Brothers and sisters- 80% of us have got them, and they can be a blessing or they can be the curse of our lives. Chances are they will be either of these things from time to time. Mostly though we want our sibling relationships to go OK. Unless you're a Kardashian and you've really figured out how to turn mediocre family relationships into a multi-million dollar industry.
The sibling relationship is often the longest one in our lives, longer than that between spouses, longer than that between parents and children. Yet of all the family relationships, there is less written about this one in comparison to all the others. The couple relationship is the clear winner in the media attention department, closely followed in second place by the parent/child relationship. The less glamorous sibling relationship is well down the list in the publicity department.
Childhood sibling relationships are filled with all sorts of contrasts- competition and collaboration, love and hate, envy and admiration. Most of these extremes will dissipate somewhat as childhood and adolescence progresses and eventually passes - but conflicted sibs can get stuck in childhood patterns for life, with something like 30% of adult siblings reporting conflicted or distant relationships at later life-stages. Yet its really important for most of us to think about who our supports are in life, who understands us better. And because of our shared childhood experiences and how these ultimately shape us, a sibling is often likely to understand us better than anyone and can therefore be a real resource for us.
Difficult adult sibling relationships have often had their origins in childhood- yet the conflict can continue to last for decades, with either party no longer being able to describe what kicked it all off...
Before I go on- a quick word again about conflict....As I've said several times before on these pages, conflict is OK, it is part of being human, and there is likely to be conflict in the sibling relationship, as there is in all our relationships. However conflict becomes damaging when it is unacknowledged by either or all the parties involved, and when there is no motivation to address it or resolve it. It becomes entrenched and damaging.
So what exactly can be done to get adult sibling relationships back on track??
1) Look at the role you might play in keeping conflict with your sibling/s going- it takes at least two to keep conflict alive.
2) Remember that you are each unique individuals, even though you might have been raised in the same house and by the same parents. Never the less you will each have your own view of the world, and that is as it should be. Don't be affronted when your sibling sees things differently to you.
3) On the other hand, no-one else but your siblings are likely to come close to understanding those early influences in your life that have shaped you in to the person you are today. Value the shared history that only siblings can understand.
4) Be wary of not relating to your adult sibling as though they are still a child. Patterns of relating to each other as adults are frequently set down in childhood, and can persist right through adulthood, eg., the youngest child who, through no fault of their own, has always been perceived by older sibs to have been spoiled by parents, and is still resented for this during adulthood.
5) If you are stuck in a sibling conflict that has gone on for years (do you even remember what started it all? ), take the first step towards fixing it - someone needs to, and it might as well be you. Be the big person.
6) For sibling conflicts that might develop in the present day, address them quickly, so that they don't become stuck and magnified.
7) Don't expect your siblings to initiate all the contact with you. The relationship is just as much your responsibility.
8) Put time in to your relationships with siblings- all relationships take time and effort, yet it's easy to to see the adult sibling relationship as less of a priority than those relationships that are more central in our lives.
Enjoy your sibs, get the relationship sorted. You may be stuck with each other for much longer than you had imagined.
Thanks again for dropping by... If you want to read some earlier stuff I've written about sibling relationships, jump right over here....
"Some occasional thoughts about families, relationships, and other things that distract us...."