Author Topic: Sibling Advice?  (Read 4300 times)

William

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Sibling Advice?
« on: November 16, 2013, 07:51:50 PM »
I don't know what to do about my sister.

She is two years old than I.  I'm 23 and she's 25.  Growing up we were happy enough being around each other.  When we entered high school I found what she liked to do and who she liked to hang around to be all very boring.  She thought the same of my friends and hobbies.  That's okay.  We didn't share much in common.  This caused us not to spend much time together after we entered our teenage years.

Fast forward to present day.

We are both out of college, professionals, and live in the same city. 

She breaks down to me yesterday about how sad it is I don't take an interest in her life.  She believes I disrespect her job, etc. when in reality I just don't have any questions to ask.  And I will not turn into a zombie person who pretends to take interest in whatever another person says.  I won't just smile along and say, "Uh huh... oh... really... that's awesome... lol" and so on.  I do however listen to the stories she has to offer and smile politely and never say anything negative about them.

When I speak to her about my job (a rarity because I know she doesn't have any interest in my financial analyst job) she waits for me to finish and then promptly starts a very long-winded story of her own.  I'm talking minutes without considering if what she's saying has an audience.  She's a kindergarten teacher who speaks about her kids pooing their pants and wiping boogers in the pages of books.  I'm not joking.  I will ask her about the theories behind elementary education teaching styles but no I don't want to ask her to retell more booger stories.

I feel she wants me to put the spotlight on her.

I don't despise her but she wants me to jump up and down every time I see her.  I just don't really want to.  Frankly she doesn't deserve it from me.  Here's more on that...

I help her whenever she needs it but recently I was very stressed out with work.  I had to do a million things before I went to a possibly career changing business event.  I asked her to pickup a bag of sugar for me (for boss's pre-party) since she was a block from the store and she said 'no' with no good reason other than she didn't choose to.  I have helped her move multiple apartments/dorm rooms, offered money advice if she is stressing about finances, and even been with her when she has felt depressed.  But nope, when I need something she is literally nowhere for me.

So she cares little for my life and I perhaps don't shower her in gifts as much as she feels I should.

She's so sensitive too so if I say anything she takes it the wrong way, puts it in her back pocket, and then yells at me about it later.  If I say a joke she often takes it the wrong way.  Instead of being a grownup and sharing her feelings right away she just secretly thinks I'm a jerk.  Really, I don't intend to ever make fun of her.  I'm kind of sarcastic so sometimes the jokes can seem mean if you don't have a light enough personality I suppose.  And if I say something like, 'I ride my bike to work because it's great!  I get in my exercise while commuting, it's relaxing, it prevents pollution, etc.' she thinks I'm putting her down since she drives a car 25 miles one-way to work.  I mean come on.  I'm not telling her to live her life like mine.  Maybe she secretly feels guilty for driving?

What do I do? 

I just don't feel like putting her in the spotlight.  I have nice, honest people in my life who belong there.

Oh, and when I speak about money she thinks I'm an evil, greedy person.  When in fact it's just that money interests me and I enjoy the topic.


Perhaps no one will reply to this post.  Perhaps someone will have dealt with a similar experience.


***Positives About My Sister***

1. She can make anyone smile very quickly in a conversation!
2. She has a decent work ethic
3. She's good around children
« Last Edit: November 16, 2013, 08:01:19 PM by William »
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arebelspy

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Re: Sibling Advice?
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2013, 08:20:51 PM »
I'm sorry this all has happened to you.

Reading this from a third-party perspective just makes me wonder if you've thought about it from her perspective.  In other words, what is your role in getting the relationship to where it stands today?

I wish you the best of luck, however it turns out.
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Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Sibling Advice?
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2013, 08:33:11 PM »


***Positives About My Sister***

1. She can make anyone smile very quickly in a conversation!
2. She has a decent work ethic
3. She's good around children

I think your sister sounds like a fun/nice person to be around. And I'm sure there is plenty of exaggeration in your post, since I'm sure she has better stories about her class than just boogers and poop.  I have a kindergarten kid and they are endlessly entertaining.

The main thing I see about your post is that she wants a relationship with you and you don't. Or at least not the kind of relationship built on friendship. Siblings are often very different people, but any relationship takes work. IMO a sibling is a relationship worth making an effort.  I don't think you will ever regret any time or effort spent building that relationship.  Give it a try.
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William

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Re: Sibling Advice?
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2013, 08:44:06 PM »
I'm sorry this all has happened to you.

Reading this from a third-party perspective just makes me wonder if you've thought about it from her perspective.  In other words, what is your role in getting the relationship to where it stands today?

I wish you the best of luck, however it turns out.

Thanks for the reply.

What I have come up with is that I am not sensitive enough for her.  I try to never make excuses and I try to not sweat the small stuff.  I like to get things accomplished.  She is a much gentler person.  Excuses are okay to her.  Everything is worth fretting about.  It's okay to be lazy and not pay your bills if that's what makes you happy in her eyes.  Honestly she's said that about our brother not paying back his student loans.  She would hate this MMM philosophy we have.

I don't do well with very sensitive people I suppose.  I get excited easily and forget about being very gentle with her.  I'm not a touchy feely kind of person.  Rarely do I share my feelings so I suppose this thread is uncharacteristic of me. 

It's just sooo hard for me to take an interest in her life.  We're nothing alike.  She shows no interest in mine and I'm okay with that.  Ugh.  And I tried to tell the story as objectively as possible.  It wouldn't be helpful for me if I just posted nasty things about my sister because then I would get no honest replies about my true situation.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2013, 08:49:45 PM by William »
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Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Sibling Advice?
« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2013, 09:50:45 PM »
I'm sorry this all has happened to you.

Reading this from a third-party perspective just makes me wonder if you've thought about it from her perspective.  In other words, what is your role in getting the relationship to where it stands today?

I wish you the best of luck, however it turns out.

Thanks for the reply.

What I have come up with is that I am not sensitive enough for her.  I try to never make excuses and I try to not sweat the small stuff.  I like to get things accomplished.  She is a much gentler person.  Excuses are okay to her.  Everything is worth fretting about.  It's okay to be lazy and not pay your bills if that's what makes you happy in her eyes.  Honestly she's said that about our brother not paying back his student loans.  She would hate this MMM philosophy we have.

I don't do well with very sensitive people I suppose.  I get excited easily and forget about being very gentle with her.  I'm not a touchy feely kind of person.  Rarely do I share my feelings so I suppose this thread is uncharacteristic of me. 

It's just sooo hard for me to take an interest in her life.  We're nothing alike.  She shows no interest in mine and I'm okay with that.  Ugh.  And I tried to tell the story as objectively as possible.  It wouldn't be helpful for me if I just posted nasty things about my sister because then I would get no honest replies about my true situation.

Have you had a hard time maintaining friendships in general?  Do you have a SO?  I think if you would like to have a life partner someday, all the same skills would apply.  Listening, caring, stretching out of your comfort zone are skills that would help you in life, work, and love.
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William

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Re: Sibling Advice?
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2013, 10:02:14 PM »
I'm sorry this all has happened to you.

Reading this from a third-party perspective just makes me wonder if you've thought about it from her perspective.  In other words, what is your role in getting the relationship to where it stands today?

I wish you the best of luck, however it turns out.

Thanks for the reply.

What I have come up with is that I am not sensitive enough for her.  I try to never make excuses and I try to not sweat the small stuff.  I like to get things accomplished.  She is a much gentler person.  Excuses are okay to her.  Everything is worth fretting about.  It's okay to be lazy and not pay your bills if that's what makes you happy in her eyes.  Honestly she's said that about our brother not paying back his student loans.  She would hate this MMM philosophy we have.

I don't do well with very sensitive people I suppose.  I get excited easily and forget about being very gentle with her.  I'm not a touchy feely kind of person.  Rarely do I share my feelings so I suppose this thread is uncharacteristic of me. 

It's just sooo hard for me to take an interest in her life.  We're nothing alike.  She shows no interest in mine and I'm okay with that.  Ugh.  And I tried to tell the story as objectively as possible.  It wouldn't be helpful for me if I just posted nasty things about my sister because then I would get no honest replies about my true situation.

Have you had a hard time maintaining friendships in general?  Do you have a SO?  I think if you would like to have a life partner someday, all the same skills would apply.  Listening, caring, stretching out of your comfort zone are skills that would help you in life, work, and love.

No, I'm really good at maintaining relationships.  I am however worse than average at starting relationships.  I'm pretty shy.  And no, I don't have a SO but (at least I like to believe) it's because I'm not sure what city I'll be living in after next month.  I did long distance once and won't ever do it again.

But you are probably onto something.  I had a GF once who sounded kind of like my sister did the other night when we would fight.  The GF and my sister were both very sensitive.  That parallel kind of scares me haha.

And for the record I can pull of very romantic events for my SO's so it's not like I'm a total robot.
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Jamesqf

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Re: Sibling Advice?
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2013, 10:20:53 PM »
It's just sooo hard for me to take an interest in her life.  We're nothing alike.  She shows no interest in mine and I'm okay with that.

So a question for the other commenters:  why the heck should William have to show (or pretend) an interest in his sister's life, when she shows no interest in his?  Honestly, from the description the sister sounds more than a little narcissistic.

There also seems to be a problem of finding common ground.  For instance, I have a really difficult time talking about my work with my friends, mostly because I'd have to give them a background education in geophysics and high-performance computing before I could even start to explain just what it was that I did today.  And from the other direction, I really don't understand e.g. payroll systems, or the politics of being an EMT.  But we can talk about gardens, dogs, horses, hiking, and all sorts of things that we do share.

Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Sibling Advice?
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2013, 10:28:42 PM »
OP, I would like to suggest a couple books to you:

"Leadership and self-deception" (if you only read one of these, pick this one)

And

"The anatomy of peace"

Both are by the arbinger institute and are excellent insights into our relationships with others in work, family and love.
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arebelspy

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Re: Sibling Advice?
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2013, 09:16:54 AM »
So a question for the other commenters:  why the heck should William have to show (or pretend) an interest in his sister's life, when she shows no interest in his?  Honestly, from the description the sister sounds more than a little narcissistic.

She does?

Huh.
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gooki

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Re: Sibling Advice?
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2013, 01:15:53 PM »
My 2 cents (sounds a lot like my wife and her sister used to be). Time fixes everything. Your sister just needs to grow up. It'll happen, but it may be another 7-10 years away.

To help accelerate it I recommend giving her a bit of space so she can make mistakes and solve them herself (basically let her harden the fuck up so she's less sensitive). And generally just lead by example (even though you are the youngest).

Are you parents overly supportive of her? Bail her out of financial issues, pamper/spoil her regularly?
« Last Edit: November 20, 2013, 03:47:23 AM by gooki »
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LRS

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Re: Sibling Advice?
« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2013, 11:33:08 PM »
William, that sounds like a tough situation and I wish you all the best as you work on your relationship with your sister.

The best advice I've heard about maintaining strong relationships is that successful relationships are 80% give and 20% take...for both people. Because of cognitive biases that distort our perceptions of the balance of efforts and rewards in relationships and because of the inherent difficulty of connecting to another human being with her own complexities and idiosyncrasies and hopes and fears, it's easy to start to feel like people are making unfair demands on your time and energy. But it's only by acquiescing to those demands, however unfair they may seem at the time, that you can start to bridge the gulf between yourself and another person.

The very fact that you made this post, rather than just cutting your sister out of your life, indicates that you believe this is a relationship worth preserving and improving. Like anything worthwhile in life, this will require hard work. A lot of the things that you seem reluctant to do - expressing interest in her life, "putting her in the spotlight," maybe reining in the sarcasm around her and possibly being a little bit more careful when discussing lifestyle and money choices - while difficult, are things that loved ones do for each other's sake in happy and healthy relationships.

It seems like you find it difficult to connect with her because the two of you are such different people. It sounds like she realizes this too, but is making an effort to build a bridge to you and include you in her life. I think that simply making more of an effort - offering sympathy, understanding, encouragement, support, and (careful and sensitive) advice - will show her that you care too, and will mean a lot to her. Try to understand the things that bring her joy and the things that make her anxious. Even saying something as simple as "it must be very rewarding to spend time with kids" the next time she tells you a booger or poop story will show that you're making an effort to see things through her eyes and build some sort of common understanding.

It sounds like you guys have some communication issues too. You say that you're bothered when she holds things in her back pocket and holds grudges against you, but honestly, it seems like that's kind of the same thing that you're doing with this whole bag-of-sugar episode. I think it would really help you guys to get to a point where you can talk about things like that instead of nursing them in the darker recesses of your hearts. "That day I asked you get a bag of sugar for me, I was really stressed out and I had a lot of things going on. I felt like you could have done me a big favor and reduced my stress level a lot, without really going very far out of your way at all. I don't understand why you didn't help me, and it hurt my feelings that you didn't."

Finally, I think it will help you to try to understand that not many people share the ideas about money that are common to those of us who frequent this website and these forums. I think a lot of us have found ourselves in situations where we've been talking about frugality, investing, early retirement, financial independence, and related topics around friends and been received with stony silence or outright hostility. It's natural for people to be sensitive, insecure, and ashamed about these sorts of things, and to perceive our enthusiasm and passion as an attack on their character. Try to keep in mind that talking about how good you are with money is a pretty easy way to alienate most people. With your sister in particular, I imagine she makes much less than you, and she might feel like you're rubbing it in her face. Try to be conscious of this and sensitive to it.

Good luck, man. Family isn't always easy, but it's one of the most important and potentially rewarding parts of life. Hope you can find a way to connect with your sister. (Or, alternatively, a way to get her out of your hair...)

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Re: Sibling Advice?
« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2013, 01:03:31 AM »
A lot of siblings go through phases of not being very close, but that often changes.  Having a good sibling relationship is awesome because nobody knows you quite like they do even if you are very different.  So it's worth working on.  From your post, you came across to me as being very annoyed by her and frankly a bit callous.  There are ways to laugh off stories about boogers and move the conversation to something else.  Maybe she's trying to get some kind of reaction out of you?  It sounds like she's trying hard to have a relationship with you and the more you back away the more sensitive and needy she becomes, and the more that irritates you.  It could be that if you made a point to see her at regular intervals and spend some time talking about her, things might right themselves and she wouldn't be so sensitive toward you.  Have a standing brunch date once a month, give her a call once a week, forward an article that she might like to show you think of her... things like that.  If you always rebuff her she'll probably back off but my guess is you'll eventually miss her. 

tooqk4u22

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Re: Sibling Advice?
« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2013, 09:50:57 AM »
The OP comes off a bit whiny about the situation that makes me feel he is part of the problem, not just the sister....but the only way to get her to be stop being sensitive is to keep calling her out on it and then ignore it but part of a relationship is listening to and doing things that may suck for you but are important to them even if they are trivial. 

My sister and I couldn't be more opposite in almost every regard.....definitely use different sides of the brain and see things differently. 

I think it makes it fun, we have good discussions. I give her crap about wasting her life not being extremely prudent with her career and financial resources....she gives me crap because I focus too much on it and you need to live for today. At the same time I am envious of her life and she is envious of mine, if that makes any sense at all.


impaire

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Re: Sibling Advice?
« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2013, 10:44:38 AM »
"I feel she wants me to put the spotlight on her."

"I don't despise her but she wants me to jump up and down every time I see her.  I just don't really want to."

"when I need something she is literally nowhere for me."

"So she cares little for my life and I perhaps don't shower her in gifts as much as she feels I should."

Just a few quotes that I found interesting in your original post, because 1) it shows some amount of hurt on your side, which (along the fact that you posted here) shows that you really care, even though you then go out of your way to qualify it ("she does not deserve it"); 2) it also shows that you are not very sure about how she feels or what she wants, and that 3) you're afraid that you will not be able to give her what she wants, because it is just not in your style of communication (gifts, enthusiasm = not your way to show love).

To me, it sounds like you are trying to please her, unsure about how to go about it, and hurt that your best attempts do not seem to satisfy her. Have you tried expressing these feelings to her? It is possible that your honesty (trying to be precise, trying to express the limits of your appreciation for your sister, not showing ecstatic enthusiasm when what you feel is quiet contentment) is misread as coldness, especially if she is insecure or communicates differently than you. She might actually feel better to know that you are trying, and that you feel bad about the situation, because it shows that you care. You cannot (and should not) change who you are, so there may be an amount of mismatch that is not going to disappear, but I'd say the talk you should have is with her, not with us. And I would try to be as precise as possible in your way to say things, and to focus on the positive (not "you don't care about me," but "I feel as if you don't care about me because you never ask questions"; not "you want me to jump up and down and I simply don't want to," but "I'm happy to see you and I wonder if that comes across because I'm express it quietly").

I could be completely off, of course. If you've already talked about it with her, what did she say?

William

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Re: Sibling Advice?
« Reply #14 on: November 22, 2013, 05:57:31 PM »
Thank you all for taking the time to reply.

We haven't spoken in roughly a week.  Thanksgiving may be a bit awkward.

And by the way, I don't express feelings well at all.  I've been working on this as part of a New Year's Resolution.  For as long as I can remember the only people I could really share my feelings with have been girlfriends.  Everyone else usually gets very generic responses to how I'm doing.  I think it has something to do with my dad being very 'manly'.  Meaning he pushes his feelings inward and I've grown up seeing how it's done.

Not to blame him but I think that's why I'm so 'manly' when it comes to feelings.

And to add to my post, my sister is really bad at calling me back.  And I also find it strange how she hardly answers my phone calls but when I call from Google Voice and it appears as a strange number she always answers.  My educated guess is she would rather answer a call from a stranger than one from her brother.  Strange how she tells me she wants to talk and everything.  And when I do get through to her she always gives me those 'oooohhh, coool, awesome...oh...ya....' types of responses.  During which you can clearly hear her facebooking or cooking or participating in some other attention-grabbing activity.

I still don't think I can call her to mend things.  I'm still having a hard time trying to fix something I didn't see as broken as she does.

I should really read those books suggested above.
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ch12

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Re: Sibling Advice?
« Reply #15 on: November 22, 2013, 06:40:43 PM »
She might be asking for the moon (what she's very clearly not going to get) because she doesn't think that she'll get anything. People get angry when their expectations are violated.

Sit down with her and have a serious talk about the way that you want your relationship to be -  not in an ideal world, but in one where you are aware of the other person's limitations. And you will come up with something that both of you agree with.

That is how I deal with romantic relationships, and I imagine that it might be rather similar even in a platonic context.

sunshine

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Re: Sibling Advice?
« Reply #16 on: November 26, 2013, 01:52:21 PM »
As someone whose only sibling died tragically a few years ago I am going to tell you to maintain that connection. Fake it until you make it or try something new that you can enjoy together. Maybe you should have a discussion about what you two can do to connect more.  My sibling and I had 180 degree different lives but I am so glad we made the time to connect because all I have left are the happy memories. 

totoro

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Re: Sibling Advice?
« Reply #17 on: November 26, 2013, 10:59:29 PM »
Maybe you should get her a gift?  Some people equate a gift with love.  She seems like she might be one of them?  Worth a shot to break the ice.

There is a book on this called "The Five Love Languages" - you could add that to the reading list.

As far as common ground goes, maybe you should try to find one thing you both enjoy doing?  If you can't find that maybe you should focus on what you are willing to do for the benefit of a better relationship and then do it - for the benefits.  Maybe it means listening to her actively and practicing asking her questions about things she is interested in even if she doesn't do the same thing.