On the run-up to our wedding, things did not go as I had expected. It was almost as if the plans were being made within my family without me being present
PROBLEM: I have been married for just over six months now, and I am feeling pretty low. Everything is fine so far between us as a couple, but things started to go wrong in the run-up to the wedding last year. I am the eldest of a family of three – all girls – but have never felt that I was given that role, as my younger sister always stole the limelight, making me feel second best. On the run-up to our wedding, things did not go as I had expected, and it was almost as if the plans for my wedding were being made within my family without me being present. I tried to take hold of the situation without hurting anyone, but the whole thing took a life of its own. I got married but I almost felt like it wasn’t my wedding.
Since our honeymoon, I have started feeling very low, which I was hoping would pass. We have now just had our first Christmas together, during which things came to a head within my family. It started to feel like a rerun of the wedding, with my sisters dictating the Christmas arrangements, and I just boiled over. We ended up spending Christmas by ourselves, which I hate to say felt very lonely. I am now questioning my relationship and just don’t know where to turn in all this.
ADVICE: There is no doubt that there are issues both in your family of origin and in your own relationship that need to be addressed, and a good time to do this is when a change has happened. That change is your new status as married, and you may need to step fully into the role of an independent, confident woman. This does not mean fighting with or losing the relationship with your sisters, but it will require standing up for your principles and for your relationship.
You are the eldest sister and yet have been given the role of the youngest; your sisters have dictated what has happened and perhaps you have let that happen for a long time. Maybe this was driven by a need for peace or maybe it seemed that it was not worth the effort of challenging it. Your sisters might have become so used to this situation that they were not even be aware of your discomfort and frustration with the imbalance. However, after your outburst at Christmas, they might have some inkling.
You have a real opportunity here to create change in how your family deals with difficult situations.
We all have habitual ways of dealing with conflict, and yours sounds like you avoid or accommodate others when faced with potential arguments. The problem with this is that your voice or opinion is never heard, which plays havoc with your sense of confidence. The fact that your sisters do not seek your opinion confirms your sense of worthlessness, and again your sense of self-confidence takes a dive. There is a need for you to be heard clearly by them and this will require you to organise a meeting and ask them to listen to what you have to say.
What you say has to be reasonable and truthful. In return, you will need to listen to their version of events. There is no need to come to an instant conclusion, but the aim is to change the way communication happens between you, and so you might agree to meet again at a later date to check in with each other. It might be helpful to start by telling them that Christmas was lonely without them and that you are looking for a way that you can all be together by next year. This will give a timeline of many months to practise new ways of being.
You are not dealing with this situation alone; you have a husband who needs you to be strong and assertive in your cordoning off your relationship within your family. It might be that your sisters are responding to the sense that you are moving away from their sphere of influence and are reacting against this. Some reassurance to them and to your husband that you are capable of being both a wife and a sister might be needed. You can adopt many roles in a lifetime, but it is helpful to be clear which role you are occupying at any given time.
Be the eldest sister and do whatever you think that role should be: offer wisdom, boundaries, take charge and follow through on your words. It will take practice to achieve this, but you have a husband to support you and your angst tells you that now is the time for change.