I'm, still annoyed, but don't want to be
January 19, 2017 7:45 PM   Subscribe

Prior to our summer holiday recently (here in Australia), I had suggested, well really on the suggestion of my partner, that we (me, my partner and her two boys 12 & 15 yo) meet my sister and her son (13 yo) somewhere on the coast between our respective cities. We met them for a few days last year and everyone had fun, especially the kids.

Last year was slightly different - we were driving from their city, Sydney to our city, Melbourne and it was a pretty handy stop off on the way down the coast. (Though before arriving at said place she did tell us that we could only stay two nights after all because she and her then partner needed some them time)
So, last year in about September I broached my sister about a possible upcoming trip very carefully, knowing that she is not so great at just saying no to things, and I said things like, 'I totally understand if you don't want to', 'there's no pressure', 'hanging out with a couple can be painful I get it', etc etc but we thought it could be fun to have a holiday together on the coast somewhere between our cities
And she was very much like 'sure, we'll stay for a good chunk of it'. So my partner and I went ahead and booked a three bedroom place to accommodate us all and at a place that was, well much closer to them than us. An 8 hour drive for us, 6 for them. Long either way, I guess.
But not long before Christmas sister sent me an email saying, 'so we're just staying a couple of days'.... and made up some excuse about going somewhere else with her getting back together with partner. And now, I should have said, 'WTF, we're driving all that way, and we've rented a big house for us and you're staying a couple of days?!'. But, no, and I beat myself up for not being more forthright, but I've had experiences in the past with sister where I've tried to express anger and she basically flies back in a rage at me. Last time over a family matter (another thing, our family is extremely splintered, dysfunctional and I've had years of therapy because of my experiences within it). I had disagreed with her about something and she got so angry and didn't speak to me for a year. So, there's that fear I have, but also I just wish I could be honest. I actually really prize and value honesty in relationships and thought that after some rough times our relationship had evolved a bit.
She didn't apologise or anything. She came down the coast with her newly reinstated partner and his daughter and all was fine. The kids had lots of fun. Everything was nice and easy. But I still felt annoyed, and still do now, and I know the value of getting things out in the open (well, I've had years of therapy) but I just can't seem to do this, especially now time has elapsed, she'll be even more cranky. So a month later, still annoyed that we were just brushed off like that and spent an entire day in the car with two teenage boys when we could have driven 3 for a perfectly fine beach holiday! We usually email eachother pretty regularly, but I find I just can't be interested in daily conversation when I'm still annoyed. How do I get over this?
posted by summerinwinter to Human Relations (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
but I've had experiences in the past with sister where I've tried to express anger and she basically flies back in a rage at me. ... I had disagreed with her about something and she got so angry and didn't speak to me for a year. So, there's that fear I have,

To me, this seems like the core of it. Her behavior around the recent holiday wasn't ideal, but really doesn't seem so far out of bounds either. But if you don't feel safe expressing your own needs and feelings to your sister -- if it's a take-what-you-get-and-like-it-or-else relationship, then that's a bigger deal. Maybe focus on that, the real problem, instead of obsessing over minor imperfections in your last get-together?
posted by jon1270 at 8:16 PM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

I actually really prize and value honesty in relationships and thought that after some rough times our relationship had evolved a bit.... But I still felt annoyed, and still do now, and I know the value of getting things out in the open (well, I've had years of therapy) but I just can't seem to do this, especially now time has elapsed, she'll be even more cranky.

I suspect that you are frustrated by the fact that your sister isn't who you wish she was and that communication doesn't work the way you would like it to. This is an example of Ask vs. Guess.

On a practical basis, she drove six hours, you drove eight, it isn't a massive difference. Had you booked three hours from your home instead, you'd likely not have seen them at all.

In future you could ask her to commit to specific dates; was it just left loose this time?
posted by DarlingBri at 8:17 PM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Bloody Sydneysiders. Full of themselves.

Seriously through...I guess you just have to accept that certain things aren't as important to your sister as they are to you, and tbh I would just leave it alone for a while and let her initiate contact. If she doesn't, well, sounds like you'll be saving yourself a bit of petrol from here on in.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:18 PM on January 19, 2017

Why do you have to get over it? Can you just file it as a learning experience? Reframing it as an opportunity for you to learn how to modify your expectations for planning with her might be helpful. Right now it doesn't sound like she can really commit to much (maybe because of the partner?*) so maybe you just email and phone, and use the advice people take with flaky friends--invite them to stuff you're already doing but don't make the success of the event/vacation dependent on their participation.

*I will also say that you might want to consider whether she could be in a problematic relationship; I didn't treat my family and friends very well when I was in an abusive relationship, mostly because I was always walking on eggshells and never knew what was going to be a problem until it was too late. Obviously YMMV but just anecdata.
posted by stellaluna at 8:20 PM on January 19, 2017 [9 favorites]

So, now you know she and her family can generally tolerate only a couple of days of extended-family togetherness. Plan future events with that knowledge in mind.
posted by lazuli at 8:24 PM on January 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

Seems like you need to tolerate the discomfort and risk of expressing yourself. Not expressing yourself is driving a wedge between the two of you. "Hey sis, I just want to share something. I was kind of disappointed that I planned around the idea that we were going to spend the week together and you guys could only stay a couple days. Maybe it was my fault for not understanding, but I thought we'd been planning on a week. It's fine if you only want to do a few days, but in the future, let's try to make sure I understand what you guys can plan on before I book a place. And I'm not sure it's worth it to us to drive 8 hours for just a few days, so that may cramp our planning as well. But we love to see you guys and hope we can find a way to get together like that in the future." Or whatever. You can hopefully share how you're feeling as an FYI and oriented toward good future communication without making it a huge fight.

Either that or you can try to do a better job getting over it on your own than you have so far. But as someone else who tries to avoid the difficult conversations, I can tell you that the resentment on your end from not telling them can definitely be worse than the consequences of having a basic conversation.
posted by salvia at 9:26 PM on January 19, 2017

Was she paying for the place at all or did you cover the whole cost of the larger lodging?

Because if it's not about the money, then I'd have to say it sounds to me like this might be part of some kind of larger or underlying resentment against your sister?

I mean, she didn't speak to you for a YEAR over some family squabble? That seems fairly outrageous unless the fight was some kind of truly epic battle over core values.

Compared to that, it seems not to make much sense that you're mad at her for staying "a few days" instead of "a good chunk of" a week on a vacation (am I understanding the length of the vacation correctly)? I mean that sounds like a difference of about what, 1 or 2 days? And she was willing to drive 12 hours with a child to only see you for a few days? That suggests she definitely cares about you and this family trip.

And I really hope in 10 years from now you won't have any memory of driving a few extra hours but you and your kids will have memories to last forever of playing with and getting to know family members, and stronger relationships for it. To me it doesn't seem worth being peeved about who was inconvenienced more by an inconvenient trip, what matters is that you all did it because you love and care about each other and you had a great time, right?

You could ask her to alternate years with you and next year to be in charge of planning the lodging for the group. Perhaps that would help you feel more at peace with it? And think about whether you maybe haven't forgiven her yet for the silent treatment for a year. I can't imagine that was easy to get over. Sometime over a bottle of wine I don't think it would be wrong to say "hey sis, I enjoy spending time with you. It's great to be with someone who really understands the crazy family we grew up in. I wanted to tell you that sometimes it still hurts to think about you not talking to me for a year. I hope something like that never comes between us again." And see what she says?
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:06 PM on January 19, 2017

Thanks everyone. This is the first time I've posted to ask mefi and I'm glad. I guess the thing that bothers me most is not the money, or the driving, or her staying two nights as opposed to 10, but simply her inability to say sorry, I'm stuffing you around and only coming a few days, I know you'd hoped for longer. And this lack of honesty covers many things, and is not peculiar to this situation. For instance she is not telling her best friend how much she is involved with her ex, because he really messed her around! So, maybe I just need to accept that she has problems with this and move on...
posted by summerinwinter at 11:33 PM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

You say you want her honesty and you want her to say sorry -- but have you considered the possibility that she honestly is not sorry? Maybe she doesn't think she has anything to apologize about.

If you want honesty - be honest. Tell her basically what you've told us. If she flies into a rage when you express your feelings, then I wonder why you want to spend any time with her at all.
posted by Gray Skies at 7:03 AM on January 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have the same imbalance with my sister. Anything except sincere agreement gets me excised from her good graces, and often her life. It doesn't matter how kindly I express it. I wish I had advice for you; it's been a struggle for me all my adult life and I never can think of a way to fix it. So, just commiseration I'm afraid. It fucking hurts, right?
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 12:25 PM on January 21, 2017

From what you said, you were clear to make it low-stress at the start ("There's no pressure"). You didn't give her the clear indication you'd be renting a much larger place at a location further than you would usually want to just in order to make the holiday happen as you planned. And then on top of that she just got back together with her partner, which is certainly not a situation in which someone wants to be having joint-family holidays. So she presumably reluctantly went ahead with the minimum number of days she thought was reasonable in order to avoid rocking too many boats. I'm not really sure why she should be saying sorry in this particular situation.

This is most definitely ask-vs-guess. If you're going to go to the trouble of booking a large place in a distant location you have got to be utterly certain that everyone is on board with the plan. Or be completely happy if others do different things.

You also said "she is not so great at saying no to things". Some people are just like this. They agree non-committally to things and then there's a reason they can't make it when it happens. See if you can avoid giving her too hard a time about this. Just file it away for future reference so you aren't out of pocket or unnecessarily disappointed next time it happens. And go on holiday with different people in future.
posted by tillsbury at 10:34 AM on January 22, 2017

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