How to love the sister you hate

Written by Ope James

World#31, Ruud van Empel 2008

Photos Credits: Ruud van Empel

It was over a Saturday dinner when I looked across the table and became aware, I no longer hate my sister. I was at the door of age twenty-six. My sister was approaching twenty-nine and had just brought home a fiancé.

For the earliest part of our existence, I don’t remember my sister and I fighting over toys or my parent’ attention, or anything else, at the time. Of course there was the occasional jabs and tease that was our way of infusing other excitable colours into our relationship. But it never got close to the threshold of hurt. It was all love. Pure love and care, and a constant purring over each other’s neck.

It was in our teens that hurt and resentment burrowed in. And what started as a tiny gap in fashion sense, became a conduit of pundit drops, until a gully was formed and we didn’t know how to be sisters, nor friends, anymore.

We began to envy each other’ gifts and privileges, fought over friends and boys, mocked each other’ uniqueness and compete for our parent’ emotions and affirmations; even though we didn’t have to.

Our unique combination of brain, a fierce wit, a classic elegant style, a late hairline and a cowering nose; for my sister, and a universally pleasing face and body, an alternative style, and a not-as-smart-as-my-sister’ brain; for me, was the source of most kinks in our daily relationship.

Boys wanted me until they spoke with my sister. Some wanted her until they saw me. Her academic reports made mine too embarrassing to disclose. And my style irked her and hers was too boring for me.

These issues put us both on edge and on each other’ neck. And, in no time, it became a ‘hi and bye’ over simmering hate.

Agreed, hatred might seem too strong a word to describe how it was between us, or how it is between you and your sister, but the bottom-line is that you are not getting along as you know sisters should. And your feeling of love for her is not anywhere as hot as it should be, most of the time.

So here, this is how to love the sister you hate:

Recognise and appreciate you and your sister’ uniqueness: Understand that no two humans are alike. We’re all unique in different ways. And so your sister’ strength might be your weakness and your weakness her strength.

Therefore, it is in recognizing your (you and your sister’) unique abilities and features, appreciating them and putting them to good use that you will arrive at a place of peace and contentment.

This might require taking the lead, walking on eggshells, and turning the other cheek sometimes. But a change in you could be the mirror that will inspire a change in your sister.

Love yourself: Our hurt is deepest and more intense when our (source of) insecurities are poked. But when you love yourself; flaws, quirks and zits, your sister’ strong points will no longer cause you discomfort that might translate to a ill feeling.

If your sister has the habit of terming your strength a weakness and, generally, never appreciates you, loving yourself is your armor to keeping out low self-esteem. It will feed your confidence, and make you non-malleable. And love begets love; when you love yourself, others will fall in line and love you too, and you will also love others; including your sister.

Establish your space: Go out and meet other people. Spend time with yourself, and let your sister be; there is a love that thrive in silence. And interacting with other people might help teach you lessons on relationships and help you understand and appreciate each other more.

Also, let it be known that there is a boundary for every relationship. Establishing where yours with your sister starts and end will serve as a guide to how far she can go with you and how far you can go with her. These will bring peace, in your relationship, and ultimately awaken the sleeping love you have for each other.

Celebrate your (yours and your sister’) achievements: When your sister wins, celebrate, as you do/should do when you win.

Celebrating your sister’ achievement is a wordless ‘I love you’, ‘I appreciate you’ and ‘I’m proud of you’. When you tell her these, by celebrating her achievements, even if it means faking it, her response might make you melt.

Focus on her positive traits: Un-look the side of her that do not arouse good feelings in you. Choose not to give those your attention. Ignore and resist them. But focus on the part of her that glide smoothly down your throat. That way, your love emotion is not conflicted, and can flow without anything standing in its way.


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