Annie’s Mailbox: Rift with sister growing wider
March 1, 2010
Dear Annie: I am 26, and my sister is 18 months older. We have never gotten along well, but recently, there has been a huge rift.
My sister and her boyfriend own a nice house, and she drives a new car. I am recently divorced and am struggling to raise three children on my own. Our wealthy parents have been helping me out a great deal. They purchased a "beater" car for me and are paying the insurance. They also have been giving me money for groceries and some basic bills. Still, we're barely getting by.
My sister is enraged that our parents have been giving money to me for necessities, but not to her.
Our parents have explained that she makes more than double what I do and has no children to support, but their words fall on deaf ears. Even though we've never been close, I love my sister dearly and want to have a better relationship with her, and would like my children to get to know their distant aunt.
I also don't want to be the cause of her deteriorating relationship with our parents. What can I do?
— Little Sister
Dear Little Sister: We'll try to explain this from your sister's point of view. To her, it seems Mom and Dad love you more and she is being punished for having a successful life. It isn't entirely about the money. It's about favoritism and fairness, with some jealousy and sibling rivalry thrown in. You need to acknowledge her feelings (without defending your situation), and ask what you can do to make it more equitable. Perhaps your parents could set aside a similar sum in case Sis ever requires assistance. Maybe they could change their will to reflect a more accurate final accounting. It doesn't matter what solution you arrive at, but you and your parents need to let your sister know you understand.
Dear Annie: My sister's son is getting married out of state. We are not particularly close to my nephew, but I told my sister we would come.
When my husband figured out that it will cost us nearly $1,000 to attend (and we are on a fixed income), he said it is a waste of time and money and the wedding will happen whether we're there or not. He prefers that we send a nice gift and our regrets.
He didn't want to go to begin with. My husband is a very unsociable person and has never given my family the time of day.
This sister is my only living relative, and I don't want to hurt her feelings by not attending. What is a reasonable solution?
— Not Sure in California
Dear California: The reasonable solution is to go by yourself if you can manage it. You can celebrate with your sister while your husband avoids your family and spends less money.
We are in favor of attending family functions, especially when they are infrequent and the family is small.
But if going alone is not feasible and you cannot convince your husband to attend, you will have to call your sister and explain that though you love her, coming to the wedding is simply not in your budget.