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Sex + Relationships

Distance DOES make the heart grow fonder

Like all siblings, my sister, Kyla, and I used to fight— a lot. It was an endless cycle of intense bickering and brutal wrestling over trivial matters. Whether it was a physical fight over whose Barbie got to be with the Edward Cullen doll, or nasty verbatim being thrown at one another for wearing an outfit without permission, our arguments ultimately ended with us moving past the issue and onto another. Sure, Edward might have lost an arm in the process, but eventually, Kyla and I learned how to better work through our disagreements and foster an unbreakable bond. 

As we grew up, my sister and I matured (mostly). We still annoy each other from time to time, but Kyla no longer pins me down to the ground and I no longer sing Taylor Swift’s “Mean” to her as an insult. Instead, we talk things through and understand that no issue is worth hurting our friendship. Now that we are adults, me being 20 and her 18, we have never been in a better place. 

Yet, with adulthood came college. Although we only live a few hours away from one another, we inevitably started to talk less and spend little time with each other. But Kyla and I weren’t going to let college ruin a friendship that had taken years to cultivate, so we found ways to continue growing together rather than apart. 

We strengthened our friendship by balancing space and check-ins, and improving our communication.

While we miss each other dearly, Kyla and I know to still give each other space. Not so much space that we drift apart, but enough that we don’t revert back to our former selves who grew sick of one another.

“One major reason I chose to go to Northern Arizona University was to get away from you,” Kyla said (Ouch!). “I told Mom that it would be better for our relationship for us to not always be near each other. I know that sounds harsh, but it has worked.”

Even though hearing this made me sad, she was right to say that it worked. Staying together can be both a blessing and a curse. Spending too much time with someone can lead to resentment. Rather, having limited time allows for that time spent together to be special.

“When we’re not always with each other, we learn to appreciate each other more,” Kyla added.

Kyla and I grew up in a close-knit community. From preschool through high school, we had the same teachers and essentially the same friends. To demonstrate, my graduating class was about 70 people, so everyone knew everyone since at least junior high. Whether it was our parents, teachers, or peers, Kyla and I were in constant comparison. There was no escaping each other’s reputation.

This comparison led to consistent conflict. With Kyla being younger, she felt pressured to live up to the expectations I had set. With me being older, I grew envious of things she received or achieved at an age that I hadn’t. The longer we were stuck with each other, the longer we were compared.

College allows us to have independent lives. We don’t know all the same people, so we are able to be our own people. 

“Eliminating comparison helps to remove jealousy,” Kyla said.

Giving each other space and having separate circles of friends has helped our relationship significantly. We have different majors, different goals, different extracurriculars, and different lives, overall. We are not comparing ourselves so it doesn’t feel like a competition anymore. Envy and animosity are emotions that don’t have to exist in our relationship. In its place are love and admiration.

With this space though, it can be easy to fall out of touch. To stay in touch better, we rely on Facetimes, texts and occasional visits. I may not see Kyla for weeks, but when I do see her we cherish every moment together. 

“The littlest things go the longest way,” Kyla said. “Simply playing iPhone games caused us to text more.”

When we can, we catch up with each other’s lives, the latest TV shows and any new gossip. We avoid past topics that might bring up anger, including old arguments. 

“While we forgive and forget, we still have our biases,” Kyla said. “I’d rather focus on the future.”

One thing that has improved our communication is being more open with one another. It can take time to break down walls, but once we did, we were able to connect through shared experiences. We stopped disagreeing over stupid things and instead trusted each other with important matters. From bullies to breakups, we could relate to each other, listen and give advice.

“Having a ‘she won’t open up to me, so I won’t open up to her’ attitude isn’t good,” Kyla said. “It may take time, but trust is essential in any relationship.”

Something we still struggle with is lining up our schedules. While we want to talk to each other, sometimes one of us will be too busy to do so. So, we are both working on how to prioritize each other better. One way I am doing this is by fixing my sleep schedule so that a nap doesn’t make me miss a call. 

However, even if we find a time that we can both do something, we usually can’t agree on what to do. Kyla and I are both indecisive, so arguments over where to go or what to do can abound. To prevent these petty arguments, we are implementing a system that we followed as kids. We used to have a jar that had equal slips of paper with our names on them. Someone would pull out a slip and whoever’s name was on it chose what to do.

Actively searching for solutions to our problems has resulted in less fighting and more time spent on things that actually matter— our friendship.

Kyla’s final advice for those trying to strengthen their relationship with their sibling is this:

“When your sibling says that they don’t want to hang out, it might be difficult to accept but you have to. If you continue to push them it could lead to a fight. I also think it’s really important to acknowledge when you’re being bitchy and to apologize.”

Like Kyla said, apologizing is crucial. It may be hard to suck up your pride, but, in my experience, being able to let things go and simply say “I’m sorry” can make the biggest difference. Time heals, but apologies can speed up the process. Regardless of who is older and who is younger, siblings are equals, not rivals. No minor fight is worth losing your best friend over.

Ashlyn Robinette is a student journalist based in Phoenix, Arizona. She majors in journalism and mass communication and minors in digital audiences at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University. In her spare time, Ashlyn enjoys fashion, art and film.
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