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How do I live in a healthy relationship with my sibling?

Lisa Oz
Allergy
Siblings provide a wonderful opportunity for working on conscious relationships. You have different tastes, opinions, desires, and needs, yet you are closer biologically, and often emotionally, to them than to anyone else on the planet. In addition, you are stuck with them. You cannot divorce your blood. You can never not be a sister or brother, the way you can stop being someone's friend.
It is very difficult for us to remember that our siblings are perfectly capable of making their own decisions. However, respecting each other's choices is one of the key elements of living in a healthy relationship.
Part of the problem is that on some deep level we believe that our family is an extension of ourselves, so their choices and behaviors reflect on us. If they do something that we do not approve of, our very identity is threatened. There is a primal pack mentality within a shared gene pool that says, "We are one. Your survival is my survival; your failure is mine too." When they disappoint or embarrass us, we sometimes push them away to prove that we are not the same. Nevertheless, mostly, we just try to control them.

Your question reminds me of something Ram Dass said: "If you think you're enlightened, go spend a week with your family." 

Ram Dass's quote of course recalls how we might be on a path of better, healthier living and revel in our success with doing so when we relate to our friends, co-workers, and other associates. But when we go back and spend time with our siblings or other people from our family we've known for most if not all of our life, we feel less like we're on a path and more like we're ten years old again. Things that didn't bother us now feel completely annoying, and seemingly harmless comments that are made to us aren't harmless at all.

In growing up with and sharing so many formative experiences with them, our family members play a unique role in how we grow and live as people. In the specific case of siblings, having brothers and sisters presents us with a tremendous opportunity to experience that growth. If you are of proximate age to your siblings, you likely had very similar upbringings and were influenced by similar experiences. And yet, you are probably very different people in a number of ways. Even if your sibling tends to annoy you, frustrate you, or even completely upset you, use your experiences with them as a way to reflect on how your common roots might be related to struggles in each of your respective lives.

There are no accidents in life. Each person we encounter has entered our life for a reason, and when we learn what that reason is we have a tremendous opportunity to find out more about who we are. This is particularly the case with our siblings, for they were placed in our life very early on to ensure that we have as many opportunities to learn what we must from them before we pass on.

You may not think you're enlightened, but you would certainly do well to spend some time with your family. You might be amazed about what you learn about yourself.

Continue Learning about Parent-Child Relationship

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.