Sister sucker punch

I intended to write another money topic this week. Then I had a conversation with my sister two days ago that knocked me back hard and I’m still reeling. It does have a money component, so I can still stay on theme, I guess.

On Tuesday, sister pinged me in the morning and asked if I could talk. I answered in the affirmative. She called me moments later and said she had a couple of things to ask me about, one of which was to check on how my dog was doing and how I was doing. From a previous call sister knew all about the expensive and stressful issues I’ve been facing with my dog, and I thought it very nice for her to call and check on us. I told her the dog was doing OK and so was I.

Then she got to the meat of the conversation: she wanted to tell me that she is holding me accountable for half the cost of a Life Alert service she ordered for our mom last year. I was shocked and outraged. I’m STILL shocked and outraged.

Sister had approached me with this idea last year, just before she moved to Napa from Chicago. She asked me if I would be willing to split the cost with her. I said no. She went ahead and ordered it anyway.

A few months ago, sister vented to me about how she had tried to cancel the service (mom wasn’t using it and not even remembering to wear the device) and was told she would still have to pay the contract in full. She had asked before signing the contract if there was a cancellation fee and been told no, so she thought she had been lied to. She brought the contract by my house and asked me to look at it, so I did. It was easy to find the part of the contract that stated the cost, and that by signing she was agreeing to pay that it in full no matter what. So, there was no “cancellation fee” and they weren’t lying about that. There was just the cost of the contract. Period. She was frustrated about this, but must have decided there was nothing she could do about it.

So when she called me two days ago and said I would have to pay her half the cost because I had agreed to it, I was upset. I told her I had not agreed to pay this cost. She said I had. She said I had even paid her some money in the past. I can’t find any record of that in my electronic payments, despite her claim. Besides, even if I did give her some money at some point, that doesn’t negate the fact that I objected to the contract and said I would not pay for it.

So here we are at an impasse. She says I agreed to the contract, and that I owe her money; I say I never agreed to it. She says she expects me to pay her the full $1,000 (half of the contract cost), and that the current tally of what I owe is around $300. I maintain that I should not owe anything towards the cost of this contract.

My relationship with my sister has always been rocky, but I perpetually hold out hope that one day we will treat each other with kindness and find enjoyment in each other’s company. I don’t know why I keep this fantasy alive. From the time we were small children, she has bullied me. When her adult daughter was visiting last year, she even asked me why I put up with the shit her mom does to me.

By not demanding money from me right now and simply putting me on notice, my sister seems to think she is being magnanimous. Whereas I have been struggling to keep myself out of the absolute pit of despair after this conversation. Do I pay up, or do I give up on having a relationship with my sister? I’m already at arm’s length with my mother and father; moving across the country introduced a safer, saner distance for me. I thought that sister and I could have a chance to build a better relationship if we lived close to each other. I settled in Napa, specifically, instead of some other town in the Bay Area for that reason. Did I fall into a trap, where I am her punching bag whenever she feels the need to let off some steam?

I saw my therapist yesterday and sobbed my way through the appointment. I have had some very dark times over the past few days. I confessed to my therapist that I’ve found myself asking “What’s the point?” Why am I bothering to trudge along anymore?

I keep myself together because I know that would be a really shitty thing to do to my friends. But this situation is not helping me stay in a positive place.


19 thoughts on “Sister sucker punch

  1. It is okay to say no. It’s just especially hard to do it with family. Would you agree to give her $1000 if she demanded it to take a cruise for herself? How is this any different?

    I have come to terms with the fact that it is okay to walk away from toxic family relationships. You can keep the door open without giving money and if it severs the relationship, was it worth having in the first place? If I didn’t have kids I wanted to shelter from the drama, I may still be dealing with it to this day because somehow it was okay for me to be mistreated but not them. I know, sounds dumb right?

    I am so sorry this has caused you so much grief but it was not your doing. You didn’t cause this drama. You can’t control your sister but you do have control of your own reaction and response.

    I clearly hear that you don’t want to be bullied into giving your sister money to fix her mistake, so that should be what you stand behind. It was not your contract or your mistake. If you want to help your mom but in another way, then offer that instead. Good luck.


    • In keeping with the spirit of your advice, I have not contacted Sister at all since this conversation. She has contacted me a few times: once, to advise that my mom was in the hospital again; another time to “check on me;” and again today to invite me to dinner with her this week. I wasn’t rude to her on any of these occasions, but I declined (politely, but succinctly) to have dinner with her. It still was a hard thing to do. After this last call, I started crying again. It’s hard to strong, but I feel like I have to limit my time around her so I don’t run the risk of more bullying.


  2. I am so sorry all this shit keeps happening to you. You can’t catch a break, no wonder you are near the end of your rope. Don’t give your sister a dime. You probably knew the life alert system was going to be wasted on your mom, or you would have agreed to it in the first place. Hang in there


  3. Don’t pay her. I don’t know you but you have come across as an honorable person in all of your entries. If you had agreed to subsidize this transaction, you would have honored your debt already. Sometimes you just have to let go of people even if they are family. Take care of yourself. Don’t let her bully you.


  4. So many hugs. I often wondered the same when mom was alive – her younger sister was a bully and horrible in so many ways, and often left mom depressed and upset after conversations. I never did truly get why mom tried to stay engaged as much as she did – I do understand wanting that relationship but it’s at such a high cost. You truly deserve so much better. If she’s willing to hold your relationship hostage to the money situation she’s trying to force on you, unfortunately I suspect you won’t find it in your sister but I think you, like me, will find your comfort and support in friends and chosen family. Many of my dearest are far away too sadly but they’re amazing nonetheless, and it’s comforting at those sad times when I think about the dissolution of my nuclear family and much of my extended family ties. You are loved even if your blood relations can’t manage to stop being selfish enough to appreciate you.


    • This is just the latest bullying episode. It’s particularly painful considering that I have spent so much in the past year on medical stuff for me and my dog, and she knows it. I’m grateful for your validation. It helps.


  5. No, do not pay. Have an attorney send her a letter. Change your phone number and cut ties. I know this seems harsh, but she is a bully.


    • We also work for the same company, so cutting off all options for her to contact me would be impossible unless one of us quits. For now I’m just declining to spend any time around her.


  6. My first instinct is to tell you to distance yourself from your sister as much as possible. Life is too short to spend unhappy or around people who upset you. Try thinking about the situation like this, if she wasn’t your sister would you still spend time with her?


  7. Pingback: Hiding and hoping – Windycitygal

  8. Pingback: Hiding and hoping – Windycitygal

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