Relationship Connection: My sister is preventing me from talking to her son

High school graduate | Photo by Andres Rodriguez, Hemera / Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Question

This question is about my 18-year-old nephew who just graduated from high school. His mother is my sister and even though our relationship has been full of drama, we’ve managed to still talk and visit throughout the years. In the past few visits we’ve had, however, she has pulled me aside privately to tell me horrible things I had allegedly said to other people about her. She said that her son is now livid with me. My sister told me point blank that if I tried to talk to him, he would be done with me. It would be over. He wouldn’t speak to me again.

My sister has a history of lying and manipulating situations to her benefit. It’s entirely possible that she could be lying that my nephew won’t talk to me again.

I feel helpless. I love this boy like he is my own. At our most recent family gathering, my nephew walked in the front door and I had to hold back the tears thinking how awful this boy must think I am. I couldn’t talk. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t even look at him. When he got ready to leave I gave him a side hug and told him goodbye and that I loved him.

The next morning my sister pulled me aside and asked what was wrong with me. She wanted to know why I had only given her son a side hug. She said I immediately changed when he got there. I just looked her in the eyes, got close to her, and I raised my voice and told her that my attitude had changed when she told me he was upset at me for something I never said. She responded back, “well if you had a problem with him, you could have pulled him to the side and talked to him!”

Can you see why I feel crazy?

My fear is that damage has been done. She manipulates her children just as she manipulates her siblings and our mother. I don’t want to lose my relationship with my nephew. I know that if I contact him he will immediately tell her. I just don’t know what to do to salvage this relationship. I feel like she is controlling both his and my emotions with the things that she has said.

Answer

Not only are you worried about your nephew, but I also hear that you’re not sure what to do with your relationship with your sister. You worry that attempting to repair one relationship may jeopardize the other. Let’s talk about how you can respond to both relationships.

There’s nothing wrong with making ongoing efforts to clarify and work out your relationship with your sister. In fact, I recommend continuing a dialogue with her if it can stay respectful and productive. If it becomes contentious and shuts down, then this is where you choose to protect your peace.

Chances are, you won’t get anywhere in a discussion with her, so don’t become trapped trying to convince her of your reality if she’s not willing to accept responsibility for how she’s responded to you.

Thankfully, you can have peace of mind even when you’re dealing with false accusations. Choosing not to fight back with your sister doesn’t mean you’re giving up and giving in. Instead, you’re allowing for a better outcome. Focus on improving areas you can actually control.

Your sister is driving you crazy and contradicting herself. As a result, you will be tempted to pin her down and make her see your side of things. This is only going to lead to more exhaustion and feelings of powerlessness.

Instead, honor the limits of what you can actually accomplish with your sister and then continue to stay open to your own contributions. This doesn’t necessarily mean you stay engaged with her, but, instead, it means you keep a humble heart and work to see truth. Trust that even if you’re misunderstood, that all things will work out. There is nothing passive about this process. In fact, I believe its much more disciplined and difficult than spinning out in anxiety and drama.

You naturally want to defend and explain yourself to your sister and her son. You’ve been falsely accused and it’s understandable that you want your day in court. Instead of spending your time trying to defend and prove everything to your sister, it’s better to think through the accusation and see if you can find any personal accountability. This takes you from being a victim to an agent where you can do something to grow from this experience. Even if you can’t find any personal responsibility with her accusations, then worry no more about the lie, for it cannot live in the long run.

Now let’s talk about your nephew. If you want a relationship with him, then I encourage you to reach out to him as a loving and involved aunt. Remember that all of this information about his feelings toward you came from your sister, not from him. Allow your nephew to be an adult and speak up if he needs to work something out with you.

If you connect to him and he’s putting you off or responding with some irritation, then approach him with genuine curiosity about his reactions. In truth, you don’t know how he really feels about you. You have no idea until he, not his mother, tells you exactly what he needs from you. If he carries on as normal, then take it face value. There’s no need for your nephew to have a spokesperson.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

 

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2 Comments

  • ladybugavenger September 6, 2017 at 11:15 am

    You know what? If she doesn’t want you in his life she’s the mom and can do that. Deal with it.

    Ok, so the kid is 18. If he doesn’t want you in his life. Deal with it. Move on. Live your life. Stop trying to beat a dead horse, so to speak.

    Go live your life and let life live them. As long as you keep pushing the longer they are going to stay away from you. Let it be their choice to see you and not you forcing them.

    You say your sister is manipulative to a whole bunch of people on this site. And yet your worried about what your sister said in private. Irony? Revenge? Idk but you need to walk away and live your own life without all the manipulation. It will be a lot more peaceful for everyone.

    • comments September 6, 2017 at 11:44 am

      The impression I get is that this question-asker isn’t telling even close to the whole story. I’m assuming it’s a woman? She strikes me as a drama-starter and a bit of a psycho. LB is right, if the sister doesn’t like u and the nephew doesn’t like u it’s time to move on. Find yourself a hobby of some sort, stop obsessing over the sister’s kid. Weird people.

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