I learned more over my first spring break after transferring out of state than I did during that entire spring semester. My boyfriend of three years and I drove from Phoenix, Arizona to the Coachella Valley in beautiful California. Towards the end of the week, my family and my boyfriend all drove out to the coast for my younger sister’s dance competition; her high school dance team had made it to nationals again. I was excited that nationals fell on my spring break so that I was able to watch her perform.
However, at the end of our trip, she told me that she was disappointed I would rather spend time with my boyfriend than with her. She felt like she hadn’t seen me for my entire break. At first, I was incredulous. I had driven hours in the rain to go watch her perform, given up several days of valuable spring break time, and fought through crowds at the convention center just to get a decent seat.
As she started to explain more of her perspective, though, I realized that she was completely right. I habitually walked next to my boyfriend, and when I walked next to him I usually sat next to him. When I was sitting by him I talked to him, and my sister was left out. It dawned on me that I was excluding my sister with actions that I did not even realize were so impactful. My conversation with my younger sister gave me an opportunity to examine the struggle between balancing relationships with your significant other and your siblings.
One of the most challenging aspects of this situation is reorienting priorities. You have to adjust your priorities to include another person without neglecting your siblings. Everyone needs to adjust their expectations to be realistic, so your siblings can’t expect the same level of intimacy that many people experience as children playing in their parents’ front yard; however, this assumption can be dangerous because it can be misconstrued to excuse sacrificing relationships between siblings in favor of romance.
I knew that I would never be able to spend twenty-four hours a day with my sister like I did before we started kindergarten, but I still need to make a serious, specific effort to include her in my life. Just coming to visit her for spring break wasn’t enough. I had to consciously choose to break my normal habits; holding my boyfriend’s hand while we walked needed to be replaced with strolling beside my sister as we caught up with what has been going on.
We often take our siblings for granted so we don’t realize when we have began to draw away. One of the most helpful tools for including your siblings in your life is as simple as examining and breaking habits. I have all school year long to talk with my boyfriend, but i only had one week with my sister. As mentioned, I would never intentionally choose to exclude her, so I should have assessed my habitual behavior around my boyfriend and adjusted to include my sister more prominently.
It doesn’t matter how long you have been in a relationship with your significant other, your siblings still need to be a huge part of your life. Balancing all the meaningful connections in your life really is a struggle; even after three years I don’t have it down perfectly. All I know is I love my sister and I love my boyfriend, so the struggle to manage how I spend my time only makes me more thankful that I have so many people I care for.