Dear Vitamin C –
I would love to have a great relationship with my sister but it seems like every time we are together for any length of time she will say something mean or dismissive to me which then sets me off and then we are in a fight. Our relationship just feels toxic. I feel like I have really tried and have told her that this bothers me but it seems like she doesn’t care. Should I cut her off? The thought of that makes me sad but I don’t know what to do anymore.
Dear Sad Sister –
Before we address the relationship with your sister, let’s first look at your part in it. If you are reacting to your sister’s disrespect with more disrespect by getting in a fight you are perpetuating the problem. To paraphrase the wise words of MLK, “You can not fight hate with hate you can only fight hate with love.” You can only control your reaction to your sister so “keep your side of the street clean” in your response.
You can let her know that what she has said hurts you, but don’t lob the hurt back. One alternative to cutting your sister off would be to invite your sister out somewhere where it is just the two of you and let her know what you truly want for your relationship. By leading with your intention, which is that you love her and want to have a better relationship with her, you may open the door to a dialogue on “how can we make that happen”. By opening up about the things that you love about her and letting her know about some of the past hurts you start to engage in a way that honors you both. Apologize to her for any hurt you may have caused her in the past. I know this part may be hard because you feel she should be doing all the apologizing but it’s a key element in cleaning up your side of the street and doing your part in improving your relationship. This may be enough to turn things around – if not at least you will know you did your part.