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How to mend fences with siblings

Never got along with your brother or sister, all your life? Fret not, for sibling rivalry can be fixed. HT Style tells you how.

india Updated: Mar 02, 2006 17:38 IST
HT Style
HT Style

Sad and confused because you can’t get along with your brother? Or, does thinking about your sister increase your blood pressure? If you clash with a sibling, you’re in good company. Many people are dealing with this issue.

Relationships problems with a sibling can’t be fixed overnight. But, they can be fixed over time or at least mended.

“After years in therapy, I discovered that I fought with my brother, Daryl, for one stupid reason,” says a woman we’ll call Deanna. “I thought my parents loved him more. I wanted Daryl to pay. Now, I know they just loved him differently.” Deanna and Daryl have mended their fences, but it took a lot of work.

“We don’t have major closeness yet,” says Deanna, “but we’re working on it. I’ve learned that Daryl and I can be around each other for about an hour. I guess that’s when the conversation starts to go downhill.

“It’s me,” Deanna admits, “Who starts digging up old dirt. So, I’ve learned to end the visits before I start getting on Daryl’s nerves.” The key to building a relationship, or repairing one, is to create a relationship that works — however small the connection. For instance, you might only call your sibling twice a year. That’s OK. Do what works.

Remind yourself to relate in ways that don’t set the stage for arguments. This might mean, for example, that you can only see each other in a group including other people.

Or, it might mean that you avoid certain subjects. If you argue over why your parents only paid for one of you to go to colle ge, it might be good to retire that conversation permanently.

To get a relationship back on track, try the following tips:

If you’re not speaking, extend the olive branch first: Tell your sibling, “I want to have connection with you. Not talking is too stressful.” Or you might say, “I don’t know why we argue, but I’m open to your suggestions on how we can get along.”

Stop emphasising your differences: Instead, build common ground. Centre conversations around children, hobbies, movies, or any subjects that don’t expose your sore spots.

Let your sibling know you value him or her: This lays the foundation of respect. For example, brag on your sibling to other people in front of him or her. Ask your brother or sister for advice.

Verbal validation is crucial to healing relationships: Imagine wanting to hurt or insult a sibling who treated you as a person of worth? Hard, isn’t it?

Tension between any two people doesn’t come on overnight. And, it will not go away overnight. Don’t expect miracles the first few times you attempt to reconcile. Take it slowly.

Many feel, staying away from a sib ling is like abandoning part of yourself. Siblings share your genes and your history. To the extent that some feel not complete and whole without them.

As you work to resolve your problems with a sibling, remember that all relationships are flawed. Accepting small jealousies and imperfections important for maintaining a relationship.

In order to be close to anyone, you have to accept that discomfort and even pain. There are no perfect anxiety-free relationships because every relationship involves separate human needs. Needs of two people never mesh perfectly.

Besides, as you grow older, your siblings can become your strongest allies. Your circle of life will feel more stable with them in the picture.

Love thy brother: The key to building a relationship, or repairing one, is to create a relationship that works — however small the connection

Avoid certain subjects that always trigger an argument.

Centre conversations around subjects that don’t expose your sore spots: Sometimes, it pays to meet on neutral physical ground, someplace both of you are comfortable being.

First Published: Mar 02, 2006 17:18 IST