Did you know — your sibling relationship is absolutely unique.

Typically, it is your longest one – started long before you met your best friend or spouse, and it extends long past the death of your parents. It has the power to influence your choice of friends and lovers, and your success at work. It is a power that has not been well understood or well used.

Adult Siblings

But while unique, it is often your most conflictual relationship, and the most overlooked one.

Whether or not you like your siblings, at some point, you will be the only remaining members of your original family. You are the only ones who remember when mother found her car keys in the medicine cabinet, or when in kindergarten, you sang “Jesus Loves Me,” at your family’s Passover Seder.

Your relationship with your siblings can also change over time. In fact, the changes in your relationship can be compared to an hourglass: more involved at certain stages in your life, less involved at others.

As your parents age, you are often thrown together, by choice or necessity, to take care of them – which can bring out the best in your relationships or the worst, or both.

You just can’t escape your siblings, even if you’re out of touch, not see each other for years. How can that be, you ask? Because you take your siblings with you in the world.

WHAT ARE THE EARLY CAUSES OF SIBLING CONFLICT?

    • Frozen Images: Siblings are caught in the images they have had of each other since childhood, regardless how much you have changed.

Sibling Conflict

  • Rigid Roles: In childhood, parents often try to help their children feel better about themselves – by recognizing certain behaviors or skills. This locks children into roles that may not be all of who they are, causing battles for their own identity.
  • Parental Favoritism: Even despite their best efforts, parents often are drawn to one child more than another.
  • Marital Conflict: Children often feel compelled either to take sides with one parent, which “pits” them against each other. Or, they replicate their parents’ conflicts with each other.
  • Sibling Incest: A brother or sister crosses the boundary, having sexual contact or intercourse with a sibling. Sometimes it starts from a menacing or threatened forcefulness. Other times is starts from playfulness or even a need for emotional closeness.
Laboratory: It is in childhood with your siblings that you learn about relationships. Siblings learn or don’t learn skills for adult life: how to relate, play, fight, negotiate, make up, share, back down, etc.
Preparation for Marriage: This is where husbands and wives initially fought over the proverbial toothpaste battle – do you squeeze from the bottom or the middle?
Self Image: This is where you learned to stand up for yourself or not. It’s also where your self-image and your image of how others see you were formed.

SIBLINGS AS A RESOURCE Whether you have a close, distant, or hostile relationship, your siblings hold a tremendous potential as a resource for solving problems as varied as:

  • a troubled marriage
  • misbehaving children
  • depression
  • bulimia
  • underachievement at work
  • a general feeling of dissatisfaction
Siblings may be part of the problem or they could become part of the solution.

Research shows once you reach mid-life, or once your parents begin aging, there is a growing desire to improve this unique relationship.

The question is, though, how to do that.

INVITING YOUR SIBLINGS TO JOIN YOU IN THERAPY (either as a participant or as a consultant; for one session or several)Sometimes people contact me wanting to resolve current problems with a brother or sister. They may be arguing so much, they hope to avoid getting to the point of never wanting to see each other again.

Sometimes a set of siblings come together to work out issues such as decisions about their aging parents, family business, or arguments around their inheritance.

Sometimes they have old issues from childhood they want resolved. This could be a shared experience of parent violence or alcoholism; or it could be from sibling physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. These old grievances interfere with their getting along with each other or getting along with others in their adult life.

BENEFITS OF MEETING TOGETHER

I have identified 6 reasons why it can be beneficial to talk with one or more of your siblings with a therapist. Click here for list. It often comes as a huge surprise that your brother or sister may help save your marriage, improve your job performance, or even throw insights into improving your children’s behavior.

Research shows that 83% of people over age 60 are close to their siblings; only 3% have lost contact. You don’t have to be part of this tiny statistic. You CAN become part of the 83%.