Family Relations/Sister trouble

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Question
I'm looking for some advice on how to handle a situation that I have found myself in with my younger sister.  She has been living in Spain for the last five years, and has recently moved back home and announced that she is engaged to someone we have never met. That is not necessarily the problem… The problem that I'm having with her, is that she has come home and stolen all of my plans for my own future wedding.  My boyfriend and I have been together for three years and he is extremely close to my family; I had an inkling that he was going to propose to me this summer and my mom and I have been planning out my dream wedding since the start of our relationship. With my sister moving home recently engaged, I'm already  afraid that my boyfriend will feel like he needs to postpone our own engagement as to not step on my sister's toes. In addition, she has started copying all of my plans right down to the location and color scheme that I had been planning on with my mother over the last three years. I feel like I am not allowed to be upset because I'm not even engaged yet and she is, but she is well aware that she is copying what I had intended to do. I'm a few years older than her, and have a medical condition that will make it more and more challenging for me to have a family as I continue to get older. My boyfriend knows this, and I had been thinking that he would propose this summer and we would get married next summer. Now my sister is planning to have her wedding in the same month that we had been thinking we would have ours when our time came. I don't know what to do… She is already turning into a huge bridezilla and is ruining the whole wedding process for our entire family. I'm afraid that if my boyfriend does propose, she will create drama and force our families to choose between who they will be focusing on and will drain them to the point that they  are sick of having to deal with weddings already.  I feel so selfish even having these thoughts… But I am hurt from the bottom of my heart that she would come back after five years and ruin all of my plans and expect me, with a medical condition, to wait for her to have her time with someone that we have never even met. She's impossible to talk to and gets aggressive and angry if you even suggest anything  that goes against her plans and demands.  I don't know how to proceed forward… I don't know how to encourage my boyfriend to not let my sisters engagement postpone our own, and I don't know how to share my hurt feelings with my sister in a way that won't ruin our relationship. Any advice you can offer would be more than helpful. Thank you.

Answer
Hi, Sage, thanks for your question. You asked me to provide, "Any advice you can offer."

First, I like to analyze a problem by being very concrete and logical (see, e.g., rational emotive therapy). So, when someone says something like "she has ... stolen all of my plans for my own future wedding", I ask myself - is it really possible to 'steal plans'? I assume that you mean that she has copied you, but when you phrase it as stealing, that causes you to feel even worse about it. Words matter.

Secondly, I'm very big on frank and forthright communication, especially with loved ones. So, when someone says something like "I'm already  afraid that my boyfriend will feel", it appears that that person has not verbally communicated with the other person about the problem. It often turns out poorly when you wonnder what the other person is thinking and feeling, and you have expectations about their future behavior that may or may not come true. I would encourage you to actually discuss your plans with your boyfriend. I know its not romantic for the female to broach these subjects, but you did not ask advice from a romance novelist - you asked a psychologist, and we value open communication.

Lastly, "I am hurt ... that she would ... ruin all of my plans and expect me ... to wait for her to have her time."
1. well, I don't agree that your plans are ruined. Perhaps you have a romantic notion that no one else can do the same thing that you do, but that is not true. I don't agree that, even if she did things exactly the same, that that would make your plans any less special.
2. IMO, other people can have whatever expectations they want. I try not to force other people to think the things I want them to think.


Finally, I think that (assuming she is a problematic person), if there are things you don't want her to know, then don't tell anyone else other than your boyfriend. Lastly, I would try to make a clear distinction between you (your thoughts, feelings, and actions), and her. Do what YOU want to do (e.g., plan your wedding). Let her do what she wants to do. Sure, it might be disappointing that she is copying you - I get that. But, as an adult, she has that right - just as you have the right to do what you want to do. In the end, if she goes ahead and copies you, then you have 3 choices - continue on as planned, change your plans, or postpone. Easier to say than to do, sure, but thats reality  

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Bruce Borkosky, Psy.D.

Expertise

questions framed similarly to 'what are some ways to respond when someone does/says X' are best. Questions posed in the form of 'why does my father do/say Y', or 'how would you diagnose my mother when she does/says Z' are difficult, if not impossible, to answer. I will probably reframe your question to fit the first question (what do I do). Nay question regarding any family member is fair game. Some of the most difficult are in the area of step-parenting and divorcing families.

Experience

I've been a licensed psychologist in Florida since 1994. I've evaluated and/or treated thousands of patients.

Organizations
American Psychological Association Florida Psychological association National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology

Publications
www.bruceborkosky.blogger.com

Education/Credentials
Psy.D., Miami Institute of Psychology, 1993 M.CS., U. of Dayton, 1984 B.A., Ohio Wesleyan U., 1978

Awards and Honors
Award for Years of Dedicated Service, Palm Beach County Legal Aid Society, 1999

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