What to Do if Your Sibling is the Worst
You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. However, you can choose how to treat your family. In today's blog, Aubrey Martin shares some tips to make your relationship with your sibling not just tolerable, but enjoyable!
If you had to rate your closeness with your sibling(s) on a scale from 1 to 10, how would you score each relationship? A decade ago, I would have given my relationship with my younger brother a 3 out of 10 (on a good day). I was outgoing, he was shy. I was impatient, he was patient. I pressed into conflict, he ran from it.
Today, I would tell you that our relationship is allllmost a 10 out of 10. I truly consider my brother one of my best friends, but I would have laughed in your face if you told me I’d be saying that 10 years ago. How could a relationship that used to be a source of such frustration ever become so fruitful?
Well, you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. Family is family, no matter what. Just like romantic relationships, sibling relationships (especially healthy ones) take work. No matter how difficult it may be for you and your sibling to see eye to eye, there is always room to grow in friendship. Don’t believe me? Here are a few practical tips to develop and maintain relational health with your sibling!
1. Keep trying. No matter how many times you reach out, keep. putting. in. effort. When my brother and I were in high school, I would ask him to spend time with me and he would reluctantly comply. Our conversations felt forced, and I could tell he didn’t really want to be there. But, years later, he shared that he felt very pursued by my consistent effort even though he didn’t outwardly reciprocate at the time. Being persistent no matter his response showed him that I was on his team. You never know what even the smallest gesture will mean to someone later down the road.
2. Try to view your differences as strengths. I think God is often very intentional with who He decides to put together in the same family. Growing up with someone so different from you can expose the areas that you need to work on, and vice versa. For those of you familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality test, I’m an ENTJ and my brother is an ISFP. We don’t have a single “strength” in common, so there’s a lot we can learn from each other. My brother taught me to think before I speak, notice how other people in a room are feeling, and to pick battles that are actually worth fighting. I taught him to advocate for himself, take initiative, and embrace risk. Without each other as living examples, neither of us would be the people we are today. And we are still growing and learning from each other!
3. Pray specifically for the kind of relationship that you want with your sibling. I’ve always been an avid journaler, and I remember asking God to “please, please let me be friends with my brother” before I moved away to Boston for college. A little less than a year later, I found myself attending a different university on the other side of the country, which happed to be the same school my brother would attend the following year. God used that geographical shift my life plans to bring my brother and I relationally (and literally) closer than ever. We shared the same friend group, served in ministry, and even traveled internationally together. I wasn’t praying for a tolerable relationship, I was praying for a friendship and that’s exactly what I got. It is so true that God is faithful to answer our prayers beyond what we can ask for or imagine (Eph. 3:20). Amen!
4. Speak highly of each other in public and in private. This is super important. Get into the habit of calling out the strengths in your sibling, even if they are incredibly different than yours. Building up, or edifying each other is a spiritual practice that will encourage existing strengths to flourish (1 Tim. 5:11).
5. Find a common interest that you both share and start there. Sometimes it’s hard to start a difficult conversation, especially if there is emotional buildup and resentment to work through. Try going for a hike together, taking a bike ride, or watching a movie that you both enjoy. Sharing common interests is a great way to build memories together and establish relational trust that will serve as a foundation for future progress. Schedule time together so that it not only becomes a regular routine, but something that you both look forward to!
6. Don’t expect an immediate fix. Relationships are founded on trust, and trust takes time to build. Be consistent, listen, invest your time and effort, and set an example for how you want to be treated by the way you treat your sibling. Be patient, be present, and remain in prayer. God is not done with either of you yet.
I used to hate talking about my relationship with my brother because it made me sad thinking about the time that we weren’t close, but I’ve learned to see that as part of my testimony. If God can do that in my life, I believe he do that in the lives of other people as well! My encouragement to you is not to give up on the people God has currently placed in your life, especially your family. They are part of your story and you are a vital part of theirs.
If you need further support with a deeper relationship issue, schedule a free relationship advice appointment with the CMR and talk with a professional.
Aubrey Martin graduated from Biola in 2017 with a B.A. in Public Relations and a minor in Biblical Studies. She spent the first two years of her career working in Investor Relations and Communications for a private wealth management firm in Chicago, IL before joining the Center for Marriage and Relationships in 2020. Aubrey works under University Marketing as the Account Executive for the CMR and enjoys using her communications experience to make an impact on the church and broader culture by bringing the Center's tools and resources to those who need them most.