From the U.S.: Five years ago my younger step-sister and I had a falling out over something that I really thought was just a misunderstanding. From the beginning I told her I wanted to repair the relationship only to be completely shut out by her… no communication via social media, email or text. Throughout the years I have continued to send tentative contact her way and have been ignored, even after the birth of her son which I thought would soften our relationship. Because she is my step-sister and I am not around her mother and my dad very often we almost never accidentally cross-paths. The few times we have she has been friendly to me, as if nothing is wrong. She encourages I interact with her son and calls me Auntie to him. I always see this as signs of hope for us, but when I reach out to her I get nothing back.
I recently found out through our mutual siblings that she is going through a divorce and is coupled with a new partner. I sent her an email saying that I’d love to get together and chat over coffee. I was alerted that she has read the message but three days later, true to form, she still has not replied.
I am at a loss of what to do. We were raised together from the time she was 4, step-sister is just a technicality as far as I am concerned… she is very much a little sister to me. I find myself grieving the distance in our relationship but since she won’t actually respond to me, even to tell me she isn’t interested, I feel like it is only fair to keep trying. On the other hand, when I see the message has been read and I see her on social media responding to other people it is difficult for me not to push the communication. At what point should enough be enough? Should I just fade into the background, or write that one more message laying it all out for her? And if this really is the end how do I protect myself from the hurt of seeing her so actively involved with other family members while acting as if I don’t exist?
I’m sure this is very painful. Bear in mind that she has been going through the upheaval of a divorce and developing a new relationship. It occurs to me that she may think you would be judgmental and doesn’t want to deal with it. It’s also possible that what to you was a minor misunderstanding was a “last straw” for her. People don’t generally throw away a 30-year relationship on the basis of one mistake in communication. Another possibility is that she may be the kind of person who holds a grudge. Without more information, neither one of us can figure it out.
For that reason, it might be helpful if you asked your dad or another family member for insight into the matter. If she is thin-skinned and has also shunned other family members, it would perhaps lessen the hurt you are experiencing.
If, on the other hand, this is personal to you, then I think you should try one honest and heartfelt letter to her, restating your apology and laying out how much you miss her and how bewildered and hurt you are by the distance between you. Lead with your pain, not with anger. Anger isn’t likely to invite a response. You’ll have a better idea about what to do next once you see how she responds.
I wish you well. Dr. Marie
Trying to Connect to a Sister who Just Ignores Me
Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker
Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
APA Reference Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Trying to Connect to a Sister who Just Ignores Me. Psych Central.
Retrieved on November 20, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2016/10/17/trying-to-connect-to-a-sister-who-just-ignores-me/
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 17 Oct 2016) Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018 Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.