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Feeling inferior, toxic sister

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
I don't even know where to start, I'm just having a bad day. Technically I'm having a bad week because its the week before I start my period and thus the week I overreact and cry about 5 times a day - only 3 today, hah - and basically think everyone hates me and is out to get me.

I guess I should preface by saying I come from a pretty toxic family. My dad was an abusive alcoholic and beat my mom quite often when I was very young, but not young enough that I don't remember it happening. He never laid a hand on me or my sister or brother, only my mom. I have basically no relationship with him whatsoever, we barely even exchange a "hi" in passing. My mother I have a relationship with, but its not pretty most of the time. She's not an affectionate person, told us many times how she never wanted to have children, tries to enforce upon us to never, ever have children and when I told her I was pregnant with my first child she said, "Oh." With my second she said, "Yeah, I figured." So there's that. I had a miscarriage between the two and she's just the type of person that sweeps things under the rug, so we never talked about it at all. And I'm pretty sure I've never heard the words "I love you," or even "love you" come out of her mouth. Anyway, moving along. Toxic family, you get the picture.

And then there's my sister. My sister, who is five years younger than I am, and knows everything. She'll tell you she thinks she knows everything. She'll tell you she knows she's a bitch and she doesn't care what you think. She'll tell you straight up that she wants to be better than everyone else. She's the very definition of "keeping up with Jones'." Has to have everything better and bigger than her friends. Has to have The Best everything. And she basically thinks my poor children are abused because they don't get taken to Build-a-Bear once a week and don't get Wii's and Power Wheels for their birthday/Christmas, that we sometimes have *gasp* off brand food in our pantry and that we don't have cable.

This is what I'm struggling with currently. Not my parents, I'm slowly forgetting they even exist, but my sister lives very close to me and neither of us have many friends. I have approximately zero (in real life.) and she just doesn't hang out with the ones she has often. I wonder why. She asks me to go shopping with her all the time, knowing I don't have the money. We just moved and it was draining on the bank account. So she'll pay for my lunch because she just wanted someone to go with, but everytime I go with her or spend any amount of time with her, I come home miserable. Its like I forget who I am when I'm around her. She makes me feel so inferior for not being able to drop $150 in a shoe store, or throw junk in a buggy in Target like its nothing, or eat out three times a day. I'm walking around in a pair of shorts I've had for three years and a t-shirt with my hair in a twisted pony tail while she talks on her blackberry in her designer jeans and top that probably costs more than I spend on grocery a week and its too much, you know?

The thing is, I DON'T CARE ABOUT THAT STUFF. I don't, I never have. I hate money. Hate. I've never been a girly-girl. I hate shoes that aren't flip flops, I never wear make-up and I hate shopping! Its like she poisons me though, brainwashes me in to thinking that this is what I want. Then I start getting depressed because I can't go out and buy new clothes and thirty dollar foundation and god knows what else. THEN I start thinking hey, maybe I should get a job, even though I'd have to send my kids to public school then.
Toxic really is the only word that comes to mind.

I wish that was all, I do. God, this is already so long and I don't think I'm even half way finished. Let's see if I can wrap this up a little bit.

She's a condescending, judgemental, passive-aggressive person. I constantly feel inferior around her, mostly because she's constantly pointing out my faults, my husbands faults, even my children's faults. Only, she think she's saying it all in good fun. Its another thing that runs in the family, nasty sarcastic remarks are just part of the package. When I tell her that something she says bothers me or I ask her not to say stuff like that, her response is either, "Get over it," or "I was just kidding, geeze." Sometimes, "God, grow up." I'm always the crazy, delusional one. I'm too paranoid. I need to do this, I need to do that. She never has to change. She never does anything wrong.

I'm just so tired of it. I hate the way I feel when I spend time with her. I hate being miserable because of spending time with her. My husband thinks I just need to stop talking to her altogether. I could, I guess, but the more I think about it, it sounds kind of selfish? Like, "Sorry I'm so thin skinned I can't deal with your fancy life and condescending tone, but I think I need to stay away from you for a while."

I guess what I'm wondering is, is this enough? Is this enough for me to want my sister out of my life (at least for a little while) or am I just overreacting again? Is it fair to keep her away from her nieces because I'm too insecure?

And oh yeah, she's a social worker and I have vivid nightmares about her sending people to my house to take my children away from me. She and my mom both HATE the fact that I homeschool. My sister thinks they're deprived and I have no idea what my mom's deal is, just that my sister told me she actually broke down in tears on the phone with her once when they were talking about me, that she was that worried. About what, I'll never know, she doesn't talk to me about things.

I just moved into a bigger, MUCH nicer house than the one I was living in. The place we were living in was a DUMP. It belonged to my aunt who was letting us pay her very, very cheap rent. Well, because we didn't pay my aunt on time a few times, and she decided to tell my whole family that, they all think I'm stupid for moving, that I won't be able to afford it, that's its a huge mistake, etc. I am JUST. SO. SICK. of it. They never have anything nice to say, only pipe up when they can judge, when its something they can look down on me for. They don't give a crap that I don't live in a dump anymore. That my children actually have a bedroom, that there isn't holes in the walls. They just leech on to whatever they can judge me for. It's all they know to do. Which is why I want them gone, out of my life. They make me cry, they make me sick, they make me wish I was born into a family that cared about me, that was proud of me, that wanted me to live someplace nice no matter what. I'm tired of feeling inferior to everyone and I don't know if that's just my fault or what, but I definitely know what the cause of it is.

My mother in law called after she dropped my 6yo off this afternoon after she got back home to check and see if I was okay. I had just left my sister's house and had been crying when she got there. I explained to her that my sister made me upset because she basically feels we shouldn't have moved, that it was dumb and irresponsible. Then my MIL went on talking about how my sister moved last year and then her husband didn't work for 9 months, just sat around and played xbox the entire time, how they almost got divorced, etc. It always boggles me when people act like they care about you. Its such a strange, wonderful feeling.

I don't actually expect that anyone read all of that, but it feels so much better just to have typed it out. I thank my lucky stars that there is some place like MDC that I can come and be heard, not be judged or criticized, not be looked down upon, just type and let my feelings bleed out through my fingertips. Thank you so much.
post #2 of 21
I read it all
post #3 of 21
I read it all too.

I think you already know what you need to do.

If you aren't ready to be "selfish" (which by the way I don't think it is!) then think of your kids and your dh. Do it for them. Focus on what brings you joy and take a break from anything that does not support, lift you up, or bring love into your life.
You can frame it as just a break and then reevaluate in a few weeks or months or years if you want to have contact.

Is it Dr. Phil who says we teach people how to treat us? Whoever said it, I do agree.

Also think about what message your kids get when they see you treated poorly. I am sure that is not what you want to model to them on how they should be treated by others.

I have said good-bye to toxic family members and while it was hard, life is better on the other side!

Best of luck to you,
post #4 of 21
It sounds like your sister is a truly miserable person who can only find a snippet of joy in trying to make those around her more miserable than she is.

Have you read 'toxic parents' or 'emotional vampires' - I think both books would give you some much needed perspective on who should feel guilty about this relationship ending - it shouldn't be you!

However, because of your fears of her intervening in your family why not just step back quietly. Be busy...all the time. Don't answer the phone, don't engage. Sounds like she could become very very unpleasant if confronted.

I'm so sorry you are going through this.
post #5 of 21
You see what's going on with your sister, right? Like you, she didn't get what she needed from her parents, which is heartbreaking. Unlike you, she figured - mistakenly, as it turns out - that what she lacked in her life was THINGS. And even so, she's extremely insecure about it.

Another person with a good amount of money who is secure about it (that person doesn't have to be a saint, either, just your average person with average foibles and selfishness who's just not so insecure) would not even think about saying or doing those things; wouldn't need to.

You've figured it out. It's the relationships that matter. Your sister is not any happier for the money, nor is she any happier for belittling you (just very brief, temporary boosts to her ego that she has to repeat over and over because it's not meaningful or lasting).

I have no advice on how to deal with it but I hope that thinking through how she got like that will put in perspective your feelings of inferiority ... because I'm here to tell you that you're not.
post #6 of 21
I read your whole post and couldn't not respond. Mama, you are not selfish for not wanting to be treated that way by people who claim to love you. You are very very normal for expecting to be treated with basic decency and respect. It's a sign that you know you deserve better, which is great!

It's so, so hard to cut toxic family out of our lives, isn't it? Society frowns on it and we never stop hoping, deep in our hearts, that one day they'll wake up and figure out that it doesn't have to be this way, they don't have to treat us like this, they could become the loving family we should have had. But the truth is, people don't change until they want to change...and even then, it's very hard. It's time for you to focus less on what your mother and sister think of you and your choices, and more on what you need to thrive and be happy.

Here's the litmus test I like to apply to family relationships: Would I voluntarily spend time with this person if we didn't share DNA? Would I respect their opinion or care about their opinion of me if we weren't related by blood? Would I tolerate this kind of verbal nastiness from a stranger?

If the answer is no, it only makes sense to distance yourself. You don't have to make some big dramatic gesture of cutting them off, either. In fact, doing that might be counterproductive because it would give them the opportunity to create more drama at your expense (which they clearly enjoy). When your sister or mother calls, let it go to voice mail or the machine. Don't call them back right away. Be "busy" when your sister wants to take you out to lunch so she can lord her perceived superiority over you. (There really is no such thing as a free lunch with her, huh?) And if you're truly afraid that she might sic CPS on you (which doesn't sound beneath her, unfortunately), keep copies of all emails and correspondences she sends and limit contact! Try to avoid sharing personal details about your children's upbringing or your parenting choices. The less she knows, the better. She is not entitled to every detail of your life, no matter what she may think.

It's so hard to set boundaries when we've been trained our whole lives that doing so makes us "selfish" or cold or whatever. My mother's favorite expressions were, "Lighten up!" or "Oh, get over it!" or "Grow up!" or "Don't you have a sense of humor? Please!" or "Oh, get off the stage, drama queen!" These were always said after she made a horribly cutting comment or backhanded compliment. Verbal abusers of all kinds use this technique, this crazymaking way of trying to force you to doubt your own feelings, to make you think that if you don't enjoy their abuse there's something wrong with you. Try not to fall for it--they know damn well that what they say will hurt. In fact, that's why they say it. Hurting you makes them feel better about themselves. That's a hard truth to face but it's better than always wondering if you deserve to be verbally battered. You don't, ever.

I'm so sorry you don't have to support network you deserve, mama. I would highly recommend finding a counselor or therapist who can see you at least once a week and help guide you through the painful process of setting boundaries with your family. And see if your local library has a copy of this book. I can't really accurately describe how much that book helped me get some perspective on my upbringing and the abuse I suffered as a child (and continued to suffer as an adult until I finally got away).

You come from a very abusive home and doubtless you're still recovering from a traumatic childhood. Be gentle with yourself and never, ever, ever let anyone make you doubt that you are a good person, a worthy person, someone who deserves to be loved and treated with respect. Family are supposed to treat you better than strangers off the street, right? They don't get a pass because you have some of the same genes. In fact it makes their behavior even more reprehensible. Would you ever treat your children this way? I think you know the answer.

And hang on to that husband of yours, and don't be afraid to lean on your MIL, who seems to care about you very much. My MIL is basically my adoptive mother and meeting my husband is the best thing that ever happened to me. Let them in and you won't regret it. You deserve to be happy.

post #7 of 21
I am really sorry that your sister has been treating you this way.

Unfortunately, some people are this way. The best thing to do for yourself is to stay away from her. When she calls to go to lunch or whatever, just say, "I'm sorry, it won't work out." When she presses you why, just say "I'm sorry, this isn't a good time" (like a broken record). Don't offer any excuses as to why you can't come.

I got this idea from Miss Manners' Guide to Rearing Perfect Children, which I highly recommend. It isn't breastfeeding friendly, but aside from that, it tells about how to deal with difficult relatives politely. It's been very helpful to me.
post #8 of 21
They make me cry, they make me sick, they make me wish I was born into a family that cared about me, that was proud of me ...

These are the exact reasons I cut my entire family out of my life. It's not selfish, it's self preservation in my eyes.
post #9 of 21
Originally Posted by seashells View Post
You see what's going on with your sister, right? Like you, she didn't get what she needed from her parents, which is heartbreaking. Unlike you, she figured - mistakenly, as it turns out - that what she lacked in her life was THINGS. And even so, she's extremely insecure about it.

Another person with a good amount of money who is secure about it (that person doesn't have to be a saint, either, just your average person with average foibles and selfishness who's just not so insecure) would not even think about saying or doing those things; wouldn't need to.

You've figured it out. It's the relationships that matter. Your sister is not any happier for the money, nor is she any happier for belittling you (just very brief, temporary boosts to her ego that she has to repeat over and over because it's not meaningful or lasting).

I have no advice on how to deal with it but I hope that thinking through how she got like that will put in perspective your feelings of inferiority ... because I'm here to tell you that you're not.

This, this this, this, this, this!!!!!!! Print this, carry this around, read this, memorize this. This is EXACTLY what is going on, it is just hard for you to see the forest through the trees here. I don't think you should cut your sister off since I think she sounds like she needs you more than you need her, but you can take steps to stop her from treating you badly. Just call her on it, calmly, but surely. Don't go shopping with her, and tell her you just don't like shopping. Stand up for yourself and PLEASE see what a wonderful thing you are creating for yourself. I can see it just from one post! You clearly have a supportive dh and mil, some great kids, a new nicer place to live. Focus on yourself and what you do have, not what you don't because it sounds like you have what you want, and all the rest just isn't that important to you. I think you would be surprised if you really knew what was going on in your sisters head. She is certainly not better off than you, you are like Cinderella here, and she's like the stepsisters. She might have everything, but she doesn't sound happy. I think she needs you in her life so I hope you can work it out without cutting her out because you are probably a family member she can count on, and she might be able to grow and become the sister you need as well!
post #10 of 21
drop her like a bad habit! I have a SIL JUST like her...and I feel SOOOO much healthier having dropped her. I say hi. I'm corgeal. But I'm not her friend.

Don't let people zap you with their negativity. You don't have thin skin. She's just like you said: passive-aggressive.

That is TOXIC.

I'm sending you a link to a blog post I saw that deals with how to remove toxic people from your life. I think we're not allowed to include blog links in our posts.
post #11 of 21

I hear you.
post #12 of 21
I read all of it, too, and I think you have received some excellent advice.
post #13 of 21
Thread Starter 
I am sitting here sobbing right now, because I never hear any of this from anyone in my life. I wish so bad that I had all of you in my life, but I guess in a way, I do. Who cares if its the internet, I finally have someone to tell me that its not my fault and I just...don't even know what to do with that. Except cry apparently. Damn hormones.

To everyone: Thank you for telling me I'm not being selfish. Thank you for telling me I'm not inferior, that I don't deserve to be treated like I am. Its amazing how just hearing that/reading the words makes me feel a million times better.

peainthepod - Thank you so much for the link and your advice, so much.

seashells - Yeah, I do. Most of the time my sister and I are the only support we have, talking through our feelings about our children and how its affected us. I'm fully aware she is the way she is because of our emotionally lacking, abusive childhood. I just wish she would work on it, or listen to me when I tell her she's being hurtful.

geargirl - Thank you so much for your advice. I need a break from my sister, but I dont' believe I actually want her out of my life forever. The only thing is, I don't think she's ever going to change the way she is, you know? When I feel like I'm in a better place, I'll just have to do that, keep calling her on what she's doing, not go shopping/do something that makes me feel uncomfortable or inferior (which is just my problem most of the time, not anyone elses), etc. I mean, she's kind of the only family that I can even really talk to, so I don't just want to cut her out, like you pointed out, she probably needs me just as much. Man, family is not fun.

MommyHawk - Thank you for the link, I'm reading it now.

thank you so much everybody, you have NO idea how much your words have helped me. I feel like a new person today.
post #14 of 21
Read it to the end and

yeah, it sounds like your sister is doing you nothing but damage right now and has no positive influence whatsoever.... I don't think it would be selfish at all to stop seeing her for a while.
post #15 of 21
I read your whole post too. (hugs)

Your sister seems to have very different values than you do.

I think sometimes in toxic families there is a lot of rivalry. Who else in your family values *things*.

It doesn't sound like it would be fun to hang around her. What would happen if you simply packed a picnic lunch and went to a park?
post #16 of 21
I definitely agree with all who said "You are SO not being selfish! It's healthy to put distance between you and toxicity - especially hard but especially important when it's toxic family".

And in terms of how to communicate that distance or your choice to lessen your time, there's a way to be honest without being too honest. From reading your posts I'm thinking that you're not yet ready to just honestly say to her "Spending time with you makes me feel bad about myself and I need some space to remember all the great things about me, my family, and my life. I'll call you when I'm ready to talk again." That seems like it would be the honest truth, but it's also pretty brutally honest, which I probably would say (that's how I am) but I think most people would take a softer approach.

Sooo... there's still a way to be honest, like maybe saying "I've been thinking and realizing I really don't feel good about my life right now and I need some time on my own to figure it all out." If she uses that as an opportunity to point out things she'd do differently or things she thinks you lack, that is definitely a GREAT opportunity to say "that actually makes it worse. You saying that really doesn't help at all, I feel worse." And if she says "Get over it" or "I was only kidding", you really should say "See, that's the thing, you have no respect for my feelings. That's not ok. I need some space from that." and do NOT back down from that. It's just being honest, and it gives her the opportunity to either think about how she really does not respect your feelings, or ignore it. Either way, you are responsible for creating the distance you need. And you are totally justified in doing it.

Then you don't have to make it specifically about cutting HER out of your life, but just that in general you need to get quiet and you don't really want to talk about it, you need some quiet alone time to figure out what is going on and what you need to do.

If she calls and asks you to go out, do NOT let her guilt you into doing it. Like a PP said, pack a lunch and go to the park by yourself if you have some alone time. Try to find a mommy's group near you and meet some new moms with similar aged kids. Volunteer somewhere or help out at your kids school. Do things that help yo umeet other parents, get out and about a bit, and hopefully that will help you both a) appreciate what you already have (even though you do, but so it's harder for others to make you feel bad), and b) to not feel so isolated and alone.

I can already tell: the time is gonna come in a couple of years - maybe even in just a couple of months - when you're gonna look back on this time that you realized this was a toxic relationship that you need to get distance from, and you're gonna be feeling SO MUCH BETTER in the future and thinking "Why the heck didn't I do this years and years ago???" You'll be so glad you took these early steps.

AND... icing on an already yummy cake... it's very possible that by modeling for your sister that just by taking care of yourself and appreciating what you've got you can be happy, maybe your sister may even learn something from you! She'll probably try to tear you down even harder at first, but you just stand strong. Live your life, let her live hers.

Seriously, take the space you need, as much of it as you need, and if/when you spend any time with her, every time she says anything that makes you feel bad just point out that it has that impact and that you'd love to take a 6 month hiatus on either of you saying anything negative about the other's family or something like that. If she can't stop saying negative things, all the more reason to make even greater space between you two.....
post #17 of 21
I agree with everyone else and I read the whole thing. She's insecure and not finding what she needs. She may seem mature, but she's not getting it yet. You're mature and getting it, but questioning if you're the one who doesn't get it.

She is probably jealous of your house and your kids. She was probably very happy to have you in that old decreped house. It affirmed for her that she was the happy, successful one. When you moved up, she probably felt hurt because you rocked her position a little. As for the kids, her conversations about your kids with your mom are her way of controlling you. She's the social worker and so it's like you need her permission to be your children's parent. She's using power here too. Like she's being nice by allowing you to parent your own way, when obviously, she disagrees and could make trouble for you if she wanted to.

You'd do best to be much more allusive with her. Don't tell her things about your family. Never, ever complain or tell her your troubles. Don't go shopping with her. I don't go to malls unless I have a few dollars to spend there. I wouldn't accept an invitation to go shopping with someone. I would invite them for dinner or go meet somewhere for coffee. I would save a few dollars here and there for outings and I would pay my own way each and every time.

She's trying to keep you indebted to her in lots of ways. She needs for you to be less successful. The only way to be close to her is to stop letting her have control. When she feels your distance and senses the changes in the relationship, she'll likely protest. She will either accept the new way and allow you to be that equal or she'll be intimidated and not want to be around you....or she'll try to bring you back down to where she's comfortable with you.

You'll have to view her as a friend. In my friendships, I try to keep things equal. I don't want to hang out with a friend who's always the payer or who's always needy. I want a give and take relationship.

Good luck. So glad for your MIL to point out the obvious.
post #18 of 21
I read your whole post.

Your sis is toxic. You don't owe her anything. You have MDC's permission to cut her out of your life.
post #19 of 21
I read it all. I'm so sorry.

You survived that horrible upbringing--as a child, surviving and waiting it out was all you could do. That you did do it, that you arrived at where you are right now (as a responsible parent with a nice home, a loving partner, and a person who knows what she values) is testimony to your resilience and strength.

I'm sorry your sister is such a drain on you. I agree with the advice to put some distance into the relationship--no doubt that step will help you gain some perspective.
post #20 of 21
mama, s
i can't really add much, everyone has given great advice! kind of warms my heart that people really took the time to give you some heartfelt posts, that's great.
your sister is really into her 'things' and the fact that she wants to rub that in is alarming. i have a few people in my life who just can't get enough things. it's sickening. i mean, i love things, but i don't talk to people about them. i choose 'nicer' things because they hold up better, not to make a statement. it just irks me! sounds like she is not very happy in her life honestly.
i personally cannot be around people that bring me down or act better than me. i just can't. it drives me insane. i like being around people who make me happy, who brighten my day. she's family so i can imagine it's harder to just let it go. but i think you already know what you have to do. you can still be cordial. i would limit my time with her and see how it goes from there.
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