Dear Kelly: My sister is two years older than me. I’m a freshman and she’s a junior. When she was a freshman she dated a really nice guy, I’ll call JR, who was also a freshman. My whole family loved JR and he was good to my sister. My sister broke up with JR during her freshman year and I didn’t see him again. My sister has dated a lot of guys in between and never acted like she missed JR or even thought about him.
When I started high school this year I saw JR on the first day of school and we were both so excited to see each other. He told me he would be like a big brother and help me if I needed anything. We started to text as friends, then it became like a regular thing and he was like a best friend to me. Somewhere along the line, we went from big brother/little sister to both having feelings for each other.
Recently my sister put two and two together and realized JR and I were more than friends and that we both really liked each other. She wigged out and created all kinds of drama over it. She told my parents it “wasn’t right because they used to date” and that they should stop the relationship from going any further. My parents like JR and know he’s a good guy, but they are torn because they don’t want my sister to be so mad. It’s creating a lot of family fighting, and my sister and I aren’t even speaking. JR says he doesn’t want to come between us and feels bad that it’s creating so much drama in my house.
I don’t know what to do. I love my sister but I really like JR. I don’t think its fair that she can tell me who I can and can’t date just because it makes her uncomfortable or feel bad. JR never did anything wrong to her and only treated her nicely. She always said that he was a nice guy and just never gave her a challenge, so she kind of thought he was boring.
What should I do? If I give in to my sister, I think I’ll regret it and blame her for not letting me be happy with someone who I really like. If I go out with JR, I’m afraid my sister will be horrible to me at home and never speak to me again. I’m considering dating JR and just not telling my sister until we see for sure that we will work as a couple. Am I wrong for falling for my sister’s ex?
Dear Erin: This is complicated. Feeling torn between your head (“Don’t create family drama”) and your heart (“I really like this guy”) isn’t easy. One thing is for sure: Sneaking behind her back is the wrong approach. When she finds out (and she will!), she will not only be hurt and angry, she will feel betrayed. All of those feelings can be lethal to your relationship as sisters. No matter what you choose, be upfront and honest with her from the start.
Some people might see the situation from the “Girl Code” that says don’t date your sister’s or best friend’s ex. I think girl code is something to honor but also something that should have time limits. Putting “dibs” on someone forever just because someone you know dated that person seems unrealistic. People don’t own people and it’s an unfair expectation.
It has been over a year since your sister and JR dated and she’s dated other people. Why is she so opposed to your dating JR? Does she still have feelings for him? Is she jealous he likes you now instead of her? Did he ever do anything hurtful to her?
Perhaps you ask your parents to moderate a conversation between you and your sister so you can communicate your feelings to each other. You need to hear why your sister has hesitation and your sister needs to hear why you feel so strongly for JR.
In the end there may not be an easy answer. If you date JR, you will be hurting your sister and making things rocky at home. If you don’t date JR, your heart might be sad and you will feel like you missed out on a great guy just to please your sister. I can see how it would feel like a no-win situation.
Do your best to talk with your sister and see if you can come to a happy medium. Maybe she would feel more comfortable if he didn’t come over to your house in the beginning until she had time to adjust to the idea of you both as a couple. Maybe she would feel better if JR talked with her and resolved any loose ties between them. Or maybe she will just not ever be OK with it and you are forced to make a hard decision.
Be honest with your sister, whatever your decision. If she gets angry or upset with you, be understanding and patient with her. Maybe over time she will accept your choice and this will not be an issue anymore.
Kelly Richardson, a Folsom therapist, works with adolescents.