How do I apologize to my sister?
October 10, 2014 1:55 PM   Subscribe

I feel like I've messed up my relationship with one of my sisters to a really bad point, and it's my fault.

I live with my two sisters, both of whom are in their late twenties; I'm 21. We've had to move often as children, so we have a pretty good relationship between all of us. However, I feel like I've messed up my relationship with one of my sisters to a really bad point, and it's my fault.

Last weekend, I had really painful cramps and was on the verge of throwing up. One of my sisters (J) was arguing with my other sister, something about laundry, in a pretty loud voice. Since I felt like I was about to throw up, her loud voice was making me more dizzy and nauseated so I asked her to stop yelling. In response she told me to stop being so sensitive, and that I had been too sensitive all day. We had gone to Walmart earlier that day, and instead of shopping with my sisters, I'd had to find a place to sit down thanks to my severe cramps. My sister seemed fine with that, but perhaps it made her feel pressured to rush? I'm not sure.

I was already feeling pretty crappy in mood thanks to my nausea, and being told that I had acted sensitive all day made me angry. So in response, I told her to "f*** off."

She is really, really angry now, and isn't speak to me at all. It's been almost a week since I said that, so I apologized for what I said. However, she won't even look at me, so I'm really worried. I really, really, really regret having said that, and am frustrated that a stupid, careless thing I said in a moment of PMS-y anger has ruined my relationship with my sister, whom I'm normally pretty close with. I've heard stories of some siblings refusing to speak to each other for like 20+ years, and I'm so scared of that happening now.

I know I can't expect someone to forgive that easily or quickly, especially when I said something so terrible. It just feels so awful and tense at home now and I want to make things right. I usually bake sweets, and I want to bake something nice for her, but the last time I baked a cake she did not want it at all. I try to say hello when I get back from work, but any small talk is completely ignored. When she absolutely has to communicate with me, it's in a very hostile or robotic tone. I feel like I just need to stay out of her way at this point?

I'm sorry for this long, incoherent mess. What should I do?
posted by glassrose to Human Relations (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your sister is overreacting. What you did was rude, but in the course of a long-term sibling relationship with someone to whom you are usually very close, it's very much something she should get over. Are you sure there is nothing else going on here besides this one incident?
posted by handful of rain at 1:58 PM on October 10, 2014 [35 favorites]

She is really, really angry now, and isn't speak to me at all. It's been almost a week since I said that, so I apologized for what I said. However, she won't even look at me, so I'm really worried

This is really her issue and not yours. IMHO, you didn't do anything really terrible. You made a nasty comment while you were sick and in pain. You apologized. Time for her to grow up.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:59 PM on October 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

Did you TELL her at any point that you were having bad cramps?

If not - and if, from what it sounds like, you didn't actually try to apologize - I would send her an email or something and explain that a) this is what prompted you to say what you said, and then b) acknowledge that "but I still could have handled the situation way better, and I apologize".

And then, let it go - because if she is going to, like, never speak to you again because of just one thing, then she's REALLY being a diva.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:00 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Well, I don't know if she's overreacting. Our overall family is pretty religious, so cursing at each other is not something we typically do. It is a pretty big deal I think.

Yes, she knew I had cramps. I have bad cramps and overbleeding every month, so I think she might be getting tired of how sensitive I am each month. Even though I got mad when she called me sensitive, maybe it's true that I am sensitive. I will stay in my room when I get bad cramps next month from now on.

I don't really want to just "let it go" because she's my friend, too. I like talking to her and having fun together. I don't things to be tense forever.
posted by glassrose at 2:00 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Okay, now it looks like you have two problems.

1. Your cramps. There are medical things that can be done to help cope with really hellacious periods like that. If you are also feeling like you wish this could be improved upon, talk to a doctor, because there are things that can be done to lessen cramps and bleeding and overactive periods.

2. Your sister.

Okay, do NOT feel like you are being "too sensitive". If you had the FLU, would your sister accuse you of being "too sensitive"? Probably not. And if she did, would you believe it? Probably not.

So, she is hurting you by complaining about this, and she needs to know that. This is the kind of thing you can talk to her calmly about.

When I said "Let it go", what I meant was to not try to tie yourself up in knots trying to be nice to her and make it up to her if she's being a bully right now - which, by the way, she kind of is. You can apologize for losing your temper, but at the same time as you do that, explain to her that she has ALSO been making YOU feel bad, and that hasn't been fair either.

I mean, yeah okay, you're a religious family who doesn't swear at each other and you swore at her and yadda yadda yadda, but she's been basically telling you to "stop being sensitive" when you're having a medical issue happen to you. What else does she do, tell cancer patients to "suck it up"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:11 PM on October 10, 2014 [10 favorites]

Oh my dear -- I can't speak to your family culture, but you sound like a little mouse and the lion in you spoke up on your behalf, and now you're a little mouse again.

If you can afford it, make an appointment with a primary care doc or OBGYN and take care of those cramps! Taking that step to take care of yourself might give you the confidence to you need to ignore your sister being miffed. You've apologized, that's all you need to do. God probably forgave you the moment it came out of your mouth. Because ALL of us get cross sometimes and swear, especially when we're in pain.

If you're actually afraid of your sister - if you're afraid you'll be kicked out of the house, that's another kind of question. If that's your fear, let us know and mefites will probably give you some good advice for moving forward.
posted by vitabellosi at 2:12 PM on October 10, 2014 [9 favorites]

Your sister has taken a situation where she was in the wrong (loudly arguing, and treating you with callousness when you're in pain) and instead turned herself into the victim. Now instead of having to be considerate of you, she gets to bask in your repeated apologies, and get a caked baked for her.

All of her actions come across as self-centered. She kept ignoring you and pushing you until you snapped, and now she gets to play the victim again and watch you grovel and panic.

I think you should ignore her. Baking her a cake just gives her positive reinforcement for her terrible behavior. And she should have just fucked off instead of harassing you while you were in pain.
posted by vienna at 2:14 PM on October 10, 2014 [31 favorites]

I am not clear if it took you a week to apologize or you apologized soon after and she is still punishing you. If it is the former, give her some time. You can reiterate to her that you are truly sorry and frustrated that you talked to her in a way that hurt her, but a sincere apology should go a long way. No need to fall all over yourself trying to make it up to her. You sound plenty guilt riden already, and frankly it sounds like she is milking it a little bit. If it is the latter, then she either needs to explain to you why she doesn't except your apology so the two of you can work it out or accept the apology and move on. Ignoring you and refusing your kind gestures is equivalent to the kind of crap i told my 15 year old to not put up with from her friends just last week.
posted by domino at 2:20 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your sister may be avoiding you because she doesn't know how to apologize for being wrong. Which she was. And you caught her out and now she's embarrassed.

Or she's a giant drama queen, but whatever it is you can't force or trick her get over it. Only she can do that.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:21 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your sister is manipulating you. By telling you that you were "too sensitive" she was saying that she is the one who gets to decide the right way for you to feel when you are sick and in pain, and that she chooses what is appropriate behavior when you are sick. Your anger was entirely justified. She's now using silence to control you, so that you will grovel and apologize and not attempt to challenge her in the future. It appears that her attempts are working, because you are in fact groveling and apologizing.

Let me guess: she's done things like this before, and gets mad at people who don't act in ways that she approves of? And usually you do what she wants because being close to her is important to you?

Right now your behavior is communicating to her that acting like an asshole is a great way to control you. You need to realize that you can't make her be nice to you or forgive you. That's up to her to decide. Stop groveling and wait. When she realizes that her bad behavior isn't causing you to grovel, she'll stop.

In the long run you should really not live under the same roof as this manipulative jerk.
posted by medusa at 2:30 PM on October 10, 2014 [11 favorites]

I find that in approximately 95% of all sibling fights in which it was "just one thing" thing, it was not, in fact, just one thing. I think it's entirely possible that your sister is mad at you for more than the one "f* off." Perhaps that was the tipping point for a larger load of complaints. The only way to know is to talk to your sister. Granted, she does not seem to want to talk to you now. But perhaps if you approached again, this time stressing that you know things have gotten bad and you can see that you've set her off and you'd like to hear what she has to say about her side... maybe that would help.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:32 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also the fact that this whole thing started because of this:

One of my sisters (J) was arguing with my other sister, something about laundry, in a pretty loud voice. Since I felt like I was about to throw up, her loud voice was making me more dizzy and nauseated so I asked her to stop yelling.

is nuts. Your sister not yelling at the people she lives with is not some special request, it's the bare minimum for civil behavior. Her getting upset that you asked her to stop yelling is way out of line.
posted by medusa at 2:33 PM on October 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

Your sister is really in the wrong. Yes, you lost patience and swore at her. And, yes, she may think that's a major transgression because of your shared religious beliefs. But, you know what religion also emphasizes? Compassion and tolerance. Your sister repeatedly showed you neither when you were clearly suffering. She minimized your pain and showed you absolutely no consideration. She is also doing a fine job of painting herself as the aggrieved victim even though her behavior was far worse than yours, IMO.

You've apologized and you seem like you're really sincere about it. Yet, again, she's showing absolutely no grace. Now she's being downright disrespectful and cruel as she refuses to discuss this with you like an adult and prefers to rake you endlessly over the coals. Stop begging her for forgiveness. She's manipulating you in a very unhealthy way. If you look back, you'll probably see that she's quite manipulative in general if things don't go her way. This is not acceptable behavior.

As for your cramps, they sound miserable and I encourage you to get medical help for them. You don't have to suffer like this. You are not being too sensitive. This is a real medical problem and please get treatment. If your doctor minimizes it, please find another doctor. This is not normal.
posted by quince at 2:36 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Well, I don't know if she's overreacting. Our overall family is pretty religious, so cursing at each other is not something we typically do. It is a pretty big deal I think.

OK but your sister is threatening your entire relationship of 21 years over a single swear word. Does that seem reasonable or loving to you? And frankly, if her objection is religiously based, she might take note of the fact she's not being particularly Christian.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:39 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You all were in a bad mood (the two other sisters were actively fighting) when you snapped at each other. Personally, I find swearing very insulting but I'd forgive my sibling in those circumstances.

Since you like to bake, bake something small like one muffin or cookie and put it on her desk along with a written note that you apologize for being disrespectful. Then wait for her to get back to you, I don't think she'll be mad for long.

Now about your cramps. Back in uni I had a friend (Mae) whose sister (Jen) had terrible cramps. Mae and her mom always teased Jen for "making a big deal" about her period and didn't believe the cramps could be that bad (they never were for them). Jen finally decided to go to the doctor, despite being told by her family that her cramps couldn't possibly be that bad. It turned out that Jen has endometriosis. She received treatment and soon felt a lot better. Mae (and her mom) still feel guilty about not believing Jen.

I am not saying you have endo or anything really, and many young women have heavy periods, anyway there are very good ways to treat pain and other symptoms. Please go see a doctor about it!
posted by travelwithcats at 2:46 PM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: If I am reading this correctly:

1. Your two sisters were arguing with each other, so emotions were already heightened.
2. You asked one of them to stop yelling.
3. She responded with a "You are being overly sensitive"
4. You told her to "F**K Off"

So she was already agitated with one sibling and then was told to stop yelling by another and then cursed at. If I was your older sister I would think your reaction was extreme personally and I would be annoyed that you took a week to apologize.

I am not saying she was right to be dismissive of your illness, but I can see it from her perspective. She might still be annoyed about it. It shouldn't ruin your relationship entirely if you guys are close (My sibling have done significantly worse things to each other and have moved on to having healthy and close friendships)

I wouldn't freeze my younger sister out in the way you are experiencing, so she seems to be over reacting, but just give her some more time to calm down and speak with her again.
posted by Julnyes at 2:48 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for your responses everyone. I will look into seeing a doctor about my cramps.
posted by glassrose at 2:52 PM on October 10, 2014

Your sister is making a big fucking deal out of nothing much. Should we always strive to be nice to each other? Of course. But why on earth were they yelling at each other? Why was it so terrible that you yelled back? It wasn't.

I can't fathom why everyone didn't go to bed with some Motrin and wake up feeling better. My sister is a crabby person, she just is. I humor her when she's in a bad mood and if I lose my patience with her, she understands why. It's our dynamic and we're cool with it.

Here's what I'd say to her, if I were you, "Kylie, while I'm sorry I lost my temper with you, it's really uncool of you to punish me as though I were a child. I love you and I know you love me, and I'll be here when you're ready to start talking to me again." Then go about your life happily. If she's going to be a big ol' drama queen and harumph around the house making it a point to be ANGRY with you...that's on her.

As for your cramps and periods. Go to Planned Parenthood, your Doctor, your school Health Center and have someone look into that. You might be able to alleviate the problem with oral contraceptives (they helped with my heavy periods back in the day) or you may have something that needs further medical attention, like endometrosis, which is no joke and can be a serious condition if not taken care of.

As for your tendencies towards being a Drama Llama, live a little bit more and you'll learn what is and isn't a BFD. This is NOT a BFD.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:53 PM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

I also thought Endometriosis for excessive periods and cramps + nausea from cramps.

Source: personal experience

I agree your sister is being controlling (manipulative,) and very very unkind towards you.

If you apologize yet again, just know that her icing you out and requiring you to grovel before she'll speak to you again is, IMHO, mildly emotionally abusive.
posted by jbenben at 3:17 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

My opinion: I have many sisters. We have fought a lot in the past, there has been yelling, even some hitting way back when, and we are not particularly religious or concerned about foul language. But I can't remember a single time any of my sisters said something to me like "fuck off." That is pretty harsh language.

I get it though, you felt terrible, and your sisters were fighting over something not worth fighting over. Would it help to show your sister a copy of your post (or something like this) to show how bad you feel and how you regret what happened? I have no idea whether your sister is "manipulating" anyone, but honestly, "fuck off" is pretty harsh language and even if I forgave one of my family members, it would be awhile before I forgot. If you can send her a letter or an email like this post where you express how worried you are that you've done something unfixable, either her heart will melt (as mine would!) or you will realize she is really overreacting and it's not your fault.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:22 PM on October 10, 2014

Transitioning from being kids together who fight to being adult siblings who settle more serious differences in a mature but loving way is a very difficult transition to make. You have a ton of baggage and history, a ton of immature learned strategies for arguing (that you learned when you were five! It's only natural!), etc. It can be hardest to be normal and kind with the people we love the most. Cut yourself some slack, cut your sisters some slack, it is not an easy transition.

I am not proud of this but like a year ago I stopped speaking to my sister for a week because I misunderstood a garbled, second-hand comment she made that someone repeated to me, about one of my kids, which I was hypersensitive about at the time because we were going through some parenting stuff, and I just went full-on second-grader about it. IT WAS SO MATURE. And if I'd been able to stop to think about it I would have realized that she would never say something that hurtful and she loved my kid and she is 100% on my side (and she is so cool she is the person who introduced me to MeFi!) but I was just already in a heightened state of emotion from dealing with these kid issues, and I reacted like I was seven. I have no explanation other than I reacted as the worst, most immature version of the child I used to be; if it had been anyone else, I would have reacted as an angry adult rather than a petulant, irrational child. I am six years older and my sister had to be the one to reach out and be the much bigger person and smooth things over even though she didn't do anything in the first place and I was behaving like a crazy person.

Which is to say, transitioning to adult relationships with your siblings isn't easy and it's easy to make mistakes and retreat to childish patterns. Be kind to the people you love most and cut them some slack and be willing to try again to repair the relationship. And be kind to yourself.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:30 PM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

I have all sorts of stupid, petulant fights with my sister who is significantly younger than I am, but we love each other and get along and eventually get over things even if we don't specifically apologize about it. My mother and her sister didn't hit fully adult relationship until their 50s, she told me. I'd be surprised if a single fight about nothing was what ended a generally good sibling relationship.

(That said, we do tell each other to fuck off all the time, when in perfectly good moods. As well as nastily. It's all about the tone.)
posted by jeather at 4:25 PM on October 10, 2014

You've favorited the two answers that most reinforce your original perspective. That's your prerogative, of course, but consider that following many of the other suggestions would reinforce your autonomy as an adult with valid feelings. It's tough to make the transition from baby of the family to peer, whether with parents or siblings. Maybe this isn't the right occasion, but watch for other times that this dynamic is in play and plan how best to respond.
posted by carmicha at 4:56 PM on October 10, 2014 [16 favorites]

You might also want to mention to your sister that since your cramps are clearly interfering with your ability to live your life, you are planning to see a doctor about them. This has two main benefits:

1. It is you taking action to be less sensitive/limited in the future

2. It shows that you are not just wallowing or choosing to take it easy every month, but are in pain and inconvenienced and you hate it
posted by Lady Li at 2:27 PM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding carmicha's comment so hard - also this bit QFT:

"... consider that following many of the other suggestions would reinforce your autonomy as an adult with valid feelings."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 12:09 PM on October 12, 2014

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