Cultivating Sisterhood When You Don’t Have A Sister
I don’t have a sister.
I am a sister—I have an older brother and a younger brother—but there’s been a sister-shaped void in my life since I was old enough to realize it.
As part of a large, close extended family, I spent my childhood playing with my cousins, and was happy to have several girl cousins around my age that I communed with. Yet one thing always left me aching after everyone went home: all but one of my eleven girl cousins had sisters. We were all close, but they were closer with their own sisters.
I vividly remember asking my mom for a sister. Although by that time, I would have been at least a decade older than a new addition to the family—not quite what I was looking for. My mom would sweetly explain that she could fill that sisterly role for me (and I commend her for navigating that tricky territory with child me). Yet, as she connected with her own sisters, I knew that my mother could only ever be a sister to them. Because, it turns out, that’s how these things work.
Even now, I find a little piece of my heart longing for a sister. Most of my closest friends have sisters, and I’ve always envied their relationships. Someone to share growing pains with, to swap clothing with, to teach you how to use makeup—or to teach how to do makeup. It can feel like there is a sister-length space away from the closeness I crave with my dearest friends, even though these same women are otherwise my platonic soulmates.
So I have a special kinship with my dear ones who don’t have sisters. There’s something unique about a friendship when neither of you have sisters to try and squeeze in alongside.
How I’m Cultivating Sisterhood As An Adult
I’ve also been exploring how to fulfill my desire for sisterhood, knowing full well that I will never have the direct, lifelong experience of actually having a sister. And what I’ve learned so far is that sisterhood is like a security blanket. Some people start their lives with one, but some, like me, pick up squares of belonging and community and sew them into a quilt along the way.
I’ll never get the sister experience, but I can embrace the practice of being a sister to those who need one. Here’s how I’m cultivating that experience in my life, and it always looks a little different depending on the season of life I’m in:
Embrace your family. Families can be a rich source of community, so reach out to the women who share loved ones and experiences with you. Your mother, cousins, aunts, and grandmothers can provide that guidance and kinship you’re craving. I know this isn’t always accessible to everyone, so interpret this as your heart desires: chosen families are just as perfect.
Cultivate a relationship with women who are sisters—and their sisters. Many of my friends’ sisters are older and off on their own adventures, but I find that spending some quality time with my bffs and their sisters wraps me in so much sisterly warmth. My husband’s three sisters are complete treasures to me, and even though we don’t have shared family experiences of growing up, we do share familial experiences as adults. Honestly, these women might be the closest I’ll get to actually having a sister of my own.
Hold on dearly to the sisterless. Like I said, I value these friends so deeply because they hold one of the puzzle pieces that even my own brothers do not share with me—they understand that strange loneliness of not having a sister. Be her sister through the best times, and the worst times, and she’ll be yours too.
Be a sister. Whether you have siblings or not, I’ve found that practicing sisterhood has helped me find it in unexpected places. Holding space for others when they need it, checking in on the hearts of friends and acquaintances, and offering love and direction when someone needs it. I’m no champion at calling my brothers on the phone, but when I do, I’m reminded of our unique connection and end the call with a full heart. It’s not that compassion and empathy are gendered, but those emotions are where I personally find the sisterly connection I crave.
Seek out sisters online. I’m always seeking out new and relatable voices that make me feel connected, even if I’m not engaging with them directly. Instagram and YouTube are great tools to connect and learn from other women who will help you understand how you want to be in this world. Beyond “influencers,” I look for people with similar job titles, educational backgrounds, and creative projects.
One of the biggest things I’ve had to learn over the years is that I’m not alone—I’m never alone—thanks to my friends and family. Just because there wasn’t what I thought would be my “default best friend” sleeping in the room next to mine, doesn’t mean that I can’t access the rich experience of sisterhood now as an adult.
Do you have a sister? If not, what is your favorite way to foster sisterly relationships in your life? Share in the comments below!
Emily Torres is the Managing Editor at The Good Trade. She’s a Los Angeles transplant who was born and raised in Indiana, where she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her reading or writing, caring for her rabbits, or practicing at the yoga studio. Say hi on Instagram!