Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Couple Must Work To Restore Intimacy

DEAR HARRIETTE: I got into a stupid fight with my sister the other day, and I realized that we had fallen back into childhood behavior.

We had to make an agreement about something that we are doing for our mother, and the conversation -- over text -- got extremely testy and childish. When my sister, who is older, started digging in, I did, too, until we reached a standoff, and our younger sister ended up stepping in and being the adult in the situation. How ridiculous. Can you recommend ways to avoid falling into childhood behavior patterns with siblings? This is getting old. -- Stuck in the Past

DEAR STUCK IN THE PAST: Review what happened between you and your sister, and consider how you might handle the situation if it were between you and a colleague or friend. What would you have done differently? Make a list. Next, think about different times when you have interacted with your sister and fallen into childhood behaviors. What were the triggers? List them.

Next time you engage with your sister, pay attention to the conversation. If you feel things beginning to sink into old reactions, take a pause. You can stop communicating for a bit and take a few breaths to collect yourself. You can use a tactic that you would use with a colleague or friend. You should remind yourself that you have the power to stand up for yourself and not need to become unsettled by your sister’s behavior or your former way of responding to her. You can become the adult in the room.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)