Relationships can be tricky. Over the years, as I’ve (in theory) matured, I’ve got better at recognising unsuitable friendships and getting out of them one way or another. Mainly by a process of trial and error, I’ve figured out which people are good to have around. Most of us have or have had friends who are fair weather friends: the ones who always seem to turn to you in a crisis, yet are never there for you when you need a shoulder – I’ve extricated myself fairly successfully from a few of those.
Any good relationship should be about give and take. There will always be times when it’s weighted more heavily in one direction but the natural ebb and flow should even itself out over time. I’m very lucky with the friends I have now: I may not see them for months at a time, with only a cursory passing on Facebook every now and again but when we get together for a catch up, it’s like we’ve never been away from one another. I am a very strong and independent character and don’t feel the need to be surrounded by other people constantly. I am lucky enough to enjoy my own company and most of my friends share this particular trait
So what happens when a relationship, especially a very long-term one, heads south? For me, there is one in particular that has been causing me stress and emotional upset. The problems have been small but have been building up over a long period of time and I have to admit that, because of the nature of this relationship, I didn’t really notice and things have just carried on as normal. One particular incident last year heightened my sensitivity and, since then, the little things have been building and the feeling that I am being taken for granted has become stronger.
The problems are compounded by the fact that this is my sister and we have been extremely close throughout our whole lives.
Things came to a bit of a head a week or so ago when I was very low after a problem with a hospital visit and sent a text to see if she was around that evening for a chat. When she didn’t respond, I emailed her and the mail ended up being longer than I originally intended as addressed some of my concerns as gently as I could but still letting her know how I was feeling. The response I received the following morning and the general tone made me feel like I had become a bit of an inconvenience.
In any relationship, familial or otherwise, I would expect that both parties would want to spend time with the other, even if those occasions are infrequent. The inference I draw (whether correct or not) from her admitting that she didn’t “make enough time” for me was that her will to do so may be absent. Ouch – that hurt. The last thing I want to feel is that I’m an obligation to anyone. She was going on holiday the following day and suggested that we get together when she returned and asked me to let her know how my appointment went the following day. As I was still processing my feelings about the response, I sent a text the following day saying that the appointment was uneventful and didn’t respond to her suggest that we get together when she returned from holiday.
The following day I was replying to an email conversation with a friend. She knew I’d been having issues with my sister as I’d ended up crying on her virtual shoulder the previous evening. I told her that my sister had suggested getting together on her return from holiday but I wasn’t really interested. This weekend I discovered that, rather than replying to my friend’s email, I’d actually sent it to my sister.
Who read it when she got back from holiday. Understandably she was upset and I can’t really blame her.
But talk about a Freudian slip!
Normally when something like this happens, I’m sure that many of us have that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach where it feels like the entire contents of your guts are about to come spilling out. My overwhelming feeling was relief that it was out in the open and I didn’t have to try and sit on the lid of this Pandora’s box of hurt and confusion any more so I replied to her and told her why, as nicely as I could.
Although I’m normally pretty good at articulating my feelings, I’m also quite mindful about not causing unnecessary hurt to other people. My sister is one of the kindest and most genuine people I’ve ever known and that’s what’s made this so much more difficult for me: I never wanted to upset her and that’s exactly what I’ve done. I had to ask myself “At what point does it become more injurious to the relationship *not* to speak up?” Surely for a genuine relationship to flourish, both parties have to be honest with each other? So I’ve been honest about how I’ve been feeling and now I have to deal with the fallout, whatever that may be.
Will our sisterly bond recover from this? The answer is that I really don’t know. I can only hope that at some point we can talk about it all and straighten everything out. It may be that we’ve just diverged too much over the last couple of years to recover from this fully and that’s the risk that I’ve taken.