S1: Were you guys friends when you were kids?
S2: Not really. No, no. And why not? Well, from my from my perspective, she she lives here. She ruined my life. Yeah, well, that’s that we we agree on. Yeah. She everything was going well. I mean I had a nice two and a half years of just mommy and daddy and then this thing came into our house and I was like, you’ve definitely stolen my thunder.
S3: Welcome to House. I’m Charles De. Those of us who have siblings know how special that bond can be, they are sibling is often our first friend as well as our first fight. It’s a relationship that can foster jealousy and competition or it can push you to be a better person and ensure there’s someone who always has your back and sibling relationships mature as you get older. I myself have nine siblings, and so I can tell you there is a lot of variety out there. But the one thing that all sibling relationships share is that we don’t get to choose who our brothers and sisters are, which is something this week’s experts, a pair of Hollywood siblings, knows really well.
S2: My name is Oliver Hudson. I am wildly talented, moderately good looking.
S4: Hi, my name is Kate Hudson. I’m an actress and a podcast host with my brother.
S1: That would be the Sibling Rivalry podcast where Kate and Oliver interview other famous siblings about work and family and living in the limelight. The Hudsons have been in the public eye for basically their entire lives. Their mom is Goldie Hawn and their stepfather is Kurt Russell. And like any siblings, Kate and Oliver have had their ups and downs.
S4: Oh, yeah, we’ve had some, you know, recently. Yeah. Oh, yeah, yeah, I know. Always, of course. You know, it’s sort of like I came stole his thunder and dad left, you know, so it was all my fault.
S1: As Oliver and Kate got older and their families split apart, it also expanded. Eventually they gained two more siblings.
S4: I think that when you’re so close in age, you know, we had tough moments, but we were also sort of in it all together.
S1: Being close to your sibling is easier when you’re a kid. You live under the same roof and you have to share the television remote. You fight with each other, but you usually work it out. But once you become adults, that’s when maintaining a relationship with your brother or sister, it becomes more optional and it takes more work.
S4: I always say that that moment happened when that literally the day before Oliver went to college, our rooms were across the hall from each other. And I remember kind of going in his room and he was sitting in his bed and it was like, oh, my God, this is happening. We cry.
S2: Oh, yeah, that was the beginning for sure. And then I think as the years went on, it just got stronger and stronger and stronger. And I think Kate would agree that that currently we’re the closest that we’ve ever been. There’s just an openness. There’s an adulthood that we’ve both sort of entered into our forties and it just feels like we’re more of a team.
S5: On today’s show, we’ll give this brother sister team a tough assignment. They need to help someone else or listener save the relationship with his sister, which is on the brink of breaking down. Are you afraid of of losing her?
S6: I’m afraid I’ve already lost her. Stay with us.
S1: We’re back with and Oliver Hudson, who are here to advise Sam from Boston, Sam Rona’s recently asking how to repair his relationship with his younger sister, Sally. And Sam told us that things with his sister got off to a rocky start from the very beginning.
S7: My grandmother brought me to the hospital to meet my little sister. So I turned around and asked my grandmother when she leaving. Hmm. Um, I ran down the stairs and out the door. My father caught me before I ran into the street. I was pretty pissed when she was born. The next memory I have, I think she was 18 months or maybe two years old when my mom had left the Iren plugged in on the ground. And she was paying no attention to what’s going on, I watched my sister crawl up to the iron and grab it and put it on her inner thigh. Hmm. It was so hot and she was so shocked that she couldn’t scream. I just instinctively ran to my mom and showed her what was happening to help my sister. Ever since that moment, we’ve been close. That was like the moment where I realized that this little baby depends on me and I have to help her.
S1: Sam and Sally were both raised in a house that had fairly high expectations for them. And today, Sam’s an engineer working on advanced robotics for the military, and Sally is an accomplished psychologist.
S8: And for a long time they were pretty tight. But then things started to change.
S9: Honestly, he’s been a little rough, I’d say, for the past few years, especially the last three years, it’s become challenging to connect with my sister. I feel like I’ve been getting the cold shoulder, you know, more often than not.
S1: Was there was there one event that kind of. Changed everything.
S9: I do think there probably is one. It’s when I became a father and I happened to tell my parents on the night that we were celebrating my sister’s graduation dinner, Sam’s wife had just found out that she was pregnant.
S1: But but Sam wasn’t ready to tell his family yet. But then his mom kept badgering him during the dinner to give her an update.
S9: My mom is just whispering away, whispering away. And my sister notices all this body language. And it’s strange. I’d say, you know, after a few drinks, I just kind of was like, you know, I’ll just tell it where she wants to know. Suddenly my mom is shaking almost, you know, like very excited. Her hands are shaking and calls my wife on speakerphone, telling my wife gets excited, etc.. So they’re both like screaming like so happy. And my mom is hugging me. Yeah. So my sister, she’s having a great night until that point.
S1: And is your sister just like staring darts at you as this is happening?
S6: She actually was looking down at her lap. Oh. Yeah, that’s even sadder. Yeah, yeah, it was very obvious from her body language it was not cool.
S10: This was particularly hard because it felt like part of a pattern that had always been underlying Sam and Sally’s relationship.
S6: My sisters always had a persistent complaint that there’s favoritism in the family, that my mom cares a lot more, pays a lot more attention to me, and that she’s kind of like a secondary, you know, sibling, that she’s not the favorite.
S10: When Oliver heard Sam story, he had some questions.
S2: The first question that I would have for you is, have you communicated with your sister that you feel like you are disconnected now? And have you confirmed the fact or this idea that that moment was the inciting incident to this separation?
S7: So the answer is no. I didn’t communicate to her about that incident. But just the other day, you know, I embraced her for a nice big hug and she just turned to me and she’s like, I’m not ready for that. And I just, you know, everything froze up and got numb inside of me, so you have no idea what that is, right?
S2: When she goes, I’m not ready. It’s almost like you’re not ready. What does that even mean?
S7: I’ve never asked her that. I actually, to be honest with you, I am shaking at the thought of posing that question to my sister because she will smash me into smithereens.
S4: So when did the relationship start to shift? Just at that dinner.
S7: I think the relationship became frosty after the dinner and I was having a baby. So a lot of the attention that was evenly distributed between my sister and I from my parents became completely lopsided to me. A lot of times, you know, my parents would just be like tasking her to do things for me and my son, my family. I think that’s that’s really in the position that she’s in. That must hurt.
S4: Sam, do you mind me asking how old you guys are and what the age difference is? I’m forty one. She’s 39. And does she have kids?
S7: She’s not married. She doesn’t have kids.
S4: Now I’m hearing what you’re saying. It sounds like your parents are more interested in being grandparents than being into their kids lives and accomplishments right now, which, by the way, is quite natural. I mean, it’s a normal thing. It’s like, OK, my kids are grown, they’re doing their thing, and now my grandkids are so exciting and watching them grow and write.
S2: Well, what it’s what it sounds like is there’s just deep resentment towards you.
S5: So one of the issues here from the way Sam describes it, is that Sally, his sister, never feels like she’s at the center of things. She’s always at the periphery. And so maybe she feels jealous or undervalued. And there’s a good chance this all would have worked itself out over time. But then something else happened. Their mom had a stroke. And Sally, since she’s not married and doesn’t have kids, she said she was willing to move in with her mom and take care of her for a while and then the pandemic hit. And so now Sally is kind of trapped inside with their mom and the relationship with her siblings. Sam has gotten even worse. Sam says the only time they really meaningfully talk now is about coordinating their mom’s care.
S4: So it sounds like you can empathize and understand that her graduation dinner with all this work that she put into that your mom kind of got in the middle of it and made it about your baby and that that really hurt your sister. Sounds to me like you can understand that. And the only thing you can do is communicate that to her and let your sister know how much you love her and that you wish that that moment was all about her, too.
S2: Can I ask a quick question real quick, Sam? What are you afraid of?
S11: Well, I mean.
S9: You know, she’s the only person I have in my entire life that is a sibling. It’s just the two of us. And, you know, my mom is after the stroke, you know, she’s not really there completely. So it’s just me and my sister. And she’s always going to be in my life with my son. Yeah. Who looks up to her. And she is the most extraordinary human being. She’s an incredible, sensitive and charming woman that I have immense respect for. Have you told her that? Yeah. Have you told her that?
S11: A lot a lot of times I have.
S1: When we come back, we’ll talk about how to deal with this breakdown and fight uneven family dynamics and and Oliver will offer some suggestions about how he can end the sibling rivalry.
S12: We’ll be right back.
S1: We’re back with Sam and our experts, Kate and Oliver Hudson, who are both working actors. This is Oliver in the television show Dawson’s Creek.
S6: And the thing that always gets me, that’s usually the 10 times sexier when you’re angry and you seem to be angry at me a lot like me, I guess.
S1: And here’s Kate in the movie Almost Famous, where she was nominated for an Oscar. We are not groupies.
S13: This is Penny Lane, man, show some respect. Groupies sleep with rock stars because they want to be near someone famous. We’re here because of the music. We are bandaids.
S1: The book King Oliver have made a living in Hollywood. It’s fair to say that Kate has vastly outshined her brother. She’s like a bona fide movie star. And that unequal dynamic, it’s natural for that to cause some resentment between siblings. One of the things that I hear Sam saying, which I think I think happens a lot in sibling relationships, is he’s saying, look, my sister is blaming me for these things that aren’t my fault. But but that doesn’t mean that that it’s illegitimate for her to be angry and upset and to to lash out at the person who’s standing around. And I’m wondering for your relationship, Kate and Oliver. I mean, there’s been times, I’m sure, when Kate’s career is in a sense, you’re a you’re a big movie star and an Oliver. You might be struggling and it’s totally normal, even though it’s unfair. It’s totally normal to feel some resentment towards that.
S2: Oh, God, this is you you bring up a great point. First of all, her career is always in assent and minds either descending or flat lining. So I’ve been used to this, but it’s it’s it’s it’s a great it’s a great point to bring up. And that’s something that I’ve had to deal with. It’s the jealousy. It’s the why not me and how come how come this how come that I understand that it’s not a personal thing. I don’t dislike Kate or blame her for that. That’s my own stuff that I have to deal with. Is there something that Kate said to you or helped you just get to that realization or is that something you have to do now? Kate made sure to let me know that she was more successful than me. No, I didn’t need I did. I don’t need I didn’t need to let anybody know. No, no, no, no, no. I was doing my thing. I knew that it had nothing to do with her. So I didn’t need to clear the air with her or had to have words of affirmation from her to make me feel better. It didn’t matter what anyone would say to me. I had to deal with this on my own and feel successful in my own life personally.
S4: You know, and in this situation with you, Sam, too, it’s like you might have a difference of perspective with your sister, Oliver and I. We have differences all the time, but it’s how we personalize them. Just respect that people see things differently. It’s like politics.
S10: And so this brings us to one of our big takeaways, sometimes when a sibling is angry with us, it’s because we did something wrong and we deserve it. But sometimes it’s just because our sibling is angry in general, angry because they aren’t as successful as we are or because they got unfairly ignored by our parents or because something out of their control, like a pandemic, means that now they’re stuck taking care of our mom more than we are. And as a sibling, we can’t solve all of those problems, but we can try to figure out what’s going on and we can be there for a sibling when they’re mad, even though at first they might rebuff us.
S6: She will not give me access to her the way our life dynamic has gone. It may not be my fault, but from her perspective, I’m the one to blame.
S2: Well, have you ever written her something? If talking is not easy. Have you ever written her something? No, I have not. So that’s what my advice would be. Because sometimes when it’s too hard to talk or you’re not sure of where the conversation will go, a heartfelt email or even a handwritten letter expressing yourself the way you are right now is something that could be beneficial.
S10: And once the line of communication is open, you can use that to try and remind your sibling why you used to be friends by rehashing old stories or telling share jokes. Oliver, in fact, found that humor worked really well to establish a relationship with his biological father, Bullard’s, and after they had become estranged.
S2: I was Father’s Day and I posted a picture of myself and Kate and my dad and it said Happy Abandonment Day, a very, very dark joke.
S1: At first, Oliver’s Instagram post did not go over very well with his dad. He responded in the press and I’m quoting here, he is dead to me now. But then Oliver followed up with a letter.
S2: It was a very stern letter, but at the same time, compassionate, just sort of saying, hey, who are you to get upset? You know what I mean? Like, I made a joke. You know, I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, but let’s look at the big picture here, which then led to us getting on the phone for three hours, having a great conversation. Then we had breakfast for three hours and then we, you know, got it all out. I understood him. He understood me. Communication, communication. We just talk, talk, talk. And now we text a lot. And we have a relationship after a however many years because of my insane humor. And it’s never been better.
S1: Honestly, Oliver’s takeaway is that being able to reach out to someone and finally have a difficult conversation, it’s part timing and it’s part maturity. But most of all, it’s about persistence.
S2: I think it’s being confident. And this relates to Sam, too. It’s not being afraid. It’s sort of becoming the bigger person. In a way.
S4: What it sounds like to me is it sounds like there’s a from Sam’s perspective is that they they’re not really talking it out. It sounds to me it’s just communication. I mean, the openness of being comfortable saying things that other people maybe sometimes don’t want to hear or being honest or being open. It sounds like the communication is just a little bit nonexistent between them, which is sad. But clearly there’s something going on. If she is as detached and uninterested in connecting, there’s definitely things that are bigger for her. And she is, as a psychologist, would, I’m sure, be very able to communicate what those things are.
S2: Yeah, communication. I mean, look, advice is tough to to to give, especially when you’re hearing one side. But if there is a way that you guys could sit down and have a bottle of wine and just talk and maybe it’s going to go out of control, or maybe you’ll be perfectly in control, but you need to have a conversation.
S1: Sam, I think that one of the things that I’m hearing from you is that is that you want to communicate with your sister and you’re a little worried about how that’s going to happen. Yes. Do you think it’s possible that, you know, after talking to Oliver and Kate and kind of watching their them communicate with each other, is it possible that you might ask your sister, like, hey, look, I want to repair things? Can you tell me how you’re feeling? And that she might take that at face value and she might. Answer the question without being hostile.
S7: I do think that it will take a few bottles of wine to get there, but it’s. But it’s something that I could imagine doing without like look, before this conversation, frankly, I was shaking like a leaf thinking about doing that. But now I see that that’s a question that must be put in this space. And the only person who’s going to do it is me. Mm hmm. That’s right.
S2: That’s all that’s all you can control to, you know, is you the way that you feel, the way that you love, the way that you express yourself. Beyond that, it’s out of our control.
S1: I mean, I just I keep on thinking about the fact that your sister is actually a therapist herself. I wonder what would happen if you went to her and you said, look, I feel like there’s this distance between us. I’m hoping that you can you can diagnose this for me. You can tell me what to do because you’re the expert in this. How do you think she would react if you said that?
S9: I don’t know, Charles, that’s actually, you know, in my blind spot, I have no idea it would be an amazing conversation, I’ll tell you that, because I’ve never had that kind of conversation with her. I love the idea.
S10: And this is the final tip, if possible, you should make this conversation something that both of you can contribute to a relationship with a sibling is like a relationship with a spouse. You have to find a way to put both of you on the same side of the table. So you’re addressing a problem together as partners rather than as competitors. And just like in marriage therapy, the way to do that is to share how you feel.
S5: So use I statements if you can, and then to let your sibling respond by telling you about their hurts and then letting them offer suggestions of how your relationship can work better. And the only way all of that starts is when at least one person is willing to begin the conversation, even when it’s really, really hard to do that.
S4: The sibling relationship can bring so much support and love and there’s nobody who knows you better than your sibling, it’s the place where I feel like you can be the most open and the most transparent and if you allow at the most vulnerable. So when I hear about sibling relationships that are fraught, it makes me feel terrible because, you know, the one person who knows what you’ve been through is that person. And so, you know, my hope for you, Sam, is that you you know, you can really work this out with your sister and figure out a way to really talk to her and find out really what’s going on so that you can, you know, have a nice place in your life for each other.
S9: You know, thank you for the honest way you guys communicate as brother and sister. It made me see that my sister and I are actually closer than I thought. We really are. And my mom, there’s a very finite amount of time that she’ll be with us. And I think that’s a conversation that I would love to take up with my sister as just, you know, as a place to break the ice and. Just it doesn’t matter what happened, I’m willing to take all the responsibility just to have her back of my life with my mom.
S4: Mm hmm. Oh, that’s really nice. That’s great. I hope she receives that and can feel how important she is to you.
S1: Absolutely. So are you do you think you’re going to have this conversation sometime soon with your sister?
S7: You know, we’re going to go hiking. Actually, my sister and my son and my wife this weekend. So, you know, I think a little bonfire, a little wine flowing.
S2: Yes, that sounds great. And just remember, if you guys never hear from me, look for me in the woods because you would have thrown me off a cliff.
S3: But no, in all seriousness, listen, I mean, this is you guys made a difference for me here. Thank you. Thank you to Sam for sharing his story with us, indicating Oliver for their advice for Moore, you should check out their podcast, Sibling Revelry. If you enjoyed this episode, you should check out another episode about a different, tense, unequal relationship. It’s called How to Put Your Wife’s Career First. It features a guy who may have to move to another state for his partner’s new job, leaving everything behind and who’s struggling to decide what to do. You can find it in all of our episodes by subscribing for free to our podcast feed. Do you have a sibling who won’t return your calls or some other problem that you need solving? If so, you should send us a note and how to insulate dotcom. Or you can always leave us a voicemail at six four six four nine five four zero zero one. And we might have you on the show. How TOS executive producer is Dear John, Rachel, Allan and Rosemarie Bellson produce a show in Merritt Jacob as our engineer. Our theme music is by Janice Brown. June Thomas is senior managing producer and Alicia Montgomery is executive producer of Slate podcasts. Gabriel Roth is Slate’s editorial director of Audio. I’m Charles Duhigg.
S11: Thanks for listening.