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Sister to Sister: 12 Ways to Build a Better Relationship

Updated on July 31, 2012

Dedication to my sister: Danette Watt

This hub is dedicated to hubber: Danette Watt for all the obvious reasons…and then some.

I received a birthday card today from my sister. My birthday is tomorrow. I have only one sister, and she is like that: prompt, punctual, and organized. We are as different as the sun and moon. Yes, we both shine down from the sky, but one has a glare that can sometimes be blinding, (that would be me), and the other has a soft, glow that lights the path, but often goes unnoticed.

It wasn’t the card that prompted this hub. I’ve been contemplating my relationship with my sister for some time now. We are sandwiched in between two sets of older brothers and younger brothers. We had to depend and defend together.


Two Generations of Sisters

Danette and I in the middle between sisters: Cara and Christa
Danette and I in the middle between sisters: Cara and Christa | Source

Sibling rivalry: competition and jealousy

“Sisters are probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.” Margaret Mead.

Anthropologist, Margaret Mead has some wise words about sisterhood. I don’t know if Danette and I were competitive, because we carefully carved independent social circles. It makes it less intrusive when you don’t have the other observing all that happens…ready to tattletale or blackmail. But, I do recall being jealous of her-more than once. My competitive spirit was wrapped around the belief that our parents could have a favorite. I was NOT the favorite, in my immature perspective.

Danette was born, as I recall, like a ‘china doll’. I can still vividly recall a photo of her dark hair, fair skin, deep blue eyes and chipmunk cheeks. She was...well, ‘perfect’. Two years younger than me, I was probably not consciously aware of feeling dethroned, but dethroned I was. I was the only female child with two older brothers until then, mind you.

But, I was smart, too, and manipulative, again, without conscious awareness. Looking back, I can see how I tried to be nice because I learned that pleased the King. The King being my father, whose undivided attention I had all to myself until she came along. If the King thought I was being nice I would get some praise. But, when we were alone, I could take whatever I wanted from her-she being so much smaller. Ah, but, then the King would find out and I would be in trouble for being unkind.

How to develop a friendship with your sister

Vikki Stark, author of My Sister, Myself surveyed 400 women about the relationship with their sisters. The results and testimonials, along with key points about this special sibling bond, were presented in this eye opening book in 2006.

Somewhere along the way I learned that my sister, Danette, really was my friend. We shared many common interests, besides the memories and history of our childhood. We both love reading and writing. We both have an interest in the mystery of life and our purpose here, and we both share a motherhood bond. We learned from each other, sometimes good, sometimes not so. Although I am the older sister, she was the one who taught me to swear like a sailor. Oh, and in case anyone has any doubts, she was a W.A.V.E. And, she was the first one to introduce me to country music: Crystal Gayle: Don’t it make my brown eyes blue.

Memories of growing up with a sister

When we were growing up, we did a lot of funny things, like the time we watched the movie: White Christmas, starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. As kids do with corny scenes, we laughed at the large fan costumes that sisters, Betty and Judy Haynes, played by Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen, used during their ‘sister act’. Then, on my prompting, we reenacted it with huge bamboo fans mom used for wall decorations. We could never get through it without breaking up with laughter. Our ‘Broadway’ act was called, ‘The Singing Sisters’.


Sisters Video from White Christmas

Gratitude for my Sister

I am fortunate that I have a close bond with my sister and feel sad when I hear other women who reveal that theirs is difficult or estranged. I cannot imagine not having someone to share my secrets, (yes even at this age), sadness and joy with, the way I can with her. And, I’m happy to know that my own two daughters share a similar love and affection for each other.

So, I contemplated what suggestions I would offer, if one wanted to mend the fences and build a better sister relationship. Here are a dozen that I hope you will find helpful.

How to improve your relationship with your sister

1. Admit to yourself that you do want a closer relationship, regardless of any fear of rejection. Explore where you feel the conflict is: jealousy, competition, childhood issues.

2. Ask your sister if she is interested in being friends, not just tolerating a family made relationship.

3. Change your perspective: be open minded, remember: it takes two to quarrel; whatever has happened in the past is the past-if you cannot get over it, seek some professional counseling; you can only control your own behavior and emotions, not hers; and keep your focus on your issues-not your sister’s flaws, by your standards.

4. Start small-make changes that you can handle successfully. You will gain confidence as the relationship blossoms in a positive way.

5. Keep expectations low-don’t expect your sister to warm up from a cold relationship overnight.

6. Be patient-it took years and negative situations to grow apart and it will take some time and patience to move it back together.

7. Communicate your needs clearly-don’t revert back to communicating as the girls you were, talk to your sister with respect-mature woman to mature woman; don’t get sucked into old hurts, refocus and stay in the present moments issues; do not use manipulation, sarcasm, or passive-aggressive communication.

8. Identify your feelings or actions as ‘I’ statements, and let your sister know what you like and enjoy.

9. Respect your sister for who she is. She may have very different ways of doing things, but it doesn’t mean it is right or wrong-just different.

10. Don’t try to control or fix her, her life, etc. If she does not ask for advice, don’t give it. The goal is friendship. Also, if you are a ‘problem’ child, don’t expect your sibling to fix your life or rescue you.

11. Use a professional therapist if you cannot get past childhood hurts or damage caused by your sister, such as betrayal.

12. Treat each other as friends, not rivals. Set a date to spend a lunch together, it’s a start.

A Word of Thanks to my sister

Thanks, Danette, for being a great sister all of these years; for putting up with my clutter when we shared a room at the old family house; and for accepting all of my quirks, even when you didn’t necessarily understand them. I love you.

For My Sister

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    • Denise Handlon profile image
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      Denise Handlon 2 years ago from North Carolina

      Great going, mslenai. It's never ever too late. I wish you the best in your endeavors and will keep you in mind. I hope you return at some point and let me know how it is going. :) Take care.

    • profile image

      mslenai 2 years ago

      Great read! I am definitely working on this now and it's good to see how I can accomplish this because it can be difficult at times.

    • Denise Handlon profile image
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      Denise Handlon 3 years ago from North Carolina

      Hello, DDE I'm not sure what would have happened had I had more than one sister, hee hee. I did have four brothers and one is deceased, but I'm in touch with the other three. Thanks for your comments. :)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Sister to Sister: 12 Ways to Build a Better Relationship sometimes it is difficult to form a bod with sisters and you have mentioned helpful ways in order to go about building that relationship. I live far off from my sisters but have a better relationship with my younger sister that the older one.

    • Denise Handlon profile image
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      Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Mary-thanks for sharing your experience. Perhaps my sister and I bonded quickly because the odds were against us, haha. Thanks for the votes.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      Beautiful tribute to your sister! My girls didn't get along well growing up, but now they are very close. I'm glad for that. I had four daughters , and they are all close. Now that they are all married and have children of their own, they seem to have bonded.

      I voted this UP, etc.

    • Denise Handlon profile image
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      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Stephanie-thanks for reading and commenting. I visited my sister for a brief overnight this last w/e and my oldest bro was also there...it was obvious to both of us that our relationship was close and different from that of each of us with our brother. I was never very close to him, but as time has passed, and our parents have both died, the closeness of what was has become a bit strained...or, perhaps, I've grown up and he is not the 'almighty big brother' that used to intimidate me??? Thanks again for your feedback and votes/tweet.

      Hi Janine-thank you. I sure appreciate my little sister in ways I didn't when I was growing up! haha. I bet your girls will turn out to be as close as my two daughters...it's in the mother nurturing. I think some parents make a problem when they compare kids and cause undo stress for young children growing up. :) Thanks for the votes and tweets, too!

    • Denise Handlon profile image
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      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Stephanie-thanks for reading and commenting. I visited my sister for a brief overnight this last w/e and my oldest bro was also there...it was obvious to both of us that our relationship was close and different from that of each of us with our brother. I was never very close to him, but as time has passed, and our parents have both died, the closeness of what was has become a bit strained...or, perhaps, I've grown up and he is not the 'almighty big brother' that used to intimidate me??? Thanks again for your feedback and votes/tweet.

      Hi Janine-thank you. I sure appreciate my little sister in ways I didn't when I was growing up! haha. I bet your girls will turn out to be as close as my two daughters...it's in the mother nurturing. I think some parents make a problem when they compare kids and cause undo stress for young children growing up. :) Thanks for the votes and tweets, too!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 5 years ago from New York, New York

      This is a beautiful tribute to your sister Denise. I have to tell you I don't have a sister, but only one younger brother, but have 2 daughters who are 16 months apart. I see the sister relationship through their small eyes right now and do hope they have as close of a relationship growing up and as adults as you and your sister seem to. I have voted up, shared and tweeted too!!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA

      What a lovely tribute to your sister and your relationship with her. Many sisters, like my sister and me, have lost that closeness, and your advice for improving the sister relationship is so helpful! Voted up and Tweeted!

    • Denise Handlon profile image
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      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks for your feedback, Shesabutterfly. I'm glad you found the suggestions written here helpful. Many blessings to the continued strengthening and love between the two of you. Thanks for the vote/share.

    • Shesabutterfly profile image

      Cholee Clay 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      This is a beautiful and well written hub. My sister and I were never close until she got pregnant her senior year. After she got married last year, her and I are definitely closer, but I find these tips to be very helpful in keeping our relationship strong and close. Voted up and shared.

    • Denise Handlon profile image
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      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Maria, we are both fortunate to have sisters who are wonderful, supportive and friends. :) Thanks for your feedback. I'm always sad when family becomes estranged from each other, especially once the parents are gone.

      Thanks for the votes up.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 5 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Hi Denise,

      This is a lovely tribute to your sister and friend. Like you, I am blessed to have a natural and wonderful relationship with my only sister, who is 10 years my senior. We take turns being maternal now in the absence of Mom, have been friends forever and are comfy enough with each other to have our own distinct personalities, even disagreements here and there.

      I like your strategies for relationships that are not as fortunate. It is surely worth the effort to have the best relationship possible with family. Voted UP & UABI. Hugs, Maria

    • Denise Handlon profile image
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      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Christin-you're welcome! Thanks for your feedback.

    • christin53 profile image

      Ann-Christin 5 years ago from UK

      Excellent hub I remember feeling pushed out when my sister was born I had my parents to myself for five years. Then I felt protective towards her and still do. Thank you very much for the link to my poem.

    • Denise Handlon profile image
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      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      nisargmehta-I'm flattered that you used this hub for research and found it helpful. Thank you for your touching comment. Many blessings.

    • nisargmehta profile image

      NISARG MEHTA 5 years ago from SURAT, Gujarat, India

      Dis hub made my eyes wet...!!! though being a guy n dnt hv ne real sister bt it is so well written i was having the whole scenario in front of me....!!!! :) Gr8 hub and quite helpful for my research for family counselling.... A Marvel.,..

    • Denise Handlon profile image
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      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks for the read and comments moonlake. I understand about wanting the closeness for your grandchildren. Two of my four grandkids are close, but the other two are four years apart, different genders and not always loving and kind to each other. I'm hoping that will change.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      My middle sister has taken up the attitude that she is the black sheep in the family so now she thinks none of us care. I think this attitude has came from her husband.

      I'm close to my younger sister.

      I always hope my granddaughters will show sisterly love to each other but right now I'm not seeing it. I don't want them to be apart when they grow-up.

      Great hub voted up.

    • Denise Handlon profile image
      Author

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      It is hard to believe it, Deborah, and not just between sisters. My uncles are estranged from each other and they are in their seventies! Silly, yes.

      Thanks for visiting this hub and leaving a comment. I appreciate it. My sis is the only female friend in my family, :) so we had to stick together. It's been a lifelong friendship for which I am ever so grateful for.

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • Judge Deborah profile image

      Isabella 5 years ago from Fort Myers, Florida

      It is hard to believe that there are sisters who will not talk or visit one another because of what happened when they were kids. We all have friction with our sisters/siblings and I am glad my relationships with my many sisters worked out just as wonderfully as yours. Thank you for caring enough to write and talk about your own dear beloved sister.

    • Denise Handlon profile image
      Author

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Syveea, I am hoping that this estrangement between you and your sister will be settled. Perhaps you will be able to reach out and take some of these ideas and apply them. I hope your situation improves-it'll be worth the effort to try and reach out.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      Sylveea 5 years ago

      My sister and I have drifted away...I wish that I could have a decent relationship with her. We are so different.

    • Denise Handlon profile image
      Author

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks, Gail. I had forgotten about this hub until I saw your comment. Re-reading it was fun and sentimental...got all teary eyed with REba's song. Thanks for your comments. I'm glad we both have a sister we can enjoy time with.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 6 years ago from South Carolina

      Loved this wonderful tribute to Danette and was smiling when I read the part about the two of you doing your "Singing Sisters Act" with those fans! What a fun memory that must be. And I liked the part about you trying to maintain your status with the King (Daddy).

      I've got a sister who's become a good friend in our adult years and think all the tips you've written in this hub are great, even for those sisters who already share a close bond, but it's especially good for those who have grown apart and may want to try to connect with each other again. Thanks for sharing this valuable information. Voted this hub up across the board!

    • Denise Handlon profile image
      Author

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Viryabo-thank you for finding my hub useful. I hope you are successful with your plan-enjoy lunch with a sister, LOL

      Kath-My sister and I have many things in common...but, we are like night and day in many other ways. It is very interesting. I'm glad I have her...:) Thanks for your comments. :)

    • Chatkath profile image

      Kathy 6 years ago from California

      Denise, what a wonderful tribute to your sister! How much things change over the years, then again, some things will never change!

      Very well written and illustrated, I can relate - I have a sister that is 8 years younger so we didn't have the competition - I was just so glad when she was born with her little curls. After 2 brothers, I was so happy - but we couldn't be any more different, even today!

      Great Hub!!Voted up.

    • viryabo profile image

      viryabo 6 years ago

      This is so beautiful Denise. I love the kind of bond you have developed with your sister over the years.

      i haven't been that fortunate, although i have 3 sisters. Maybe because i'm much older than they are, but reading your tips makes me feel like giving it a chance.

      Thanks for sharing this lovely article Denise.

      GodBless

    • Denise Handlon profile image
      Author

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Hello dahoglund. Thanks for stopping by and reading this hub. I appreciate your comment.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      a bond like that is worth nurturing.

    • Denise Handlon profile image
      Author

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Thank you, Marie, for your birthday wishes and comments. It is a blessing to have a sister, and 'perfect' doesn't exist. Enjoy your friend/sistership. :)

    • VioletSun profile image

      VioletSun 6 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      What a beautiful tribute to your sister! I have only one sister who is 7 years older than I am. We have always helped each other throughout life, be it with money, moral support or just good old fashioned advice about makeup and clothes. She is shipping clothes to me as she lost a lot of weight and the clothes fit me as I am taller. She is very generous. It's not a perfect relationship, but we are supportive of one another, and celebrate each other's good.

      Happy Birthday! May this new year in your life be filled with many blessings!

    • Denise Handlon profile image
      Author

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Danette-LOL You're funny. I think that we learn from each other. I'm glad you liked it. (I didn't mean to make you cry mi hermanita, LOL)

      Prairieprincess-I'm like you-the thought and intention is always on time...the card isn't. LOL Thanks for your comments.

    • Denise Handlon profile image
      Author

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      b.malin-I'm so glad that you have a friend in your sister. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Always EX--thanks for the birthday wishes. Enjoy your sisterhood.

      Emily-hi. Thanks for your feedback. I didn't even know that Reba sang a song about sisters...don't recall how I came across it, but I was sold as soon as I heard it. Thanks for the 'luck' in the challenge. 'Fraid it's going to take more than that. NOt sure what happened to this 'perfect' month, but I don't have any giddy'up for my 'go'!

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      Denise, this is so beautiful! I love your account of you and your sis ... it reminds me of my sister and I. Your opening about the card made me laugh, because that's exactly how it is with us ... my sister sends cards to everyone in my family, at least two days early. I try to send cards, but sometimes they're a bit late!

      This hub is so lovely and heartfelt ... love it!

    • Denise Handlon profile image
      Author

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Genna-Thanks for reading. I know, every woman who has a sister can relate be it good or bad. So glad yours is a good one.

      GypsumGirl-Thanks for the feedback AND encouragement. It has been a tough challenge month for me. :(

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Denise, what can I say...you are so lucky to have such a sweet sister. LOL!

      Seriously, your hub brought tears to my eyes and I appreciate what your wrote. I have learned so much from you over this lifetime and in the previous one we shared together. I'm glad your girls have a sister to share all the ups and downs of life with.

    • emilybee profile image

      emilybee 6 years ago

      What a lovely hub Denise and I love your Reba video! She's amazing and perfectly chosen for this hub :) Now it's your turn! Good luck on the challenge.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Denise, a lovely tribute to your Sister. I have three Sisters and we are as different as night and day, but we all love each other. Happy birthday tomorrow.

      Cheers

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 6 years ago

      Denise, this was such a wonderful Hub, so entertaining as well as informative. I have an older sister by two and half years, and today, as Adults, we are the best of friends. I see her as a "friend" who has her faults as I have mine, but along the way there is LOVE and compromise. We are as different as day and night, and we respect that in each other. Two Thumbs up for this one Denise!

    • Denise Handlon profile image
      Author

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Sima-Thank you for the cheery birthday greetings. Hugs to you.

      It is wonderful having a good relationship with a sister, isn't it? Thanks for your comments.

    • Denise Handlon profile image
      Author

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Awww, thanks Eiddwen. I appreciate your reading and commenting.

      Cara-thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree, there is nothing like having a sister-sister relationship. It is amazing that both you and your sister broke the trend we had going...but, yes, your children are lovingly close-a tribute to you as a parent. :) Hugs. Thanks for your feedback-especially making note of the 'tips'. Yes, this time I actually remembered to include that part, LOL

    • gypsumgirl profile image

      gypsumgirl 6 years ago from Vail Valley, Colorado

      Denise: What a warm tribute! I have two sisters so I can totally relate to your hub. And...happy birthday to you! Keep trucking along...keep those hubs coming!

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 6 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      This touched my heart. Your sister is lucky to have you and vice versa. I am also close to my one sister, and she is also my nearest and dearest friend. Well done!

    • Treasuresofheaven profile image

      Sima Ballinger 6 years ago from Michigan

      Happy Birthday Denise! This is a beautiful Hub! I am blessed to have a wonderful older sister, Andrea Lynn Dudley - everything you would want in a Big Sister!

      Thanks for this article you wrote regarding your Sis., Danette!

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 6 years ago from Michigan

      Mom, what a lovely tribute to your wonderful sister and my wonderful aunt. I cannot imagine not having a sister and it is in fact one of the things that I wish that my own daughter would be able to experience. I am fortunate and grateful though that she does have a close and loving relationship with her brother.

      Great job on giving tips for others to help their own relationships.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      Only one word; beautiful.

      Thank you for sharing Denise.

      Take care

      Eiddwen.

    • Denise Handlon profile image
      Author

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Fucsia-Thanks for reading and sharing your experience. Danette and I had our share of fights growing up, but mostly we have not experienced a lot of strife in our relationship. I appreciate your comments.

    • Denise Handlon profile image
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      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Manny-so good to see you. You missed out having no sisters to fight with, LOL Thanks for your comments. I agree. My parents really went out of their way to have us stick up for each other and be close. As adults we are now as close as ever, especially since both parents are now gone. We support each other emotionally, even though we all live apart. Thanks for your comments. :)

    • fucsia profile image

      fucsia 6 years ago

      I have a sister, three years older than me. Our relationship is sometimes difficult, we are totally different! But she is my great friend and sometimes I think about our childhood with tenderness.

      Your Hub is lovely!

      Thanks for the advice.

    • mannyrolando profile image

      mannyrolando 6 years ago

      Denise, this is really beautiful!

      Danette is really lucky to have you as a sister and it sounds like the two of you have a really special bond.

      I have 3 brothers, no sisters, and we are all quite different and I have a different type of relationship with each. I love them all dearly and among the four of us we have never really been distant or spent any great amount of time not talking to each other. Family bonds are truly the most important of all bonds and that has been what our parents always made very clear.

      Thanks for sharing this excellent tribute to your sister with us!

    • Denise Handlon profile image
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      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks Aunt Loretta. What a nice comment. And, thanks for the birthday wishes on FB. :)

    • profile image

      Loretta Giacoletto 6 years ago

      What a lovely tribute to one sister from another. I can personally attest to the pride and affection your parents had for both of you. Sending my best to the Handlon sisters who are fortunate to have each other.