I'm Estranged From My Family, And It Makes Me Feel Unlovable

by Brittany Werntz
Originally Published: 
A girl estranged from her family leaning on a wall with a green scarf on her head, looking into the ...
Steve Debenport/Getty

I’m incredibly fortunate that I have somehow never had to deal with the hurt of a broken heart. I started dating my husband when we were just 18 and knew within the first month it was true love and he was the one for me. So I managed to skip over the inevitable heartache that usually comes with dating in your teens and twenties.

I’ve read countless books and listened to endless songs about the pain of a broken heart though, and it feels a lot like what I am currently experiencing with my sister. Four months of radio silence from her came to a head in a heated text exchange where I once again felt like I shared my hurt and offered to meet and talk, and was quickly shut down and disregarded. My heart literally feels like it has been stomped on. I’m angry with her, sad our relationship has turned this way, and feel like a piece of me is missing.

I remember my sister growing up – I was 10 when she came into the world and so I always felt a motherly protection over her. Good memories come at me hard and fast — watching Fantasia with her when she was a baby, changing her diapers, making holiday magic for her with my mom, bragging to my friends how my 2-year-old sister could already say her ABC’s, Grants Farm visits, sitting on the back porch with her and my parents just talking about nothing, doing each other’s makeup and having dance shows, swimming together all summer, going on her school field trips, visiting her with school lunch when she moved to a new middle school, going through our parents’ divorce together.

I also remember the rough times with her. Taking her on trips with me that always ended in some kind of drama, picking her up from high school parties or school when she didn’t want to call our parents, letting her live with us when my parents had had enough, having to tell her to leave when she lost our trust, celebrating her high school graduation when she refused to even take a picture with us, visiting her in rehab, nonstop “emergencies” for years that took precedence in our family over everything else.

I say I don’t hold a grudge against her and I’m a forgiving person, but the ease with which I came up with the list above makes me question how true that is. Can you really forgive if you don’t forget?

I tell myself I won’t bring it up with my husband tonight or let it ruin our much needed date night. I make it two minutes into our car ride to the movies before my voice cracks and alligator tears pour out, ruining my carefully applied date night eyeliner. It all spills out at once in a mess of sobs.

I’m angry.

I’m hurt.

I’m sad.

I’m scared.

I’m embarrassed.

What kind of person can’t get along with their own sister and family? That must say a lot about me, right? “Unlikable” is the word that floats to the top of my head as I try to push it down. I will never forget a conversation with my dad when I was about 16. I was sitting outside watching him work on a truck and he told me he loved me because he had to, but he didn’t like me. That stung. And, sadly, nothing in our relationship since then has really changed to make me believe he thinks any differently now.

My husband reassured me lots of people deal with this. A guy at his work doesn’t talk to his mom and sister. Examples of good, kind people we know with estranged family. I think of Angelina Jolie and her dad. I’m totally an Angelina Jolie, right? The difference is, they all have family to spare. I have three people in my family, and two of them don’t like me. My own dad and my own sister. More tears.

My husband has been on this ride with me for 14 years now. He’s loved her like his own sister — he’s cheered her on at her cheerleading games with me, he brought her to take her driving test, he’s let her live in our house when we had a newborn at home, and he’s always supportive of anything I feel I need to do to keep the sisterly love intact. He brings up the thought-provoking point that, at the end of the day, the only thing tying my sister and me together is biology/blood. We have nothing in common except that. Maybe it’s not enough.

I can’t help but think of my beautiful, kind, loving 4-year-old who looks up at me and tells me I’m the most beautiful, best mommy in the world. I see my sister at four (not as sweet, but energetic, charismatic, and with some moments of tender hugs and love) and think, what if he feels this way about me in 20 years? What if I diaper him, feed him, love him with every fiber of my being since the moment I saw his little gummy bear body on the ultrasound, and one day he looks at me and decides “Eh, not worth it?” The thought alone makes my heart feel like it’s developed a new crack. If it’s just biology holding us together, how can I guarantee that won’t happen? I love him more than anything and would do anything for him, but haven’t I felt that way about my baby sister too? And look where it got us.

This must be the path people go down when they become jaded. Build walls too high to let others in. I refuse to allow that to happen.

I think of the quote, “People need love the most when they deserve it the least.” I could be better at this. I’m going to drive to her house tomorrow with donuts and a coffee, grab her by the shoulders, look in her eyes, and remind her I ALWAYS will love her, she can’t push me away, and that we are going to fix this.

I think of the quote, “If someone treats you badly, just remember that there is something wrong with them, not you. Normal people don’t go around destroying other human beings.” I hate her. She’s crazy. I’ve done nothing to deserve her treatment. I’m going to drive over there tomorrow on my high horse, stomp through the door, and demand an explanation. I’m going to tell her just what a pain in my ass she is and to stay out of my life for good.

What’s the right answer? I truly don’t know. I’ll let it sit for a week or two and let my emotions calm from a raging wave of anger crashing in my ears to a dull ache in my heart. I’ll think more clearly when I calm down. Deep down I know the emotions will subside, even though it doesn’t feel like it in this moment.

Until then, I will love on my sweet babies as hard as I can and try to build a foundation of love and trust that is so rock solid, the heaviest blows couldn’t damage the base of what we’ve built. I’ll try to nurture that love and respect between my son and daughter.

It won’t be just biology for us, I reassure myself.

Is it just biology?

She’s my sister.

I love her.

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