Ask Amy: Sibling Rivalry Puts Sister in the Middle
While the older and younger feud, the middle is yet again in the middle
Dear Amy: My brother and sister live very close to one another in our hometown.
Until recently, I lived in another state — 2,000 miles away. As siblings, we’ve always been very close.
I recently lost my husband, and after his death I decided to move back home.
My sister tells me that my brother talks behind my back, and my brother tells me that my sister talks behind my back.
This is grade school garbage.
I love them both and I don’t know who to believe.
They no longer talk to one another, and I feel like I’m in the middle.
They can’t even be in the same room together. I don’t know what to do.
– Stuck in the Middle
Dear Stuck: Your experience reminds me of being trapped between my two (occasionally) warring sisters in the back of our mother’s Plymouth Duster.
It was an occasionally tough experience, but great training for two professions: Line judge at Wimbledon, or what I do now, which is listening, watching, and – when invited — weighing in.
Start with this: Do not believe either sibling’s account of the other sibling’s behavior.
For instance, if they aren’t talking to one another, then how do they know that the other sibling is trash-talking you behind your back?
You have the right to draw and enforce boundaries. If you don’t mind listening sympathetically to one sibling vent about the other, then go ahead and passively engage. Understand, however, that these two may use your allegiance as a spoil in their private war, which will affect your ability to have a relationship with either one.
You do not need to mediate or solve anything for them. You DO need to tell the truth to both about how their behavior makes you feel: “I moved across the continent to be closer to you both. I hope you will find a way to mend fences, because life is short, and I will not choose between you. Currently, however, I find you both very annoying.”
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2021 by Amy Dickinson