Monkey in the Middle — When Those You Love Don’t Get Along

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Welcome to TalkRx with Doctor Neha. I received a question from a traveler that I wanted to share with you. She wrote, “My sister and I are very close in age, and we’ve had very similar childhood and family friends our whole lives. My sister’s personality is very direct. Sometimes that’s hard for people. I’ve noticed that as we’ve grown older some of those friends that we used to have in common have gravitated more to me than they have to my sister. That in itself is a little bit straining, but I value them and I want to be friends with them. So what do I do, because I also find them talking negatively about my sister in front of me? I just feel like I’m between a rock and a hard place. How do I handle that?”

What truth there is to the blending of family, to knowing friends and family over time, and how we change and evolve. What we value might change and evolve. The first thing that comes to mind how beautiful that even though the friends feel that they’ve grown apart from her sister, they make an effort to be friends with the other one. Now where that crosses the line, it might cause a boundary issue. This goes back to the concept of healthy boundaries. What are your boundaries? How do you draw them? Are they different for family? Are they different for friends? Are they different at work? How do you navigate that complexity?

The thing that I’m reading here is that the problem is not that the friends have grown apart from her sister (it sounds like she’s willing to allow to happen and stay friends with them), but whether this woman has expressed her concerns. The question I would ask is: “Have you had a conversation with them?” Let’s say you overhear two friends (let’s name them Carol and Joan) saying that your sister is a bully or she is mean and inappropriate. When you hear them talking about this in front of you, what would you do?

This is how the conversation might go to set clear boundaries and maintain your friendships: “Hey, Carol and Joan, what I want you to know is that I love you and our friendship. I also notice that lately you haven’t been spending time with Theresa (my sister). I want to honor that you and I still have a strong connection and honor that Theresa is my sister. In order for this to work, because I want it to work and you’re important to me, I need to tell you that it’s hurtful for me to hear you speaking about her, not to her. What I would ask is will you please not speak about her in front of me? That will allow me to stay connected to you. Right now I’m in this awkward position where I wonder, Should I tell her what I heard? But that would betray my friends. Then I wonder if this relationship is in alignment for me. Does that make sense? Is that something we could make an agreement about? I’ve never had this conversation with you, so how would you know how I feel? I’ve noticed the last few times that we’ve been together, my sister comes up. I’d appreciate it if she wasn’t discussed in front of me. If you have something to say, please say it to her directly. Would that work?”

That was a long-winded example, but that’s the gist of how you would confront this issue directly. Because if you start telling your sister everything they’re saying, now what you’ve done is created a loop where you’re now talking about people, not to them. It just fuels the fire. Now your sister would be upset, and it will eventually get back to your friends.

Have you ever said to somebody, “Let me tell you something, but please don’t tell anybody else”? How well does that work? I advocate for clear and direct communication in whatever arena it needs to happen. You don’t need to take care of your sister. It sounds like she is strong and capable and can take care of things herself. You need to take care of your relationships with the people you care about and draw clear boundaries before you blame them and say they’re doing something wrong that you’ve never actually talked to them about.

In the wild world of modern families and complicated communication, just stay true, stay compassionate, and have direct conversations with the people who matter to you. Have direct conversations with the people with whom you’re having difficulty.

Please comment on the blog below. I’d love to hear your thoughts and I’d love to hear an example of how something similar might have happened to you. Until next time.

 

Because sometimes…we don’t just get along,

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  • Regina Aris

    I really appreciated the talk regarding boundaries. I honestly think many of us could benefit from similar discussions with other types of relationships: work, partners, etc. After I listened to the way to deal with the situation it seemed so obvious, I’d love to hear more to easily integrate the process on a regular basis. Being clear up front what boundaries I want and putting them in place before I am in uncomfortable situations. Thanks, Dr. Neha. Regina

    • drnehasangwan

      Hey Regina, thanks for your thoughtful feedback. Funny that you mentioned ongoing learning, as I’m starting a 6-weekly women’s power circle in August if you’d like to join! If so, email admin@doctorneha.com & let Katie know your interested. 🍀🍀🍀