How to tell distanced sister (39F) I (29F) am engaged?
December 8, 2021 1:55 PM   Subscribe

I originally posted about all of our issues here. This shouldn’t be that big of a deal but it’s stressing me out, because I feel like if I do it “the wrong way” she will be very offended.

Long story short, we have been distanced for about a decade. I honestly feel she is a communal narcissist who I can’t have an authentic relationship with, maybe I’m wrong.

I didn’t tell her I got fired last year, and when she asked me about my job a couple weeks after I was let go, I said it was good, because I didn’t want my dysfunctional family knowing, because I felt I would be talked about, looked at in a negative light.

She got very offended, I called her to explain herself, she insulted and criticized me and asked why I didn’t tell her I was fired, I told her it’s because she judgemental, critical, and nothing is ever good enough for her. She went off about howI lied in her garage about having a job, even though I had explained over text that I was embarrassed and ashamed and that’s why I didn’t tell most of the family (besides our mom who she doesn’t speak to), she yelled about how my ex is in her wedding pics, how my perception of her is in the toilet, how I had the audacity to call her up and say that, and ended the call, saying, “DO YOU HAVE aNYTHING ELSE TO SAY TO ME????!?!” Then she sent me many emails about how I have wronged her over the years, things she had been holding grudges on, and how she’s only tried to be there for me blah blah blah.

Anyways lately she has expressed interest in talking through issues, I haven’t felt ready. She wished me a happy birthday (11/29), I said thanks. I wished my niece a happy birthday(12/7).

I was proposed to last week (Yayy!!!) out of the blue, we have been living together for 3 years.

I told my dad in person two days after and called my mom. My fiancé’s family all knows. Now I have to tell my sister and stepsisters. I know sending my stepsisters a text will be just fine. My sister on the other hand, is it okay just to send a text? I feel like if I tell her “the wrong way” she will be offended. I don’t really want to talk to her on the phone, last time I did was the big blow out. I also don’t feel like seeing her in person.

I would think I’m overthinking all of this, but honestly, with her I don’t think I can overthink it.

What to do? I know it sounds silly, and I’m trying not to let it out a damper on what should be so happy.

I really want to post it on social media, I hope my future MIL doesn’t find it odd that I haven’t yet :/ the only reason is how to handle my sister which seems silly. My sister deleted me off of social media last year anyways.
posted by anon1129 to Human Relations (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Email her.
posted by bashing rocks together at 1:58 PM on December 8, 2021

Group text with the others. She can't bitch about being treated differently. Although honest to god if she does blow up ... you've got your answer. Some things can't be mended. Congratulations and good luck!
posted by cyndigo at 2:06 PM on December 8, 2021 [9 favorites]

Best answer: The bad news is that there is no way to do this right.

The good news is that there is no way to do this right!

What that means is that since she's going to be offended/critical/angry/insulting no matter what you do, you can just pick whichever method of telling her YOU prefer. For me, I'd pick the way that has the least contact, so probably email. I'd also set my email client to put any of her responses into a folder that I would only look at when I felt able.

Although, honestly? I'd seriously consider not telling her directly. Habitually insulting and angry people don't get to share in my life -- and especially when wonderful things happen to me.
posted by mcduff at 2:10 PM on December 8, 2021 [29 favorites]

She was angry last time because you lied to her and she felt like her trust was violated. If you want to repair your relationship you should tell her ASAP. A group announcement to all of the sisters would be a nice thing to do.
posted by bleep at 2:13 PM on December 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not a person who goes to therapy as a regular thing, but several years ago my interactions with my family were driving me to a point where I felt like I was going insane, so I booked some time with a therapist and went regularly for a couple months. Her specialty was in coping strategies.

One of the problems I brought up was that I had to talk to everybody in a very specific way, like if only I could provide the exact right combination of words and hand signals and facial expressions then no one would be mad at me this time. And my therapist was just like no that's not how it works and (I'm paraphrasing but) asked why I thought I had any ability to control other people's reactions. Anyway, she was right, and I came out with a lot of tools for managing my own expectations around people who have consistently let me down. It was helpful.

I agree the best way forward is a group text with everyone else, and the second best way is a text to her saying some detail free version of "hey sis, partner proposed and we are engaged!" And then turn off your phone notifications and don't look at anything for at least 24 hours, let her burn herself out with whatever reaction SHE is going to have--because you can't fix her.
posted by phunniemee at 2:14 PM on December 8, 2021 [24 favorites]

Or you can go all traditional and mail out holiday cards which include an engagement announcement. Every one gets one. Put 'em in the mailbox the same day. Your sister is ill and it is not your job to meet any standard she hauls up her flagpole. If you have to speak with her remind her she has to be as polite to you, as she would be with any business contact. This is her chance to start, and if she can't be polite, the call will end abruptly. That is how it is going to be from now on.
posted by Oyéah at 2:40 PM on December 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Announcing in the mail would be cool, but I feel like it is too late, since my parents all know, and fiancé’s family already knows. I feel I need to tell my sisters ASAP because the parents might let it slip (asking if I talked to them yet). And I really don’t have anyone else to tell, besides my best friend who I am seeing tomorrow, and extended family who I have no idea what their address is, and I’m not close to them. I think I will send them a text.
posted by anon1129 at 2:50 PM on December 8, 2021

text or call today. just get it over with and remove yourself from any reaction.
posted by calgirl at 2:59 PM on December 8, 2021 [9 favorites]

I think you're overthinking this; just send a group text to everyone. phunniemee has the right idea, stop trying to manage other people's behavior/reactions. You don't have to read annoying emails or continue participating in annoying conversations. It's OK to say, "this conversation is not productive so I'm going to go now."

Send the text and give her the opportunity to reach out to you. If she's pleasant and congratulatory, chat for a bit, and if she isn't, "thanks gotta go."
posted by shoesietart at 4:03 PM on December 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'd send her an email that was like "Hey this happened this week and I wanted to let you know...." I think within a week is reasonable. If you're all sisterly pals it might be okay to group text with your stepsisters, but a personal email would be a little more... personal. And if she makes it weird and about her, not your issue. Her damage is her damage. As mcduff says, sorry she is like this but that's outside of your control. Just email her before you go to bed, be done with it. Congrats!
posted by jessamyn at 4:33 PM on December 8, 2021

I just want to give you lots and lots of grace for the position you're in and encourage you to do that for yourself if you can. The posters above are right. There is no way you can guarantee you won't offend her. Unfortunately, our families of origin are where we learn about our values and how to relate to the world. So you have been very conditioned to put her feelings above your own. It's not overthinking for you, it is how you have been conditioned to think. So, give yourself a break.

Second... congratulations!!! I am sorry that such a joyful moment is being overshadowed about how your sister will react. This doesn't have anything to do with her. She will see it that way, but you don't have to go there with her.

I agree that an email would be best, if you want to tell her at all. She may react poorly. You don't have to engage. If she is cruel or causes you pain then you can re-evaluate how much you want to keep her up to date in the future. You're in the driver's seat. It's OK to act as if you are there even if you feel ambivalent about it. Or even bad.

Good luck to you and congratulations on your engagement!
posted by pazazygeek at 4:34 PM on December 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

Here’s the text: “Big news! I’m engaged!”

She doesn’t need to know when or in what order you’ve told people. If she responds just say, “Super busy with all this! Let’s catch up soon” and then ignore her.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:10 PM on December 8, 2021 [7 favorites]

Previous responses have already covered the most important aspects. But I wanted to add my advice as I recently had to navigate a similar situation and I found a method that worked for me.
I am usually overly concerned with avoiding conflict or upsetting people. In the past I developed unhealthy coping mechanisms like mentally rehearsing upcoming interactions over and over, or putting myself in the other person's place, trying to see things from their point of view. To the point where I would lose track of my own needs and opinions.
I finally realized that other people's feelings and thoughts are not my responsibility.
I have to trust that my "am I being an ashole" system is already in place and functioning properly.
When a situation comes up, this is what I do.
1) Decide what my purpose is. (Tell sister about engagement, in this case)
2)Acknowledge the limits of my power (you can't control how your sister will act or feel)
3) Keep my communication as simple and emotionally neutral as possible. (Only mention the facts you need to convey. Remove all attempts to soften, apologize, prepare the person, explain your motivation, convey how you feel. Remember your goal. That's all you need to convey.)
Once I have communicated whatever it is, I move on to something else that will distract me, and try not to second guess myself or dwell on how others might respond.
I'm sorry you're having to deal with this. It sounds tough. Hang in there!
posted by Zumbador at 10:31 PM on December 8, 2021 [8 favorites]

I fail to understand why you'd even waste the energy to tell her at all. Put it on social media for the benefit of the people you like, if you want. Why would you even take notice of whether she knew or what she might do about it? What benefit is it to you?
posted by tillsbury at 2:38 PM on December 9, 2021

Response by poster: In response to tillsbury, I really don’t know. I think I am just really fearful of being ridiculed by her since she keeps a list of slights and checks it twice lol. I felt if I didn’t it would be digging the hole deeper for me in her eyes. Idk why I cared at all.
posted by anon1129 at 11:31 PM on December 9, 2021

Well, the one thing that will definitely piss her off is not telling her.

You seem to be torn between “my sister is a narcissist and I don’t care what she thinks” and “I want my sisters love, approval and admiration.” So, be straight with yourself. If she really is a narcissist, there’s nothing you can do to win or repair the relationship and you cannot expect anything affirming from her. A narcissist’s ridicule is not about you, it’s about them.

If you think your sister has a point about you, that she’s “right” in some way, try to isolate what that specific thing is. There is such a thing as healthy shame, which tells us the truth. Once you deal with the thing you think she’s right about, you can let go of the need to control her reaction, because there’s nothing else left to do. You certainly shouldn’t become wrong-er to make her happy.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:30 PM on December 10, 2021

group text is the easiest for you. you do not think her criticisms are valid; i'd try to stop letting her potential criticisms factor into your behavior.
posted by anthropomorphic at 11:25 AM on December 14, 2021

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