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Dr. L
Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1166
Experience:  Licensed as a Psychologist and Marriage & Family Therapist.
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I finally cut my sister out of my life today. Have never gotten

Resolved Question:

I finally cut my sister out of my life today. Have never gotten along with her (she's older). Never really respected me, and I suppose it didn't help that I was always a lot smarter and more sensitive than her. Final straw came when her daughter (my niece, 11 years old) started repeating things her mother said to her about me. The niece would say "my mother says you are an immature person. My mother says you're irresponsible. My mother says you can't be trusted." So naturally the niece started to develop an attitude toward me and exhibit disrespect. Now when I sent an e-mail to my sister explaining all this today, she vehemently denied that she ever said those things to my niece. So it seems either (a) my sister forgot saying those things, (b) my sister is lying about forgetting them, or (c) my niece lied and made them up. What should I believe? Why would my niece just make up things like that when she knows I could easily go to my sister (her mother) and ask her about it?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. L replied 1 year ago.

Dr. L :

Hello,

Dr. L :

I would like to help you with your question.

Customer:

Hi there

Dr. L :

I'm sorry that your sister has been such a thorn in your side. Her attitude towards you is not a healthy one as seen by what your niece has parroted back to you. Yes...it's more likely that your niece has been repeating what she hears then that she made these statements up all by her lonesome.

Dr. L :

Sure...11 year olds can have big imaginations. Yes...they can take things out of context. Yes...they can have big ears.

Customer:

right? I mean, why would my niece just blatantly lie and make up things that aren't true, all the while knowing that I could easily go back to my sister and confront her about them.

Customer:

If my niece did lie, she would know (she's smart) that it would be all too easy for me to find out her lie, in which case she would be confronted by her mother

Dr. L :

Right. So did your sister say, "I'm going to talk to her to find out why she has been saying those unkind things to you."

Dr. L :

Or did your sister just defend herself by saying that she'd never said them in the first place.

Customer:

well, since I no longer talk to my sister, she talked to my (our) mother. She said she would "talk to her" (daughter) about it, but so far has said nothing to her

Dr. L :

Even if your niece embellished or stretched the truth... I would not hold an 11 year old responsible for these hurtful things unless she has a solid history of lying and has done the same to other family members.

Customer:

...and even if my niece made these things up, what would make her mother (my sister) think that she wouldn't just as easily lie to her face about ever saying them (I have a witness...my girfriend who was there also)

Dr. L :

The person responsible here is your sister. She's the mother. She's the adult.

Customer:

I'm not so much mad at my niece as my sister

Customer:

I'm really disgusted by my sister

Dr. L :

Correct. The responsible person is your sister.

Customer:

Why would a mother say to her child that her uncle "can't be trusted?"

Customer:

I have never been anything but nice to them

Dr. L :

If you sister has had a hostile attitude toward you for years and years...then you can see the roots of this kind of talk.

Dr. L :

It sounds like your sister has felt inferior to you for some time. How people generally handle such feelings is to bully the other person and to drag them down somehow.

Customer:

So either my sister "forgot" saying them (maybe she said them in passing), or she is lying. Either way, it's not good.

Dr. L :

By making themselves look good, or better, then they feel superior. It's a power game.

Customer:

But my sister is older than me. She has always felt she knows better than me. So you think she might feel inferior to me?

Dr. L :

Right. Either way her behavior is unhealthy...hurtful and darn right mean.

Dr. L :

Yes.

Customer:

Interesting. Never thought about that

Dr. L :

It's the typical sibling rivalry scenario. Someone always feels that mother loved you best, XXXXX XXXXX nicer clothes, you are smarter/better looking/more popular etc. etc.

Customer:

that's true, she said to my mother today that she always felt my mom spoiled me the most

Dr. L :

So how does one handle that sense of being inferior? By knocking the other person down.

Dr. L :

Perfect example.

Dr. L :

And so she's been doing this measuring thing for how long? Since you came along in the family?

Customer:

I know things were a lot more difficult when my sister was growing up- much more intense fights between my parents, etc. By the time I came along (I'm the fourth of four children), they had calmed down a lot.

Dr. L :

And...that's pretty typical as well. Parents get more relaxed the longer they parent.

Dr. L :

But think about it this way...

Customer:

She's just been belittling and demeaning since I was in high school. She would ignore me, and then when I would talk she would say things like "that's not correct, you're wrong," etc. One christmas eve she kept on going on about how naive I was

Dr. L :

Your older sister may have gotten the very best of mom & dad...

Dr. L :

That is, if she was first born...parents were likely more in love and more attune to each other than later on.

Dr. L :

Parents (just like the rest of us) change with time. So each of your siblings had a different version of Mom & Dad. Your sister may have felt displaced by you, she may have resented another kid in the family, and so on and so forth. But none of that is about you. All of that is about her and her view of life.

Dr. L :

Sounds like your sister was good at bullying you.

Customer:

People always say I'm "the smartest" in the family, but I don't feel that way and have never ever treated my siblings like that was the case.

Customer:

Yes, that's right. She's a bully

Customer:

But she's not the type of person unfortunately who has perception or psychological insight into her own behavior and motives

Customer:

She just doesn't "think psychologically."

Customer:

I.e. she's not very reflective

Customer:

She's exactly the same person now as she was 25 years ago

Dr. L :

Yes..you didn't treat them that way...but that didn't stop them from seeing it that way. Truly, if your sister has a problem with you - that is, feels insecure - that is something she has to work on and you can't change that for her.

Dr. L :

And so in a way it sounds like you have compassion for her. Is that right?

Customer:

I suppose. But I just want what's best for myself as well. I don't really see the value of a relationship with her right now.

Customer:

Especially if she's raising her children to be disrespectful toward me as she was

Dr. L :

And sometimes it is best to set aside sibling relationships.

Customer:

What do they say....family are the first ones you're supposed to be mean toward

Dr. L :

And by ending the relationship you may be giving her the opportunity to look at her own behavior and see how and why she has been so unkind to you.

Dr. L :

Yup...we often hurt those we love because we think they won't leave us. The blood is thicker than water scenario.

Customer:

Perhaps. But she's in turmoil for other reasons not relating to me. She is pretty consumed with things right now. She's 48 and still trying to......figure out her identity

Customer:

In a basic sense

Dr. L :

And I agree wholeheartedly that you ought not to sacrifice your own self-worth and self-confidence.

Customer:

I mean, I have self-confidence and self-esteem issues of my own I'm working on, so I need to be in a healthy environment

Dr. L :

We might say that it's about time she does that...not only for herself but her children as well.

Dr. L :

Yes...I agree. It is important to be in relationship with people who are a positive influence in your life rather than with people who have the potential to harm us.

Dr. L :

That is critical.

Customer:

Yes, and I'm realizing I have more influence over my life course and decisions, in general and in relationships, than I previously ever realized.

Dr. L :

Great!

Customer:

Ok, well thanks for your help

Dr. L :

And...you cannot change your sister. The only person that you can change is you.

Dr. L :

You are very welcome.

Dr. L :

I am sorry that your sister does not have the insight to see how her negativity has been harmful. Hopefully she will do the work she needs to live a more positive and healthy life.

Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1166
Experience: Licensed as a Psychologist and Marriage & Family Therapist.
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