How do I go on after having a bad falling out with my sister?
April 12, 2021 10:13 PM   Subscribe

I am 28F and my sister is 38. We have had a rocky relationship and we recently really had a falling out and she even deleted me from Facebook. I am feeling a lot of confusion, remorse, guilt, shame, and anger over our relationship and the state of things. I am confused on if I am in the wrong, a bad person, and don't know how to move forward with these negative emotions gnawing at me and distracting me every day and night.

Our history is of course extensive and our family is pretty dysfunctional. Our mom was one of six children who all shared the same mom but different dads. Our mom did not know her dad. She grew up in extreme poverty and severely neglected and abused. She only received a 5th grade education. She met our dad when she was 18 or so, our dad is a carpenter from an also dysfunctional middle class family, and they got pregnant with my sister. They had her, got married, divorced a couple years later after tons of chaos, fights, abuse. Then, they got pregnant with me; my mom claims our dad wanted abortions with us both, but they had me. I lived with my mom for a year but she had terrible mental health, I was sent to my dad's at one year old, and lived with him until adulthood. My mother was in and out of mental hospitals throughout my childhood, she flipped out once I was gone apparently, and was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and put on disability. She had alcoholism when I was young, I would visit her on the weekends and she would get so drunk and rageful and yell at me. I would have to call my dad or sister to come and pick me up.

Things at my dad's were not great, though. My dad, I think he might struggle with depression, and anger. He would be pretty neglectful and was frequently aggravated with the kids. When I was four, his girlfriend and her two daughters moved in, who were my age and a year younger. My mom of course hated my stepmom, an my dad, and would talk very badly about them when I would visit her. I didn't really feel I got any emotional support from my stepmom or dad at home, they would fight a lot, speak to each other meanly, my stepmom yelled a lot at us kids, would use threats, etc... Idk. I took a disliking to my stepmom as her and my mom were so different. My mom was very religious, preached about keeping a clean house, being modest, etc, while my stepmom was the opposite. I might have been too hard on my stepmom I guess. But our house was very dirty a lot of the time, I just did not enjoy living there growing up, and as I grew up I began to kind of distance myself I guess. I also felt that my dad took my stepmom's side instead of me, I guess I may have felt emotionally abandoned.

My sister ran away when I was six and her 16. She did several or a few times do nice things for us as kids, she took us to a concert, the movies, ice cream, a carnival. But I remember feeling a real disconnect. She would be nice in front of others but when it was just me and her or something she would kind of be harsh and aggravated and maybe mean. She always says we were little brats.

Anyways, when I was in my teens, my sister started kind of inviting me to things with her. At the time I was dating this guy who was from a well off family and my boyfriend was going to school to be a pharmacist. I guess she thought things were looking good for me. She had had kind of a wild teenage time, but was settling down. I did 5k runs with her, she took me on a couple of trips with her. However, I remember on the solo trip with her that I felt it was really hard to be around her, because she was being really just hard to deal with, constantly aggravated with me, I was reading in the car and she criticized me for not looking out the window at the scenery. During this time period she would make many critical remarks about me. I broke up with my longtime boyfriend and it was before a trip she was going to take us on. My sister was really mad about that and didn't want me to break up with him, although I just felt I really needed to from my point of view and she did not understand why.

After I dated that guy, I dated a different guy, and my sister nor family liked him it seemed. My sister told me she thought, what is she even DOING with him, told me she thought he was gross, I guess after I revealed that we did have some problems. She didn't want him at her wedding after I mentioned our problems, I was freaking out afterwards because I had been seeing him for a couple of years and he was excited for her wedding. I told our mom about the situation and she called my sister and my sister said it was fine to bring him. Ugh I regret the whole situation but in that moment I really was doing the best I could.

My sister and I were on rocky terms, but I was her maid of honor, and I believe asked if she wanted help planning the wedding but she didn't. She is a super planner, type A, does everything herself. I then found out later that she was upset that I did not plan her wedding or baby showers as a sister should. During the baby shower periods, we were not very close, and I feel so selfish but it did not really occur to me until too near the baby shower that maybe I was supposed to be planning it or something.

Since my teenage years I have felt very uncomfortable around my family. I am pretty much a loner. I live with my boyfriend now, have a good job, several pets that I adore, but I really am not a people person I guess. For years, I dread family holidays, I feel bad about that. I just feel awkward at my dad and stepmom's. For years I really disliked my stepmom, felt she treated me unfairly, was fake, had contempt for me. I have felt awkwardness at family gatherings.

Over this quarantine period, I really started believing that my sister was a narcissist, and I feel bad about that. She set up a family zoom call for thanksgiving, and I attended, although during that time I was going through a lot as I always feel I am and was detoxing off of depression meds and in a terrible mind state. I felt really awkward and did not say too much during the call. I felt so out of it and like I was having a panic attack on the call. My sister texted me after saying it didn't seem like I wanted to talk to them and asked if everything was okay. I said yeah, I just didn't like zoom calls. I literally spent the rest of the day in bed having an emotional breakdown about why I feel so awkward around my family, etc. Then, the next day she notified us of a zoom call for my niece's first birthday. I didn't end up attending and my sister was upset/disappointed, but I had had such a bad experience with the other zoom call and did not want to put myself through that again.

I was having a rough time and for the grand finale I was fired from my job of almost 5 years (first time being fired) on December 12th for being late. I had been unable to sleep and hated my job, trying to find another one during a pandemic, and really messed up. I was deeply ashamed and didn't want to tell anyone, but told my SO, mom, and best friend.

Well, on Christmas Eve, I met my dad and stepmom and my sister's to do a gift exchange. I was 25 mins late... And when my sister asked about my job, I told her it was good. I did not want to lie but was not ready to tell them I got fired or lost my job, so I did. My mom later told my sister that I lost my job and my sister was mad or upset that I didn't tell her or lied to her but offered help. But I wanted to find a new job all on my own to prove this to myself. I was doing so, and my sister sent me an article about improving my LinkedIn. I called her to discuss the situation, and she answered very rudely and aggravatedly. She kept asking why I did not tell her I lost my job, and was being really rude and insulting, telling me I am not looking hard enough for a new job and should be looking 8 hours a day. So I snapped and said well I didn't tell you because you can be judgemental and critical and nothing is ever good enough for you. So, she just went off saying how she has been the one that was there for me when no one was throughout my life, that I have wronged her in so many ways, that I "lied in her garage" and had the audacity to just call her up and say this. I felt she was putting on a show, and after her rant and rave at me she decided to go and then send me several long and very detailed messages about how I have failed her, disappointed, betrayed. These emails and the whole situation really messed me up emotionally, I was already having trouble sleeping, I was crying for days.

I just ran into her getting the vaccine at my stepmom's work last week and it has again messed me up. I cannot stop thinking about the situation and wondering if I am really as terrible of a person as my sister thinks I am. It's just, when I'm around her, I feel like I cannot be myself, because I feel she is always seeing the worst in me, waiting for me to make a mistake, disappoint her, and she gives a lot of unsolicited advice. I just ended up wanting to avoid her over the years. My sister told me that she thinks our mom brainwashed me against her and my stepmom and that I am just a lost cause at this point. I feel very weird and broken socially. I have learned that I don't think I know what loyalty really is or how to demonstrate it, I don't want to think I'm a bad and selfish person but that is what this situation is making me feel like. I just didn't want things to end up this way, I avoided these relationships for so long and they are dying, and I feel like a bad person. What do you think?
posted by anon1129 to Human Relations (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I also wanted to add, that my sister and mother do not talk because our mother can be abusive. I made a really bad mistake a few years ago, telling our mom who I was on the phone with when my sister came over to announce her engagement, that she was engaged when my mom asked if that is what she came over for. My sister has been mad at me for years for this. When we had a fight in January, I had told her that I felt I had the right to privacy to disclose or not disclose my recent job loss to the whole family, she mistook me and thought I said I wanted privacy and so even deleted me from Facebook.
posted by anon1129 at 10:19 PM on April 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think your childhood and family dynamics have caused intimacy issues, but the real problem is that your sister seems to resent you maybe because she felt that she was forced into being your defacto mom what with your mother not being there for you both and your stepmother not really being there. She ran away and felt some guilt for that and tried to make it up to you, but whenever you were actually together, she seemed to resent you for some reason.

The lying to her about the job situation is a red herring. She would have found something else to be angry about. All you have to say in the same situation next time is that you just weren't up for talking about it right then in front of everyone.

I can't tell you how to feel about the whole thing, but I can say that you are not being unreasonable and, in fact, are being very normal. Your sister seems a little old to be acting so immature about disagreement. Deleting from Facebook? Really?

With all you have gone through, you are doing quite well in my opinion.
posted by AugustWest at 10:57 PM on April 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

I don't really have a good, straightforward answer for you, but reading your post, I am wondering if there is a way you can just take a break from interacting with your family for a while? There seem to be so many resentments built up and so much going on with everyone in your family, but you are also in a stressful situation yourself right now and don't sound okay, and this is all making it worse. Would there be some way to send them a message and let them know that you care about them but are unemployed and depressed and need to focus on yourself for a while and then peace out for a bit?

The way you phrased the top question in your post, "I am confused on if I am in the wrong, a bad person, and don't know how to move forward with these negative emotions gnawing at me and distracting me every day and night." - it sounds like it is the product of interacting with people who are on the toxic/abusive side of things, who are kind of gas-lighting you and contributing to a downward spiral. You need some perspective, and it will probably be hard to get that if you keep interacting with them. It really sounds like you need rest and relaxation and a neutral party like a therapist to talk to while hitting the pause button on all of this.
posted by knownfossils at 11:00 PM on April 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am confused on if I am in the wrong, a bad person

Not even close. Your sister sounds like a lot to deal with. You're not obliged to.

If you were to decide that your best and healthiest course was to ignore her and your variously abusive and neglectful parents to the best of your ability for the rest of your life, and just get on with making that life the best it could be for you, there would not be one thing morally wrong with that.

I have learned that I don't think I know what loyalty really is or how to demonstrate it

No surprise there, given the ridiculously tiny amount of it that's ever been extended to you to learn from.

Find kind people and treat those as kin.
posted by flabdablet at 11:55 PM on April 12, 2021 [15 favorites]

Best answer: She feels contempt for you because the alternative (guilt) would have kept her from leaving, which she needed/really wanted to do.

Would you have left if you were the oldest? Why or why not? Thinking through the answer to that might help you unearth your OWN feelings about HER. You see (feel) that she’s in a lot of pain, everyone’s in a lot of pain, and you judge her in a sort of tight-lipped way (I don’t mean anything bad by this at all, I’ve been there!), but how do your FEEL? About her? About your mom, the whole situation? (At the very least, hurt. But there’s no peep of that in your question!)

These people are almost definitely never going to come through for you, for many of the same reasons Alcoholic Anonymous exists. You sound PROFOUNDLY lonely and while medication or therapy may help you a great deal, I think they would mostly help you to gather the energy to pull out the root of loneliness by finding some companions. Even in a pandemic, there are ways to spend time seeing and talking to humans in a casual way (Discord, Clubhouse, virtual pub trivia, etc.). But when the pandemic has subsided, you should definitely try to find a tribe of your own. It may feel like you need to heal to achieve that, but to a certain extent you need to achieve that to heal.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:30 AM on April 13, 2021 [6 favorites]

Just because they are your family doesn't mean that they are good or safe people. It does not mean that you have to be around them. Boundaries are something that you set to protect you. You have rights as a person. Your obligation is to care for you. The emergency survival rule is to put on your own oxygen mask and life jacket first. That's not selfish or bad.

You're not the asshole here. You come from really bad family dynamics and it's a hot mess. It takes time to find your normal and build your stability. Sometimes that requires a wall between important but dysfunctional and or abusive people that are important to you. Sometimes it takes a gate, but you are in charge of it, not them.

The one dynamic that seems to repeat is that you tell your mom something, she tells your sister, and it blows up somehow. Not really sure what is driving that, but seems to be a pattern, one of many issues in the complex mess of unhappy family.

You do what you need to be happy and healthy. Meds and therapy for sure if you can, they really do help. You're not responsible for your family or their actions, just you and your well being. Your family may or may not have good intentions, but if they add to the burden you don't have to put up with it.
posted by Jacen at 1:17 AM on April 13, 2021

I just ended up wanting to avoid her over the years

This is a perfectly rational feeling to have, given the situation. When you feel like she is "always seeing the worst in me, waiting for me to make a mistake, disappoint her" it's because she probably is. It's really ok to spend some time away from your family, and enjoy the comfort of your boyfriend and pets. Your family doesn't make you happy, and if they only joy that they get out of spending time with you is by pushing you around, well to hell with that. You're not a bad person, and it's ok to let go of a relationship if all it does is bring you down. Save your love and kindness for people who will appreciate them.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:24 AM on April 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The number of times in this single post you have derided yourself for doing something "really bad" is upsetting me on your behalf. People are late for work. People make mistakes. It's not nearly as terrible as you believe it to be.

Please find a good therapist. You need a healthy adult to help you learn healthy boundaries. You will come out the other side so much happier.

By the way, the reason you didn't tell your sister? Because you are a grown-ass adult who is entitled to privacy.

Also: stop telling your mother private shit because she has no boundaries or respect for your privacy (see above) and tells your sister everything. It's predictable, don't feed the dynamic!
posted by DarlingBri at 1:54 AM on April 13, 2021 [21 favorites]

Best answer: Things really escalated when you simply stated a boundary - that you didn’t want to share with everyone the news about your job. Christ, just saying ‘good’ about a tricky job question with the family picture you painted is not the big deal your sister is making of it.

You have been consistently uncomfortable and anxious around your sister, and so far you have not stood your ground so obviously, as simply stated as it was.

Your boundaries or discomfort have been presented via avoidance behaviours - her wedding, her baby shower, reading a book in the car. You’ve accepted her dominance and criticism by not making a fuss, not speaking back or up for yourself, accepting blame, following orders, not activating a volatile person or people, etc. These are ways to preserve any sense of control in a world that seems to have had many controls exerted on you.

When cornered by your sister’s increasingly angry attacks on your character, you articulated a basic boundary. You did this to a person with an also traumatic life story but with different mechanisms for coping with that story, and she blew up the whole relationship. Neither of you probably has had the inclination [it’s too painful] to unravel the ways in which your life story has impacted the way you cope with life now. I think from reading your question that you are possibly correct to identify some narcissistic tendencies. What resonates with me is how quickly your sister resorts to abusive behaviours like name calling, inventing or magnifying a sense of you injuring her [when your story shows multiple examples of her doing something awful to you - in particular shaming you] and threatening or enacting abandonment.

I relate to how you feel but you need right now to feel that you are not abandoned for anything you did that was ‘Bad’ - you were cut off because you made the mildest of stands for yourself.

In the part of you that might be starting to emerge from such a difficult early start in life, recognise that this stand for yourself is something to be toasted, celebrated, and encouraged. You didn’t abuse her with your truth, you said an adult thing about yourself. In fact, most of your post where you are not deriding your perceived transgressions, you seem to have a pretty good overview of the different dynamics at play in your development.

The crushing feeling you are experiencing - and I know it from a similar experience fifteen years ago, it is awful, awful - is the big chasm of abandonment, loss and regret for not just your sister’s abandonment, but the experience of a whole family structure that is damaged and destructive.

So for today, start with acknowledging that you did a bold thing in taking the position: ‘it is not possible for me to function for you as you wish to because I am functioning for myself’ and saying thank you to yourself for doing that big thing.

Identify more boundaries you want to keep around yourself, and hew to them in the days going forward.
posted by honey-barbara at 2:39 AM on April 13, 2021 [14 favorites]

Emotions live in the moment, but relationships happen over a long period of time. The best part I’ve ever found to resolve major relationship issues is to take time to heal, get therapy, develop deep self care practices, and come back to the relationship later ... like years later.
posted by spindrifter at 3:06 AM on April 13, 2021 [7 favorites]

How badly do you need your big sister's understanding, approval, and love?

Have you ever considered why?

Can you arrange for some alone time, a couple of hours, where you ask her to LISTEN, take notes, but DO NOT INTERRUPT YOU, where you just pour your feelings out and she's not allowed to interrupt? AND THEN she can do the same to you?

You described your relationship between you and your sister as... rocky. But the incidents you chose for illustration were more of her being angrily concerned about you, rather than angry AT you.
posted by kschang at 3:21 AM on April 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

If you can tolerate online meetings or telephone meetings (if you are somewhere that still has restrictions about in-person gatherings), please try out Al-Anon (a fellowship for the friends and family members of alcoholics) or Adult Children of Alcoholics & Dysfunctional Families, which I am not a member of but have heard good things about.

I am not religious nor spiritual. But going to Al-Anon meetings (which may talk about God but are not intended to be religious) taught me how to be a better grown up and also taught me how to set boundaries I needed to be emotionally healthy, even if/when those boundaries pissed off people I loved.

It's a process, you don't learn all this stuff over night. But you can learn it. Your family sounds a bit like my family, only (forgive me) even more dysfunctional. I am so sorry that you and your sister were raised by people who couldn't give you want you needed. I have good news, though: You can learn to accept that people like your sister may always be judgemental and difficult and decide, for yourself, how much of that you are willing to tolerate. You can learn to make good decisions for yourself, and you can have a good and happy life despite your childhood.

Of course, it is not easy to become a healthier adult with appropriate boundaries. It takes time and effort. But it is way more satisfying than being stuck in the emotional muck of a family situation you never wanted and never asked for. My alcoholic dad loved me but never learned how to show it. He spent nearly all of his adult life raging at me and my sisters and telling us how wrong we were, to teach us how to be better. It didn't work, and it only drove my sisters away.

You aren't responsible for the happiness of anyone but yourself. You cannot be. So focus on what you need to feel better. Also, consider checking out Captain Awkward for additional resources on dysfunctional families. Drop me a MeMail any time. Best of luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 3:40 AM on April 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Your sister is extremely damaged. She loves you but as a neglected child she counteracts that learned neglect by going overboard. Her need to control all outcomes results in this grinding assholery you're a victim of. If she can't control you she'll tell you you are a waste and not worth the effort. She blocked you on Facebook to preserve her own mind because she probably realizes she gets crazy and abusive in this relationship, and getting a "win" by making you feel like shit is icing on the cake.

However, whether she loves you or not you can't handle these assaults. I think you should see a psychiatrist and a therapist. Depression manifests as shame over so many things. The stupidest things.

You are not a bad person or disloyal for shutting down emotionally. That is your learned coping skill from your own neglected childhood.

The question is how can you learn a new skill? The suggestion to go to Al Anon sounds like a good one. I'll be reading this thread with interest.
posted by charlielxxv at 5:07 AM on April 13, 2021 [6 favorites]

She doesn’t sound narcissistic to me. Possibly BPD? Or possibly just trying to force intimacy but not actually knowing how to do it (she hasn’t exactly had good role models).

It sounds like she loves you, sounds like she wants to mother you (presumably because of the age gap and your neglectful mom), and that when she tries, she does it wrong, you pull back, and she feels rejected and loses her temper.

You sound like you have a million barriers up. Which is understandable, but interacts badly with her issues. The two of you don’t have a strong foundation of sibling affection to fall back on, so normal bickering turns into a massive “you don’t love me” drama.

I don’t generally suggest therapy on here (I’m in a country where it isn’t easily available unless you have deep pockets). But I do think a couple of sessions of family therapy could be really helpful for you and your sister. You clearly both love each other, but are accidentally poking each other’s sore spots every time you interact.
posted by tinkletown at 6:29 AM on April 13, 2021 [10 favorites]

Best answer: You’re not a bad person at all, your feelings are your feelings.

Like some others here, I do see your sister as wanting good things for you, but being unable to express it in a way that makes you feel like accepting her support - because you felt she didn’t accept your natural responses to things - instead coming across in an overbearing way. She in turn experienced your responses to her as rejection.

Like it sounds like she wanted you to date someone she saw as going places, maybe saw something she thought was concerning in the second boyfriend. On the trip, she wanted to share a view of the landscape she thought you would (or should) enjoy. She tried to give you positive experiences, as much as she could muster as someone who ran away from home at 16 :/

When she got married and had kids, sounds like she was hoping you would be there for her in maybe an idealized way, but didn’t communicate it to you (meanwhile you were probably only in your early twenties, and without models for this kind of emotional work, this stuff has to be learned somewhere).

Sounds like your not telling her about the firing registered to her as another rejection, a sign you don’t feel close. So painful a rejection to her, perhaps, that she went to the extreme of blocking you (to protect against it also!).

So she is sensitized to rejection - which is likely huge for her because fraught relationships with your parents might mean you’re the only family member she might feel she has a right to have expectations of - and is controlling as a result. Like if she’s ten years your senior, she had ten more years of chaos, she was old enough to really witness the divorce and have complex feelings about that. Developing an intense, type A personality makes sense there (maybe in her mind, if she didn’t impose some kind of order, no one would, and maybe that’s true). And even with the ten years’ difference, she was a kid too, in your growing up years, and she has her own traumas that affect her in different ways (like being irritable maybe).

All I’m doing here is trying to present what could be her take on or experience of things.

But yeah in her attempts to protect you (which do sound controlling) and reach out, she’s been smothering, she’s rejected who YOU are. So I see her trying hard to connect but not quite hitting the mark or understanding why, and I see you experiencing another kind-of parent who doesn’t accept you. Dysfunctional feedback loop - that can actually be changed if you talk to each other. She needs to listen to you, and you need to listen to her. When you’re ready though! And with support from a counsellor.

I wouldn’t necessarily go to narcissism to describe her character? That’s a big label. She does shut out your take and if/when you do talk to her the #1 thing to focus on is that you need her to listen to you.

I would bet she’d be receptive to that - she does seem to really value a relationship with you, and seems to want closeness with you. The most effective way to facilitate that is by listening to her also.

You can choose to not talk to her of course. You might find it more healing to express how you feel and hopefully reach mutual understanding, if/when you’re ready for that.

On preview: what tinkletown said way more efficiently :)
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:31 AM on April 13, 2021 [14 favorites]

I also grew up in a household that was not nurturing and supportive. There was a lot of emotional abuse, loud yelling, avoidance and no demonstration of loyalty within the family. I thought this was normal, of course. When I went out into the world at 17 to live in a friends large closet, I was so happy. I was free and I felt exhiliration to find friends and have bonds with people, because people with friends look very happy, and I wanted that. I also wanted to be close to my siblings but there was always anger going on, lots of judgement and reprimands, recriminations for slights that blind-sided me. It was very confusing because afterall, we were siblings and were supposed to be close. We each knew inside and had some superficial discussions about how shitty our upbringing was but frankly we were all clueless how to be close. I dissociated a lot, was a doormat to avoid confrontation, didn't know my agency, didn't know how to get close to people even though I desperately wanted to. I became a wild girl, the one who was the last to leave because I wanted to make people think I was fun and normal, in fact, more normal and more fun than anyone. I did make friends but they were a lot like me, so those didn't last long. It was such a confusing and trajectory to addiction and isolation. I could still work, went to graduate school and had boyfriends and eventually a husband, but there was a part of me that didn't think those things were real because if people found out who I really was, they would leave me. I didn't even know I was pretending, I thought I was authentic. But an authentic person doesn't hide their feelings because they don't people to judge them, they stand up for themselves, are assertive and respectful. I was not that! I would go into rages whenever I perceived my partner or siblings were judging me, which could be someone just saying "well, how about we do this instead". A white out would occur and I flew into an hysterical rant! I was so ashamed of myself, HATED who I was and thought the only way out was blackout drinking or suicide. Those were constant thoughts because I was so paralyzed to move forward. I didn't know what to do, I just thought I was biologically defective. So, years of constant struggle to fit in and feel safe, to feel close enough to people to be vulnerable and safe with my ability to communicate. Lots of reading and therapy, lots of mistakes and setbacks, but trying over again and again. I think you and your sister sound so much like me. Wanting to be close but not knowing how, and not knowing how--you had no role models. It's not clear that your sister even understands the depth of her despair and is trying very hard to be a functioning person who has people close to her. It doesn't sound like she does. So, I don't think that your sister doesn't approve of you but rather she is in a constant state of projection and dissociating in order to overcome her inability to understand what happened, how her upbringing stunted her ability connect in a healthy way, and get the help she needs to be a supportive person to you. Your boundaries are healthy in not wanting to be around your mother and her when they treat you so poorly. They want to shift blame and avoid the responsibility of their own thoughts and judgement about you ( and likely everyone in their circle). Keep those boundaries as if your life depended on it! When you feel the self-blame, take a deep breath and tell yourself that you are having irrational thought that are not based in reality, you are having thoughts that are a product of abuse. Let yourself have other thoughts, like I did the best I could, I told them what I truly believe and if they are angry, there is nothing I can do to change that because they are not behaving in a healthy way. Then let yourself feel the relief of not needing to take care of their feelings, because you really don't have to do that and it's pointless anyway. Then let yourself think about 3 or so things that you feel connected with in a way that brings you happiness. I highly, highly recommend The Buddha and the Borderline: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder. I related soooo much with this woman's story. She goes into a lot of detail about how frustrating therapy was and how she dealt with learning how to change her thoughts and behaviors, which included fear of being close to people, not knowing how to function in a way that provided her safety and happiness. You sound like you are on the right track but having some resources to give you direction on how to handle irrational thoughts and role models who are supportive are very effective in getting to a better place.
posted by waving at 6:44 AM on April 13, 2021 [5 favorites]

I would recommend spending your time looking for a therapist who takes clients on a sliding fee scale.

No one here can answer this question in a way that will be satisfactory for you. Your family history and dynamics are way too complex to get any meaningful feedback in a forum like this.

You are a valuable person even though you are not perfect. Same goes for your sister. And your mother and your father.
posted by scantee at 8:49 AM on April 13, 2021

Response by poster: All of these responses have given my a lot of things to think about and digest. I have some thoughts I wanted to add if anyone is interested...
- I am sure that I have intimacy issues and would like to work on them. I feel I lack some social skills from being isolated and constantly preoccupied with these troubling relationships and feelings.
- I do feel like my sister resents me, but she told me she enjoyed being my mentor so I do not think that is why. From conversations years ago that we had, I have gathered that she feels I had a better childhood than her and was treated better by our parents, and she resents that and possibly me for it. However, her perception isn't the truth, our father and mother were plenty abusive to me and she does not understand what I went through I feel.
- I do feel like the lying about the job loss situation was really a "red herring", great way to put it. I feel she looks for reasons to get mad at me, she definitely could have been more understanding. I even explained to her that I was embarrassed and ashamed of my job loss and didn't want to tell the group of people when she asked why I did not tell her and the family at Christmas, but she just replied that the difference between us is she sees it as family and I see it as a group of people, effectively shaming me for "lying to the family in her garage".
- I agree that it was immature of her to delete me from her Facebook. She reasoned that since I wanted my privacy, and that I tell our mom things about her and don't keep secrets, that she saw no need for us to be friends.
- I was unemployed until early February where I found a job that pays even more than I was making, so I am good there, but overall just my family situations have been stressing me. My severely mentally ill mother has not been taking her meds and it has been a nightmare. Also, family birthday parties are coming up and I am already stressing out about being around the family, as I am criticized for being withdrawn and to myself if I do go to the gatherings I feel uncomfortable at, but feel super guilty and shamed if I don't go to the gatherings.
- I am definitely lonely.
- So also on Christmas Eve when I said work was good, I also added busy with orders and stuff because everyone was being awkwardly silent, and they asked me about if I liked working from home or not, so I talked about that, not mentioning I was actually fired two weeks prior.
- As a child, I frequently felt a disgust/contempt vibe coming from my stepmom to me, and I would call her out on it at times, top which she would yell and point at me saying, "your mom put that sh!t in your head". That response just made me even more closed off, because she was denying my feelings and not being concerned, just accusing. My sister and stepmom have always gotten along well, I feel my stepmom kind of submits to her and my sister will give her parenting advice. Now, my sister told me that our mom brainwashed me, which I feel is the narrative that my stepmom started. My sister has also kind of shamed one of my stepsisters out of the family sort of, but has gotten close to my other stepsister and stepmom. I feel there are alliances going on in the family.
- I definitely relate to the dysfunctional family roles, where I am so the invisible child, my sister the hero, my outed stepsister the scapegoat, and the other stepsister who my sister gets along with the mascot. It is so obvious in our family.
- I do feel like I listen to her, but I feel that she doesn't listen to me really. As a teen I would confide in her about my problems and she would give advice. I now realize that I really actually was just wanting to connect and be listened to. When I told my sister that I felt she could be judgmental and critical, she got super mad and said she has only ever tried to help me grow and that basically I am too sensitive and I should have told her years ago that her advice offended me. She just assumed that I was talking about her advice as critical, when really it is just being around her I have noticed that she is always criticizing, criticizing what my stepsisters are wearing, how they parent their kids, the parties they throw, how ill-mannered they are, she has criticized what I wear, saying "omg she is wearing TYE DYE", telling me not to be vegan when I told her I was, that was the criticism I was talking about, just the daily dealings with her. It has made me feel she just is critical and I didn't want to be around it. When she is in my life I feel there are poor boundaries, like she wants to tell me what to do and how to be but I don't want to be controlled, I just want to be accepted and loved.
- Our fight was actually in January and it is now April. I guess I am a very avoidant person and haven't spoken to her besides cordially at the vaccine clinic last week since January. I just feel that the situation is really touchy and it is on my mind a lot, but I feel she assumes I have been being selfish and am fine.
- I think joining Al Anon is a really good idea and I am currently looking into it.
posted by anon1129 at 9:03 AM on April 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

You describe everything in terms of your sister's acceptance of you. I recommend you treat yourself as someone who deserves to be loved, valued and to be treated well, and learn to create boundaries and expectations that follow from that. Treat others as if they deserve to be loved, valued and to be treated well, but not at your expense. This is much easier said than done, but it's a worthwhile endeavor. Frame the world with yourself and your worth at the center.

I have 2 sisters. 1 is super-bossy, demanding, selfish. She has engaged in some major bad behavior in the family and with me and I'm severely reducing contact with her until I decide how to proceed.
Sister #2 is narcissistic, bi-polar, hot mess, drama queen, who alternately resents me and wants to be buddies. I have strong boundaries, publicly called her out a while back because I am tired of all the effort she takes, and sometimes she's mean.
Both sisters respect me more because I stopped accepting bad behavior. I seldom confront but I just don't accept shit. My mom was bipolar and alcoholic, the whole family is a bit bent emotionally. I try hard to be compassionate, because none of us asked to carry whatever burden, but here we are.

Therapy. You deserve someone to listen, not to judge, to help.
posted by theora55 at 12:36 PM on April 13, 2021 [8 favorites]

You describe everything in terms of your sister's acceptance of you. I recommend you treat yourself as someone who deserves to be loved, valued and to be treated well, and learn to create boundaries and expectations that follow from that. Treat others as if they deserve to be loved, valued and to be treated well, but not at your expense. This is much easier said than done, but it's a worthwhile endeavor. Frame the world with yourself and your worth at the center.

I think this is perfect.

I also wanted to say that you have more power, and more choices, than you think. When you come from this kind of dysfunctional family, it is tempting to worry about what other family members think of you, to the point where you never sit down and consider how you think and feel about them. Your sister is not the only one who gets to decide how much of a relationship to have, and on what terms.
posted by BibiRose at 1:14 PM on April 13, 2021 [7 favorites]

You are NOT a bad person! You are doing the best you can with a crappy set of people as family. Do not give this another thought. You are fine. The fact that you feel so worried and guilty speaks to the fact that you are a good and caring person. You are doing the absolute best you can under some really shitty circumstances. It's not your job to make your sister feel good about her life. That's up to her.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:43 PM on April 13, 2021

« Older Is there a doorbell camera for a peephole that...   |   How do you clean your oven? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.