ADULT SIBLINGS–A NEGLECTED BOND
If there is one family relationship we are most prone
to neglect, it is that between adult siblings. One reason is
that this is a “horizontal” relationship–one between peers
in which responsibilities are limited and choices for
interaction unlimited. We maintain these relationships if we
feel like it or think of it. Otherwise, maybe not.
We feel obligated to our parents and children in a way
that we don’t towards our siblings. Also, our mobility these
days means we’re less likely to stay in close touch. We may
see our siblings only on major holidays and, then, only in a
crowd of family and friends. We may call each other
rarely. One on one encounters may be infrequent or never.
It’s not only distance and infrequent contact that comes
between siblings. An ancient quarrel or some left-over
competitiveness from younger years can linger, with past
events contaminating the present and foreclosing the future.
We may not be aware to what extent our sibling relationships
are still determined by out-moded family “rules” about who
must be loyal to whom, which side of a family struggle you’re
on or how close we’re “allowed” to be to each other. Indeed,
some parents have stressed individual achievement so strongly
that it inevitably pushes siblings away from each other.
There are reasons to bridge the gap. Our siblings have
much to offer us in terms of knowing our selves and enjoying
our memories. They were there. They witnessed and lived in
the same environment we did. They understand things
about us others cannot. They know what made us. Then,
there’s the insider humor only a sibling could fully
Siblings who were once connected have a good chance of
renewing their bond. They may have to overcome old scripts
about who’s dominant or submissive, who’s right or wrong, who
called whom last, who owes whom what. One key could be
recognizing your separateness. Sometimes resentments arise
because we want and expect our siblings to be more like us.
Often siblings are almost as unlike as strangers. True
intimacy is only possible when we recognize and respect our
fundamental differences as individuals.