Adult Sibling Rivalry
The bonds we share with our siblings can be some of the most important and longest lasting bonds in our lives. But, as wonderful as having brothers and sisters can be, sibling relationships also can be difficult.
For some of us, sibling rivalries and conflicts that began in childhood continue to affect our adult relationships through the decades. Their impact may be subtle and they may only become problematic during times of crisis or discord, but the issues are still there. Just because we grow older does not mean we automatically leave behind feelings and patterns of the past.
If you are still navigating the often rocky road of sibling rivalry, you are not alone. Many people in later life find themselves reexamining their family relationships. Thankfully, it is never too late to improve a relationship or build a stronger, healthier bond with our siblings.
It is possible for adult siblings to find positive, constructive ways to deal with unresolved feelings, break old patterns, and learn to interact with each other in healthier ways. An experienced professional counselor or therapist can be helpful in facilitating the process for deeply troubled relationships.
As you work to improve your sibling relationships, you might find the following suggestions beneficial.
A few helpful suggestions…
- Communicate with your siblings. Be honest and open with them about your feelings. Be willing to hear their points of view. Try to listen without becoming defensive, judgmental, or critical.
- Try to be empathetic. Make an effort to understand your siblings’ feelings about your relationship. Step out of your own shoes for a while and try to see things from their perspectives.
- Accept and embrace your differences. Despite growing up in the same family, you and your siblings are unique individuals. You each have your own personalities, likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, behaviors, and “baggage.”
- Avoid comparisons. Don’t compare your relationship with your siblings to anyone else’s sibling relationships. Even family relationships that appear “perfect” on the outside usually have their fair share of conflict and issues.
- Remember life is not a contest. Stop competing with your siblings or comparing successes and failures. You can’t change how your siblings act or react, but you can make a conscious decision to stop participating in the game.
- Share praise and sorrow. Congratulate your siblings for the good things that happen in their lives and empathize with them during difficult times – without comparing their accomplishments or losses to what is going on in your own life. You may find your siblings begin to do the same thing with you.
- Reach out. If you want to improve your relationship with your siblings, tell them so. Take that first step. If you wait for someone else to make the first move, it may never happen. Hopefully, that first step will lead to a more loving, honest bond. If not… well, at least you tried.