I have been having a hard time figuring out how to go about writing this post. There are so many different directions that I could come at this from. Where do I start when it comes to explaining how I came to realize that not only was my relationship with my sister unhealthy, but that it was in fact an abusive relationship? How I came to realize that my sister was in fact a toxic person? And then how I finally realized that even though she was my sister, I did not have to let her have a place in my life? I’ll try to start at the beginning.
I am the oldest of 3 children. I have a sister who is 2 years younger than me, and a brother that is 7 years younger than me. I have always had a very good and close relationship with my brother. I was even more of an overprotective big sister to him than most, because my brother has special needs. He (for reasons that doctors could never explain) can not pronounce consonants, only vowels. I quickly learned “his language” and appointed myself his translator in all situations where he needed one. Although the doctors years ago didn’t think that my brother had autism, I myself have come to realize that he does in fact have some form of autism. It may not explain all of the things that are “wrong” with my brother, but it does cover a lot of them. He is an awesome kid. (He may be 23 years old, but he’ll always be a kid to me.)
Then there is my sister. We may have had an okay relationship when we were really young, but it started to turn fairly early on. Not having any other sisters, I had no other relationship with which to compare ours, so it took me a very long time to realize that something was horribly wrong with it.
Very early on she started to tell me that I was a horrible sister because I wouldn’t play the games that she wanted to play, or because I spent any time with friends and not with her, or any number of other things that elevated me (or lowered me?) to “worst sister ever” status in her eyes. She may be younger than me, but she knew my insecurities and she used them against me. She made me feel guilty and used that guilt to try and get what she wanted.
Being the oldest, and having two parents who both had to work in order to pay the bills, I started babysitting my siblings when I was fairly young. I understood that it was something that needed to be done, and was more than happy to do it. Once I was in high school though, and beginning to try to start my own life, I was not available to watch my siblings as much. In reality the only one who really needed to be “watched” was my brother, and he was old enough at this time that it wasn’t all that big a deal. He didn’t need constant supervision, just someone in the house with him in case he needed you. This was far too much to ask of my sister though, who claimed that she was still too young to watch him alone, although I was watching both of them for much longer stretches of time when I was years younger than she was then. She didn’t think that she should have to have any responsibility and that I was “putting my friends before my family” simply because I had any social life at all.She also decided that, even though she wanted me to do the babysitting, that I was the worst babysitter ever. Why? Because I didn’t hover around my brother all the time and micromanage everything like she did anytime that she watched him. Drove him crazy. But really, this was also another backhanded way of saying, you don’t spend enough time with me.
Then there was the summer after I graduated High School. I was having a yard sale at the house of the man who would later become my husband, and my mom, sister and brother stopped by. They found some things that they were interested in, hung around for a little bit and then left to go back home. Soon after that, my husband left to go and pick us up some lunch. While he was gone, his best friend stopped by and I took the opportunity to go inside and check the messages on the answering machine. There was one from my father. He was calling from the hospital. I called the number that he left and he told me that my mom, sister and brother had been in a car accident and that I needed to get to the hospital as soon as I could. I didn’t drive so I had to wait for my husband to get back from picking up lunch. I don’t know what I would have done if I was alone during that wait, and I can not thank my husband’s best friend enough for being there for me. When my husband finally got back, we rushed up to the hospital and joined all the rest of my family that had already gathered in the emergency room waiting room. I was told that my sister was fine, just some small cuts and bruises. But my mom had some broken ribs, a punctured lung, a broken clavicle and a broken hip. When I was told that my brother had a fractured skull, I apparently screamed and nearly fainted. My brother’s face had to be put back together. My mother was going to be in physical therapy for weeks.
My then boyfriend, now husband, drove me to the hospital everyday, and then we visited my mom at the rehabilitation center as often as we could. My sister didn’t want to go to the hospital, and complained that she wanted to be able to hang out with her boyfriend too.
I understand that she was probably traumatized by the event. I had P.T.S.D. from it, because I blamed myself. If I hadn’t have had that yard sale, my mom wouldn’t have been driving home and that empty cement truck wouldn’t have slammed into the drivers side of her car. The impact caused the post between the front drivers side door and the back drivers side door to slam directly into my brothers face, and the door to slam into my mothers side. They had to use the jaws of life to cut the roof off the car to get them out of the car, while my bother was choking on his own blood, and my mother had a severe concussion and only one working lung. I know that being there and actually seeing it and experiencing it must have been traumatic, but my sister would use the experience to try to get what she wanted. She even once used it flirt with someone. I know because I was there and I saw and heard it, and it made me sick.
Later that same summer I got the opportunity to go on a cross-country driving trip with my now husband, and two friends. My mother and brother were both recovering well at this point, and my entire family had urged me to do it. They told me that I would likely never have this sort of opportunity again. Everyone in my family except my sister that is. She told me that I was being selfish and that family should come first, because my mom and brother still not completely recovered. But mostly, her biggest problem was if I was gone, who was going to be around to watch my brother and help out my mother if she needed it, so that she could go out and do what she wanted?
A couple years after my husband and I got married we moved away from the East Coast to Utah. Not long after moving out here I got a phone call from my sister announcing that she had met someone a couple weeks earlier and that they were already trying to get pregnant. She could not understand why my reaction was concern, and why I “could not just be happy for her”. She got more and more irrational in that phone call. She started spouting about graphic sexual things that she had done with my husbands best friend who had once been her boyfriend, and the announced that I had cheated on my husband with his best friend that used to be her boyfriend. When I understandably got pissed about her accusation, she started to try to back track and say that I had had an emotional affair with him. Because I would talk on the phone with him about my relationship with my husband, and how to make it better.
Our relationship understandably became more strained after that, but I was still there for her even when I vowed I wouldn’t be after she moved out to Colorado and eloped with the guy that she had told me about in that awful phone conversation. I was there for her when she called me crying because they didn’t have enough money to live the lifestyle that she wanted. I was there for her when she realized that marriage was hard, and called me crying because they had had a fight. I offered to have them come out for Christmas and stay with us in our small apartment for a while. She said that they would and we bought them presents. And then at the last minute they said they couldn’t come. Soon after they moved back to the east coast and back under my parent’s roof. The same roof that she couldn’t wait to get out from under because it wasn’t fancy enough for her. The same parents that she had tried to blame for all of her problems because they were “too immature to have ever been parents”.
It turns out that she married a man in the National Guard, and I was there for her when she found out that he was going to be deployed overseas in Afghanistan for his first tour of duty. And then while he was over seas in a war zone, she was out drinking and partying. And spending all of his combat pay. She got an apartment with her boyfriend, that her husband later moved into when he came home from war. While he was over seas, he would tell me how he just wanted her to stop. He wanted her to slow down on spending his money. He was not okay with her being with another man, even if she was telling everyone that he said it was okay. He was not okay with it. He was in a war zone, getting shot at, with responsibility over the men under him, and he was preoccupied with his cheating wife who was now telling everyone that they were thinking of getting a divorce. And when he came home they soon had to move back into my parents’ house because she spent all the money that he earned overseas and he could not find a high enough paying job.
I was also there for her when her husband went back on his second tour of duty to Afghanistan. While her husband was away, my mom lost her job and fell into a deep severe depressive episode. My sister was pretty much my only source of information, because my mom couldn’t talk much on the phone, and my dad had his hands full trying to take care of my mom and brother. I never knew how bad things really were with my mom until later because my sister only talked about the situation in how it effected her. How frustrated my mom made her. And so on.
My sister agreed to fly my husband and I back east. I thought that it was to help out my mom, but when I told my sister that I wasn’t going to yell at my mom like she wanted me to, she threatened to not fly us out. I then started to do whatever I could to not be on my sister’s bad side so that I could see my mother, because we could not afford to pay for the trip ourselves. When she told me that this was supposed to be a surprise for my mother, and that I was not to tell her, I had no choice but to do what she said. Even though I knew it was a horrible idea. We got one half-day with my in-laws and one half day with one of my best friends, and then we were at her new apartment with her and my brother who she had taken out of my parents’ house. My sister does not drive, so the trip that we thought was going to be about trying to help my mom turned into my husband driving us all over the state of Connecticut buying stuff for my sisters apartment so that she could get it ready before her husband came home from over seas. She was mad at my mother for not helping her move into her apartment more. She was even more mad that my mother didn’t want to come over for the lunch that she had sent formal invitations to them about, and how when my mother found out that my husband and I were in town she had a setback in her recovery, instead of instantly becoming better like she was supposed to. I barely got to see my mother during that trip because our only form of transportation was her husband’s car, and she wouldn’t let us use it without her in it. My husband used up all of his vacation days, and I was doing everything I could not to get into a confrontation with her, and we were still getting yelled at every single day that we were with her. She paid for our plane tickets, and I felt like she had bought me.
Once we were back in Utah she still had a hold over me. She would call me and text me constantly, and she was once again planning on taking a trip out here with her husband to spend Christmas with us. We bought a futon, and turned the second bedroom from a junk room into a guest room. And then at the last minute they said they couldn’t make it.
She had me on the phone for over 6 hours one time, well into the early morning. During this time she proceeded to tell me what I later found out to be lies about my mother. She told me that my mother didn’t actually like me, and that she would make fun of me behind my back. And that my mother had told her all these things that weren’t true about me. My mother was still trying to get over a major depressive episode and my sister was trying to turn me against her. Once my mom got a bit better, and I was able to talk with her on the phone again my mom was shocked at the things that my sister had said that she had said about me. And then my mother told me that my sister had been abusive while she was sick. That she would yell and threaten and demand that my mom get better right away, and then tell my mother that she had better not tell my father what she was doing if she knew what was good for her.
I had come to dread a phone call, or a text, or an email from my sister. I would worry about all the time. I was paranoid that I would be in the middle of doing something that I enjoyed and she would call. I had to take her calls or texts right away, because if I didn’t I’d get yelled at worse. It was all I thought about. I was always nervous. I had nightmares about my sister.
And then I eventually realized that I needed to get out of this abusive relationship. That leaving that relationship did not make me a bad sister, because I had tried so many times. I had given her chance after chance after chance. I was not the problem, and I could not fix a broken relationship if I was the only one trying.
My mom told me that she supported me, and I wrote one of the hardest emails of my life telling my sister that I couldn’t have contact with her for a while. That I was scared of her, and that I shouldn’t be afraid of my little sister. To please not contact me unless I contact her. I explained a lot more, went into a lot more detail. And then I sent it. And immediately freaked out about how much trouble I was going to be in with my sister, and what she was going to do to me.
She responded basically ignoring everything that I had to say, and ordered me to call her because obviously I had misunderstood the last email that she had sent me. I sent her another email telling her that this had nothing to do with her last email, and to please stop contacting me. She responded again saying “I still have no clue why your talking about this. You still have no clue what I meant.” referring to her last email.
And that is when I knew that I had done the right thing. I had poured my heart out in that first email explaining our toxic relationship, and she just didn’t care.
That was almost 2 years ago now, and while I have had some very brief contact with her, and have had times where I thought that I needed to give the relationship one more try because if I didn’t I would be a horrible sister and everyone would judge me, I am now coming to realize that I am much happier and healthier without her in my life. The thought of having contact with her still makes me panic, and so I know I’m still not okay.
I am 30 years old now, and I get to choose who I allow in my life. Why should I spend anymore if my life with someone who abused me and only cared about what she could get out of me?
Links to more posts about my relationship with my sister can be found on my “My Toxic Sister” page on this blog.