Mom had a set of four bears and my sister put her name on one. I also liked this bear and said it would be a shame to split the set. So she agreed I could have it.
Now two years on and totally out of the blue, she has said in a text message that she wants her bear back now! I explained that it is not hers and that she gave it to me. She said she didn’t and that I was only looking after it till she wanted it.
I now don’t want to speak to her as I feel I will tell her what I think of her, so I am avoiding phone calls, etc. We had been getting on so well, going out on day trips together, meeting for coffee, and making regular phone calls—-again, after years of not speaking.
What do I do? Tell her how upset I am with her and take a risk that things might blow up, or just hold my tongue and try and carry on as if nothing has happened? — Un-Bearable Sister
Well, I think you already held your tongue and pretended like the years you didn’t speak and the inciting incident that led to your not speaking for years – whatever that may have been – didn’t happen. And look where it got you. Sure, you got along well with your sister for a while, but eventually she pushed your buttons. How you respond to having your buttons pushed – whether you hold your tongue or you talk about your feelings – depends on what you want going forward.
Do you want a relationship with your sister or no relationship? Do you want her in your life in any kind of meaningful way? Do you even think that’s possible? Are you open to being disappointed or hurt by her in the future (which is a risk you take with anyone you foster a relationship with)?
If you want a relationship with her, I would give her the bear, but tell her that you feel upset and want to talk with her about it. Let yourself be vulnerable with her. Share what’s really bothering you. Explain why those bears are meaningful to you and listen to why they’re meaningful to her. You have common ground here – your mother – and your connection can help you navigate this turbulence if you’re interested in seeing where it may lead you, as long as you keep your heart open.
If you aren’t interested in keeping your heart open to your sister – if you think there’s too much broken between you to repair, then you either: keep the bear and tell your sister “tough luck” – she gave it to you and you’re keeping it; or you can give it to her, avoid any kind of deeper conversation with her about your feelings, and liberate yourself from keeping in touch with her or even thinking of her as family. You are allowed to set that boundary if you think it’s what you need.
Finally, if you haven’t processed with a therapist your mother’s death and the relationship you have with your sister, it’s not a bad idea to do so now if it’s within your means. I don’t really think this is all about a bear set. There’s a lot happening beneath the surface, and a therapist could help you explore that in a safe way, maybe even helping you find a way back to a satisfying relationship with your sister.