I am a younger sister, so I get it. Older sisters are the best and the worst 🙂
Hi, my name is Gitty. I’m 16 years old. My older sister Chana Leah and I are really close, and I think the reason is because we’re the only two girls among five brothers. We had to band together out of sheer self-defense! (I’m just kidding, but
yes, having five brothers can be quite intense, especially when they get their hands on Nerf guns.)
Last year, Chana Leah went away to seminary in Eretz Yisrael and it was, hands down, the hardest year of my life. As the only girl at home, I bore the brunt of most of the household responsibilities and was the target of all my brothers’ mischievous teasing. But honestly, worst of all was that I just missed her so much!
When she came home last June, I was beyond relieved. It felt like life was finally back to normal. I wasn’t the only girl at home, and I got a break from having to be the only one involved in pillow fights and endless wrestling matches! It was so nice to have Chana Leah back.
Except, now I have a new problem. Chana Leah has started dating.
She’s been going out with this guy for over three weeks, and things seem to be getting serious. I’d normally be very excited about this because, after all, who doesn’t love the idea of a wedding? But Chana Leah will be leaving me again, and I’m already feeling miserable about it. Plus, she’s been acting sort of distant and distracted. I feel like her eyes glaze over when I speak to her about anything other than her shidduch life.
I don’t want to sound like I’m not happy for her, because I really am, but I’m also feeling bad for myself. Her being in seminary was only temporary. Marriage is forever — she’ll be leaving for good. And I already feel like I’ve lost a certain closeness with her. I don’t want to say anything to her, because I hate to make this important time in her life about me and how I’m feeling. But it feels hard to be totally b’simchah right now.
I feel guilty about this, but I’m also a little angry. And hurt. And I don’t want to be, especially not now when I should be a good sister. But I feel so cut off. What should I do?
Hi, I’m Chana Leah. I’m 19 years old. I just entered the shidduch world, and I have to say, I’m relieved about how well it seems to be going, baruch Hashem. I’ve been dating Yossi Kohn for about three weeks now, and it’s definitely getting serious. I’m nervous, but also really excited. There’s only one thing that’s bothering me about this whole thing.
My younger sister Gitty is moping lately. I can’t say for sure, but I believe this attitude developed when my shidduch took a more serious turn. At first, I was worried that something was going on with her. Maybe she was fighting with a friend, or having a hard time in school? But it dawned on me that she’s just moping when she’s around me.
I don’t get it. I’m really close with Gitty. Shouldn’t she be happy for me? It makes me feel really awkward and even hurt that she’s avoiding this whole part of my life. She barely acknowledges that I’m dating, and tries to change the subject if Yossi ever comes up in conversation. It’s really important to me that my one and only sister share in my simchah.
I know I’ve been busier than usual and that I’m embarking on a totally new stage in life, but we’re close enough that Gitty should be supportive right now. Why is she avoiding this? Why isn’t she happy and excited for me? It’s hurtful and it’s putting a damper on my otherwise bright and exciting future. I treasure my relationship with my sister, and I don’t want anything to come between us. We’ve been close all our lives, a real team. It makes me sad that we’ve hit this hurdle. At this rate, it seems like it’s only going to get more difficult to reconcile my relationship with her. Is there any way I can fix this before it spirals downward even more?
How lucky you are to appreciate and recognize the value of your relationship already now, when you are both still young. Sisters are the greatest gift.
Chana Leah, I am going to address you first, as you are the older one. You’ve probably heard that a lot growing up and hate that line, right? The truth is, though, that as the older sister, you have the advantage of having a younger sister who craves a relationship with you. If you make the effort, she will definitely follow your lead. You are also the one who is embarking on a big change in life, im yirtzeh Hashem, while she feels left behind.
This change is certainly positive; super exciting and fun! But it’s important to know that change, even when positive, can be stressful. Stress can have a negative impact on relationships, especially on our closest relationships, like those with our family members. So now is a great time to iron out some of these issues with your sister. But how?
When we look deeper at the emotions that are causing behaviors, and address those emotions, then the behaviors disappear. One example is a two-year-old child who is crying and screaming and acting out of sorts because he is tired. It would be futile to spend time trying to talk to him, explaining why his behavior is wrong. Since it is fatigue that is causing his misbehavior, putting him to bed will solve the problem.
Another example is when a mother screams at her teen out of anger at not being able to reach her, when in fact she is angry because she was scared. So addressing the fear (“I’m so sorry, Mommy, next time I’ll call you, I’m okay, I’m safe”), as opposed to addressing the anger (“Why are you screaming at me? It’s not my fault my phone died”) is the best way to go.
Change is scary! The emotion beneath this change is fairly obvious and complimentary. Gitty is scared of losing you and the close relationship that the two of you share. Address the emotions instead of feeling hurt and rejected by her behavior. Tell her how much you love her and how you will always feel close to her, even though you are moving on to a different stage.
It might be easier and more effective to write her a letter. Start off by allaying her emotional concern, and by explaining practically how you will still stay close even after you’re married. Only after you’ve addressed those concerns can you share how you feel hurt, and suggest ways that you would want her to change.
I love you so much and I missed you when I was in Israel. I am so excited for you to have that experience, too, and I can’t wait to share with you all the tips and tricks that I picked up while I was there! I know we will always be close even when life changes and we both move out of the house to our own homes.
I want to share something with you. I feel like sometimes when I talk about Yossi, you are not interested and you change the subject, and that makes me feel sad and lonely. You are my sister, and I want to share things with you, and I want to hear things from you!
“Devarim hayotz’im min halev nichnasim el halev.” If you are real and sincere, your words will be accepted. A small gift doesn’t hurt either :).
Now I want to address Gitty specifically, and all the younger sisters out there.
I am a younger sister, so I get it. Older sisters are the best and the worst :). You are so lucky to have a sister with whom you share such a strong, loving relationship. You are concerned that the relationship is changing, and it is a legitimate concern. All long-lasting relationships weather change, or else they can’t last. It is true that the relationship will change when Chana Leah gets married. However, change can also be for the better. You can have another house to hang out at, and you will have an experienced sister to help you out when you’re dating!
It’s okay to feel a mixture of emotions — happy for your sister and sad for yourself. Staying connected to your sister’s “change” can help you stay connected with her. So talk to her about her dates, share in her excitement, help her pick out the perfect dress. Giving to her will make both of you feel happier.
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 894)
Oops! We could not locate your form.