Looking Forward To Warm Moments Preparing for her younger sister’s visit put some pep into Faith’s steps. Her sister was the one member of her family that she kept in touch with. She had long since given up on getting her mother and stepfather to approve of her life choices. Cutting herself off from their judgment and disapproval had been difficult, but it made for a more peaceful existence. She recalled Nancy’s last visit when they had fun talking about boyfriends and clothes, going to movies and eating out. The thought of having that camaraderie again made Faith feel warm inside. Both had become career women since then. Nancy was now a well paid executive, Faith was a Nurse practitioner. There was a lot to catch up on.
Anticpating Shared Sister Pride Faith did everything she could to make Nancy feel at home. She and Bruno did the cooking and the cleaning and took Nancy out on the town. Faith wanted to show Nancy how different she was to their mother who never put herself out for her children or their families. Faith was proud of Nancy’s rise to the elite classes, with company cars and lavish expense accounts. Now she wanted Nancy to be proud of how far she had come in finding a good man as a partner and a respectable profession to belong to. The Disappointments Come Thick and Fast The first disappointment came when Nancy didn’t want to go with Faith to planned social events. It was as if Nancy was ashamed to be associated with her. The second let down was harder to swallow. Nancy never asked about Faith’s job, her relationship with Bruno, or their future plans. Nancy used Faith’s house as a hotel and didn’t bother with even the most basic of social graces. Any efforts on Faith’s part to confide in Nancy met with the same critical hostility and dismissal that her mother doled out. There was no togetherness, no reminiscing, no sisterhood. Faith’s Blood Boils at Nancy’s Thoughtlessness Nancy took the hospitality for granted, and Faith saw red. Her blood began to boil each time Nancy left her dirty dishes on the table, threw her clothes on the floor and tuned the dial to her favorite programs without asking if it suited her hosts. She never offered to take them out or pay for anything during family outings. Nancy couldn’t get over the fact that her well heeled sister would be so selfish, thoughtless and ungrateful. Her buttons were pushed a million times a day during that long weekend. But she never said a word.
Faith Takes Her Anger Out on Her Partner After Nancy left, Faith sniped at Bruno just for being in the same room. All the things she had wanted to tell Nancy, she said to Bruno. “ Wash the dishes before bed!” she commanded. “You can do your own laundry, I’m busy,” she pronounced as he got undressed for bed. “ I paid for the groceries this weekend, so you better pay for the rest of the week,” she vented at him.
Bruno sniped right back. “ Don’t take your anger at your sister out on me! I am not your servant. You acted as if you were Nancy’s slave, so what are you so upset about? If you didn’t treat her like some queen whose blessings you were trying to earn, you wouldn’t be in this state!”
Stomach Cramps Keep Faith Awake Getting through the nights so full of disappointment and anger was no easy thing. Faith began to have excruciating abdominal cramps that kept her awake for the next week. She didn’t want to reach out to Bruno, imagining that he would think she deserved it. Pain medication didn’t ease her agony, nor did herbal remedies, soothing baths, heating pads, massages or cleansing diets.
“ My night cramps have come back with a vengeance,” Faith told me during our next psychotherapy session. I thought it was too good to be true when they eased up over the last six months. I am so frustrated. I can’t get a good night’s rest. Why does this pain torment me?” Digesting the Anger and Easing the Pain Faith and I had worked for some months with her pain symptoms for which no medical cause had been found despite exhaustive investigations. As we talked about the awful family life she had experienced and her fears that she would somehow make the same mistakes with a family of her own, the pains subsided. Nancy’s visit stirred up all the unhealed wounds, and dashed hopes for loving family connections. Nancy’s behavior had put salt in the wounds. Faith had kept quiet during Nancy’s visit. All her pent up anger and resentment was lodged in her abdomen.
Talking about the pain her sister inflicted on her was uncomfortable. A lot of tears were shed as Faith digested her hurt. She learned how to make herself less vulnerable in the future. The next day I got a message thanking me for helping her to sleep through the night, something she hadn’t done in a while.