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Background:

Growing up, I was always close with my sister because I spent a lot of time with her and told her everything. As I grew older and went to college, I began spending less time with her and our relationship went through peaks and valleys. About six months ago, I moved in with my sister and her husband (they live close to my university and I have one more year to complete) in order to save money which I was very grateful for. When I spend a lot of time with my sister and her husband and their friends, things are great. She is really nice and loving and fun to be around. Her friends and I don't have much in common so I prefer to spend time with my own but I will on occasion hang out with them.

Problem:

Even though I live with my sister, I'm rarely home. I work full time for an engineering company during the summer, I have a boyfriend, I also work in a lab, and I like to hang out with my friends a couple evenings a week since I can in the summer. My sister does not understand this at all. She gets very upset with me when I'm not home frequently. She will call and talk about me to my parents and other siblings and treat me with a very cold attitude when I do come home. If I don't hang out with her friends she gets upset too. If she calls me that night and I don't come home to spend time with her and her friends because of a previous commitment, she will be angry when I see her again. This gives me anxiety to even see her or come home to the place I live.

Question:

How can I have a reasonable and calm conversation to explain to my sister that I love her but cannot deal with the way she is handling our situation?

For reference:

We are both in our twenties living in the United States.

  • 2
    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. – user58 Aug 9 '18 at 20:27
5

My sister and I have a similar relationship - she wishes I spent more time with her, but I am busy with work and school.

Here are my suggestions for you:

Tell her directly that her overbearing behavior is bothering you. Remind her that you appreciate her letting you stay with her and you enjoy her company, but because of other commitments you can't be with her all the time. Tell her that it's unacceptable for her to act cold towards you and to drag other family members into it.

I also suggest planning activities with her in advance - maybe once a week, or however often you are comfortable with. Plan activities that you will both enjoy together, make sure to get her input about what she would want to do. Outside of these planned activities, make sure you clearly communicate your free time with her so she doesn't feel blindsided by you being busy. When you show her that you are prioritizing hanging out with her, she may feel more placated.

I would also consider other factors that may be influencing her behavior. Possibly she is lonely, or upset about something and wants to discuss it with you? Perhaps you and her husband could go about seeing if something else is up.

2

My background: I had a roommate that behaved like this, not a sister, but very similar experiences. Looking back on it now, I would have done things differently, but here's my thoughts.

TL;DR: My dorm college roommate and I became very good friends over the summer, we went to see a Broadway show together- her treat for my birthday. My friendship there was very casual, I thought it was very sweet and caring of her. When we came back to school, I had been talking more and more with a guy that attended the same school, and I had fallen in love and started dating. In short, my relationship with my roommate had turned into a light friendship where I expected to catch up sometimes. I was otherwise occupied with my boyfriend then. However, my roommate expected more. She wanted to spend more time with me and was disappointed and mad when we could not. (We should have communicated our expectations more to each other at this point.)

Our friendship fell apart after that, and was very rocky. There were other things going on at the same time, school, other dramas, etc.

It seems that both you and your sister have untold/blind expectations of each other. This can cause a rift in the relationship, so communication needs to happen.

My suggestion:

Have a cup of tea/coffee (whatever you like to drink) together and write out expectations of each other relationship wise, and show it to each other. Be kind and direct.

Here's an example approach I thought of to start the conversation off. (You do not have to follow this!)

Hey, (sister), I understand you've really struggled getting to know my schedule and not being really sure of expectations of each other, so I want to clear the air and lay our cards out on the table here. I want to express to you my expectations so that there's no blind expectations in our relationship that might harm it, and I would love it if you can tell me yours, so I know about them, and then I can tell you whether I can satisfy them or not. After these discussions, we'll have even less blind expectations and we'll know what we can and can't do for each other. Does that sound good?

For example, from what I read (I may be incorrect, since I do not know you personally) your expectations of her and yourself could be:

I expect that you will be kind and understanding when I have commitments to satisfy.

I expect that you will communicate respectfully when you want to spend time with me, and respect me when I say that I cannot for X, Y, or Z reasons.

I expect that I will respect you when you say you want to spend time with me, and I will see what I can do with the schedule constraints I have at that time. I may not be able to immediately spend time with you, but I can schedule a time for an activity.

  • Scheduling a lunch, dinner, movie, or activity of some kind that you both enjoy would be fun and enhance your relationship.

I cannot tell you what she might say, but if you approach it in a calm manner, and on a good day, I believe things are looking good for you both. Wishing you all the best!

  • 1
    This is wonderful advice! Thank you so much, I think this is exactly the kind of conversation I will try to have with her. Thanks again, I appreciate it. – user19898 Aug 10 '18 at 14:28

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