Siblings…Let us Speak on it!
Did you know that siblings are more liking to have a closer bond or better relationship with a friend outside of their genetic makeup, than their own sibling(s) that they were raised up with? Sibling rivalries or sibling estrangement was something I never knew much about growing up because in my household my mother was certain to keep us all close. My family often gathered on Sundays, participated in family gatherings or game nights, & we were more together than we were apart. Between my oldest two siblings and I there are 14-15 years between us, my middle sibling is 5 years older than I am, and my sibling after me is only a 1 year younger. Since there are different age groups amongst my siblings and I it led to some siblings being close and others being estranged. My siblings and I were raised by a single mother, and all five of us have our own perspectives, but I would like to share with you today my perspective in hopes of helping others heal their relationships or decipher it is time to heal within and end the sibling relationship permanently.
It starts with the parent(s):
Our mother was and still is a phenomenal woman. My mother was married young and divorced young, so she raised all five of her children with little help from the fathers. During our upbringing, our mother was like a super woman in my eyes. I remember her waking up early and returning home late, but we never lacked our true needs. Being a single mother led to our mother not being always being present which led to children in the household experiencing different traumas that she was unaware of, children feeling emotionally abandoned or not heard, and children not having enough guidance. In my own opinion, my mother did not have favorites, but she was aware that certain siblings needed her more than others. In our situation my older sibling and younger sibling needed more attention. I often felt like I was not heard and my cries for help went unnoticed.
As we grew up and the older siblings where out of the home and the younger ones were headed out the nest, is when the dynamics shifted drastically. Those children who gathered on Sundays, who was tight knitted, & never too far away; all became estranged. Although some siblings had been closer than others, there were still unsaid feelings, unspoken traumas, & resentment among the siblings that was never spoken about. Unspoken feelings are major in our family dynamic and it caused estrangement that could possibly be avoided. After all the siblings were grown, our only connect was our mother. I believe it was and still is hard for our mother to be in the middle of disagreements or broken relationships. Our mother was unaware that see caused more strain when she spoke to one sibling about the other, or when she told private conversations to one sibling that the other did not give her permission to share. Being in the middle was our mother new position, and that caused a rift between her and different siblings as well. It was not until recently that our mother decided to stay out of the conflicts, but the damage and lack of trust among each other had already started. As a parent with multiple children myself I have learned not to favor one child over the other, listen to all children’s point of view, and not place the children against one another. How siblings will co-exist, treat one another, or turnout as adults can be affected if there is a parent(s) not able to guide the children properly. I do not believe it was my mothers’ intentions to cause a breakdown in the sibling relationships, but I know the one thing that she could have done differently to change certain outcomes is “give all siblings the same support, love, & attention”. If she were able to find the medium between all the children needs the strain on the relationships could have been different.
Why is it hard to forgive a sibling?
I have found that it is harder to forgive a sibling for causing hurt than it is to forgive a friend or someone else. Forgiveness is hard! To be able to accept that someone has violated your trust, betrayed you in some way, or caused you any type of pain can be a major thing to accept. When family is involved, I believe most of the time you expect more. Personally, I expect my sibling to be someone I can depend on, confide in, and trust no matter what. What I have learned with life experiences is that family members can hurt you more than a stranger ever would. Sibling betrayal is different than friendship betrayal for me because I have always held my siblings at higher standards. With the age differences I have always looked up to my older siblings and expected nothing from them but guidance, protection, & love. Should siblings disagree? Sure, that is unavoidable; no family get along all the time. Disagreeing in a respectful manner should be a new trend. Instead of disagreeing respectfully, hurtful words that cannot be taken back are said and actions occur that may never be forgotten. The hard part about forgiving a simply is trying to erase all that has been said or done. The saying that “words do not hurt” is absolutely wrong, because hurtful words said today can replay in the other individual head ten years from now. I still have not forgotten hurtful words or actions done to me by certain siblings, and I am sure there are some hurtful actions and words that my siblings are struggling to forgive me for. So how do you handle a disagreement with a sibling that you feel does not deserve forgiveness? Forgiveness is a trait that must be practiced, and it is not possible to forgive someone overnight. What I have tried with my siblings is to look at them as only humans and know that neither of us are perfect. Also, I remind myself that we all have an inner child in us that is hurt, and sometimes behaviors are only a response to the inner child. It is easier to forgive if you recognize the other person as someone like you, and I have done that. The issue with forgiving your sibling is the fear of the same issues or behaviors replaying…Which leads to the question of when should you completely cut off your sibling after forgiving them and attempting to rebuild the relationship multiple times?
Should you completely cut off your sibling after forgiving them multiple times:
Sara Eckel stated in a article for Psychology Today that “Contrary to the conventional wisdom, refusing to forgive or have further contact with an unrepentant, abusive relative is therapeutic. ” The above statement is simply saying that even though society says you should forgive your sibling for repetitively hurting you, refusing contact with a person who shows no remorse for their actions is actually healing! There comes a point in all relationships when you may have to cut all ties and move forward in life for your own mental health. Holding on to someone who hurts you simply because they are family is detrimental to your mind, body, and soul. I love all my siblings, but there are different relationships with each of them. I have disagreed with all of them at some point in our lives, but I determine who I allow in my space by their behaviors. There are siblings I speak with at lease once a week, there are some I speak to once a month, and there may be times when I do not speak to one for 6-12 months simply because I interact with my siblings based off their behavior towards me. Being genetically related to someone does not give them a pass to use you, disrespect you, or cause you mentally, emotional, or physical harm. Once someone or something becomes harmful to your health it is then time to walk away completely. Choosing to remain in any type of unhealthy relationship means that you are not placing YOURSELF first. Do not feel guilty for cutting off an unhealthy family member, do not allow others to convince you this person will change, & handle the situation in the way that best benefits you. Removing an individual from your life due to their harmful behaviors towards you does not make you a terrible person. Blood is thicker than water is literally just a saying. I have had strangers treat me better than some people who are genetically related to me. I have been friends with someone 5 years that supported, loved, and respected me more than someone I have shared a womb with. Remember this quote by Paulo Coelho “How people treat other people is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves.” There is nothing you can do to better a relationship with your sibling besides do your part. After you have done all you can, walk away knowing you tried, and their actions has nothing to do with you.
Recommended blogs & resources: