Hi everyone, I'm new to Hitched Would really appreciate any advice people can give! (apologies it's a bit of a long one).
My younger sister and I have a turbulent relationship. We have a 7 year age gap, and over the years we have had times we've been incredibly close and it's felt like she's far more mature than her years, and others we have fallen out. I've definitely said the wrong thing at times, and upset her, and have always wanted to amend things and be close. As soon as I got engaged to my fiance in late 2019 I was thrilled to tell my sis, and knew straight away I wanted her as a bridesmaid. She has also been engaged since 2018 and has said she wants me as a bridesmaid
Unfortunately, the last few months have been fractious and we are now barely communicating. After our latest falling out where I said the wrong thing again, I recently rang to sincerely apologise, which she thankfully accepted. However, I've reflected on the hurt she has caused me over the years and that things have gone unresolved and I've never talked about the hurt her actions caused. Basically I want to talk things through. She has suggested some therapy (I'm keen!) but she wants to have therapy in person and we live more than 300 miles apart...and it's been COVID times. Since asking her to be my bridesmaid, her life has also become more full with a new job, pets and new house.
There are a few incidences but two really stand out where I felt very let down and hurt - and I'm scared the same thing could happen again during the wedding planning. I'm now starting to plan our wedding, and am unsure if she should be a bridesmaid.
I had major back surgery in 2018 - I was in intensive care and hospital for a week, and the surgery was very risky (high % chance of paralysis). Thankfully all went well and after several months recovery I was back to normal! My sis had come to see me after I was out of hospital which was incredibly sweet, especially given she was in the last few months of her university degree. A best friend also came over to stay with me and nurse me. In the few days we were at my parents place where I was recuperating, my sis confided in me that she was failing in her studies - which was really upsetting to hear and distressing to see she was actually not coping. She's incredibly bright, with a lot of potential, and I had no idea she was struggling. She hadn't wanted me to tell our parents - and to this day they aren't aware of how bad things were then - but of course my worry for her was not ideal during recovery from a traumatic surgery. A few days after her disclosure, when she seemed a bit less anxious, I asked her what she was planning to do re. her degree & whether she would consider telling our parents. She got extremely angry at this, and left that day without saying goodbye. Even my best friend was shocked at how she'd behaved! My sis didn't talk to me again for several months, when we slowly picked up communication again as we approached my 30th birthday. She then took another two years after that time to complete her degree, for various reasons including physical and mental health reasons. It was a tough time during my recovery as my parents were very concerned with how she was at the time - and they were not happy that I had upset her. I look back on this now as pretty tough for me as I was still recovering from major surgery, had a best friend over doing everything for me as I was pretty incapacitated (showering me, cooking for me and sleeping next to me at night to make sure I was ok) but my sister's feelings were more of a concern to my parents. The main incident that upset me though was a few months later, when she decided that she wasn't coming to my 30th birthday party/recovery party with just a week to go. She told me she wasn't coming due to anxiety the day after a family wedding where she had been the soul of the party and danced all night - we both suffer from anxiety and I know that it can present itself in many different forms, but for me at that time it felt massively like it was being used as an excuse and that she just didn't want to be there. We still weren't on best friend terms but she had promised a month before that she would be there. I was absolutely devastated - I had spent weeks organising my party (proper invites, venue hire, food & drink sorted etc), yet after her announcement my family could only console her and weren't at all bothered that I was distraught.
These are just two instances where I have felt very let down and disappointed by my sister. Now that we are estranged again, and after extensive personal therapy, I've realised that maybe it isn't such a good idea for her to be a bridesmaid, not just for me but for her too. I have a habit of saying the wrong thing to her, that means she then blocks me/doesn't contact me for months at a time, and we then never resolve the issue/get to the bottom of what it is I said wrong, besides me apologising profusely. We've never discussed the times I've felt hurt either, and I have never had the chance to talk about how much it hurt me. I'm not even sure she is aware that she has upset me. I'm naturally a people pleaser who avoids conflict, so I suppose in the past I've just brushed things under the carpet for the sake of moving on. But now I'm feeling I don't want to do that any more. I have quite a tricky family dynamic at times - I'm the eldest and have always been quite independent, both my parents do ask a lot from me for them/the family so I've always done things for myself. It's perhaps not my sister's fault, being the youngest, that no one really expects things from her/lets her off the hook, and her needs & feelings are my parent's priority in pretty much every situation, but for me I now recognise how important my needs are too - and that for my wedding choices this is ok!
I've chosen six girlfriends who I'm exceptionally close to as my bridesmaids - I would count them as sisters really, they've all been in my life for over a decade, we speak daily/every other day, know all about each others lives, and have very healthy relationships. I'm doing most of the planning for my hen do/dresses etc because I love all that stuff, and I know they'll help out on anything I do need, but all I really want is my best friends there with me on the day, and to show up on the hen do to have fun together I'm just so aware that my sister, for all the reasons above, may well not show up, and that if she does, she may decide to leave if she doesn't like something.
I know what removing her from the bridal party would mean - it would be very damaging to our relationship, and it would cause huge repercussions with my family. My parents in particular would be very angry with me - they are very protective of my sister and I know they would see the hurt it would cause her rather than my reasons for wanting to protect myself from disappointment - but I'm at the stage where I'm wanting to put my feelings first, as selfish as this sounds. My fiance is amazingly supportive of whatever decision I make - he has seen first hand over the 9 years together how close my sis and I have been at times, but also how painful some of her actions have been too. His view is that she is not mature enough to consider others feelings but that it's a tricky decision to make.
I've written her a letter (yet to be sent), gently explaining all these things and my thoughts on it all, but not coming to any conclusion. I'm not even sure my sis would want to be a bridesmaid any more - that's how little communication we now have - but I think she is expecting to be a bridesmaid. I honestly don't know what to do, other than send her the letter and see how she's feeling about it. I'm very sad about it all, but also mindful that I don't think I could have her as a bridesmaid given our current situation unless something drastically changes.
If anyone has any thoughts/advice I'd be extremely grateful! Am I over-reacting to past let downs? Does anyone else have difficult relationships with their sister but still had them as a bridesmaid? Do you think I should have her as a bridesmaid in case I regret it later on in life, when maybe we are in a good place? Thanks in advance!