Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: My younger sister is a freshman at a college in New Jersey. Last month, she came to visit my older sister and me in New York City. She called us on Saturday morning and said she was coming to visit us that day. My older sister and I were thrown off and had many things going on, but our sister was excited about visiting us, so we said we couldn't wait for her to come. She came from Penn Station and met me at the apartment. She isn't used to the city and was frustrated with the directions to get to there.

We walked around the city and then met my other sister for dinner. In New York, we eat around 8 p.m. and hang out later. My younger sister, who is a serious runner, said she needed to go to bed by 10 p.m. My older sister and I were unaware of this and made other plans to meet up with friends after dinner. I told her how to get home, and she got really upset that we weren't going back to the apartment with her, only to see her go to sleep. She started crying, and we felt bad so we ended our night early and went home with her. She was being irrational and selfish, and a month later she is still talking about how terrible her time was in New York. She says she never wants to visit us because of her experience. We have tried explaining to her the situation, but she is oversensitive and prideful, so she doesn't listen to us. How can we get through to her? -- Frustrated in the Big Apple, New York City

DEAR FRUSTRATED IN THE BIG APPLE: Let your sister cool off for now. When some time has passed, invite her to come back to the city. Craft a schedule where you are able to show her a great time in the city and stay with her.

That is what she wanted. Her naivete about your lives in New York led her to believe that an impromptu visit would mean that you would drop everything to attend to her. She is young and inexperienced and probably was clueless about how disruptive her spontaneous visit actually was.

When you are next having a good time with her, you can point out the pace at which you live, the kinds of things you do and your own timing. If she wants to talk about her visit, acknowledge that it was horrible -- for all of you, because you hadn't made a plan together. Her expectations did not match yours, and you both failed to share your needs with each other. You had a full agenda that did not include her, and she had an early bedtime. When you do not communicate clearly, you are bound to run into difficulty.