Why Your Sister Only Becomes Your Best Friend After She Leaves For College

Sisters have a weird relationship. It’s more strained than a mother-daughter relationship, in the sense that she has no “obligation” to love you no matter what horrible things you say to her, and yet, she does anyway… even if it is deep, deep down. It’s too easy to push each other’s buttons to rid of your insecurities, especially when you are growing up and maturing together during your angsty teenage years.

It’s the space that college provides that makes you appreciate her so much more for the person she is, instead of the at-your-service punching bag (both literally and figuratively) she was often used for. Once you realize all of this, you feel silly for not having appreciated her as the best friend she has become while she was still around. But, maybe that’s the beauty of it. With no one else will you ever have such a dynamic relationship with, and still come out with a friendship as strong as the one you have now.

I don’t remember the eve of my third birthday, but my parents still don’t let me forget it. My older sister and I were playing Lucky Ducks, our favorite childhood board game. I can’t exactly recall the rules, but all I know is that I lost to my older sister. As soon as my dad announced my defeat, I proceeded to reach over and launch my teeth into her arm, leaving a bite mark on her wrist for a week after. Since then, our relationship has been rocky.

It was the classic back and forth battle any sister pair experiences when they are only two years apart. First, it’s fighting over clothes. You have nothing to wear, so you go into her room and take her striped sweater you always admired. However, when she catches you wearing it, your, “sorry I thought it was mine,” or “Mom put it in my room with my clean laundry,” excuses are only believable for so long. 

Later in life, the fights get sneakier. You use, “I’ll tell mom about that party you went to last week unless you clean my room,” as your blackmail to get tasks accomplished. You begin to loathe and resent each other, walking on eggshells for fear that anything she finds out about you will be used against you. 

Just when you both have hit your boiling point, and you can hardly stand to be in the same room without making some sly comment you know will push her buttons, she packs up and leaves for college. Just like that—your older sister is gone.

Sure, she still comes home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but your relationship has undoubtedly changed. 

You finally realize all of the amazing things she did for you that you took for granted — the times she helped you with your math homework, or rode with you on your first roller coaster, or even reassured you every time your parents got into a small argument that everything would be fine. You realize that maybe you were the intolerable one, the one who was a pain to be around. 

Fortunately, you can act on the revelation once she has vacated the household. Blackmailing you for the time she heard you sneak in the back door after curfew is no longer a relevant concern. And fighting over stolen clothes is a non-issue… it’s pre-established that anything she left in her closet is fair game. She even becomes a source of escape from your high school life that is closing in on you; when your town feels so small and you feel like no one understands, she gets it. She sees the big picture, and the irrelevance of stupid drama. She even promises you that any boys you worry about today will be a thing of the past come graduation. Regardless of the truth to any of these reassurances, it makes you feel settled. Your older sister becomes a best friend, even though she’s halfway across the country. TC Mark

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