January 31, 2011
The Relationships in Between Your Relationships
I had a big fight with my sister last week. My sister and I are incredibly close and have been for our entire lives but we can still fight pretty passionately. I have a week off in March and want to take a trip with her because although we’ve traveled extensively as a family, we haven’t really vacationed together without our parents in a while. She was hemming and hawing about planning something and I kept trying to nail her down. She brought up a lot of good points. She lives in Argentina and has taken the last six weeks off to visit my parents and me in L.A. so she doesn’t think she should ask for more time away from work so soon. She feels badly about taking another vacation without her boyfriend of two years. She already has other vacations lined up in the pipeline she’s been planning for first. I’m sort of already committed to a ski trip that week. I want to go to Cuba and she doesn’t think a week is enough time. She concluded with saying she couldn’t commit to a trip yet but she would let me know once she got back to Argentina and was resettled at work.
Unjustifiably, I got really angry with her. I told her she never goes out of her way to spend time with me as I do for her. Plus, I told her that saying maybe was a cop-out. If she really wanted to go, she should just say yes and the rest would fall into place. If she cared, she should find a way to make it work.
I knew I was on the wrong side of the argument but I couldn’t stop acting indignant.
When you’re single, your relationships with your friends and family become more important. Everyone likes to think that when they are in a relationship they will be the same good friend they were before and they will never compromise their loyalty to their family. But the truth is, if you want to make a romantic relationship work, that relationship has to be the number one relationship in your life. You can still be a good friend or sister or daughter, but there is an unspoken truth that your friends and family will be slightly behind the person you choose to marry. After all, isn’t that what marriage is? A promise to put that person first for the rest of your life?
My sister’s not married but she has created a life with man in another country and is at least on that track. And I’m resentful. I resent that she can’t be my roommate right now. I resent that she is finding herself with him. I resent that she isn’t interested in talking about dating with me. For my whole life, it was my sister and I against the world. And now it’s just not.
In writing this, I’m once again being unfair because, as older sister, I did this to her first. When I was in my first serious romantic relationship, I could feel a dynamic in my relationship with my sister change. My family ski trips went from four people to five. Dinner at my parents house was about seating two couples and one single girl. When she came to visit, from New York at the time, I included my boyfriend in everything my sister and I did. We were still close but there was also an omnipresent distance. We now had something we didn’t talk about – she didn’t really express her true feelings about him to me. Perhaps she was confronting the fact that one day I would commit myself to someone over her. But probably most hurtful of all to her, I felt it was no longer my sister and I against the world. I acted like it was me, my boyfriend, and then my sister against the world.
Of course, when my heart was broken, I needed her again in a way I hadn’t needed her in a while. But she no longer needed me in the same way. At that time, she was entering her first serious relationship.
I certainly never felt like I lost her and in some ways now I feel like we’re closer than ever, especially as she matures and my respect and admiration for her continue to grow. But still I know, one day we’ll both slowly choose to devote ourselves to a relationship which will make our consanguineous relationship second to something else. I know this and I accept this and yet there are still moments of anger when it happens.
In the end, I backed off the Cuba trip. Skiing and South-by-Southwest it is. And I’m ok with it. There’s still only one person who can give me a manicure, and sing show tunes on a chairlift, and tell me when I’m wearing too much eye makeup, and call me a brat when I need to hear it, and remind me when family is more important than accomplishments. And I will always have my sister for that. What more could I really ask for?