One of the most special family relationships in existence is that shared bond between sisters. From the moment you’re little, a connection is formed that brings you closer and closer each day. This is the perfect description of that loving sisterly bond, but not all sisters have this type of relationship. It may be something that occurs when you’re young, or it’s possible that as you grow older, you realize that there was never much between you from the start.
Some difficult sister relationships start that way, while others may begin to experience challenges later in life due to age difference, other family members' influence, or differing career goals. Whatever the scenario, it can be saddening to know that when something major happens in your life, you can’t pick up the phone and call your sister because your relationship is in a bad place. If the relationship with your sister is one that seems beyond repair, is terminating the relationship completely the answer to your sibling issues?
What Went Wrong?
People become sisters in various circumstances. You may share one or both parents, and sometimes, circumstances permit you to be adopted into a family, and from that adoption, a sister is gained. Whatever the scenario may be, a sister is more than just the relation between two or more women. It’s the bond and the love that makes the relationship more special than almost any other.
What could happen in life that’s so bad that it causes stress or strain on the relationship? Of course, the answers to this question could be endless. Relationships can be difficult to manage, even between or among sisters. Numerous circumstances can lead to disconnect or a break in the relationship, causing sister issues.
Most won’t admit it, but sisters are usually the worst at navigating or managing healthy relationships. It is common to hear of sisters or older siblings becoming estranged. Regardless of how hard other members of the family may try, bringing them together or salvaging their relationship can be impossible. Some sisters admit to leading happier lives without communicating with their sister because they prefer to avoid the drama or strenuous relationship. Most psychologists agree that putting an end to the relationship entirely shouldn’t be the first step. Attempting to make the relationship work is better than not trying at all unless the connection has become stressful or overly toxic to remain in.
When sisters are born, parents usually prefer that they grow up loving and caring for each other with healthy family dynamics. However, the personalities, social skills, likes, and dislikes may make this difficult and nearly impossible for some. One siblings’ perception of the other may cause them to become withdrawn and disassociate themselves from each other. Although the dream or idea is for sisters to be best friends, it doesn’t always become a reality in the same way.
The Foundations Of Sister Rivalry
One of the biggest culprits in sister rivalries is family. Unintentionally, parents can show a major difference between their children. In the parent’s eyes, each child is different and needs to be loved or treated differently. While the parents mean no ill intent, this difference in attention isn’t always perceived as love by one or more of their children. If a child feels that her parents show favoritism to one sibling over the other, it can cause resentment that grows over the years, eventually leading to difficult sister relationships.
Abuse is another foundation for strained relationships between sisters. If one sister were overly aggressive or abusive towards the other, there would likely be negative effects on the relationship between the sisters. It’s difficult to maintain a relationship with toxic people that were mean to you or bullied you as a child. It stays with you and can ruin your relationship with others. It’s also a major factor in destroying your self-esteem or self-worth. If you’ve been or are the victim of any abuse, even non familial peer problems, you should speak with someone for guidance. Living with the pain from being mistreated as a child or an adult can make it difficult for you to maintain any healthy relationship.
Grief is one of the most common denominators in division among siblings. The loss of a parent or other sibling could cause one or more sisters to become withdrawn during this hard time. They may see it as if there’s no need to continue the sibling relationship because the parents are no longer around. In many families, the parents are the glue that holds the siblings together. Grief from the loss of a parent can be traumatic, especially if one sibling feels that others didn’t do their part or care for the parents as much as they did. You should consider that grief is a time that families should come together and support each other. It also causes some deeply embedded emotions to surface, which could cause animosity among sisters.
Personal struggles can cause a rift among sisters. If there is a problem with drugs, alcohol, or similar issues, it can destroy relationships, even among siblings. In most cases, sisters go above and beyond to make things better or help their siblings through times like these. After many failed attempts, it’s normal for one or more siblings to walk away from their sister because they feel there is no hope. It begins to put a strain on their personal life and cause chaos at home, work, and in their social circles. In these instances, walking away may be the best option.
Facing Difficult Sister Relationships
Once the relationship with your sister becomes too difficult to manage, estrangement may present itself. This is the process of outgrowing each other or going your separate ways. Estrangement is extremely painful when it arises as a result of conflict or distress between the sisters. The decision to walk away is usually reached when one person finds it impossible to move forward in the relationship. Long story short, there are some things that push the bar or cross the line to the point of no return.
Crossing the line may be the result of saying hurtful things, making cruel remarks, behaving negatively towards one’s spouse or children, refusing to take prescribed meds for mental issues, or associating with questionable people. All these factors are concerning and understandably damaging to a relationship. However, they don’t have to be the downfall or end of the sisterly bond.
Managing Difficult Sister Relationships
If you are in search of ways to manage a difficult relationship with your older sister(s), it means that you have hope that the relationship can be salvaged. This is positive, and there are a few things you can do to restore or initiate a healthy bond with your sister. Though, this article doesn't have all the answers to creating and maintaining a healthy relationship, therapy can be a great way to get more in-depth, personalized help.
The Cost Of Walking Away
Once you’ve decided that enough is enough and you can’t take anymore, you may decide to walk away from your sister. Unless you’re completely disengaged, walking away won’t be easy, and it may come at a cost.
Before you say goodbye to your sister for good, think about your efforts and the outcome. Consider your role in the downfall of the relationship and what it says about you as a sibling. Are you willing to live day to day thinking of yourself as the person that walked away from family? Is cutting your sister out of your life the best and only way to cope with the pain you’re experiencing? Are your feelings toward your sister the result of a deeper issue you’re dealing with in your life?
Some experts believe that sisters who have a strong network of family and friends live happier and healthier lives. Therefore, it’s important to try and rekindle difficult sister relationships whenever possible. Try to think of ways to make the relationship better before you walk away completely.
Only terminate the relationship completely if you’re sure that there’s nothing else you can do. Once you walk away, it’s as if you’re saying that you’ve done and said everything possible. Think long and hard about the decision you make to end a relationship with your loved ones because sometimes, it can be difficult to reestablish a relationship that you turned your back on.
How To Rebuild The Relationship
If you know that there is hope for the relationship, work to re-establish the bond. There are steps you can take to make the relationship better.
Consider the following.
To work through difficult sister relationships, each sister must be willing to compromise or do the work. It can’t be a one-sided effort. Sisters don’t need to be close but having a decent and respectful relationship is the foundation of a quality relationship between or among sisters. The most effective approach to reestablishing any relationship is to seek individual or relationship counseling. There may be a misconception that relationship counseling is for couples only. It can be extremely helpful in family situations as well. Taking the initiative to seek counseling shows that you care enough to save the relationship between you and your sister(s). Even if the relationship isn’t salvaged, you may experience individual healing after discussing your issues.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why are sister relationships difficult?
Sibling relationships can be difficult for a number of reasons. Every sibling relationship is different; you may have a twin that’s the same age as you are, or you might have been born 20 years apart from your brother or sister. If you’re close in age, you might’ve found yourselves butting heads at home as kids or getting into frequent arguments. If you’re far apart in age, you might’ve found it challenging to relate to each other at some point in time, whether that’s right now or in the past. Sibling relationships can come with competition, overstepped boundaries, and quarrels, but often, they also hold a special kind of love and understanding. Your siblings are the only other people in the world who truly know what it was like to grow up in your household and with your unique family circumstances. They know you on a deep level and have likely seen you through a variety of stages in your life. With that said, some sibling relationships are more complicated than others by a longshot. When you’re in a difficult sibling relationship, it can leave you wondering what to do, but there are ways to navigate those difficult sibling relationships effectively.
How do you deal with a difficult sister?
First, what does it mean to you to have a difficult sibling? In a sibling relationship, you’ll likely get on each other’s nerves from time to time, but some sibling relationships are far more tumultuous than that. If your sister is toxic or makes you feel bad about yourself, you might deal with them by setting boundaries or distancing yourself from them if they don’t want to respect your boundaries. In life, you can’t control what other people do. You can only control your own actions, so make sure that you’re doing what you need to do to care for yourself. If your brother or sister expects more of you than you can give, you can set boundaries surrounding that, too. Sibling relationships are so broad, nuanced, and varied that the answer to this question will look different depending on your unique relationship and who you and your sister are as individuals. Generally, having an open, respectful conversation and setting boundaries is the first step to dealing with a sibling you’re having problems with. If these efforts aren’t well-received, further action such as reinstating boundaries or establishing a comfortable amount of distance might be the answer.
How do you tell if your sister hates you?
Even if your sister says, “I hate you,” it doesn’t always mean that she does. Adult sibling relationships are very different from childhood sibling relationships; as kids, your sister may have said, “I hate you” when she was upset with you, but it’s likely that she didn’t mean it. In adult sibling relationships, however, saying “I hate you,” especially when it’s frequent and not said in a joking manner that’s mutually understood and okay with both of you, is far less appropriate. If your brother or sister says, “I hate you,” and you aren’t okay with it or don’t see it as humorous, bring it up with them in a conversation. In healthy relationships, a sibling will hear you out and make an effort to stop saying things that make you feel disliked or uncomfortable. Family therapy can help siblings establish healthy relationships. Additionally, if you find that a sibling is toxic, counseling or therapy can help you learn how to navigate conversations with your brother or sister. You don’t have to attend family therapy to get help with your familial relationships. Instead, you can see a therapist or counselor for one-on-one sessions. It can be difficult to get the whole family, or even certain family members, on board to go to family counseling, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t seek counseling services. Seeking counseling as an individual is empowering, and it can give you an extensive list of tools to use in any of your interpersonal relationships. This isn’t something that you have to go through alone. Feeling like your sibling hates you hurts, and it certainly doesn’t cultivate healthy relationships.
What is a toxic sister?
If your brother or sister actively bullies you, you likely have a toxic sibling relationship. Bullying could look like physical violence, or it could look like emotional abuse. If your brother or sister calls you names, tells you that you’re bad at everything you do, or harms you physically, it’s a sign that they’re toxic for you. Do you feel bad about yourself every time you’re around your sibling? Do they pick fights or criticize your life choices? Do they disrespect your boundaries? Do you feel unsafe around them? These are all questions that you can ask yourself to determine if you have a toxic sibling relationship.
How do I ignore my sister forever?
When it comes to adult sibling relationships, you get to make choices that you didn’t get to make in your childhood sibling relationships. As adults, you can decide whether or not your brother or sister is in your life. Your boundaries are up to you. If your brother or sister is truly toxic, and you want nothing to do with them, you can ignore them by stopping communication with them entirely. You don’t have to follow them on social media, you don’t need to see your family when they’re around, and you don’t even need to give them your cell phone number. Of course, cutting off contact to this degree is something that you’ll likely only consider in cases where sibling relationships are bad for your emotional or physical wellbeing. That said, it’s up to you to make that choice, and you don’t need to feel bad for the decision to make. It’s vital to do what’s best for you.
How do you show love to your sister?
To show love to your sister, think about what’s meaningful to her. Showing love in sibling relationships can be as simple as saying, “I love you.” If you live far away, make an effort to call your brother or sister. Send them a “thinking of you” card and let them know that you miss them. Point out their good traits and compliment them on those traits. Stay in contact, and check on them regularly to see how they’re doing. Adult sibling relationships are special. Even if you didn’t get along as kids, you and your siblings might have grown together and developed a strong bond as adults. In adult sibling relationships, you’ll have an opportunity to show up for your brother or sister in valuable ways. For example, you’ll get to be there on their wedding day, when they buy a house, when they build a family, when they hit a new mark in their career, or any other accomplishments that are important to them as individuals. Embrace your adult sibling relationships and let your sibling know that you appreciate the person they are.
Why is my sister so jealous of me?
Jealousy can harm otherwise healthy relationships. The only way to know why your sister is jealous of you is to ask. If they’ve openly expressed their jealousy to you, you can say, “what makes you feel that way?” If not, you can point out the specific behavior that makes you think they’re jealous of you and ask them if there’s anything you can do to help. Express to your sibling that you want to have a good relationship with them and that you want to bond with them. Maybe, they’re jealous of you because you have something they don’t. Whether that’s higher grades in school, a romantic relationship, a career, or something else, you can communicate to them that they are good enough and that you don’t see them as flawed in any way. Tell them that you’re proud of them, that they’re special, and that they have a lot going for them. Hearing those words from you can lift your sibling up and make them feel less jealous. In healthy relationships, people lift one another up and notice each other’s good qualities, so this is an excellent way to improve your relationship with a person in general.
How do I bond with my sister?
You can bond with your sister and build a stronger sibling relationship by spending time with one another. Actively listen when she talks, and be sure to ask her questions about her life. Don’t push her or get nosy, but be there for her when she needs someone. If you’re long-distance, again, you can call them or video chat with your siblings to bond with them. Show interest in their lives. You and your sibling might be very different, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t bond with them or show them love. Welcome the things that are important to them and embrace the things that make your sibling special to you. Value your time with each other, and make it known that their time is important to you. Sibling relationships are irreplaceable, so love, kindness, and quality time can go a long way.