Relationship Connection: My sister is becoming more withdrawn from family

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Question

My sister married a guy in the military and they have lived in multiple countries over the past 10 years they’ve been married. He’s a great guy and they seem to have a good marriage.

There are four of us sisters and we’ve been very close all of our lives. I’m writing for help because it seems like every year this sister becomes more distant from the rest of us, more snappy in her responses via text or social media and more withdrawn when we’re all together.

I don’t know if it’s all of the moving she’s done, the fact that her husband is focused on his career and isn’t around much, or if there are problems in her life that she won’t share with us.

I’m the only sister who wants to bring this up to her, but the others have discouraged it. They say I’m being nosy or overreacting, even though they’ve all noticed it as well. I am worried about her, but I don’t want to make things worse. Any suggestions?

Answer

I don’t know what kind of closeness you’ve had with your sisters over the years, but I would hope it could allow for you to bring up what you just described to me. I worry that the three sisters talking about the fourth sister will do more harm to this relationship than you reaching out to her to see how she’s doing.

I can tell you want to be careful and respectful so you don’t make things worse. However, I think you’re underreacting by not bringing up something that has concerned you for years. Your sister may be in distress and could really use the loving support from her team of sisters who really care about her.

You’re right that it could be loneliness, depression, marriage issues or something else. Your job isn’t to guess and do some type of long-distance diagnosing. Instead, get as close as you can to her to tell her what you see and what concerns you. You may find there is nothing there that is personal or serious. She may be unaware of how she’s coming across. Or, it could be a lifeline to her in a serious time of need.

Also, remember to be open to the fact that she may be withdrawing from your family because she wants to pull away from the family. She may have specific issues with individuals or the group that need to be discussed. Let her know you’re willing and open to hear her concerns, even if they’re about you.

Moving around to new countries and cultures every few years can take its toll on even the most adventurous soul. See if she is willing to share with you what her experiences have been like, focus on asking good questions about her situation, and do your best to be a good listener.

This is a time to show her how important she is to you by making a consistent and sincere effort to understand what she needs. Don’t hang back and keep discussing it with your sisters.

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: [email protected]

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

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

 

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1 Comment

  • Brian August 5, 2015 at 9:02 am

    Jump on a plane and go see your sister. An hour in the same room with her will tell you more than the last 5 years worth of text messages. Note that the meaningful hour won’t be the first hour you spend with her, so make sure your trip gives you enough time to break the ice, get caught up, relax, and then talk.

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