Why doesn't my sister like me

Breaking off contact among sisters: "How I live my life, she does not accept"

“I broke off contact with my sister in December 2019,” a reader recently wrote to us. The life ideas of the two women are too different. Especially when it comes to couple relationships, they would argue over and over again. Her sister, who is five years older than her, could not understand that our reader, 48, does not want a further bond after two marriages. When her sister even berated her for an affair, the reader broke off contact.

The women live in a small town, their circles of acquaintances overlap. At birthdays and family celebrations, they would find superficially friendly relationships with one another. Apart from these encounters, however, our reader wants to have as little to do with her sister as possible. "How I live my life, she does not accept," she explains in her message. "A stencil is constantly being put on me and there is always harsh criticism and / or interventions on the part of my sister."

We received this message after the publication of an interview with an expert on the subject of breaking contacts. The conversation was about the question of why people decide to cut all ties to individual relatives or their entire family of origin. "This is a process that takes place over the years and is preceded by great stress," said Claudia Haarmann, psychotherapeutic alternative practitioner and author of the bookBroken contact in the family. "This is a very difficult step psychologically and emotionally for both sides."

There are no statistics on how often a disconnection occurs. Claudia Haarmann, however, often has to deal with such cases in her practice. “In my experience, it is mostly adult children who break off contact with their parents,” Haarmann said in an interview. "People in their thirties to forties who say: I can't find a consensus with my parents, they just don't understand me."

However, contact breaks also occur in other relationship constellations. Our letters to the editor show that in addition to parent-child relationships, sibling relationships are also susceptible to intense disputes and complete radio silence. Above all, readers reported who had fallen out with their mostly older sisters.

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For some of these pairs of sisters, the radio silence has lasted for several years. It seems impossible to get in touch again. A 60-year-old reader reports that she and her sister, 67, have not had any contact for six years. The break occurred after the parents died. Our reader fears that there is not much time left for reconciliation. Nevertheless, she cannot muster the strength to contact her sister.

“I'm sure it wouldn't take ten minutes,” she writes, “and the reason for the break would be as present as it always was.” Our reader is afraid of being put down by her sister at a meeting to become. She no longer wants to feel like a "complete failure". It is "a sad, difficult situation for which I unfortunately cannot find a solution".

Role model or deterrent: siblings of the same sex in particular get into each other's hair

The experiences of our readers have one thing in common: The women broke off contact because they did not feel accepted by their sisters. Different lifestyles were a source of conflict for the relationship. Why is that? "Siblings, preferably of the same gender, help to identify people," explains Dr. Christine Kaniak-Urban, psychotherapist and author of the bookWhen siblings argue. In order to define their own role, the younger sister would usually either use the older one as a role model or, on the contrary, set himself apart from her. "The second version is the more frequent one, so that in adulthood different lifestyles can develop into a source of conflict and appreciation gets in need."

The conflicts would often arise more between sister and brother couples. Power struggles are more common among brothers: “Who is the more powerful, the better, the more successful?” Says Kaniak-Urban. “With sisters, it's the relationship component that rules. Who is the more attractive, who has the most social contacts, who is the most popular? ”On the other hand, siblings of different sexes would less compete against each other and therefore get along better.

Now, disputes between siblings don't always end up breaking contact. There are siblings who squabble and squabble and still embrace each other the next time they meet. According to Kaniak-Urban, whether an argument escalates to the point of breaking off depends on the upbringing. If the parents had exemplified how to deal with conflict situations well and treated the children as equals, arguments would have turned out more lightly. If the parents had raised fronts, however, siblings tended to have bigger arguments even in adulthood.

Kaniak-Urban explains this using the example of dealing with school grades. “Are they discussed at the family table with the result that the less successful child in school always gets the short straw, or is there the iron rule that school grades are not an issue for the family round? Or: the older sibling always has to give in and protect the younger; Do the parents immediately and always intervene in favor of one of their children? ”The parents' influence on the relationship between the siblings is great.

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The fact that the arguments can be so emotionally stressful is due to the importance of the relationship. "Siblings are the longest relationship we've known in life," says Kaniak-Urban. "Partners can be left and replaced, siblings remain siblings."

Not the 'You don't understand me!' But the 'It's pretty difficult for you!' Builds a relationship bridge.

Dr. Christine Kaniak-Urban

This deep connection can provide a basis for conflict resolution. If both siblings talk about their family experiences, a new basis for a relationship can be built. “It is important to understand the role of each individual sibling in the family system,” says Kaniak-Urban. The siblings need to understand that they both assumed different roles in the family, faced different challenges, and each experienced different injuries. "Not the 'You don't understand me!' But the 'It's pretty difficult for you!' Builds a relationship bridge."

A beginning to reconciliation can be to first tell each other about experiences from the past. Sharing experiences can help to find a common denominator, says Kaniak-Urban. Such a conversation shouldn't consist of too much humorous nostalgia, however. If the joke predominates, the pain takes too much of a back seat, says Kaniak-Urban. Siblings should make sure that such a conversation does not degenerate into a play.

If siblings open up and learn to understand, a rapprochement is possible even after a break in contact. Christine Kaniak-Urban also points out that there does not always have to be a solution to a conflict. “The sibling relationships are often so rigid and frozen that there can be no reconciliation,” she says. "Then it is important to accept this fact in a friendly and sad way."

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