Ask Amy: Opposite sisters don’t attract, but repel
She goes between saying: “I don’t need you,” “You do you,” to sending me gifts and sweet texts, which I don’t enjoy receiving. I want space from this unstable relationship.
How do I convey this without causing her to blow up again?
– Walking on Eggshells
Dear Walking: When it comes to the “fight-or-flight” response, your sister is “fight” and you are “flight.” (I am, too.)
Meeting your sister’s wrath with some of your own might change the dynamic (it might not), but because you are sensitive while your sister is volatile, you should put your thoughts down on paper. That way, you can say exactly what you want to say, review what you’ve written, and then decide whether to send it.
You might say, “My goal has always been to have a calm and peaceful life, as well as a consistent and caring relationship with you. After the challenges of our childhood, I believe this is what we both deserve! I’m letting you know that in the future, when you behave in a way that I believe is mean or hurtful to me or other family members, I’m going to back away. The reason I don’t confront you at those times is because – I don’t want to. Maintaining some distance is just me trying to take good care of myself.”
On receipt, your sister will blow up. And you will back away. And you two might continue this dance – in various forms – for the rest of your lives, unless she changes, or you decide to exit completely.
Your duty is to protect yourself. Protecting yourself does not mean that you are unforgiving or unloving it just means that you are removing yourself from the dramatic maelstrom and living your life the way you want to.
You might try reading, “The Highly Sensitive Person’s Guide to Dealing with Toxic People: How to Reclaim Your Power from Narcissists and Other Manipulators,” by Shahida Arabi (2020, New Harbinger).
Dear Amy: I recently saw one of my friends’ wife with another man. They walked hand-in-hand acting like nothing was wrong with that.