Friday, April 30, 2010

Sibling Relationships

Sibling Relationships - Why are they so much different than most other relationships? I think they are different because you feel that because you were raised in the same household, and in essentially the same way, that your sibling somehow understands you. That they somehow know why you are the way you are, and that they feel the same way you do.

Sibling relationships seem to be, in childhood, a testing ground for social behavior. In the transition to adulthood, it is easy to remain in a state of competition with your siblings. There a point where some of us draw a line in the sand as to what we will put up with, and the result can sometimes cause a temporary rift in a relationship. Sometimes, if the competition or rivalry has been going on for quite some time, these temporary rifts can become long, deep-rooted silences.

In my personal experience, if you can somewhat detach yourself from the family dynamic you grew up with, you can pave the way for a healthier relationship to flourish. Throughout our formative years, we are slowly squeezed into a mold that we often allow to define us as we enter adulthood. This stereotype is dependant on our temperament, the personalities of other family members, as well as mutual experiences within our families. An example: The family goes to an adventure park - the oldest one is challenged by another family member to try bungee jumping, or the zip cord. The oldest one is used to being brave, and is frequently commended by other family members on this trait. The parents often boast to outsiders about this quality. In a way, the oldest child has no choice but to be the brave one, because that is what is expected of him.

When we can break free of these expectations and obligations, we open ourselves up to becoming friends with our brothers and sisters. This means letting go of previous judgements, grudges and negative experiences that involved our siblings. It also means forgiveness. I am lucky enough to have become friends with my two sisters, and I’d like to share some thoughts about them here. I hope I’m not crossing any boundaries by doing so.

My eldest sister is a very intuitive woman who has taught me, and continues to teach me, how to take care of myself. She takes care of herself, knowing when she needs alone time, journaling nearly every day, and constantly looking for new inspiration. These are important aspects of life that we women tend to forget about or push aside. She is independent with a strong will, and a free spirit. She can laugh and make me laugh like nobody else can. Her and I can get so silly together, making up characters, songs, crazy dances and the like. We usually end up laughing so hard that our bellies hurt. We connect deeply on a spiritual level, and both hold the belief that you create your own destiny – no one else is responsible.

My youngest sister is a nurturing, caring person with a big heart. She loves everything about food, and that is where we connect the most right now. She loves to cook, she loooves to eat, and she loves to try new things in the kitchen. She is incredibly passionate about food, and is willing to take chances when she cooks, which I admire about her. She loves to be near the ocean, fishing and being immersed in nature. She gives so much to her husband, and revels in his attention. And she is another silly sister! When the three of us get together ... it is probably unbearable for other people. But we love each other, and would do absolutely anything for each other.

I have a tendency to try to take care of both of my sisters, which has its’ downsides, as not many adults need to be taken care of. I know there is a stigma about my place in the family because I am the only daughter who has children. There are still beliefs in our society, that family life (married with kids) is the best life. I don’t necessarily believe that’s true. I am happy with my life, and I know this is where I am supposed to be. But I know my sisters are happy with their lives too. Their paths are unique and beautiful and ... their own.


  1. An interesting, evocative post for me, Nicole. After the death of my mother, my sisters and I went our separate ways and because of many, many unresolved issues, never interact or speak.

    You are a middle child, just like me. I wonder, did you ever feel as if you were invisible to the others? It seems the focus was always on the eldest and youngest in my family.

    Before the family exploded, I remember enjoying my eldest sister's sense of humour which is so much like mine. There is nothing like a good giggle with a sibling. At least, when one is still speaking...heh!

  2. It sounds like you have come to a beautiful place with your sisters. At one time my brother and I had a difficult relationship, but having our own kids seemed to help us let go of all the history that had built up. Now I am super-sensitive to my own kids relationships with each other. It does seem like we define ourselves so much 'against' our siblings when we are growing up. I hope I can avoid that pattern with my own kids as much as possible, and that they can each feel like they are valued as they are, not in comparison. But it is a tough dynamic, especially have twins in the mix.

    Hope you are well-

  3. I also have two sisters. I am the youngest and we also have our challenges but also a lot of love and understanding. I find myself in a strange place where I love spending time with my sisters, but only one at a time.

    They are closer in age to each other and growing up I was "the baby" to them. My middle sister often felt left out and picked on (and like Marion she felt invisible), whereas my eldest sister felt like she had too much responsibility for the rest of us (she still feels that way, but she fights it!) and too much pressure to set a good example. But having been so close while little has left the two of them with a large gap as they grew up and now they are overly critical and overly sensitive to each others criticism, as a result I often feel like the peace maker...

    However there are also issues that come my way as well. I have been the one with a very "easy" (their words) life. I have made different decisions in my life which have made life a lot more smooth then some that they may have made, so I have my own issues with being discounted, I am still fighting the stigma of the "baby". Except now instead of being the spoiled one I am considered the fortunate one or just plain lucky... and I would love for them to realize how hard I had to work and the things I have had to sacrifice to have my "luck"!

    I think the biggest thing is to keep the communication open, if you have a chance to talk with your siblings, take it. But realize that you are grown up now and perhaps you need to approach them as individuals and friends, not in the same nasty tones we used as kids!