My Sister Is a Nun and Tries To Control Our Family—What Should I Do?

Dear Newsweek, I am the oldest of three girls. I had my own room growing up while my sisters shared a room even after my brother and I left for college.

My younger sister dropped out of college after two years to become a nun. When my youngest sister became engaged in 2008, she asked my sister to make her veil since her order makes First Communion veils. What we didn't know was that she was going to have an issue with sleeveless dresses due to her Catholic faith.

She didn't say anything to my mother when she shared pictures of the dress fitting, but sent a letter just a month before the wedding to both of us about the issue. [My maid of honor] dress had the smallest little removable straps, which really couldn't be seen on my lavender dress, which was a different color than the bridesmaids' dresses.

Sisters Arguing
A composite of stock images showing two women arguing and an inset of a nun. This week's reader letter is from a woman tired of her nun sister's attempts to police her behavior. iStock / Getty Images

My sister ended up wearing the veil since she paid for it. They didn't talk for a few years, which my parents hated. Then she and I had a falling-out a few years ago when she found out I had canvassed door to door for Bernie Sanders. She expects us to believe and act the way she would, as if we are nuns as well.

Anonymous, Johnson County, Kansas

Newsweek's "What Should I Do?" offers expert advice to readers. If you have a personal dilemma, let us know via We can ask experts for advice on relationships, family, friends, money and work and your story could be featured on WSID at Newsweek.

Sometimes The Best Response Is No Response

James Miller is a psychotherapist and host of self-development and wellbeing radio show LIFEOLOGY.

Religion is one of the most provocative conversations people can have. Therefore, taking the initiative to ask everyone not to discuss their faith is a proactive way of setting healthy expectations and holding everyone accountable.

Most family members who talk about their religion or want to convert someone come from a good place. They have found something that works for them and want you to experience it. When you set a boundary with them, you want to acknowledge this fact and then tell them you have a different belief system and are content where you are.

If they continue to talk about it in a conversation, warn them and tell them you will walk away/hang up the phone when they speak about it again. If they keep talking about it, they have chosen to have you enforce your boundary.

It may sound silly, but it's a good rule of thumb to role-play potential arguments with your immediate family or friends and practice what you say or do, should you be put in a religious conversation. The more practice you have in preparing your response, the easier it will be in the moment. Additionally, sometimes the best response is no response. If people engage in contentious conversations with you, walking away or not responding shows your restraint and leaves the other person with no additional ammunition.

Finally, if you continue to have a family member who does not respect your boundaries, you can tell them you want to have a relationship with them; however, their religious comments and conversion tactics are halting that progress. If they are unwilling to stop, they permanently remove you from their lives.

People With Strong Views Can Find It Difficult To Understand Other Opinions

Elizabeth Fedrick is a counselor and owner of Evolve Counseling and Behavioral Services in Gilbert, Arizona.

When people have a very strong view or opinion on something, such as religion or politics, they often have a difficult time understanding why other people don't share the same belief. This frequently results in them trying to convince you to believe the same thing they do, which can come across as very pushy and insensitive.

The best course of action in these types of situations is to be firm and assertive in stating that you are not open to discussing this topic, and then request for them to stop bringing it up. You can gently state that while you do not share the same views as they do on this particular topic, you still care about and respect them a great deal. And then state your boundary about not engaging in further discussion regarding religious beliefs.

Sometimes, it is necessary to let them know that if they continue to bring it up, you will need to remove yourself from the conversation due to you feeling uncomfortable that they are not respecting your boundaries. It is important not to placate in these situations, otherwise they will think they are gaining ground, and will likely double down on their efforts.

The best way to cope with a sibling who tries to push their religious values on you is by being clear that you are not open to this discussion and ensuring they understand that you love and respect them and expect that they will also demonstrate mutual respect towards you in spite of differing views.