Ask the Coach — Week 8

This is the column where, each week, I’ll be answering one website visitor’s question in hopes of supporting all visitors through shared (and likely, relevant) challenges, triumphs, and struggles.

Dear Kerri,

My older sister and I are in our 50s and lived together until five years ago when I fell in love and moved in with a man. She had difficulty accepting this, and our relationship steadily deteriorated. Initially, discussing the problem helped, and she was OK for a day; then would revert to silence.

I’ve told her I want both of them in my life, but she tells me I’m dead to her, refuses to speak to me and acts like she doesn’t know me (in public). This hurts, but I realize I need to let the pain go for my benefit. Any suggestions?

Estranged in Edmonton

Dear Estranged,

I’m so sorry to hear your relationship with your sister is going through such a difficult time right now. While every challenge is a learning experience, it doesn’t make the lesson any less painful.

It’s difficult to offer specific advice without knowing the full story of how the distance came about, however, I can suggest some things to consider in an effort to take good care of yourself.

If you feel unclear on the complete reasons your sister is not speaking to you, and you’d like to mend the relationship, consider writing her a note expressing your desire to get together and talk. If you do meet, instead of preparing for any kind of “battle”, have your intention for the conversation be more about sharing your feelings and being open to hearing hers. The point is not to declare a winner, otherwise you both lose.

If, on the other hand, you wish to honor her need for space and/or you feel like you need some space and time away as well, you could communicate that to her and invite her to get in touch with you when she feels ready to talk.

In the meantime, I’d encourage you to make peace with whatever option you choose and feels right at this time by being with the emotions as they come up. Journal, meditate, dialogue with your sister in writing (with no intention of sending it to her — simply for you to work through your feelings). As you do, try to get yourself into a compassionate listening place — for yourself and for your sister.

What could be the deeper story behind her pain and silence? Your finding a partner and moving in with him is merely a symptom of her pain. Invite her to explore and share the source if and when she’d be willing and if and when you’d be interested in listening.

Our relationship with our family is so important and so significant, yet can sometimes be quite challenging. So, I’d first encourage you to determine what you’d like your relationship to look like with your sister, and take it from there considering the above approaches.

All the best to you,

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