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When visiting my girlfriend's family, my girlfriend and I will usually wind up on a couch with the typical light-cuddling of a couple in a room with other people--legs across the other's lap, leaning on each other, arms around shoulders, etc.

Thing is, she and her sister also tend to do that stuff when the two of them are on a couch together. When that happens, I don't presume to join them. I don't want to make her sister uncomfortable. But when my girlfriend and I are like that already on the couch, her sister has no problem with hopping in and making it a cuddle pile.

However, even though she made it this way, the sister seems somewhat uncomfortable with her and I touching anywhere and seems really uncomfortable whenever I move in any way that changes how we are touching even slightly--even if I'm moving away from her.

I don't want her to do this if she's gonna be uncomfortable and thereby make me uncomfortable. I also don't want to 'lose territory' on my SO to her, like when I have my arm around my SO, and have to take it off to do something for a second, and then when I go to put it back, her sister's arm is now there, and her body language is not inviting our arms to both be there. I don't like that.

How can I effectively talk to her sister about this?

My goal is to set boundaries so that we don't have to be uncomfortable with each other. How do I open this discussion? I don't want to creep her out obviously and I want to emphasize that I'm not trying to cuddle her, I just feel uncomfortable, but like not because I'd feel uncomfortable with us touching, but because I dunno how she feels. How can we have a conversation about this?

  • 1
    Your question title is too long. Could you think of a way to shorten it and convey the message at the same time? I don't think it is against IPS.SE's rules to have a very verbose question title, it just hinders the visibility of the question to people outside of the community. – Crazy Cucumber Oct 29 '18 at 19:45
  • I gave you a major rewrite and took out some info that's not required for your question to be answered. Again, feel free to rollback/edit further if you don't like it. – scohe001 Oct 29 '18 at 20:59
16

You and the sister of your girlfriend belong to different world. Her world is her family world. Your world is with your girlfriend. The meeting point of these 2 worlds is your girlfriend.

In my opinion, if you try to reach the sister of your girlfriend directly, this will be at best awkward. You may need to involve your girlfriend.

I would talk to my girlfriend about all of this. Then it will mostly depend on the opinion of your girlfriend on the problem. She will set the boundaries (or not..) accordingly with her sister. And that will be infinitely more efficient than if you try to set the boundary directly with her sister, who might take it defensively, or jealously, or whatever.

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You don't have to confront her, you need to show your girlfriend's sister you aren't an invader and/or a threat.

Your problem

Let's start with the "When visiting my girlfriend's family". This is an important point.

Your girlfriend and her sister are in their safe family zone, in which you have been trusted enough to be invited. Even more, your question suggests that physical closeness with your girlfriend in her family presence is totally acceptable.

You have to consider that each individual of this family has a point of view on you and your behaviour, and will act accordingly.

This means that your girlfriend's sister could see your actions during these family events as partly intrusive, and her behaviour could be translated like the following:

  • I am here too, please don't forget my existence
  • I feel like I need to defend closeness to my sister

This also means, other members (possibly parents) of your girlfriend's family could have a link to this situation, either directly or not.

As a family outsider, you have very little to none possibilities to counterweight these influence efficiently.

However, your relation to your girlfriend's sister is very likely the key here.

Improving this relation, will be rewarding and showing of your care towards your girlfriend and her family.

Possible Solutions

- Without girlfriend's influence :

1- Try to know who she is, and what she likes. Speak to her of unrelated subject and show interest in her person, this will reduce the possible tense between the both of you and start a link. If this is already the case, maintain and improve that link.

This will improve the image she has of you, and could destroy the possible "competition" here.

2- Give her space to cuddle. Make sure she understand you will never be in the way if she wants to feel close to her sister.

In these family events, your girlfriend's sister should be able to cuddle her sister if both of them want it. Let them decide what kind of behaviour they enjoy in this new configuration. Your girlfriend will send you hints on how and when she would like you interact with her, or with her sister. In this way you possibly get her to help you without asking.

3- Take the time to discuss about this with her sister (risky in my opinion).

EDIT Why its risky: Confront her directly makes this situation real, and is likely to create conflicts. On the other hand, if you try to deal with it by showing a different attitude, you can make this problem disappear and create a healthy relation with her sister in the meantime.

Find a good moment to have this discussion when you can have a quick discussion during a few minutes without being interrupted.

I can see you and 'GF' are pretty close, that's really nice! She's lucky to have you.

Imply the fact that you are okay with this, and you want her and your girlfriend happiness. She'll also know you recognize her positive impact. Then slightly indicate that you want to find your place

I enjoy those moments with your family, I hope you don't mind if we cuddle sometime..

The trick is to state that you want to be on her side, without showing as a threat. You're here. But you're not imposing yourself.

There are no safe way of doing it : you will expose yourself. So pick the best/positive side: your girlfriend/her sister.

You could add a family or personnal story of your own to help her empathize with your situation.

- With girlfriend's influence :

4 - Tell your girlfriend you think this is something about this and ask her how you should do it. The fact that you ask, will probably give you at least hints, or even make her act on it in a way she decides.

5 - ask your girlfriend about her sister. Try to know her, show interest in her. Ask her to organize a meeting with the three of you. It would be even better with her boyfriend and/or friends. Be very specific on the interest you have in her, you just want to know her better and nothing more. This behaviour might create tension between all people involved.

My experience

I use to spend a lot of time at my girlfriends family house during the summer.

She had both a little brother and sister. The age gap may be a difference here, but I had a very similar issue with her little sister.

I applied both first solutions and it worked really well. I actually had a really enjoyable relation with the little sister afterwards as we both started to like each other.

Little tips

Don't underestimate your body language. Cuddle your girlfriend in front of her family is not totally harmless. It can imply a lot to her family and feel particular to some of them.

keep in mind this might be some sort of group response, and not only the fact that her sister just want to cuddle.

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