Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Competitive Sibling Drama

DEAR NATALIE: My sister and I are incredibly competitive. We have always been this way. We are two years apart, and I'm older. She is convinced that I am always trying to "one-up" her. Our parents are older now and hate that we fight a lot. I am seriously trying to better our relationship, and I want to go to counseling. I think a lot of our issues stem from our childhood in which she was the "favorite" of my father's. To this day, I still feel resentful. She, in turn, feels as though I have always been mean to her and that my mother takes my side. What do I do? We are both in our 20s now, and I don't want it to be like this forever, especially now because I am expecting my first child with my husband. I haven't told her yet. -- SISTER DRAMA

DEAR SISTER DRAMA: Babies really do breathe new life into the world, and they can be instrumental in helping families heal. People see potential, the "what could be" when they look at babies. So, use this to your advantage when you sit down with her sister. Invite her over for a nice lunch and some tea and lead with an apology. Don't bristle. Even if you don't feel like you owe her one, it sounds as though you both have played a role in fueling negativity toward one another for a long time. Familial relationships are never simple, they are often frustrating, but at the end of the day, families make up the fibers of community. If you feel as though the relationship is worth saving, then save it. Say something like, "I want you to know that I love you. I know things haven't always been great between us, and I own whatever heartache I have caused you. I want to be better sisters and better friends and move forward with one another today in a healthy way." See how she reacts to that. Take a breath and say, "I especially want to work on our relationship because you are going to be an aunt soon, and I want my child to have a great relationship with you." She will probably be excited, taken aback, emotional -- all of these things. But, that's OK. Life is messy. You're about to be a mom, so now is the time to learn how to step back, look at the big picture, swallow your pride and find out what is best for the family and not just for your own ego. 

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Just interviewed for a job and really want it? It never hurts to send a (hand-written!) thank you note to your "maybe" future employer. Those personal touches stick out and can't hurt your chances when the field is competitive. 

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)