Dear Kelly: My older sister went to college a year ago and joined a sorority. This year she got a little sister, who came to visit us at Christmas. She kept calling my sister her “big sister,” and my sister kept calling her “my little sister.” It started to drive me crazy, and apparently I was “rude and unfriendly” when she was here. Later I saw on my sister’s Twitter “Love hanging with my little sister #shesthebest,” and at first I thought she was talking about me because we used to be really close, but then I realized she was talking about her sorority sister. Her little sister retweeted it and then wrote “I am so happy I finally have a true big sister #sisters4life” because she has two brothers. I ended up unfollowing both of them because it made me too mad to see it.
When I look on her Instagram now it’s all these pictures of the two of them, so it seems like they are always together at college, too. My mom suggested I go visit my sister for a weekend so we can spend time together. I refuse to go because my sister would probably want me to hang with her little sister while I’m there, and I know that would make me want to leave, and it might get ugly.
What should I do? I can’t stand my sister’s “little sister” (she’s really annoying), and now my sister is saying she might come spend Easter with us because she can’t afford to fly home. I don’t want her to visit and told my parents this. My mom says she’s now in the middle and she hates it. My mom likes my sister’s sorority sister so I know what she’s going to do, and I know how mad I’m going to be. Shouldn’t I be able to say no to her visiting on a family holiday if I don’t like her and it will ruin my Easter?
– Sad Sister
Dear Sad Sister: It seems there are two issues here: Your feelings about your sister’s sorority sister and what to do about Easter. Let’s start with how you feel about their relationship.
Whether you want to hear this or not, this is an issue of jealousy. Feeling jealous can set off a chain reaction of emotions that cause people to do or say things they may not mean. It seems like you feel replaced and your feelings are hurt. When you feel replaced by someone else or like you don’t matter to them, the typical response is anger and jealousy. This causes you to create stories in your mind that typically aren’t true about how the other person feels about you and devalues your place in their life. These hurt feelings can cause you to say and do things you might regret because you are reacting from a place of emotion and pain.
Step back so you can get some clarity on the situation. Awareness can help guide us to better understanding how we feel and why we react the way we do. Look at what transpired and how you felt. Did your sister or her sorority sister do anything wrong? Not really. Could they have shown some sensitivity to your feelings? Perhaps. Did you help the situation by being rude and unfriendly? Absolutely not. Anger and jealousy will not endear someone to want to be closer to us. What you really wanted you pushed away with your behaviors.
The reality of this is that your sister still loves you and you are still her little sister, even though she calls someone else that right now. A sorority sister is not the same as a blood sister. You have not been replaced, nor does she love her sorority sister the same as she loves you.
Reconsider your mom’s suggestion. Go visit your sister. Spend some time together. Have fun. Laugh and talk. Share your feelings with her – not in a blaming manner but rather in a hurt way. Take ownership for how you behaved (yes, it was poor choices) and apologize if you put her in an uncomfortable place. Perhaps if she knows how you feel, she will be more aware of what she calls her little sister in front of you and how it might make you feel. Go into the weekend with a different mindset besides “this could get ugly.” Focus on reconnecting with your sister and letting go of all the anger and jealous feelings. The sooner you stop being angry, the better you will feel.
Give your sister’s little sister another chance. Your mom likes her, and so does your sister. Maybe if you weren’t feeling so jealous and envious you might have liked her as well. Don’t make a decision on Easter until you have given her a fair chance to get to know her. Treat her the way you would want to be treated and you might find yourself with a new friend.
Don’t compare yourself to your sister’s sorority sister. Value your place in her life by being confident in the relationship and the history the two of you share. Your sister can like her new little sister and still love you. You are two different people and can have two different roles in her life.
Kelly Richardson, a Folsom therapist, works with adolescents.