@KATHLEEN: I’m dating my sister’s ex-boyfriend. But please allow me to provide some context to shed light on the complexity of our story. There was no overlap. They were college sweethearts. I was close to both of them. I was the third wheel who my sister would take to some of their dates. She wanted us to get along thinking that one day we’ll be family. Unfortunately, they parted after graduation. It was a painful one. She was dumped. He no longer saw a future with her. Who would have thought he’d see that with me five years later? He and I now work for the same firm. We reconnected. We clicked right away. Unsurprisingly, my sister didn’t take the news well. She’s been totally icy since then and it stings considering that she’s my only sibling. Mom is now in her 70s. Dad died when we were still in our teens. With Christmas approaching and both my sister and I returning home, I’m eager to mend the strained relationship and rekindle a sense of family unity. I want us to be family again. I just don’t know how and where to start.
DJ: People fall in love and for some families, that makes life a little complicated to say the least. I’ve heard about the girl code. Friends and family of one’s ex are off limits. Dating your sister’s ex is like breaking a sacred trust. He did the dumping, leaving her feeling all sorts of disappointment. Even anger perhaps. Her feelings are valid. And instead of denying these emotions, she’s acknowledging them.
Personally, I find this girl code a bit juvenile. But hey, I get it. You’ve got to handle this stuff with finesse. You’re two people who fell in love and are not just trying to spite her. And because the desire to rebuild family ties comes from you and you’re now with the guy you love and who loves you, you’re expected to be the bigger person here.
Have you initiated a heart-to-heart talk since you and he started dating? Or did the connection with your sister naturally fizzle out when you said yes to him? You’ll have a much better shot at being truly heard if both of you have a dialogue and talk about reasons coming from the heart. Has she already moved on? Is she being icy because he moved on or is it because he cozied up with her sister? Is it both? Five years down the line, it looks like she’s sitting with her emotions. It’s just that you’re not necessarily the best person to process this, if ever, considering that you’re the new girl. But you can try. Reach out and communicate. Hopefully, she’ll also come to realize that while her ex is gone, you’re still family.
Set aside the ego and prepare to hear things that will probably hurt. Have you already processed your own thoughts and feelings? Have you already come to terms with your role in this drama? What is the effect on her? If you haven’t, I recommend that you do that first. You have to gain clarity on your contribution to the situation before you loop your sister in. You’re more ready to focus on her thoughts and feelings and the conversation will no longer be just about you. Take time and think about what went wrong. Put yourself in her shoes and why she could be hurting. Anticipate the conversation that you’ll be having.
Express your true desire to patch things up with her. If she thinks trust is on the rocks, showing your commitment to making things right is key. Let her spill her thoughts from her vantage point. Give her your undivided attention. Forgiveness and reconciliation aren’t the same. The former only needs one person; the latter needs both parties on board. What I’m saying is if your sister is unwilling to reconcile, you can’t go solo on this. If she is not ready, you have no control over that. Set realistic expectations. If you manage a convo again, it’s already a win. You’ve done your part. Take it from there.
In my opinion, dating is not about marking one’s territory forever. It is about finding someone you click with and can learn from — and if it’s working, create a life with. Don’t beat yourself up too much about it. It is nobody’s fault.