If you feel as though you and your sister have grown apart as adults, you aren’t alone.
Lots of people wish they were closer to their siblings, but aren’t sure how to build a better relationship.
There’s no guarantee that you and your sister will ever be best friends, but there are lots of things you can do to strengthen your bond.
Here are 7 simple steps you can take to improve your relationship:
1. Use the power of nostalgia:
If you grew up in the same household as your sister, the two of you will share lots of childhood memories.
Tap into this history and harness the power of nostalgia.
When you talk to your sister, casually bring up positive stories or memories. Talking – and laughing – about the past can bring you together.
2. Make a conscious decision to let go:
The downside of having a shared history is that one or both of you might be holding on to grievances or nursing a grudge.
For example, perhaps you have always thought your sister was your mom’s favorite, or still feel annoyed when you think about how mean she was to you as a teen.
If you are serious about improving your relationship, you need to accept that you can’t change the past. Let go of petty grudges and resentment.
3. Offer your help and support on a regular basis:
In many respects, a good sibling relationship is like a friendship.
You offer your friends plenty of support, so why not extend the same treatment to your sister?
She might be a relative, but that doesn’t mean you should take her for granted.
If your relationship is unbalanced, it’s inevitable that one or both of you will end up feeing resentful.
Don’t just call or write when you want a favor!
4. Always invite them to take part in your celebrations and big events:
Make your sister feel included in your life.
For instance, invite them to your child’s first birthday party, your spouse’s retirement party, your first big cookout of the summer, and so on.
She might not always want to attend, but she will appreciate the invitation.
5. Be willing to move beyond old family roles and labels:
Most of us are given labels by our parents and siblings, and these can shape our identities.
For instance, you may have been “the smart one,” your sister might have been “the sporty one,” your brother might have been “the naughty one,” and so on.
It can be frustrating when our family still cast us in these roles as adults.
Show your sister that you appreciate her as a well-rounded individual.
For instance, if your family always treated her as someone who was only good at sports, make a point of complimenting her recent promotion at work or on her latest creative endeavor.
6. Respect their boundaries:
Boundary violations are never OK, even if someone is a close relative.
Show the same respect you would want others to show you.
For example, do not call your sister at random hours of the day or night if she is a private, reserved person.
Do not offer unsolicited advice and do not show up at her home without an invitation.
This may seem obvious, but a lot of people feel entitled to overstep their relatives’ boundaries just because they are family.
This kind of behavior leads to resentment, which in turn can ruin family relationships.
7. Show an interest in their partner, friends, and children:
If you want to build a healthy relationship with your sister, show that you accept her choice of friends and partners.
Unless you have good reason to believe that she is being abused, it isn’t your place to criticize her partner – you need to accept that she is entitled to date or marry whoever she likes.
If your sister has children, show an interest in them from an early age.
Send cards and small gifts on birthdays and important holidays.
Be a positive presence in their lives.
One day, your nieces and nephews might need advice or support from an older relative who isn’t their mom.
Build a relationship with them now, and you’ll be in a position to adopt that role in the future.
Perhaps you and your sister have been distant for a while, in which case it may take months or even years to rebuild a relationship.
Take it slowly, and accept that she doesn’t have to return the effort – it’s up to her to make the decision.
Sometimes, it’s OK to realize that your sister won’t be your friend.
You can still be a loving, supportive relative from a distance as she lives her own life.