Adult Siblings



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.



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