[Two Pronged] My younger sister, my rival

[Two Pronged] My younger sister, my rival
'It is doubly worse because I am the eldest and she should not treat me this way or say these things to me'

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.

Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer:

I had a fight with my sister, single, 22 years old. She won a (very minor) beauty pageant before she left for the States. I am 32, married with 3 children. She lives in CA and came home for the holidays.

We fought because she borrowed my mascara without telling me. I asked her about it and she threw it at me. Mascara is used for eyelashes and is one of the most intimate makeup around. Who knows what sort of disease one can get like red eye infection – she should understand that.

She said I was so selfish and our parents gave me so much. I answered that my parents helped her through school, and tuition in the US is not cheap. She screamed that she now supports herself, unlike me who lives in our ancestral home. She even said I was lucky she did not charge me rent. I answered that she was lucky I did not charge her for caregiving, since I also take care of my parents who are very old.  

It is doubly worse because I am the eldest and she should not treat me this way or say these things to me.

I am also angry at my husband who, when I told him about what happened, was on her side.  Then I remembered that whenever she is here, he looks at her so much. And whenever my sister and I have arguments, he always sides with her, never with me.

Does he want to be with her more than to be with me?

I hate that this last big fight happened. We will have a huge family reunion, and I do not want anyone to notice we are fighting. I do not want to be gossiped about. 

What should I do?


Dear May,

Sibling rivalry goes back to the beginning of time, and yours seems no different. You and your sister have clearly pursued divergent paths, and you have probably only revealed the tip of the iceberg.

You, the elder by 10 years, are married with children and looking after your elderly parents long term. She was educated abroad, lives in California, is self supporting, and seems free of any significant commitments.

It does not take a genius to see that there could be bad blood between you, given the disparities in your lives, though of course you have not lifted the lid on your past very much. She is better looking, she got the expensive overseas education and is independent, enjoying the free and easy lifestyle in California. Meanwhile you are stuck still living in the house in which you grew up, with 3 kids and the millstone of caring for your parents. On top of this, your husband is not as supportive as he ought to be and may even have the hots for his sister-in-law.

In the medium term, perhaps you should consider resolving some of your issues, at least to the extent of not letting them color your present and future, possibly with therapy. Surely it is time to cast off the burden of the age, beauty, education, and other differences between you and your sister rather than allowing them to define your relationship with her.

As for your husband, a robust approach may be in order: either you are with me or you are history. Alternatively, since your sister will be off back to California shortly, perhaps the problem will just go away – unless, that is, he has an eye for more than just her.

All the best,

JAF Baer

Dear May,

You speak of your fight as starting with your asking her about the mascara she borrowed without your permission and escalating into a screaming match. You rationalize your pursuit of your mascara as fear of “what sort of disease one can get” from someone else’s using “one of the most intimate make up around.”

If I were your sister, I, too would throw the mascara at you because of your presuming you could get a disease from her. I am sure she got this message, whether you actually said it or not.

Sibling rivalry is not always a bad thing, but a clue that it is unhealthy is that a minor situation (like yours) escalates into an ugly fight not proportionate to what the original “reason” was about (also like yours). 

One major reason for your (and her) seething anger seems to be each of you feeling your parents gave (and thus, loved) the other one more. And that the one who got less has not been appreciated enough.

I thank Mr Baer for suggesting you consider resolving SOME of your issues in the MEDIUM term because it clarifies what therapy can and cannot do. It cannot resolve ALL of your issues ASAP (caps and italics mine).

But indubitably, it can resolve some problems, especially if your sister and you realize that neither of you manipulated your parents to give more to you (and thus far less to your sister). At least, not initially (and hopefully, not over the long haul).

Sibling rivalry that is protracted and bitter often has the parents’ signature all over it, whether consciously planned or not. But this is grist for long term therapy, not medium.

Sharing your concerns about your husband’s behavior (and implications of said behavior) with him would be the simplest, most direct way to resolve this issue…again, at least initially (and hopefully, forever-ly). It can be scary to do that, but now that 2019 is right at our doorstep, perhaps this is the best time to try and do the scary (but right) thing?

All the best,

MG Holmes

– Rappler.com

Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email twopronged@rappler.com with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.