Past dis­func­tion hurts sis­ters

Cape Breton Post - - Obituaries / Advice / Games - El­lie Tesher Ad­vice Read El­lie Mon­day to Satur­day. Email el­lie@thes­tar.ca. Fol­low @el­liead­vice. Copy­right 2017: El­lie Tesher Dis­trib­uted by: Torstar Syn­di­ca­tion Ser­vices

Q : Five years ago, my younger sis­ter (47) stopped talk­ing to me. She won’t an­swer my phone calls and an­swers mes­sages with curt re­sponses.

Our ar­gu­ment, over email, was her ac­cus­ing me of two very hurt­ful things, which I didn’t do.

I’d told her she was out of line mak­ing ter­ri­ble ac­cu­sa­tions with­out first speak­ing to me to learn the truth.

I’ve not been a per­fect sis­ter but I don’t de­serve this treat­ment.

Pre­vi­ously, we spoke reg­u­larly, spent all hol­i­days to­gether, and I in­cluded her in all our fam­ily gath­er­ings.

Now, she’ll have con­tact with my adult daugh­ter but not me.

We came from an abu­sive al­co­holic back­ground, which may’ve had an im­pact. I see her pat­tern of envy and a very dys­func­tional way of deal­ing with con­flict.

It’s hap­pened be­fore and wasn’t war­ranted then, ei­ther.

How do I at­tempt con­tact with her or is my sis­ter re­la­tion­ship over?

— Frus­trated Sis­ter

A: You have un­der­stand­ing, in­sight, shared his­tory, and per­sonal will so the an­swer is up to you.

There are some peo­ple who’d say, ‘She’s toxic to me. I’m fin­ished with her.’

Well, this col­umn has seen truly toxic re­la­tion­ships and this isn’t one of them.

You ac­cept that you haven’t been the per­fect sis­ter. You know that the dys­func­tional back­ground you shared has af­fected both of you deeply (abuse, al­co­holism, anger).

You’re hurt but you don’t want the re­la­tion­ship to be over.

So tell her that be­ing sis­ters still mat­ters to you. Tell her that you’ll al­ways tell her the truth about what she hears, so you two can keep con­nected and not let oth­ers drive you apart.

Of course, you could stand on prin­ci­ple in­stead, and in­sist on her apol­o­giz­ing be­fore re­sum­ing any con­tact.

But you al­ready know she can’t han­dle do­ing that, be­cause you do un­der­stand her.

Break into her si­lence. Tell her you miss her. If it works, it’s worth it and what you ob­vi­ously pre­fer. If not, you’ll know you tried.

Reader’s Com­men­tary: Re­gard­ing the fa­ther who blames his two univer­sity-age daugh­ters’ dis­tance on their mother’s “brain­wash­ing,” (May 3):

“All the re­sponses posted by other read­ers, while valid, only showed one side of the story, that of a par­ent.

“Mine is a dif­fer­ent, unique per­spec­tive - that of a grown, adult daugh­ter of di­vorce who’s cut off her fa­ther, a man who con­stantly harps on the “brain­wash­ing” be­ing done to her by her mother.

“I can tell this fa­ther that he needs to take a long look at the type of re­la­tion­ship he had with his daugh­ters as they were grow­ing up.

“Was he there for them un­con­di­tion­ally when they needed him? Did he put other things ahead of them, mak­ing them less im­por­tant to him than his friends or ac­tiv­i­ties he was in­ter­ested in?

“Kids are smarter than most adults think. If they got the sense that he’d rather be with other peo­ple, or do­ing other things than be­ing with them, then why would they think that would change when they got older?

“As for the brain­wash­ing, their mother doesn’t have to do that if his be­hav­iour isn’t telling them that they’re the most im­por­tant thing in the uni­verse to him.

“He’s do­ing enough of the brain­wash­ing on his own.

“The more he blames their mother, the more he’s in­sult­ing his daugh­ters’ in­tel­li­gence, in­sin­u­at­ing they’re in­ca­pable of mak­ing up their own minds, and driv­ing a wedge even fur­ther be­tween them.

“Un­til, fi­nally, his daugh­ters cut all con­tact, with no hope for a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.”

— A For­got­ten Daugh­ter

TIP OF THE DAY Sib­lings raised with abuse, chaos, and anger, can un­der­stand over­re­ac­tions and try to for­give.

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