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Ask Ellie: It's up to you to make up with estranged sister

Advice columnist Ellie Tesher.

Dear Lisi: My sister and I have been estranged for almost six years. I’ve tried so hard to maintain our long-distance relationship, but she fights me at every given opportunity.

I moved away from our home city for my master’s degree. While away, I met my now husband. He was living and working in the same city as my internship. Fortunately, once I graduated, I was offered a job there. It was a no-brainer to stay. I had a job and was in a loving relationship.

My sister was supportive and came to visit several times a year. She was in school with more flexibility. I came home a few times a year, for family celebrations, milestones and special occasions.

Once my husband and I had children, things were a little more complicated and more expensive, so our trips home became fewer and far between. My sister still managed to come out to us but didn’t love the hectic lifestyle of infants and toddlers.

Then things started to go wrong. Seemed nothing I said landed lightly. She read into everything and then started making negative comments, to me, my husband and my children.

Now we barely speak. I reach out several times a year, on holidays, birthdays, and whenever I think of her. She only ever responds with thank you. She never reciprocates.

Is this our foreseeable future?

Sad Sister

To answer specifically, no, it doesn’t have to be. But it sounds like it’ll be up to you to make the change. I know how busy life can be with children, a job and a partner, but try to make some time just for you and her. Maybe suggest a girls’ trip for a few days to try and reconnect.

I can’t tell you what’s going on with her, but perhaps she’s jealous of how easily your life seems to have fallen into place. From your description, it sounds like your road has been smooth. You shouldn’t feel guilty about that, I’m just saying.

Be prepared to hear her narrative which might surprise you. Don’t react, just listen. Maybe you’ll find a shred of truth in what she says. Find your generosity of spirit. You want her back in your life so you may have to be less reactive and more forgiving in your response.

Dear Lisi: My mother won’t acknowledge that what I do for a living is a legitimate career and that I can actually help her. I don’t want to go into specifics because I know she reads your column. But suffice to say, I work with my hands.

She’s needed what I offer in the past and will actually call my cousin who has a connection to the field. My cousin always asks her, “Why don’t you call your daughter?”

Her response, “I don’t want to bother her.”

It’s beyond frustrating. I could and would easily and happily help her – for free. I always have time for my mother. In every other way, we have a great relationship.

How do I get her to respect me and use my expertise?

Feeling like a child

I think you hit the nail on the head there with your sign-off. You are her child and it’s hard for her to see you as anything but. I don’t know why. Could you take her with you to work one day? Maybe she needs to see for herself exactly what you do.

If that’s not an option, could you use her help in your line of work? Maybe an admin person or someone to help around the office? It’s hard for me to give examples since I don’t know what you do.


Regarding the unwelcome stranger in the bowling group (Oct. 7):

Reader: “I am surprised – no, actually I am shocked - that your advice to Bowling Buddy suggests a blatant lie. There is no intention whatsoever to “be in touch” when a space opens up.

“I am not an expert but perhaps simply saying ‘Our roster is limited’ would do. That is honest and direct.

“Likely you wish to avoid hurt feelings in the unwelcome person. OK, great, but what about the disrespect of lying to her? I think that is worse.”

Lisi: This reader believes I suggested lying to the woman no one knew. That there was no intention to be in touch. That’s not what I was thinking when I wrote the answer, and I’m sorry it came across that way.

Lesson learned that I need to ensure my responses are clear and come through in my words. Thank you for your feedback!

Ellie Tesher and Lisi Tesher are advice columnists for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: [email protected].