Sibling Love: Learning How to Do It Effectively
There is no greater love than that of a family.
Family 29th Dec, 2020
When looking at sibling love, people with a sister and/or brothers often have a love/hate relationship with their siblings. This is very understandable when you consider they are a person’s chief competitor growing up and who you test and discover boundaries with. Unless there is a large age gap and sometimes even then, this is the person you pit yourself against in games, academic achievement and early work triumphs. There is nothing wrong with this, however, a competitive childhood can become a destructive adult relationship.
Perhaps you have negotiated this tricky transition with no problems, but still hold onto resentment from when your boundaries were pushed too far. If you have never forgiven your sibling for a situation or conversation in childhood, this could be standing in the way of a closer, loving relationship with them that brings additional richness to both your lives.
Learning to love your siblings means examining your current relationship. The ideal laid out in books and films is if you can speak your mind on any subject and have a discussion, or debate, without falling out you have a perfect relationship. However, this is rare, even unrealistic, as we all have arguments and areas we disagree on, it does not mean we can’t forge good friendships.
Take a moment to work out your reality. Are you close, but reserved, or even silent on certain subjects? Perhaps you rarely speak and only see each other at family dinners. Alternatively you may be somewhere in the middle – you chat semi regularly but feel you have little to offer each other. These are all scenarios you could change if you take a look at your perspective, memories and thoughts.
If you are still competitive, think about why. After all, you are a fully grown adult who does not need to validate your achievements by comparing yourself to your sister, or brother. This could be a habit it is time to break. Even if your parents still compare you to each other, does not mean you and your sibling need to. In fact banding together to ignore your parents, or challenge their behaviour may bring you closer together. This does not mean you can never challenge each other to a game, quiz, or match again, just that you do not need to be rivals who have to top every triumph, or magnify every mistake.
You may not be close because you have never let go of a childhood incident where your boundaries were crossed. This is just as unhealthy for your mental health as it is damaging your relationship with your sibling. When you hold onto hate, hurt or resentment, it eventually turns inward and damages nobody but yourself. When you nurse a difficult memory, or situation, you are taking energy away from the many other things you could be doing. It can be difficult to walk away from years of resentment, particularly if the situation was serious and there has never been an apology.
If you can try to do so, even theoretically, forgive the person and see how you feel. You could put pen to paper and jot down what happened and then (safely) burn it, or write an email you don’t intend to send that shouts out your feelings. If you think it would help and can do so without an argument, discuss the memory with your sibling and see if their recollections tally with yours. See what comes of any differences, similarities and the act of exploring the memory together, you may be surprised.
Fundamentally, having a close and loving relationship with your sibling, where possible, can bring joy to your life. As you grow older, they are likely to be the people you share the most history with and spend hours reminiscing about both good and bad memories. Brothers and sisters are often the people who know us best. They understand why something is such a triumph, success, or mistake without having to be told years of background.
If you can open yourself up to improving your friendship with your sibling it could be one of the most rewarding things you ever do. Where practical, reach out and in time, enjoy their presence, comfort and strength by your side through all kinds of change, difficulties and triumphs.