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Friday, January 21, 2011

Do Sisters Have to be Friends?

While I usually love the "Real Housewives" franchise for its botoxed vixens, flaxen weaves, and scandalous feuds, I've been particularly fascinated with this season's Beverly Hills edition because of the relationship between two of the ladies - Kyle and Kim. The two are sisters and their love/hate relationship teeters towards hate more often than not. Kim is the mercurial former child, teen, and young adult film and TV star who harbors deep-seated feelings of resentment towards being the family's meal ticket. And Kyle is the younger sister who feels saddled by her co-dependent older sister. Their interactions with each other are painful to watch. They're sisters, after all, so shouldn't they be expected to "get over" their issues and just be there for each other?

It's not always that easy. While some may have a relationship with their sisters that's reminiscent of that wonderful old show tune, "Sisters", where the two sisters sing of their devotion and care for one another, some of us relate to our sisters more like Jan from "The Brady Bunch" relates to Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!! Some sisters may even take the voyage to Hater-ville, going after each other like Tanya Harding went after Nancy Kerrigan. So what gives?

The simple and ugly truth is that sometimes, sisters don't like each other. Sound harsh? Well, the truth isn't pretty, that's why it's got such an ugly name! We don't choose our siblings. In the workplace that is our family, siblings are the co-workers placed in the office opposite ours, or, heaven forbid, in the same cubicle! And older siblings are even worse, getting all of the perks, including the bigger office, and, when they turn 16, a company car!

So who's to blame? Well, we can always blame our parents, and sometimes, that's actually the case. Mom and Dad can sometimes, unwittingly, create tension between siblings - overly praising the so-called "perfect" sibling, while constantly criticizing the not-so-perfect sibling. But, really, it's just simple chemistry. I hate to refute you, Rodney King, but sometimes, we can't all just get along.

I think it's time to let us off the hook, so here goes:

Just because you're sisters doesn't mean that you have to be each other's intimate other.

Any relationship that has an assumption of intimacy is doomed to failure. If your parents said that because you're sisters you have to get along, then they were wrong. Relationships are constructed of not just shared experiences, but also trust and a concern for another person that is freely given.

So, what if you're raising your daughters right now and you want to make these sisters into friends? Some sisters will naturally bond with each other and be each other's best friend for the rest of their lives. But some will need to have the space to build a relationship on their own terms. As parents, it may not be the ideal that you dreamt about, but it will be authentic.

I'm just saying:)

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