I felt very disconnected from my family during the holidays this year. I’m older, I have children and I’m living a very different life than my younger professional siblings. It’s hurtful because they’ve all maintained closeness with one another and I’m the only one on the outs. I feel like they are excluding me intentionally because our lives are different, but I can’t pinpoint when this started happening — we all used to be thick as thieves. Just because I don’t have time to hang on the phone throughout the year doesn’t mean they aren’t important to me. How do I mend these relationships when I don’t really know how or why they went sour in the first place?
— Odd Sibling Out
Dear Odd Sibling Out,
This type of gradual drifting can happen in all kinds of relationships, but in many cases small, frequent and intentional investments over time can restore closeness and positive feelings.
A few years ago, I felt I wasn’t as close to one of my siblings as I wanted to be. We hadn’t experienced a falling out, but we lived on opposite sides of the country, our schedules were totally different and we just lost touch. We spoke about how we wanted things to be different and after working on it together, we’ve closed whatever gap there was.
I want to advise you to take a similar course of action. Start by giving your siblings the benefit of the doubt. Instead of telling yourself the story that they are intentionally excluding you, assume that they wish for closeness just like you do. Search for 20 minutes in your packed weekly schedule to call a sibling and share your love for him or her and your desire for meaningful associations.
If you live nearby, extend invitations to family nights, Saturday dinners, one of your children’s soccer games, etc. The day-to-day tasks of your life may be different, but the more you know each other, the more you'll experience how similar many of your struggles and joys are. Supporting each other throughout the year and sharing these moments together will prove invaluable in the maintaining of close and healthy relationships.
The most important thing you can do is communicate. So many family relationships are crippled by hurt feelings and assumptions. Use some of the practical steps I’ve outlined above, and hopefully next year's holidays will be different.
Readers: How have you maintained close relationships with your family members as you’ve gotten older? What advice would you share with this reader?
Angela Trusty gives advice about religion and relationships. Submit a topic to firstname.lastname@example.org