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i feel like a 3rd wheel when i'm with my sister and husband.

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  • #854152 Reply
    avatarShae W.

    Okay, so disclaimer, this doubles as a venting post as well as eliciting advice from others who may have had experience with the same situation.

    I am very close with my older (5 yr age gap) sister. She has even allowed me to live with her (I pay rent 🙂 not a total moocher) She recently got married, and I’ve known the man for almost just as long as she has. She introduced us within a couple months of them meeting and getting together.

    I say that to preface that my issue is not a fleeting phase, unfortunately. For the past 3 or 4 years I’ve just been so annoyed because I feel like whenever I want to do something with her, he comes along, and doesn’t even ask me if it’s okay. At first I dismissed it and accepted that they are a package deal, but realized it was becoming a bit much and that it doesn’t have to be the case because I know plenty of couples/married folk who still maintain individuality. I can *barely* get her out of the house when she’s not working, and when I do, he’s there. If i want to go see a movie, he’s there. If I ask her about dinner, he’s there. We loved going to amusement parks, and now he comes along for those too (so i’ve had to ride by myself in those 2 seaters. If i ask her to take a trip, yup, you guessed it, he’s included in those travel plans too! I feel incredibly immature, because I should be happy that she’s found someone who’s easy and “likes” all the things she does, (likes is being used loosely because he has a very passive personality in general, and doesn’t speak up very much, so i rarely see enthusiasm for him to engage in anything) and i don’t think it would be fair for her to feel like she has to do certain things separately and multiple times because we all want to do them, but I can’t help but also feel annoyed. It’s rude to say, but still true, he has very few friends. So it almost feels like she feels responsible and perhaps guilty for his idle time because he doesn’t have anything to do on his own.

    And before you ask about the flipside, yes, she probably does invite me along to things without his knowledge which would of course show that my true issue lies with her lack of awareness. However, I’d like to think I take his feelings into consideration and say no to things because I feel like they should have time alone together (he has a son from a previous relationship and lives with us every other week) I don’t really bother her to hang out but maybe a couple of times a month, which is why when I do, i feel it really should just be us.

    A few examples:
    – I invited her to go to a restaurant I had a gift card for, and she invited not only him, but his family without saying anything.
    – asked her to take a trip with me, and I only found out she was expecting him to come through a conversation while we were in the car on the way there! We only booked one room and I did not want to stay with the both of them! He ended up not coming, but not because he didn’t feel like that was a good idea, but because he ended up getting a job that stopped him.
    – I planned a trip to Vegas for my birthday later on this year, (at least she said in advance he’d come along too if that wasn’t the week he had his son) but how did this turn into that kind of trip, I have no idea.

    As you can see, i’ve had a tough internal battle over this. I know where I’m wrong. I know the basic advice I’d receive because I know what I would tell someone if they asked me. “Your sister is allowed to have her own life, her husband is now her #1, and she can no longer manage things from the perspective of a single woman like you. Be honest about how you feel, how is she supposed to know if you don’t say anything? Don’t be childish.” So I guess if there’s any advice someone could give me, is how do i bring it up to her? How would a married person want to be approached about something like that? I try to be really understanding of other people’s perspectives and so i don’t want her to misinterpret how i feel as jealousy, but essentially let her know I don’t want to be a third wheel *all* the time?? I totally understand that things won’t be the same as they were before they met, and while I agree our relationship as sisters will have to adapt, i don’t believe that means I have to completely sacrifice it. I think there should be give and take.I guess my issue is that neither one of them see a problem with him tagging along. But that’s what bothers me. He’s literally just tagging along. I could see if on occasion the discussion were, “well, he’s been waiting to (insert activity) for a while so do you mind if we all just go together?.” But that’s never the case. The situation is “well he’s around so he might as well just go too” I don’t do that. I don’t think it’s okay to do that. Let me know how obnoxious I’m sounding and what you would do if you were me, please? I’d appreciate my feelings not being minimized, also, I know some of you will not feel the same as I do.

    #854159 Reply

    I’m assuming she sees the invitations as automatically including both of them. She sees them as a couple that does things together and they, as a couple, have been generous enough to share their home with you. They include you as a resident in their home, which I think is far bigger deal than your sister bringing her husband along for a trip. He doesn’t have to ask you if it is okay. If she is asking him to come along it is okay with both of them. It’s not just your trip. If your sister is going it is equally her trip and if she decides she wants to travel with her husband that is as valid as your desire to travel without him.

    I personally wouldn’t spend the time off and the money to travel if my spouse wasn’t included. That’s prime couple time when you can really connect without work and life intruding.

    You can ask her if you could do something, make a suggestion what, just the two of you. She might or might not agree. I wouldn’t make it more than part of a day and I wouldn’t make it cost too much. You are wanting her to spend part of their entertainment and travel money on you without him being included. That may be expecting a lot, it depends on the time they have and the budget they have.

    I wouldn’t expect her to be your traveling buddy. You need to find someone else for that role. You are the third wheel, not him.

    #854162 Reply

    The examples regarding travel made me think the same as Skyblossom.

    My main suggestion is going to be to move out. Not because you’re a mooch or anything but because it’ll be healthier for all relationships involved. She sees you everyday, she might even consider the three of you a package deal in some respects. When you move out and you text her “hey sis, wanna go see such and such movie with me/meet for lunch/etc.? I need sister time!” it makes your invitation very obvious that it’s meant just for her.

    #854163 Reply

    I’d go with what CurlyQue said except after “I need sister time!” add “Just the two of us.”

    She might assume you mean family time and her husband is her family.

    #854164 Reply

    Yeah, I think you just need to be clearer when you talk to her. “Hey sis, want to get dinner tomorrow night, ladies only?”. I agree with the others that many people don’t want to spend vacation time and dollars travelling without their spouse. A long weekend once a year, ok, but not on the regular. Just assume, unless you have specifically agreed otherwise, that her husband is coming.

    Maybe expand your friend group so you have other people to do things with. Join a club or sport, check out, or ask some friendly acquaintances at work to hang out. If you aren’t relying solely on your sister for friendship I think it will make this easier.

    #854165 Reply

    Eh, I get how it can be frustrated. One of my oldest friends, I haven’t spent time with her without her now-husband in like four years. I was even a little sad right after her wedding — I’m happy that she met a great guy, but felt like we’d never get one-on-one time again. All this to say, I think people can relate!

    I agree that the key is in how you word your invites.

    “It’s been a long time since we’ve done anything just the two of us! How about we [insert activity here]?”

    “I have one extra ticket for [show/movie/concert]. Do you want to come with me?”

    For something like the Vegas situation, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to clarify. “Actually, I had a girls trip in mind for my Vegas birthday weekend.”

    I’m not married, so some of the other commenters may have better insight on the travel thing, but I’d personally still be down to travel with just my sister even if/when one of us gets married. In which case you can call it a “girls trip” or “sisters trip” so that it’s clear it’s just you two. And then she’s free to say no if her preference is to take trips with her husband.

    #854166 Reply

    Have you ever said, “Hey, I’m inviting you to do this thing just for the two of us to have special sister time!”?

    I think most married couples default to they are both invited. If it’s not specifically an individual invitation for one person, I would assume it’s both.

    They recently got married, right? It’s par for the course for most recently married couples to want to spend a lot of their free time together. I don’t think either one of them is purposefully spoiling your plans.

    #854186 Reply

    Planning a trip to Vegas for your birthday and expecting your sister to pay her way, which I’m assuming you are doing, is asking for an expensive birthday gift from your sister.

    Your sister doesn’t owe it to you to be your travel companion. You need to find people who want to make the trip just because they want to make the trip.

    #854195 Reply
    avatarMiss MJ

    I think you need to move out, too. Put some space between you and them, go out and start doing things with other people (if you’re not) and focus on other relationships. That will make it more natural that when you see your sister, it’s intended as sister time, not family (including the husband) time. I think she probably does see the three of you as a unit and that’s not healthy for her marriage or your sister relationship.

    But I will disagree that both spouses are included on trips by default. In my circle, girls’ weekends and guys’ weekends are common. (I go on one with my college roommates every year.) It’s more the norm, actually, unless someone is traveling to see another couple or it’s a couple-specific thing. So, if a single girlfriend said “Let’s go to Vegas for my birthday!” I’d 100% assume it was ladies only unless otherwise specified.

    #854205 Reply
    avatarShae W.

    i truly appreciate all your responses and the varying perspectives. It does help me get a better mindset on how to approach things.

    I do want to defend a couple points though. The true issue i have is the assumption that he can come just because he’s her husband. I have understood even when they were just in a regular relationship, that I would be knocked down a few pegs on the priority ladder, and even more so once they were married. And having someone who you want to spend so much of your time with is a blessing. The honeymoon phase is cool and I know some couples feel like they have to be around each other all the time, even after that. But not all couples. That has to do more with personality and character than just accepting that’s what happens when you marry someone.

    For instance I also have another sister with a 10 year age gap and due to that I spent less time with her growing up because we were just on different wavelengths in general (like she has two children already so she’s like waaay beyond me lol). We are much closer now and so If I ask her to do the same types of things, though, like catching up over dinner, or grabbing a drink or two, I’ve never had her assume that i’m also asking her husband. In fact, she’s made it very clear in our conversations that spending time apart has strengthened her relationship with her husband, as she doesn’t feel like her happiness/identity revolves around him. but they still make time for each other. bottom line, she will clarify what type of invitation it is whenever I ask her to hang. She’ll say — hey, is it kid friendly?? or “who else did you invite?” And if can’t work out for whatever reason, she would have that conversation with me. “Hey, no one to watch the kids” or “ me and (husband’s name) are having date night, let’s schedule for another time”.

    I’m not insensitive or impractical in acknowledging that people have different circumstances than I do, it’s just the assumptions and the lack of communication (says the person who is asking for advice on a forum instead of bringing her problems directly to her sister lol believe me I see the hypocrisy ugh.) Also, my parents, who have been married for 30+ years have had several talks with us about relationships and marriage, including how to balance your autonomy and the appropriate amount of deference that comes along when you enter into a long term partnership. But i digress. That’s a whole other thread lol

    Also to clarify a few points
    -I don’t see my sister everyday. The most I would see her is in passing on weekends, and even then if she and her husband are both off or if they have custody of his son that week, I leave them alone. we’re like roommates in that sense. i say that to express that I am respectful of them as a married couple and respect boundaries and that i have no interest in interfering with their relationship and it’s not a jealousy thing…their time is their time. so we are talking about hanging out *maybe* once a month and *maybe* traveling together once every couple of years or so. That is already down from hanging out pretty much every weekend and taking trips at least 3 times a year. but i 100% agree moving out would do us wonders, It’s just not feasible to do it as soon as i want to but trust me, it’s something I’m working on.
    – In terms of traveling, for the first trip I mentioned — she should have said something when we booked the room, if I had known he was coming I would have requested that we book separately. That was wrong, in my opinion, to assume I was okay with that. i don’t deny her validity in wanting to travel with him, but it is inconsiderate under circumstances such as that. For Vegas, it actually is *my* trip. call it selfish if you want but if i’m planning dates, hotel stays, and activities and It’s specifically for my birthday. It’s not a family trip that we all sat down and discussed together. Sure, clarifying with “girls trip” in the invite would have helped me out, in hindsight, but I didn’t think i would have had to.
    – Skyblossom, to me, one doesn’t have anything to do with the other. if she doesn’t want to come because it’s expensive, that doesn’t mean you invite your spouse. But again, its the principal of just having a conversation. “Hey, do you mind if (husband) comes too, he hasn’t been in a while and probably will be even longer if he doesn’t come this time (which isn’t the case, just fyi, but just giving an example. he’s been twice with her without me in the last five years). “Or hey, I wouldn’t be able to afford that right now, maybe we can do something else?” She doesn’t have to be my travel companion, either, but none of that is really the case here. Let’s be honest nobody “owes” anybody anything in this world but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bring up certain things.

    Missy MJ – that’s exactly my feelings. I do have other friends and family i hang out with. Like i said a paragraph up, hanging out with her is not very often but it’s still important to me to do when we can, just like with other sister, brother, and parents. We are all close. I consider in laws family too, but there’s still a different type of relationship. in that sense, if he has to tag along i’d rather spend time with them both than not see her at all, but this is something that’s been going on for years because i’ve been immature and a bit passive aggressive about it. Moving out from my parents house improved our relationship a lot and I know the same will happen when i move out from my sister’s house. We found the house together and I have helped her with most of the expenses but after a while i fell on hard times and so at this point it’s definitely her space, and i’m just blessed enough to be able to be there.

    I will bring this up with her this weekend. Again, I truly appreciate everyone’s input, it’s important to hear other sides. i will tailor it so i don’t come off insensitively.

    #854208 Reply
    Miss MJMiss MJ

    A question – does your BIL have his own friends to do stuff with or are all of his friends your sister’s friends? (You mentioned he was “passive” about things, earlier.) Because if not, she may be feeling guilty about leaving him alone to go hang out alone with you. (Not that it’s right for her to feel that way; he’s an adult and can entertain himself.) But, it’s another perspective to consider. If your sister is getting blowback from her husband about going out without him because of, whatever, that’s a different issue and not really something a discussion with her will fix.

    #854209 Reply

    I don’t think every spouses default is they are both always invited to everything, but if you want just your sister, it’s really, really easy to invite only her.

    I think without any specific directions, when you live in the same house, it’s probably polite to assume that if you don’t specifically ask for time with only your sister, you’re inviting and getting both of them.

    I am getting the feeling that you think this is a her problem, that she isn’t autonomous enough. Have you actually ever asked her to do these things one on one with you? You keep saying you know you should have…but it’s happened many times. Instead of trying to be annoyed with her about something you have not mentioned yet- you should clarify. It’s a really simple solution to this problem.

    I would absolutely not bring your personal opinions of her dependence on her husband into it. You want her to somehow know what you want without ever telling her. That’s very different from her inviting him along uninvited because she can’t bear to be without him.

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