Relationship Connection: My sister is mean since she got divorced

Question

I have a sister who went through her second divorce over a year ago and has now moved in with my parents. Because she lived out of state with this last marriage, we only saw her at family functions.

Since her divorce, she has become negative, mean, and judgmental. Unless she was faking before, she doesn’t seem like her old self. If someone tries to help her, she berates them and tells them to stay out of her business. At the same time, she complains to our mom that no one supports her.

She is so hard to be around. She has a bad temper. You don’t want her wrath and you don’t want to cross her. I can’t know what pain she has been going through, but to bring wrath upon those who want to help doesn’t make sense. All of us siblings are confused what to do. Should we continue to take chances with her wrath or step away?

Answer

The fact that you’re writing about how to cope with your sister’s difficult behavior tells me that you care about her and having a relationship with her. Otherwise, you would cut her off and not look back. Let’s talk about how you can build a relationship with her.

I think it’s fair to say that you don’t really know your sister. She’s lived away from you for years and you aren’t sure if this current version of her is her true self or if she’s just in a horrible place following her second divorce. Regardless of the answer, it would be wise to get to know who she is and how you might best fit into her life.

She most likely feels like she’s living in a fishbowl now that she’s living with your parents following her divorce. Her embarrassing information is on display for everyone, so it’s likely she’s feeling defensive. Even if she was a difficult person before her divorce, this recent loss will most certainly amplify her personal weaknesses.

Don’t treat her like a project that needs fixing. In other words, don’t only talk with her about her current situation. See if there are ways you can spend time with her just to visit. Granted, she may want to talk about her current stressors, which is fine, but let her know you’re available for more than just prying into her personal struggles.

If she’s not open to spending time with you, find out what she’s open to. You may be limited to little things like writing a note every so often or sending a text occasionally. However, if your heart is right and you really want to build a relationship with your sister, your efforts won’t be wasted, even if she is responding poorly.

True love and compassion is a choice, not just a feeling. You are making the choice to love her, even if she’s difficult. And, if she’s really that hard to get along with, then it will most certainly be a choice on your part, as the feelings of love won’t spring naturally from your heart when she’s being aggressive.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “hurt people hurt people.” Perhaps this can give you a little compassion for your sister as you can approach her with a desire to have a relationship with her.

I have no idea if she’ll respond to you or your siblings. She may stay closed off and distant. If that’s the case, find how you can fit into her life and let her know you’re interested in her as an individual and that she’s important to you. She may not believe it, but if you believe it, I trust she’ll eventually warm up to your persistent efforts to connect to her.

Stay connected!

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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7 Comments

  • Doug Bringhurst January 7, 2015 at 10:27 am

    Its called sexual tension she just needs a boyfriend.

  • Koolaid January 7, 2015 at 10:53 am

    She’s probably mad because she moved to St George after her divorce is found that dating is almost impossible for older divorced women, especially if they have kids. Don’t the Dixie guys want them young and dumb or just out of high school?

  • Native born New Mexican January 7, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    I like the statement- hurt people hurt people. There is a lot of truth in that. It does not justify the bad behavior but it does help to explain it. The person with the injustice and problems and bad things in their life needs to learn to be a better person any way as hard as that can be some times. That being said others like this family member often times do not have a clue what kind of issues the hurt person is dealing with. Because of that total lack of understanding they can be out right insensitive and even offensive to the person with the problems. As an example when I was a child I had a grandmother who had sore toes and feet. I never understood why she was so careful and even a little rude at times when we children got any where near her feet. As an adult I find that I have inherited her foot problems and now I get it. OUCH! People who have mostly had a smooth ride in life often live in their own pleasant little reality and they either have no interest or no ability to look beyond that and see other people’s pain. The saying laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone is very true and it is a difficult place for a person to be. Unless your sister is just a really bad actor and won’t change that she needs your friendship, kindness and tolerance to help her get in a better place. Could you deal with what she has had to deal with?

  • Dana January 7, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    She moved to St. George, on the prowl for hubby 3 and is upset due to the slim pickins’ here.

  • Evil Twins Mommy January 7, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    Take her for a long drive and dump her off someplace.. Like the Senora Desert

  • Herd January 7, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    Demonstrate your Utah pioneer religious heritage and share your man with her. She’ll be happy, you’ll be happy and your man will be happy and one step further in his celestial worthiness.

  • The Rest Of The Story January 7, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    Second divorce? And I thought we were supposed to be persuaded (by homophobic bigots) that only the gays are destroying the “sanctity of marriage”.

    Tell your sister to … chill …. You are her sister, not her husband. And BTW, stop trying to give her advice. Who the … do you think you are, Princess High and Mighty??
    Ed. ellipses.

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