. And that is one thing I am totally in agreement with all these other posters; your relationship with your sister is emblematic of all of your family system, emblematic of *all* your past losses, and losing this relationship with your sister -- which you really already have lost -- is going to bring up all the pain from all the losses in your life, every last goddamn one of them. And that hurts. Bad. It's no wonder that you're crying and disoriented, not to me, not one bit.

Having walked through lies with two brothers who played me -- for fun, best I can figure it, though I never really have been able to really understand it -- I can tell you that the only way out is out. Get away from her. Find your feet, when you can, and walk. Cut from your family, create a new family, a new life, as you walk through this thing, create new relationships as best you can.

I wish I had something different to tell you. But I don't.


Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 3:56 PM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I just want us to be the family we didn't have, that we could trust each other.

I think this is the key to what's going on here.

Both of you are acting out-- or re-enacting out, really-- scripts that were handed to you by childhood traumas, but those scripts are very different from each other, and, though I know this will be no consolation to you, yours is far better because you have come through with your capacity to love intact, and hers has been compromised.

Your mother didn't raise either one of you, and to be abandoned by your mother is terribly wounding for anyone. You have attempted to heal this wound by making her into your mother (I'm guessing your sister is older, and that you had transferred some of your attachment to her even before your mother left). When you and your sister got back together, for you it amounted to getting your mother back.

She coped with abandonment by your mother by identifying with your mother, thereby internalizing her and retaining her that way. You already saw her in that light, and being raised by your mother's parents can only have reinforced that identification.

When you and your sister got back together, for her it strengthened her identification with your mother even further, and has given her the chance to repeat the central act, from her point of view, of your mother's life: leaving the family.

That is, in her case, by leaving you-- and if you were to ask your father, I'd bet that he'd tell you your mother did the kinds of things your sister is doing now before your mother left. It's just terrible that your sister could even contemplate such a thing, but I think the sort of identification I'm attributing to your sister can generate almost a compulsion to repeat, and that it would be a mistake to blame her completely (not that I think you are capable of doing so anyway).

I think you're going to have to suffer through another abandonment, as awful as that is, and it will be awful, but that you will come through it once again, still able to love and go on living. For the kind of person I believe I see in this question, I'm inclined to think true healing may be available only through having a family of your own.

I'm more worried about your sister. She chose a path of lesser suffering as a child, but at the terrible cost of a kind of possession. I think she needs to get into therapy and try to break your mother's hold on her.
posted by jamjam at 3:57 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your sister is also suddenly ignoring her friend (Kristin) with no apparent reason. So it is not just you, and it is probably a big deal for her that she's doing this, too. Hopefully that will make you feel a little better, at least.

Maybe she is suddenly rebelling and needing space from everyone, as other posters have said, but I would also worry that there's something deeper going on. The thing is, I still don't see a way for you to do something about it. If she is just changing into a person who needs more space then you need to give her space. If she is caught up in something and is hiding things for that reason then if you force the issue she will just fight back. The only thing you can do is let her make all of the moves. Be there for her, but if she makes a boundary then force yourself respect it.

For keeping your emotions in check... Distraction is great. Can you throw yourself into your premed even more? Be the best premed ever? Get to know the other students and maybe spend some time with them, or spend some time keeping up with your current friends despite your hectic schedule?
posted by anaelith at 5:07 PM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Are you quite sure these pains and squeezing feelings in your chest are just your way of describing an emotional reaction? Seriously, could you be having a physical problem?

Your needing her to be so close to you might feel very intrusive to her. Sisters who grew up together have usually worked through lots of disagreements and upheavals, slammed enough doors and pulled enough hair, to know exactly where they stand and what any silence or tone of voice means almost infallibly. It takes work, like any other relationship. Because you missed so much of each other growing up, you're bending over backwards to be nice now. It's not even about gentle, it's about family and time. You're still kinda new with each other so your relationship is still changing.

Perhaps your sister is having a new affair that she is not comfortable sharing with you. Even if it's not that simple, she does not seem to be comfortable opening the entire world of her emotions to you. In truth, that kind of spontaneous intimacy you probably crave (we all do, sometimes) only happens when one is a babe in arms or when one is in the early stages of falling in love (then it is soon followed by strategic withdrawals and years of negotiations on the road to solid partnership, if you're lucky). You're perhaps expecting the late flowering of your sisterhood during your college years to continue at the wide open stage, although you have different roots and you're both at the stage of building separate lives now.

Do you both pay your share of the rent, etc.? An imbalance there could be the source of resentment neither of you are willing to articulate.

On the other hand, maybe she is considering becoming a nun or zen teacher or, I also would wonder, could your sister be doing a lot of drinking and having blackouts? Three things prompted that weird question: (1) She's lying about things she doesn't have to lie about. (2) She's doing a lot of late nights lately and not talking about them when formerly she told you about her "escapades". (3) She might be telling the truth and not remember have disposed of that piece of mail. Also, if she has a romantic involvement with a drinking buddy, she'd probably hide that from you.

There is very little you can do about any of this except be honest with yourself and with her. Back off, if it's advisable, and stand on your own two feet. Address your assumptions, attitudes and behavior. You can seek out some wise counsel to help you put your involvement with your sister in appropriate perspective. I wish you well. I hope you will relax and take comfort in the fact that you will always be sisters and your relationship will grow as long as you live; it's not ever too late.
posted by Anitanola at 11:06 PM on May 27, 2011

Hey, I'm so sorry you have to go through this. :( I can relate, in a way... I have some friends who I try really hard to gain their trust and admiration, and I feel like I get nothing in return.

My honest outlook? You feel anxious because the dynamics between you and your sister has changed since you "outed" her for lying. Whether the reasoning behind her lying are, it doesn't sound like a healthy relationship. You say your chest feels tight, everything feels off... this is the classic symptoms of feeling anxious. Who knows, your sister may have not intended anything out of this, or she's using you and will be taking advantage of you. Lying can lead to stealing and/or manipulation. I find it strange she would overlook the wedding invitation envelope... her becoming defensive is a sign she did it on purpose. You mentioned a fear she would move out and leave you stranded, as her name is on the lease. That's a possibility. It's very possible your heart is telling you something is seriously amiss.

OR, all this could be an overreaction to her behavior lately, due to you being abandoned as a child. You're experiencing the same feelings now, as you look at your sister as a role model and you feel like she's leaving you in some way. She did ignore Kristen as well, so it may not be just you she's cutting off.

My suggestion? Talk about this with a close friend or two, get their opinions, and see how things pan out. If no more problems (lies, manipulation, "lost/forgotten/overlooked" mail, etc) arise in the next three or so weeks, I'd say things are OK and she was just going through a rough patch. If things continue to go wrong/strange things happen, then I would figure out what to do (move?)... but again, follow your gut. Your heart is telling you one of the two things I described above (either it's your sister who's going cuckoo, or it's your past feelings being triggered), and you should listen carefully to your heart.

Sorry this was so long, and I wish you the best of luck. Feel free to MeMail me if you want to talk about this more, or to keep me updated on the outcome. :) It'll all work out, no matter what, eventually.
posted by dubious_dude at 4:02 AM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older Anything to worry about with Power of Attorney for...   |   Responding to an ex who's broken with reality Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.