How to deal with sibling rivalry as an adult

How to deal with sibling rivalry as an adult

It is not uncommon for sibling rivalry to extend into adulthood (Alamy / PA)

It is not uncommon for sibling rivalry to extend into adulthood (Alamy / PA)

Whether they are close in age or many years apart, siblings can be a wonderful source of love and support for each other, from school to adulthood.

A little bit of lighthearted sibling rivalry isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course – it might spur you to work harder on exams or in sports – but when family ties are strained for a long time, the results can be catastrophic.

Take the Gallagher brothers, for example. As part of Oasis, Liam and Noel had phenomenal musical success in the 1990s, but their creative collaboration had already begun to deteriorate at the peak of the band’s fame.

The band officially disbanded in 2009, but since then the frontman and lead guitarist, who are five years apart, have exchanged insults and recriminations in interviews and on social media.

Noel (left) and Liam Gallagher pictured at the time of Oasis (Zak Hussein / PA)

Noel (left) and Liam Gallagher pictured at the time of Oasis (Zak Hussein / PA)

Recently, in June of this year, Liam, who just turned 50, was digging up his older brother on Twitter, suggesting that Noel would be “devastated for failing to audition” to play with Paul McCartney at Glastonbury.

It’s unclear how much of Gallagher beef comes from competitiveness and how much is due to simple dislike, but if you’re struggling with sibling rivalry to adulthood, it can be hard to know what to do.

In some cases, you may also wonder if it’s time to cut ties if your brother or sister is making you deeply unhappy, or if you should persevere for the sake of family ties.

Here, psychologists talk about sibling rivalry between adults and how to deal with it …

Is it normal to experience sibling rivalry in adulthood?

(Alamy / PA)

(Alamy / PA)

A survey by the NOW streaming service in 2021 found that 51% of siblings were still competing on things like career, parenting, home ownership, and being “favorites” in the family.

“While rivalry can be common and last into adulthood, the subject of the rivalry can vary depending on which sibling feels it,” says psychologist and author Audrey Tang (draudreyt.com).

BACP-accredited individual and group Gestalt therapist Katerina Georgiou (kgcounsellor.com) says it often depends on the nature of family ties: “Some families experience difficulties that vanish once adult children flee the nursery and develop their own lives, other families they are more entangled, and it’s not that simple. “

How can you handle your envy of a sibling’s accomplishments or relationships?

(Alamy / PA)

(Alamy / PA)

If you’re the one who turns into a green-eyed monster every time your brother or sister announces their latest promotion, unveils a flashy new car, or brags about how close they are to your parents, ask yourself where the envy comes from. .

“What’s in your siblings’ goals that trigger these emotions in you?” Georgiou asks. “If you can raise your awareness of what you are experiencing … this will give you more support to move forward in a less responsive place.

“If your feelings are particularly intense or happen much more frequently than you would like, causing a negative impact on your relationship, you might consider therapy as a reserved space to carefully eliminate those feelings,” she adds.

It may be that your envy stems from a lack of self-esteem, Tang points out: “When it comes to love and validation, if we are able to give it to ourselves, the source is infinite, there is no scarcity, so there is no ‘you need to feel that you are losing ”.

What should you do if a brother is envious of you?

(Alamy / PA)

(Alamy / PA)

If you’ve gotten petty comments or felt envy emanating from a sibling, a little empathy can go a long way.

“Try to get out of the experience of being envied for a moment and imagine what it is like to fear that you are not doing as well [and] your state is in danger, “says Georgiou.” The strong primal feelings evoked as a result of this can be quite terrifying. “

It may be helpful to engage in a dialogue to calmly explore the issue, rather than asking your brother or sister to stop their behavior immediately.

“There is a tendency for an older brother to try to ‘fix things’ or even behave in loco parentis, but it can be so much better for the relationship if they ask him why their brother feels like them,” she says. Tang.

“Then acknowledge their right to feel that way – for example, I’m really sad that you think that way – and ask why, and also what they would like you to do about it.”

Is it ever okay to cut ties with a sibling when your relationship has become unbearable?

(Alamy / PA)

(Alamy / PA)

“It’s okay to cut ties completely if the situation is intolerable, but sometimes that extreme response can cause grandchildren / grandchildren and grandchildren to lose what could be an enriching relationship,” says Tang.

Georgiou agrees that distancing can sometimes be healthier: “You can say it gets to this point where the same repeated patterns continue, never with any resolution or progression, but actually make the relationship experience worse for both of you.”

Before you reach that point, however, try to set boundaries in terms of the behavior you are willing to accept from each other, to see if you can reach an amicable solution.

“You may need to point to a consequence,” says Tang. “For example, ‘If you keep comparing my children to yours, I can’t let them come here without me anymore’ – and be willing to follow him.

“With that, you might be able to open a deal and ask, ‘So how can we fix it?'”

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