The Padavanos sisters - Julia, Sylvie, Emeline, and Cecelia – were inseparable. They were best friends, advocates, and confidants. When Julia married William, her sisters immediately showered him with love and acceptance. But, soon after Julia and William’s daughter was born, his secret past caught up with him, causing their marriage to end.
After the divorce, a family scandal ensued that left Julia estranged from her sisters for decades. Julia had professional success during this time and enjoyed a loving relationship with her daughter. But, despite these positives, Julia felt adrift without her sisters.
Sibling relationships are the most extended relationships most people have in their lives. Siblings share innumerable experiences regarding their parents, childhood household and community norms, and mundane daily life. Receiving support from siblings is particularly validating because they clearly understand each other’s history, worldview, and perspective (even if they don’t share values or priorities).
Positive sibling relationships are more important and influential to happiness than closeness to parents. People with poorer sibling relationships face an increased likelihood of depression, loneliness, and drug use.
In an ideal world, sibling relationships are non-competitive and supportive. And yet, many siblings are hostile, apathetic, or (like Julia) estranged. Want to improve your relationship with your (adult) siblings? Here are some tips:
Accept Without Judging: People change. Try to get to know the person your sibling is at every point in life and provide unconditional love and acceptance for who they are – even if it surprises you.
Play In The Present: Spend time together in person or on the phone. During that time, avoid rehashing old disagreements and instead focus on having new, positive, shared experiences.
Don’t Compare: Siblings are masters at comparing. Perhaps you remember being hurt when your sibling got better grades, more help, or was favored. Get out of that unhealthy pattern by avoiding comparisons about jobs, marriages, children, etc. There’s no right path for everyone.