Dear Amy: My family tries to be close, but when it comes to me (the youngest) and my oldest sister (eight years older) — we just don’t click.
Despite being born to the same people and raised in the same household, we have very different views, opinions and beliefs about nearly everything.
I don’t recall having a good relationship as children; she was always yelling or angry at me.
I was always closer to our brother (middle child), who played with me and let me tag along with him and his friends.
My sister never seemed interested in being close, though we did have our moments of getting along.
As adults, this feels unchanged and strained; she’s made it clear she doesn’t approve of my career, schooling, spiritual beliefs, and she was openly skeptical about my marriage (until the ceremony), because my husband is older.
She always talks down to me, and once stated out loud that she can’t respect me as an adult. That hurt more than she’ll ever know.
She seems to believe that I don’t want to be her sister, when in reality I just don’t want to be around someone who makes me walk on eggshells. My parents wish we’d get along, but I can’t force myself to pretend anymore.
I will be civil, but I don’t feel we can be regular friends.
Should I keep trying? I just don’t see the point.
Amy says: One of the most challenging aspects of the sibling relationship is the struggle to cope with a less-than-ideal dynamic. We all have this idea that siblings should be best friends, but it often doesn’t work out that way.
The fact is, you and your sister were NOT raised in the same household with the same parents. By the time you came along, your parents were eight years older and had two other children. There is a high likelihood that your parents raised you very differently than their older children.
It’s also likely that your older sister actually had a hand in helping to raise you. She just didn’t get the memo that it’s time to stop.
I interpret some of the behavior you describe as stereotypical “oldest child” stuff. She can’t respect you as an adult because in her mind, you’ll always be the baby of the family. Passing judgment on you is the purview of the bossy eldest.
Insight into the dynamic created by birth order will NOT help you to get along better with your sister — but it may help you to see some of her behavior in a new way. Read “The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are,” by Kevin Leman (2015, Revell). It’s a great first look into the fascinating topic of birth order.
Send questions to Amy Dickinson at askamy@ amydickinson.com. Twitter: @askingamy Facebook: @ADickinsonDaily.