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Dr. Irene S. Levine Headshot

Friendship Advice: When Divorce Creates a Wedge Betweeen Sisters

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Dear Irene,

My sister is two years older than me. We've had a pretty good relationship throughout the years although our teen years have really taken a toll. She moved out of the house with my mama and me, and moved in with our dad about a year ago.

My mama and my sister do not have a good relationship. I can understand why because my relationship with her now is not good. We recently went on a trip with some friends and it was a nightmare! She was rude to me the whole time. She took the other girl who went with us and hung out with her the whole time, leaving me alone.

She blames me for our fights but she is the one who makes smart alec comments and resorts to harsh name calling. My friends call her a bully and I am starting to believe it. I always cry when I get home because of her fights and confrontations. I don't know how to fix it! Please help.

Signed,
Shelby, a younger sister

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Dear Shelby,

I wish I knew your age. But when a family is divided like yours and living in two homes, people often tend to take sides. This can lead to a range of feelings, including conflict, anger, insecurity and sadness.

Perhaps, for now, it would work better if you spent time alone with your sister rather than with her and friends. It might make it easier to work out problems between you if there wasn't an audience.

If you don't think it will make the conflict escalate, initiate some open discussions together about what's been happening in your family and ask your sister how she is feeling.

If your sister makes harsh comments or tries to start an argument, calmly ask her to back off. She may be having a hard time at home (or at school or work.) She also may be very upset with your mom. It doesn't surprise me that your sister might (inappropriately) express her upset with one of the people to whom she feels closest: you.

Just because you don't have a close relationship now doesn't mean that it can't get better as you both get older. My suggestion would be to try to stay connected with your sister and do everything you can to diffuse the fighting. In the meantime, I hope you have a good friend to lean on too!

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene