My younger sister and I have never had a great relationship. She is terrible to me, constantly trying to outdo me or prove that she is “the better one.” She has threatened to banish me from events or milestones if I don’t do exactly what she says in the way that she wants it. She single-handedly went out of her way to cause stress and chaos the morning of our wedding…and after having previously told my husband he had to wait a certain length of time after her own wedding before he could propose… you get he idea. My family members have commented on how terrible she can be to me, but, as the older sibling, I am told to “be the bigger person” and get over it. This hasn’t bothered me for the last five years as she was living on the other side of the country – and it was pure bliss — but she has recently moved back in with my parents after getting pregnant and is now searching for a house for her family. You can imagine my surprise when she commented that she wanted to move close to me. My first response was to think “she’s moving closer to me to make it easier to compete with what my husband and I have and be ‘better’ in our community,” and my husband agrees.
I am panicking over the thought of having my sister move into our community. She is not someone whose behavior I tend to condone, and to be quite honest I really don’t even like being associated with her in public – I was so happy to change my name after marriage so I wasn’t automatically pinned as being related to her. We are so happy here and I honestly do not think we could continue living here if we ran the risk of seeing her frequently when we went out, having her stop by unannounced, always asking me to watch her kids (like she currently does with my parents) or constantly comparing our homes, lives, etc.
What can I do protect the kingdom we have worked so hard to build for ourselves here?!? We spent years working up to this, and I can’t believe this could possibly happen. PLEASE HELP!!!! — A terrified Wife and Husband
I was sympathetic toward you all the way until the end of your letter when you referred to the place you live as your “kingdom.” A kingdom that you worked so hard to build for yourselves. You and your husband moved there last year, right? So, you’ve lived there like a few months, basically — at the most twelve months, but probably less than that. What, exactly, is all the “hard work” you’ve put into building this kingdom in less than a year? Being neighborly and friendly to people? Fixing up the home that you bought? Have you been involved in local politics, community fundraisers, the local public schools? Have you helped prepare buildings that need it, tend to public indoor and outdoor spaces, volunteered to help those in your community less fortunate than you? Just curious what the hard work is that you’ve done in the past few months to build this kingdom for yourself…
Anyway, about your question: No, you can’t stop your sister from moving to your community. You can’t tell her not to (at least, you can’t if you expect to retain any sort of facade of a relationship, which you should want to retain if for no other benefit than to keep the family peace). What you can do is stop talking your community up–stop talking about how great it is, how much you love it, how happy you are. You don’t say you’ve been doing this, but I have to imagine there’s been some talk about it or your sister wouldn’t suddenly be interested in moving there. Maybe you haven’t even talked to her directly about it. Maybe she’s hearing from your parents. Either way, you know your sister feels competitive with you. You know there’s some sense of her trying to better you. The best way to combat that is to downplay how wonderful things are for you. Be humble and modest.
What if that doesn’t work though? What if downplaying how happy you are in your community doesn’t deter your sister from moving there and your worst nightmare comes true and she becomes a neighbor? Well… I think you cross that bridge when you get to it and try not to worry about it too much right now. If that happens, you’ll have to set some clear boundaries so that she doesn’t stop by unannounced. She might ask you to watch her kids, but she’s only going to continue asking you over and over if you give her reason to by saying yes sometimes. If you want to avoid this scenario, you simply don’t watch her kids ever. And if she compares your homes, ignore her. Just don’t engage. Don’t play the game.
As for worrying about being associated with her, that just sounds snobby. So what if people know you have a sister who’s really different from you? Anyone who’s going to judge you for your sister’s behavior isn’t a friend worth having anyway. And if a whole community is going to look down on you because you have a sister who doesn’t fit in, maybe that isn’t such a great community after all.
But, again, I don’t think any of this is worth worrying about right now. It sounds like your sister has made a comment about moving close to you and that’s it. There are no plans in motion, no house picked out, no need to freak out just yet. She might start asking you some questions as she narrows down her choices, and if she does, remember to be modest, humble, and not talk about how great “your kingdom” is no matter how proud you might be of the hard work you’ve put into building it. The less she knows about how fabulous it is, the better. In fact, maybe you should start pointing out some less ideal things about it. Lack of privacy and autonomy, maybe? Inability to avoid people you don’t really like?
Eek, good luck!
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.
LisforLeslie February 8, 2018, 11:05 am
I usually agree with everything that Wendy says but in this case I have to disagree about not wanting to be associated with a family member. I’ve got a couple of family members who are real winners. We’re talking manipulative, abusive, drug problems – you get the picture. One likes to verbally assault people, yelling at them, calling them stupid, threatening them. The post office stopped delivering mail to her home because she was so out of control. So no, I don’t want to be associated with her.
Still – you can’t prevent your sister from moving closer, but you can keep your distance. You can be busy. Like really busy. As Wendy noted, there is plenty to do within your community. The more you get involved, and make friends and present your real self, the less your sister can do to tarnish you. Don’t gossip about your neighbors, be kind, be involved. Hope that if worse comes to worst – your neighbors behave like adults instead of middle-schoolers.
sarahbelle February 8, 2018, 11:32 am
There is also the option that you stop running from her and stand up for yourself. Your Husband too. Stop playing I who has something better when she one ups you say congratulations and leave it alone, stop the threats by not doing what she says if you are banished from events she hosts or milestones oh well that wasn’t somewhere you needed to be and when someone asks why tell them that your sister asked that you not attend. If she is not hosting she cant banish you. If she comes over unannounced meet her at the door or send her a text saying ” you would love to have some time together and you wish she had called so you could have saved her a trip but you can’t now “. It wont be easy and it wont fix everything but you really cant live like this and why would you want to.
SanDiegoSmith82 February 8, 2018, 11:41 am
OH LW- you and I have a similar sister, and I can sympathize and understand your feelings. Mine is two years younger than me and has this weird thing about doing everything before me. Marriage, kids (including the sexes of said kids- she has two boys and “HAS TO HAVE A GIRL” although her last pregnancy went septic and nearly killed her), a bigger house/car/etc than the rest of us, all that jazz. I’ve got no idea why she has to do it first, but she thinks that if she does, then my parents will love her more than the rest of us.
There is nothing I can do to stop her actions, just like there is nothing you can do to stop your sister’s reactions. All we can control is how we react to our siblings and their behaviors. My husband and I moved 9 hours away from my family last year to San Diego, and my parents love to visit. When my sister heard that they love my city, she decided it was time to leave the bay area, try to move to the foothills and compete by purchasing a house that is way bigger than any of us would want.
Want to know how I reacted? I don’t let her make it a competition- no matter how hard she tries- I let her do what she wants to do. I encourage her to do what she needs to do for her family. And I do what is best for my husband and I. I keep my relationship with my parents and my siblings as separate as I can, and my parents have learned to respect it. Ignore her drive to start competitions- and eventually- she will find another target.
LisforLeslie February 8, 2018, 1:00 pm
I am sure I’ve told this story before but my stepdad showed me how to deal with the one uppers in life. I watched him in action and it was amazing, no matter what the person would say my stepdad would just say “Oh, isn’t that nice.” or “How nice for you.” or “that’s good” and people were desperate to show off what they had or how much they had or whatever and my stepdad truly never cared. He was the most unassuming guy ever, totally brilliant and had no concern for what other people had. He also knew that some people wore their entire income and had nothing in the bank.
Just don’t play.
Kimber October 14, 2020, 2:25 pm
LisforLeslie, I completely agree! I love how your stepdad responded. The best reaction is NO reaction. I moved out of town to have less drama from family about 2 years ago. I have been widowed for many years. I was shocked when my older sister and her husband followed. At first I was happy about it, but then became a little apprehensive as our family is quite dysfunctional and competitive. (I am not a “keep up with the Jones’ type of personality.) Anyway, my sister and I get along well at a safe distance. Admittedly, since they moved here, we have had our moments. But, I just decided to let her live her life and I live mine. When they came here, they were able to do things to their home (upgrades) that I could not afford. But, rather than be jealous or ugly about it, I chose the high road and complimented them on all of it. I know that some of her issues stem from our childhood and I take that into consideration. Just love your sibling and let the other stuff go. Life is too short to worry over petty things.
Skyblossom February 8, 2018, 12:16 pm
You can’t stop your sister from living in your community.
You can control yourself and how you handle it. You don’t need to spend time with her in your community. You can say no every time she wants you to babysit. You can be too busy to let her in if she drops by unannounced. You can set your own boundaries. She will complain to your parents but that is all she can do.
Continue to be a nice person in your community. Continue to be involved. People will judge you for yourself and if your sister is wildly different and they don’t like her they will wonder how the two of you came from the same home and they will feel sorry for you but they won’t hold her against you. Don’t worry about her trying to compete. She will have to be involved and be nice and kind and thoughtful and you say she is none of those things so she will lose in the type of competition that matters. If she doesn’t invite you to her events then be happy, that’s what you want. You don’t have to invite her to yours.
You don’t have to change your life just because your sister shows up. You can continue to live it the way you want and ignore the fact that she moved nearby.
brise February 8, 2018, 12:39 pm
I think you idealise a bit your “community”. And it doesn’t belong to you. Anyway, if your sister moves in your neighborhood – and we are still a far cry from that move – you will sound bad if you speak like this of your sister. May be you make a move in yourself first: change your perspective on her. Stop competing, indeed, Wendy gave your fine advice. But see her also as a youg mum who has your nephews. Nephews are cute. Family is not only bad. Be a bit more open to the relationship and learn to set boundaries, and perhaps this move of hers, if it happens, won’t be that catastrophic. I know two sisters who had a bit this kind of relationship. With time they learned to communicate better and respect each other, and they have now a good link, not too close, but not like the jealousy you speak about. Give yourself the possibility to evolve.
csp February 8, 2018, 12:48 pm
LW – I have a feeling you are way over thinking this. I mean , you have made a lot of assumptions in this letter. Everyone does this where you fight with someone in your head and bring things really down the road. Just don’t stress about it.
You can lean her toward other places. Tell her doesn’t she want to be closer to your parents or a closer commute for her husband.
Then, try your best to think better of your sister. You have a lifetime of proof of who she is but, people do grow up. And if she wants to live near you, maybe that is a sign she wants a better relationship. I was struck by the quote: “My first response was to think “she’s moving closer to me to make it easier to compete with what my husband and I have and be ‘better’ in our community,” and my husband agrees. ” I just think that the idea that she wants to relocate her entire life and family just to make you feel worse is more about you then about her.
strawberrygurl February 8, 2018, 2:29 pm
Agree with that last line 100%. And agree with WWS about the “kingdom” line. That’s just plain weird, very self-righteous and a phrase I would associate with someone who has deep self esteem issues. Time for a health checkup with the therapist.
bagge72 February 8, 2018, 12:53 pm
I just have this weird feeling that she doesn’t want her sister there, because her sister is probably more popular in social situations, and she’s afraid she’s going to steal all of her new friends. She finally got away, and has her own friends and that is in jeopardy now.
JMM February 8, 2018, 1:19 pm
Don’t react to her. Don’t socialize with her. Just drop the rope.
Bittergaymark February 8, 2018, 1:24 pm
This letter fascinates me. The tone is so strange its almost like from a sci-fi novel. Or Jane Austin? Kingdom… community… how tiny is this pristine little nugget of a hamlet?
No matter. There isn’t much you can do. Roll with it, I guess.
strawberrygurl February 8, 2018, 2:32 pm
Was Anne Boleyn a soccer mom?! Enquiring minds want to know..
PeeTee February 8, 2018, 1:48 pm
LW, establishing clear boundaries is all you can really do in terms of dealing with your sister’s possible arrival in your community. That said, I agree with bagge72 that the LW wants this community all to herself. In fact, my older sister lives in such a community and is the self-appointed spokesperson (in her imagination) for her little island. She seems to know everything that is going on there right down to how people think. I met somebody from her island “kingdom” and mentioned that my sibling lives there which drew a complete blank from the other island resident. My sister does not have good self-esteem. Perhaps the LW needs to work on that too.
ecwashere February 8, 2018, 2:17 pm
I can certainly sympathize with the LW. I have an older sibling very similar and I do everything in my power to avoid them. We live in the same city, but if I know that they frequent certain places (restaurants, bars, stores) I will try to avoid those places. They have made scenes in public multiple times and try to create drama everywhere they go.
Northern Star February 8, 2018, 2:21 pm
I really think you might consider seeing a therapist. The melodrama of this letter and the way you characterize your town as your “kingdom” and a “safe haven” from everyone makes you sound like a cult member—which I’m assuming you are not. It’s just your sister that you hate, right? The rest of your family is OK?
Your sister might be The Worst, but a healthy grownup shouldn’t be this afraid of someone who can simply be ignored, if necessary. And it’s really weird that your husband is “terrified” too.
Therapy may help.
Nancy February 8, 2018, 3:07 pm
You said your sister was pregnant…having a baby can really change who you are and your values. Maybe your sister has grown up, maybe she sees how good of a mom you are and wants your help and advice. I am a much different person now that I have had 2 kids. Do you want to have a possibility of a relationship with your sister and her children? Maybe look at this as a fresh start, it’s really up to you how you take on the situation. Maybe you could offer to show her around, look at some further away homes and spend some time together. People can change.
dinoceros February 8, 2018, 3:16 pm
I sympathize. However, I think that extreme desperation and panic that your letter portrays is concerning. I get that she hurt you a lot throughout your life, but ideally, you would have taken time while she was away to rebuild your self-esteem. Because the sort of reaction that you have implies that it’s not just that you’d be annoyed by her, but that you feel that she would destroy your life and make you feel terrible about yourself. It sort of reminds me when someone has crappy parents and then making repeated dating mistakes and then says, “Well, I have parent issues.” There’s a certain point in life where you do have some responsibility to recognize the damage that’s been done to you and do something to fix it (in this case, I think therapy would help). It sounds like you saw her leave and thought it was over, but as she’s family, and many family return home after years away, this was sort of inevitable.
Anyway, I don’t mean any of that to say that I don’t sympathize with you. But if you pick up and leave and/or let her “ruin” your life over her behavior, that’s YOU letting it happen. She can’t make those things happen unless you choose to be a victim.
Autumnrose February 8, 2018, 4:37 pm
I think you need to grow some balls and tell your sister how you feel. But by all means be an adult about it. An hour away is not that far away but not close enough that someone would annoy you. My sisters live 3hrs away which I wish I was closure. I have a great relationship with them. We don’t compete or rub things in each others faces but when we do get into it we are honest about our feelings. Can you tell her that she overwhelms you and comes across to you as insecure when she has to brag. Maybe she doesn’t notice it. Maybe that’s a trait your family has, bragging and boasting. Its a taught trait…. After all, she came from the same vagina as you did and raised in the same environment as you ?? (Thats me assuming) I mean, can you not have a heart to heart with her that you don’t want her that close to you. Or even hint we like our space…… Away from family…. We don’t want to be near you. Its not personal but we like our life and feel no reason to be close…..siblings and cousins share special bonds(bff for life) so it really isn’t fair for y’all to have this “I’m better than you attitude” so we can’t be close. Dish it out already and move on.
Skyblossom February 8, 2018, 9:11 pm
Her sister isn’t wanting to live and hour away she is wanting to live very close.
Why do you think her sister would listen to what she wants since she never has in the past? Some people will consider the feelings of others and some won’t. I assume she knows her sister well enough to know which type she is.
Arra February 8, 2018, 5:16 pm
I don’t understand the mindset of people who don’t want to be “bothered” with family. I completely understand cutting off harmful people, even family. And I completely understand putting space between you and people who drain you or just get on your nerves, even family. But I don’t understand, or I guess I can’t relate to people who just don’t want to interact with FAMILY. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around that. I have family who get on my last damn nerve….it doesn’t make me dread encounters with them. It doesn’t make me want to write to an advice columnist. I don’t understand how we became people who think we should NEVER had to endure any inconveniences or being uncomfortable for any amount of time. My siblings come visit, they drive me up the wall while they are there, they leave. And I continue to love them, unconditionally…….because those time are short lived. The bigger picture is that we won’t always be around, we won’t always have each other. I get tired of reading letters like this. Sofuckinghwhat you have to see your sister, SOMETIMES, not even all the time, and she rubs you the wrong way in the short time you might have to see her….deal with it. This is life. This is being a fucking adult.
Skyblossom February 8, 2018, 5:32 pm
She’s talking about her sister moving to the same town so that they would see each other constantly so not a little while and then she leaves. She’s talking about being expected to babysit all of the time. This isn’t like your situation.
dinoceros February 8, 2018, 6:07 pm
Everyone’s situation is different. Just because you get annoyed by siblings but don’t have any other bigger issue doesn’t really have much else to do with other people. I don’t think it means that a person thinks they don’t have to deal with minor inconveniences. Everyone’s lives are different, everyone’s family is different. Doesn’t make them wrong just because you have trouble envisioning you living their life.
blobfish February 8, 2018, 9:07 pm
I understand the panic about something that seems horrible to you that you think might actually happen to you. I have three sisters, and I also understand that not every sister has chosen to be a family member of yours who helps and supports you as normal people would expect.
I doubt that this sister will actually move there. Tone it down, quit saying how wonderful the place is, let it go away. In the unlikely event that she does move there, you can always move away.
CET February 9, 2018, 10:05 am
LW, the only thing I have to say is you can’t control other people. If your sister ends up moving close to you then you just have to deal with it. If you really don’t enjoy spending time with her then be busy and see her as little as possible. My two siblings don’t enjoy each other and for many years they lived only 25 minutes away from each other. They thought it was too far to visit, so they never saw each other. It worked for them. If she moved nearby how often would you actually see each other? I’m sure you’d both be busy with life, work, kids, whatever most of the time.
Essie February 9, 2018, 11:13 am
I get that your sister has been a huge source of stress in your life; there are people in my family that we’ve had to distance ourselves from.
However, I think you’re giving her MUCH more power over your life, and more space in your head, than she deserves. You’re not that little girl anymore that she used to push around. You’re an adult woman with your own family, your own friends, your own home, your own life. She doesn’t control you or your life. She can’t “make” you do anything, unless you choose to let her.
Who cares if she moves closer to you. You don’t have to include her in activities with your family or your friends. You don’t have to have her over to your house if you don’t want to. You don’t have to babysit her kids. Hell, you don’t even have to talk to her if you want to.
Stop living in fear of her. If she calls and says “I want you to babysit little Susie on Saturday,” you say “Sorry, that won’t work for us.” What’s the worst she can do? Yell at you? Call you a bad name? If she does, say “i’m going to go now” and hang up the phone and get on with your day.
Snarkastic February 9, 2018, 5:52 pm
So weird that everyone seems to think this letter is melodramatic. She has a toxic sister and wants to live in peace! She shouldn’t have to avoid places just because her sister moved in.
Set boundaries and say “no” as often as possible. Don’t let her change the way you live your life.
Dear Wendy February 12, 2018, 9:32 am
From the LW:
Skyblossom February 12, 2018, 9:47 am
She will never leave her child at your home for babysitting. You have that going for you. If she demands you change clothes tell her that doesn’t work for you.
What would your parents say if you went to visit them and didn’t change clothes when you arrived? Tell them that changing clothes doesn’t work for you. What does your husband wear? Go and visit but stay in your own clothes. Don’t let someone have that much power over you. Ignore her as she is demanding that you change clothes or turn to her and say you are going to wear your own clothes. If she continues invite your parents to go out for dinner or ice cream or shopping or to sit and talk at the local coffee shop.
There is research showing that children who grow up in a home with pets have fewer allergies. Look up the research, copy it and take it with you to your parents when you refuse to change clothes. Put her on the spot for not wanting to do what is best for her kids.
Dear Wendy February 12, 2018, 10:15 am
If she won’t come over to your house because of the cats, then problem solved, right? She’s not going to drop by unannounced. She’s not going to drop by at all. And you always have a built-in excuse to avoid her — she hates your cats and doesn’t want to be anywhere near the cat dander you carry on your clothes.
To be honest, as crazy as she sounds, you parents are really the ones who sound kind of rotten. They’re enabling her crazy and being jerks for neglecting their relationship with you for fear of her making their lives a “living nightmare.” They need to grow a pair and tell home girl she doesn’t rule the roost.
Learning these new details though, I think it’s highly unlikely she’s going to end up near you and your three cats. Even if she
SpaceySteph February 12, 2018, 10:28 am
Yeah I agree the extra details make the issue seem less like a problem. If she moves into your community (i.e. out of your parents house) that should free it up for you to go over there or have them over without her getting in the way. And even if she moves in next door you wont have to worry about her coming over. “Sorry, sis, I’d love to let you borrow a cup of sugar but as you know everything in my house is coated with nasty cat dander.”
It’s one thing when a 10 year old is asked to be the bigger person regarding their younger sibling, but now you are both grown adults and those rules don’t apply. Your parents can interact with you on your reasonable terms or not at all.
Phoebe February 12, 2018, 10:20 am
This reminds me a lot of my situation two years ago. My twin daughters got into the same smallish college, and one of them really really really wanted to go on her own, and have her own space and her own experience. They get along and are very close, but she wanted to be on her own for the first time.
I couldn’t tell the second one she couldn’t go to a college. The first one was going to have to suck it up and lay down boundaries — no sharing a dorm room, no glomming onto friends, etc, etc.
Fortunately, it was the second daughter’s second choice school, and she got into her first choice. But daughter #1 was a wreck for a few weeks. To her credit, she never let D2 know her concerns. But it was really, really hard.
Dear Wendy February 12, 2018, 3:45 pm
Has being apart made them closer, do you think?
Pheebers October 15, 2020, 10:34 am
Just seeing this! Oops. If anyone ever reads it, I can tell you that they really went their separate ways when they were away, barely keeping in touch because they were so busy, but when they were home for school breaks they were inseparable. Now they’ve graduated and are living at home (and sharing a bedroom, even) due to COVID, and they’re not only extremely close, but they have spoken about how glad they are that they went to different schools. So it all worked out beautifully. Thank goodness.