This is my ex-husband’s wife. My son’s stepmother. In this patriarchy in which we live, there is language for who she is to these primary people in my life. But there is no language for who she is to me.

I have been searching for a term that expresses the depth of vulnerability and beauty, courage and grace that has shaped who we are to each other.

When I heard Glennon Doyle Melton speak with Marie Forleo recently, she explained that when a builder needs to strengthen a joist, s/he puts a new one next to the original one and fastens the two together. Sometimes, two new joists are needed—one on either side. This collaborative power is called a sister joist. And builders call this act of structural reinforcement “sistering.”


Instead of language that locks us into a static role of family position or status, this verb that embodies how we show up for each other and our family. That reflects the choices we make every day to move toward understanding, trust, and tribe. To recognize how much stronger we are together. And how stable the structure of self can become when we stand shoulder to shoulder with the sisters we are given.

2 responses to “Sistering

  1. Claire   

    Beautiful story. Beautifully told, Sage. Thank you! And I thank you and all the women in my life for being the sisters I never had growing up with two older brothers, and for traveling with me through the years. Who and where would I be without you all? Especially going through my own divorce, over eight years ago, several who I carefully chose to guide and support me and have fun with together, too, were very much there for me. How great that there’s a word for everything we do for and with each other.

    • Sage Cohen   

      I am basking in your gratitude, dear Claire! Sistering heals the soul, doesn’t it? So grateful to be sistering with you…

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