Shouldn’t a sister be a close friend?

Published: June 24, 2010 | Last Updated: June 25, 2010 By | 11 Replies Continue Reading


Dear Irene,

Last October I discovered that my only sister, who is two years older than me, has been stealing the money I send to take care of my mother in Mexico. She was managing a property I have in Mexico. The rent had always been used to pay for our mother’s expenses. My sister didn’t deny what she had done when I confronted her by email.


Because she refused to return the papers (the leasing contract and the legal papers tenants have to sign in Mexico), I couldn’t collect the rent and had to sue her to get them back. She did it out of meanness; she knows very well that these monies have always been used to pay for some of my mother’s expenses. She doesn’t need the money either.


Not only I am hurt—but I’m furious that after stealing the money, she isn’t helping financially or taking care of our mother. I have to do it all from 2,000 miles away. It is so unfair that she has washed her hands completely even though my mother adores her and was such a good and responsible mother. I can’t understand or explain my sister’s behavior, which is baffling, unsettling and infuriating.


I try to detach myself but then, every day I have to deal with one more problem with the employees or pay for additional expenses and it is hard not to be mad at my sister. I do biofeedback and relax every night, which helps, but the anger is still there.

I also started a blog
to deal with these feelings.


I know you talk about friendship but in many ways a sister is (should be) like a close friend, isn’t it? Do you have any suggestions about how to deal with this anger and frustration?




Dear Carmen,

It’s been said many times: We choose our friends but we can’t choose our family. As nice as it is to have a sister who is also a close friend, it sounds like your relationship with your sister has spiraled downward. When a relationship between siblings goes awry, it is especially painful because it’s someone with whom you’ve grown up and have shared so many firsts. It’s understandable you would be disappointed: Your sister abused your trust and seems to feel no obligation, as you do, to provide for your mother.


Although your sister is living in Mexico and you aren’t, it’s clear that you can’t depend on her either as a property manager or as a caregiver. Unfortunately, you need to sever your business/financial connections with her and arrange for the money from the leased property to go directly into a bank account under your control.


Your first priority has to be overseeing your mother’s care. You can’t force your sister to do so or to contribute financially, so this leaves you only two choices: either to move your mother closer to you or to make proper arrangements to protect her health and safety where she is. Despite the expense and inconvenience, you may have to travel to Mexico to assess what’s happening and put a better plan in place.


If you do go, your sister may realize just how much you care and decide she wants to pitch in too. It will also give you the opportunity to talk face to face. If that doesn’t happen, your relationship with her may have to be placed on a back burner. She will have to live with her own decisions.


I don’t fully understand the pressures that led your sister to feel so alienated from you and your mother but, unfortunately, this situation is more common than you would imagine. She may have problems you don’t know about, either emotional or financial, or may simply resent being the one on the front line.


The best way to reduce your anger is to use your energy to resolve the caregiving crisis. Additionally, journaling, blogging, and biofeedback are all helpful techniques for reducing stress. I especially hope you have a friend—who is more like the sister you wish you had—to provide support to you during this difficult time.

My best,


Have a friendship question or dilemma? Ask The Friendship Doctor: [email protected].

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Comments (11)

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  1. Irene says:

    I’m so sorry for your situation. Our relationships with our siblings have such deep roots that I couldn’t even venture a guess as to what went wrong. Is there one of your siblings—to whom you feel closest—and could speak to find out what’s wrong? If not, you may just need to let some time pass and then take another stab at it. I hope you have other supports to help you through this tough time.

    My best,


  2. Anonymous says:

    I stopped at this site because I too feel so much pain in my heart from my sister (2 years older) that I considered to be my best friend and confidant . We have three brothers (5 siblings total) and seemed we became closer with the passing of our father at a young age (47).

    It turns out that I was so blind to not see that she did not feel the same towards me. One by one my brothers quit speaking to me, and refuse to tell me why, and she would pretend like she was comforting me. The whole time it was because of her backstabbing me, but I never considered in a million years that possibility….because she always made it look like Mom was the cause.

    It was when my Mom would talk to me in a condescending way about something I only shared with my beloved sister, that I finally realized she had to be trashing me to Mom so much so, that she thinks I’m a complete idiot no matter what I say or do! The whole time (which looking back, seems like my whole adult life) I thought it was my adult brother that still lives at home, that borrowed thousands of dollars from me with no real intention of ever paying me back.

    How I turned out to be the “bad guy” is beyond me. I have helped whenever I could. I thought I was being nice, and a good person, but I was nothing but a doormat. Why do they dislike me so much…..I never did anything against any of them?!

    Consequently, I now have high blood pressure (since the day the middle brother said don’t call me, don’t come over, won’t tell why, won’t take calls…since moved out of state!) Seriously, what could someone possibly say to make a brother, that was so close, do this without stating reason????)

  3. Lucy says:

    I had been in a similar situation. I found this entry of yours while searching for a similar stories, to finally understand how it is possible. My sister has made me a lot of financial trouble with my appartment, where she lived for a year. She never paid for services and ran away, when electricity was shut off. For almost a year I had to pay the debts she had made. As I live abroad, I too had to deal with lots of people over the phone or email, I had to explain my bank why my payments were late. We were not really close friends, but we got along, there was respect, which is now gone forever. Women rarelly act against each other when no man is involved. Therefore it is very difficult for me to understand her behaviour. Such books as the one mentioned above does not explain the biggest problem: we trust the people we grow up with. At least my mistake was the trust. And nobody wants to be involved later, as I am the only one who had to deal with the problems, to deal with betrayal, while my other family members did not, I am left alone with my mistake to trust her. Nobody else from the family are strong enough to tell her it was wrong and she should pay me back. On one hand I cannot blame them, they do not want to loose her. But on the other hand, I feel very lonely with this problem and betrayed. It is not possible to understand or forget. But for sure, you grow as a person, you understand, that even the closest ones may want to harm you and your future. In my case my sister missused the priviledge to be treated differently than a stranger. Well, in terms of any business where money is involved, now I would advice anyone to take the same precautions as for strangers.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Yes, you are right. I do feel better that I have stopped her stealing, but financially it has been devastating since now I have to pay for everything since she stole the little money there was for my mother.

    To top it off now she doesn’t even bother to take my mother to the doctor and I have to take care of everything form afar. She is keeping the money and her nice life and I am sacrificing and taking care of everything.

    Obviously it is not fair but I do feel proud of myself for doing the right thing and getting everything done. However, I am so so angry at her and I don’t want to become bitter, but it is hard not to.

  5. Gert says:

    I didn’t mean that we get along because we shared a room. I meant that, because we shared a room, we really got to know one another. And, even then, I don’t believe I know them now as intimately as I once thought I did–we certainly don’t share every secret. What a shame that you don’t have that with your sister, but don’t you find it empowering that you know not to trust her? At least you know where you stand.

  6. Anonymous says:

    My sister and I slept in the same room for 20 years (until I got married), wore the same clothes for 13 years and have the same presents until we were adults. My parents didn’t want us to be jealous of each other, so in my birthday she got the same presents and vice versa. We had the same toys, the same amount of money etc.

    The only thing I did different from her is that I got divorced and left my country. Since I have always been responsible and helped my parents’ financially and she didn’t, money has been a bone of contention between us. She has chosen to be irresponsible and now she is also a thief.

    I need to get over my hurt and anger because I don’t want to give her the power of interfering with my life. That is one of the reasons I started a blog
    to express my feelings and share my experience with others.

    You are lucky to get along with your sisters, but I can assure you it is not because you shared a room.

  7. Irene says:

    Thanks for expressing your heartfelt feelings and posting the link to your site.


    Best, Irene

  8. Irene says:

    How wonderful, Gert! Even if you didn’t like them all, you have so many to choose from:-)

    Best, Irene

  9. Gert says:

    I have 6 sisters. The thing about sibs is that you really know them. You know that this one is a great story-teller–but don’t believe all she says, they’re stories! That one you can trust with any secret but don’t count on her to be there in a pickle. The other will always show up if you need her, sometimes when you’d rather she didn’t. I’m so glad I have them. The best thing my parents ever did for us was make us share a room–all of us in one room, so we’d have to get along.

  10. Irene says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Sophia. That is sobering since we spend more time being siblings than we do as mates, parents, or children.


  11. Sophie says:

    I haven’t read the book yet, but I heard an interview with the author of a book called “Mom Still Likes You Best: The Unfinished Business Between Siblings” and she said that despite their common upbringing, adult siblings are not necessarily more likely to be close than any other adults. That’s the dream of course but, like everything else having to do with families, it’s more complicated than that.

    I found that kind of reassuring,

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