Dear Jane, How do I destress from my insane sister?
Growing up, my sister and I were never particularly close. She’s three years older than me and we don’t have any other siblings. Our mother is aging and we lost our father a few years back, so it’s just us girls now.
I’ve always yearned for a close relationship with her, but she’s never really been interested in forming a bond with her mousy little sister unless she was bossing me around. Now as adults, I have my husband and two little boys and she’s single with no children.
She’s a graphic designer, so she’s able to work remotely. Therefore, since Covid-19 started, she moved back into our childhood home to help our mother with access to groceries, her doctor’s appointments, and overall day-to-day needs – and there’s not a day that goes by where she doesn’t remind me of it.
She texts and calls me all throughout the day complaining about the stress, time, and money that she’s spending looking after our mother. I’m grateful to her for being there, but the constant guilt trips and drama-filled phone calls are driving an even bigger rift between us.
Again, I’m grateful for what she’s doing, but the truth is, she doesn’t have the stress of being a wife and a mother like I do. How do I destress from my insane sister before I’m forced to block her?
– Dealing with Sibling Rivalry
Try building a friendship first and then strengthening your sisterhood from there. Your sister might not understand the other pressures that you have in your life.
Dear Dealing with Sibling Rivalry,
I totally get it. I have a sister myself and sometimes we’re the best of friends or the worst of enemies, but the love is always there. So I would first say take a deep breath, put your phone on silent, and enjoy a Hello Mellow capsule to take the edge off of dealing with an out-of-control sibling.
Once your anxiety has settled down, try the below to re-establish a healthy relationship with your sister before you lose your mind.
Create healthy boundaries
Let your sister know that although you appreciate her assisting your mother, that your time is also valuable and her reaching out constantly is putting a strain on your relationship, and then set clear boundaries.
Tell your sister when she’s allowed to call and when she’s not allowed to call in non-emergency situations. Of course, do it in a calm and respectful way, but firmly let her know how early and how late she’s allowed to reach out.
Also, give her a limit on the number of times she’s allowed to call and text you throughout the day. If she reaches out outside of the parameters that you’ve set, simply silence her calls and don’t respond. It might be tough at first, but she’ll get used to it.
Focus on building your friendship first
After you’ve destressed and had a good and restorative sleep thanks to your Nighty Night capsules, carve out a time to have a heartfelt one-on-one conversation with your sister about shifting the focus from just venting about your mother, to working on getting to know each other as two adult women.
Just because you’re sisters that doesn’t mean that you know each other on a deep and meaningful level. Try building a friendship first and then strengthening your sisterhood from there. Your sister might not understand the other pressures that you have in your life. Also, keep in mind that a part of her might be a little envious of your marriage and children if those are personal goals of hers that she hasn’t achieved yet. A little compassion goes a long way between sisters.
Remember your common goal
Keep your eye on the prize. Try to think of your sister as your partner in taking care of your mother rather than as your bossy older sister. Being a partner evens out the playing field and you can start to take your power back.
When you start to feel frustrated with your big sis, take a step back, detach, breathe, and then remember that making sure your mother stays happy and healthy during the lockdown trumps any silly sibling squabble.
Reaffirm your boundaries, focus on your sisterly friendship, and make your mother’s health your common priority. You got this, sis.
Jane is the fictional heroine of the Betoken lifestyle blog, Good For Jane. Think of Jane as your virtual BFF. She lives a healthy lifestyle, but not like, over the top. When it’s not a pandemic, she loves hanging out with her friends, dating, and exercising in public. Throughout the pandemic she has baked her fair share of sourdoughs, gotten more than her fair share of takeout to “support her local restaurants”, ordered wine online and taken plenty of CBD to keep the anxiety at bay.
Jane is also the editor of the Dear Jane column. If you have a question for Jane, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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