Sibling Rivalry: How to Identify It and Deal With It

Tips to deal with one of the seven deadly sins in your family.

Family 22nd Dec, 2020

Sibling rivalry comes from a much more systemic place. Envy is commonly known as one of the seven deadly sins and while you can often turn jealousy into a positive and let it drive ambition, it can just as easily become destructive. Nowhere more so than with your family. Whether you have an excellent, awful, or somewhere in between relationship with your sibling, you will have competed at some level while growing up.

That is quite normal, however, it can be taken too far and leave you feeling resentful. This is particularly true when parents/teachers believed it was harmless and did nothing about the situation. Have you allowed something that happened in childhood to fester? Perhaps you have always had a competitive relationship that teeters on destructive. If so, now is the time to think about turning that rivalry into a healthy friendship.

sibling rivalry

Sibling Rivalry:

If you are still holding onto something that happened in childhood it’s time to explore letting that go. At this stage the only person suffering is you. It is likely that this has coloured your decisions in later life, maybe you overreact if you believe something similar is happening and people do not understand why.

When you let go of a painful memory it can improve your reaction the next time that situation comes up. Without envy and resentment colouring your judgement, you may even realise you frequently overreact to a problem that is not there at all. There are various techniques you can try, including writing down the incident and then (safely) burning it.

Alternatively you could compose an email to your sibling. Even if you never send it, the act of writing can drain the poison out of that wound and let it heal. If you are now closer to your brother/sister then you could discuss it with them. See if your recollections of the event match. Memories are very unreliable and it is possible you, or they, have remembered a bigger problem than there actually was.

If you still have a ‘friendly’ rivalry with your sibling take a moment to think about how healthy that really is. Are you constantly point scoring and competing to be the best son/daughter/adoptee or even friend? Is it truly innocent, or do you really want to make yourself look better and your brother/sister look bad? If that is the case then the rivalry is not friendly at all and you need to pull back and start to break the habit. As you stop competing for people’s affection, your sibling may naturally change their behaviour too.

If they don’t, then have a conversation with them, explain you want to improve your friendship and think a little less competition will bring you closer together. This does not mean you can never be on competing teams on a night out/team sport etc. However, it just might put an end to any snide comments designed to drag each other down or psych each other out that make neither of you look good.

Finally, start to celebrate your siblings achievements with complete sincerity. If you are currently jealous every time they reach a milestone, consider how destructive that is to your own mental health. When you endlessly compare yourself to another person, your own victories ring hollow, nothing is ever enough.

This can spiral out of control and even get you into debt if you have to have the best car/postcode/wardrobe. Start to make the effort to flip that on its head and be as generous with your praise for their achievement as you were once envious.

Family relationships can be very tangled and complicated and it could take time to improve your relationship with your sibling. Perhaps even after you change your habits and actions, they will continue to play the envy game. However, that will be far more harmful to them than you. The inner peace you get from knowing you are doing the right thing will allow you to truly celebrate your own life goals, unlike your sibling.

Ultimately it is all about treating others as you would like to be treated. You may be surprised how well your brother/sister responds to a positive change in your behaviour and what a difference it makes to your relationship.

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