DEAR KELLY: My stepsister and I don’t get along. It’s so weird because we have to go on vacation together this summer and I’m not looking forward to it. We like totally different music, different movies, way different books, different clothing styles, different kinds of people.
Our friends are not in similar groups at all. She thinks my friends are bitchy, and I think her friends are weirdos. We don’t go to the same high school, but I know enough people at her school. They all agree with me that her friends are social misfits. The only reason they are in a group is because they are all weird and like weird things.
She loves anime, and I think its ridiculous. We can barely hold a conversation. We are on opposite weeks, so we don’t have to share a room at home, and our interactions are pretty minimal. We’re going on a cruise this summer, and my dad told me that she and I have to share a cabin for the whole week. I asked to room with my little brother. He said that the boys have their own cabin and I have to be with my stepsister.
I’m dreading a week with her. It’s going to be so painful because I know that no matter what, we’ll never be best friends. We will have nothing to talk about and it’s going to make things even more awkward.
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My stepmom knows that neither of us are thrilled about it. My mom said that if I didn’t want to go, she would help me tell my dad. I think it would crush him because we’ve never done anything like this, and I know he’s so excited to have one big family vacation. But I don’t know what’s worse: to crush him now and not go or crush him on the cruise when she and I aren’t hanging out. Thoughts or advice?
DEAR HP: Most siblings have at least one thing in common: They share a parent. Step-sibling relationships can be tricky because the only thing they might have common is that they live part time in the same house and their parents are married. That makes the jigsaw puzzle of blending families difficult because putting the pieces together can seem forced and challenging.
Ask yourself this question: Is it really true we don’t have anything in common? Think hard. Do you both like doughnuts? Or enjoy concerts or reading? Or like the ocean? Or hate geometry? My guess is there are things you have in common; you just aren’t looking at the big picture and finding common things. Just because you dress differently or like different music doesn’t mean there is no common ground between you. At the very least, you share a common situation. You can’t change the fact you are in a joined family. You have that in common.
Love doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to create the feelings that make us love someone, no matter who they are. The same thing happens with friendships. Closeness builds with time. I’m not saying you need to love your stepsister, but the relationship deserves a chance to be able to peacefully coexist and appreciate the other person for their differences. Instead of approaching the week on the cruise as “painful,” what if you changed your thought process and approached it as a chance to get to know your stepsister a little better and find common threads between you? Your attitude going into the cruise will affect the outcome of the cruise.
What is your goal on the cruise? Relax? Catch some sun? See somewhere new? Eat yummy food? She may share some of the same goals. Why not reach out to see what she is looking forward to on the cruise. If that feels weird, wait until you are traveling together and find out what she wants to do on the trip. If she wants to lie by the pool for some sun, offer to join her one day. If she wants to read, ask her about her books. Maybe you both love breakfast and you just go to eat together every morning before spending your days on totally different parts of the ship.
Try to find one thing that you have in common and make it a practice to do it together on the trip. Will it be awkward in the beginning? Very possible. But over time, the discomfort will wane and you may find more things in common than you thought. Remember, small connections matter as much as big ones do.
She is probably feeling the same way you do about the trip. Understand that both of you might be experiencing the same concerns about spending a week together. Set realistic expectations for the trip. Aim for peacefully coexisting in the room and perhaps a little communication to open up new conversations you can continue to lean on once you’re off the ship.
Be careful of judging her just because she is different from you and your friends. Being different does not automatically make one “weird.”
If you remember, send me a follow-up note letting me know how it went. I would love to hear if you were able to make a connection of any kind and how the trip was. Traveling somewhere new is always an adventure, and getting to know someone better can be an adventure as well.