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The Weights of Sister Wounds

How often do you notice the weight of sisterhood can feel like drinking a bitter potion? You love your sister as you ride along in your car, singing your favorite song, and loathe her when it comes to family dinners and who should do what. Are you waiting for her to change, while you carry a heavy weight of disappointment? That emotional 'weight gain' isn't serving anyone any good, right?


What are sister wounds? Sister wounds are not the dramatic epic of a hair-pulling fight. The wound is often the result of an emotional or psychological hurt that accumulates over time. On the surface, it stems from unaddressed jealousy, competition or which parent favored one sister over the other. The norm is the sister wound seems to emerge during moments like family reunions, holidays, or who makes your mom or dad the happiest.


Almost every sister relationship experiences highs and lows in the form of jealousy, competition, and favoritism. I recall my sister getting the bigger bedroom and new bedroom furniture. How did that happen? I was away at summer camp! I got the smaller bedroom and my aunt’s used bedroom furniture. I was the little sister in grade school, while my sister was older and in high school. The parental justification was she needed more room, more privacy, and had more clothes. In this case, my sister and parents created a sister wound in my absence.


When it comes to competition, siblings compete over grades, sports, or the title of “favorite child or grandchild.” When it came to baton twirling competitions, I was hell-bent on being better than my sister. She won two medals. I won twelve. Mom and Dad tried to make her feel better, when I proudly wore my jacket lined with first place medals. This sibling competition created tensions between my parents in the form of favoritism. Parental favoritism and competition prevailed even to our adult years.


Today, I call it innocent family heirlooms. Why? We are born into a family storyline that goes back three or more generations. We rarely reflect on the ways sibling competition, jealousy, rivalry, envy, and in some cases, sibling wounds of malice took place in the family line long before we were born. Reflecting on this aspect, we can see how we are, in some ways, innocent. Our parents raised us with unquestioned accounts of sibling competition and jealousy. I remember stories my Mom and Dad shared about their childhood sibling wounds with both resentful feelings and great humor. Yes, as adults they still carried wounds filled with subtle resentments and grudges. On a grander scale, we could blame it on the human condition: the caveman story of man-against-man and the fight for survival.


Sister wounds carry the weight of resentment. Nurturing sister grudges can take a toll on your mental health and overall wellbeing. Particularly around family events and yearly holidays, you may experience intense anxiety, stress, and dread. It’s likely thoughts and feelings from the past constantly dredge up negative thoughts of comparison and competition. These unresolved issues perpetuate tensions and emotional crossfire. Saying you never meant to create tensions or expect an “I’m sorry” from your sister seems like it would be easier at age 35 and up than at age 15 or 20, but as history shows that is not always the case.


Let’s ask: Where might you start a heart-to-heart conversation to heal sister wounds? Step one might be to write a letter to your wounded self and tuck it away. Don’t mail it.

  • What are you still carrying that weighs deeply on your heart?

  • What incident was the most hurtful?

  • Where do you place the blame?

  • What part of the story triggers your emotional eating binge?

  • What would it be like to find your way forward to a happier, more loving relationship? What would it look like at a family gathering or over a cup of coffee?

The sisterly bond may not be as easy and straightforward as a great game of Monopoly, but embracing the idea of forgiveness and happiness, with the possibility of working together to heal sister wounds can feel like landing on Park Place and Boardwalk. You own Boardwalk, while she owns Park Place. From those two high-end spaces, negotiation and reconciliation can lead to a more loving relationship.


Just how much weight can we place on moving forward and restoring balance in our lives?


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