Navigating the Complex Terrain of Adult Sibling Relationships: Why Can’t We all Just Get Along?

Adult sibling relationships are a unique blend of history, camaraderie, and complexity. While some adult siblings share unbreakable bonds, others find themselves grappling with various challenges that strain their relationship.

As a therapist who works with adult siblings in a variety of contexts, these are the underlying factors that often lead to difficulties in relationships.

History! – Childhood Dynamics and Roles

Childhood experiences play a pivotal role in shaping adult sibling relationships. The roles siblings assume during their formative years can carry over into adulthood and influence how they interact. For instance, a sibling who was the “caretaker” might feel burdened by this role in later life, while the “rebellious” sibling might struggle with issues of autonomy and identity.

Unresolved conflicts from childhood, such as competition for parental attention or perceived favoritism, can continue to manifest as adults struggle to redefine their roles within the family.

Communication Styles and Patterns

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship, and adult sibling relationships are no exception. Divergent communication styles can lead to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and unresolved conflicts.

Some siblings might struggle to express their emotions openly, leading to pent-up frustrations. Others might use passive-aggressive behavior or avoidance to cope with difficult conversations. Identifying and addressing these communication patterns can pave the way for more meaningful interactions.

Life Changes and Transitions

People grow and change over a lifetime. Life’s many transitions—marriage, parenthood, worldview changes, and relocations—can impact adult sibling relationships. These changes can lead to shifts in lifestyles, priorities, and values, sometimes causing siblings to grow apart.

Conflicts can arise when one sibling perceives that the other is making choices they don’t agree with. Acknowledging the impact of these life changes and finding ways to adapt can be crucial for preserving the bond between adult siblings.

Unresolved Resentments and Jealousy

Resentments and jealousy can fester within sibling relationships for years, often stemming from perceived inequalities or unaddressed grievances. These feelings can be magnified when siblings compare their achievements, lifestyles, or relationships. A therapist can help you explore and address these underlying emotions can open the door to healing and reconciliation.

Parental Influences

Parental dynamics can also cast a long shadow over adult sibling relationships. Perceptions of parental favoritism or differing parenting styles can lead to feelings of resentment or rivalry. In cases where parents are aging or facing health issues, disagreements about caregiving responsibilities can further strain relationships. Encouraging open conversations about these parental influences can promote understanding and empathy among siblings.

Need help?

A therapist like Lisa Rogers can help you and your adult siblings understand the factors that contribute to issues within your relationship. By addressing these underlying causes, you can work towards building more fulfilling and harmonious relationships with your adult siblings, enhancing your overall emotional well-being.

Looking for a therapist licensed in multiple states for your family or sibling relationship? Lisa Rogers is a licensed therapist for the following state: NY, NJ, TX, CA, FL, GA, IL, VT. Contact Lisa Rogers for more information.