It’s worth trying to reach out to estranged sister
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?
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 some 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.”