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How to Maintain Healthy Relationships with Adult Siblings

Two bothers

Two bothers

The sibling relationships, which begin early in an individual’s life, last as long as he/she lives. If healthy relationship is maintained, adult sibling relationship can be a source of strong support, unequivocal care and love. Siblings spend much time together compared to parents or partners. Their relationship is based on the norms parents teach, childhood and adolescent experiences and attachment. It continues to grow throughout adult life and becomes more important with the aging process.

As you move through your life, your relationship with your siblings also changes. Close bonding, interaction and importance of sibling gradually decrease in early adulthood. Sibling relation is at the lowest level in the middle age, however, becomes strong in late adulthood and old age. Many people consider siblings as close friends, and the rivalry decreases as they progress through life.

Childhood and adolescent sibling rivalry sometimes continues to affect adult sibling relationship. Sibling rivalry leads to detachment, apathy, even hostility. However, there are many benefits of healthy relationships with adult siblings.

Brother and sisters could be rivals as well as friends.

Brother and sisters could be rivals as well as friends.

Causes of Sibling Rivalry

  1. Competition for parental love, attention and favor
  2. Parents’ biased treatment
  3. Comparison between the children
  4. Parent’s gender based preference
  5. Differences in performance in education, life skills and income
  6. Issues of parental property inheritance
  7. Family splits
  8. Rivalry between the spouses of siblings

Sibling Rivalry and Healthy Relationships with Adult Siblings

I grew amongst my siblings. My brother and sisters were my friends, and sometimes rivals. Once, dad took my sister to a psychologist because she was very aggressive. When the doctor asked what she hates most, she said “my brother.” She was 15 and I was 13 years old. My sister developed sibling rivalry when I was born. Our parents tell us about many incidents when she had physically attacked me.

Actually, she was not always at fault. I grew up in a son preference culture. I had a superior position over my sister. My parents never preferred one child over another because of gender, however, the society, by and large, was patriarchal. It prompted our thoughts.

Many years have passed, my sister is married, has two children. We have a good relationship. Our past makes us laugh.

There are many other incidents of rivalry with my other siblings. However, time patched everything. We still pick bones over issues, but we get along cozily.

There is no five-point guide to live a life, so there can be no five-point rules to maintain healthy relationships with adult siblings. However, these time-tested points will certainly help you to maintain healthy relationships with your siblings.


Things that can affect relationships with siblings both, in good way and bad way

  • Marriage (yours or your siblings’)
  • Illness
  • Career success or failure
  • Divorce (parents’ or your siblings)
  • Geographical distance
  • Aging parents

10 Ways to Maintain Healthy Relationships with Adult Siblings

Remain connected

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If you want to maintain healthy relationships with your siblings, stay in touch, spend time together and share your happiness and sadness. It is possible that with the passing time, you become apart with your siblings. Nevertheless, time and geographical distance are not excuses to become aloof with your siblings. Lack of communication widens the chasm between the siblings. It is advisable to exercise diplomacy while communicating. Your unreasonable demands and unrealistic expectations might arouse mistrust in your brother or sister. Try to understand them, put yourself in their shoes and think.

Usually you find faults with your siblings, because it is easier to blame than to look inside and realize that you too could be at fault. It is necessary to change this attitude for healthy sibling relationship.

Forgive your sibling

When you distance yourself from your siblings because of rivalry, it will cause you emotional pain. There is no one as close as your sibling is, you not only share the same genes but also spend more time than with anyone else. Good sibling relationship is linked with life satisfaction and well-being. So, it is necessary to reconcile with your siblings. Forgiveness has a wonderful healing property. Forgive your sibling for the sake of your own happiness.

Forget bad experiences

If you have apathetic relationship with your sibling, forget childhood competitiveness and jealousies, forgive your sibling if he/she had done anything harm to you. Past is history, it cannot be mended again, however you can mold the future, if you start in the present. It is necessary to forget and forgive to maintain healthy relationships with siblings.

Three sisters

Three sisters

Relationships with Sibling and Well-being

The study, as mentioned above, also found that sibling relationship has tremendous effect on mental health and quality of life.According to the study:

People who have living siblings have high morale.

Elderly men with sisters are emotionally stable.

Women who have sisters are active in their social life.

Availability of brother and sister is related to greater life satisfaction.

Mutual trust and tolerance

You can maintain healthy relationships with your siblings when you nurture trust and tolerance. You may not agree with your sibling life style choice, but you have to respect your sibling’s opinions. You have to base your relationship on mutual trust and friendship. You must respect them, honor their thoughts, and understand their feelings. When you respect your sibling, your sibling will surely reciprocate.

Don’t distance from your sibling

It does not matter which part of the globe your sibling lives, you have to contact him/her. If visiting is not possible, you can choose one of many ways of communication. You can give a call, send an email etc. Hard times such as coping with a parent’s illness can help you patch up with your sibling. If your sibling is going through hard times, be there for him/her.

Swallow your pride

Notions such as ‘she never contacts me why should I’ is very harmful. Avoid thinking in this manner. Your sibling could also be thinking in the same way. Off course, you should have a pride, but in the case of family affairs, keeping your pride high is detrimental. Always be ready to take the first step. When you can make your sibling feel the effort you are making, he/she will surely reciprocate.


Maybe you are the one who had done her wrong. You can start fixing your broken relationship by apologizing. On the other hand, perhaps, he had wronged you. Many years have passed, don’t take a tough stand. It is also possibly that your sibling rejects your offer to resume relationship. Try to win her heart. At this point of life, it does not matter who actually committed wrongs, what is necessary is to patch up the lacuna.

Two sisters

Two sisters

Avoid differences

It is natural that you have differences over family, social, political or religious issues. If you are trying to reconcile with your sibling, always avoid the contentious topics. Instead, talk about something you both have in common. The best way to start a communication is to talk about childhood experiences. Don’t get stuck in the endless cycle of accusations.

Patronizing behavior

Perhaps, your older sibling still treats you like a kid, interferes in your affairs, always suggests you what is good and what is bad. Possibly, your dad or mom still prefer him over you. Instead of nurturing resentment, try to rationalize their attitude and don’t give yourself too much to their thinking. Don’t ever talk bad things about your sibling in public circle. This is very damaging for healthy relationships with siblings.

Family gatherings

To maintain healthy relationships with your siblings it is necessary to remain in touch. You can remain in touch through a social and family gathering. If you have strained relationship, invite your sibling. She could reject your offer, but don’t take to your heart. Invite again for another occasion. When you are together, talk like as if nothing has happened. Talk about something funny you both have experienced earlier in life. If you are invited, make sure you attend the function.


Karen on September 11, 2014:

So if you have a sibling who is an abusive bully and is condescending, disrespectful, and judgemental then it's a good idea to maintain the relationship? Being a sibling is just another human relationship. Your logic should apply to others as well. So I guess a verbally abused wife should keep on trying to reconcile with bully husband by this standard.

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on April 13, 2013:

Great hub! You are wise beyond your years. This is great advice for all siblings to read. I think all siblings experience a rivalry at some point and time in their relationship however short the time. I love the photos, I presume of your siblings. What a wonderful family you have. Thanks so much for an enlightening hub!

Vinaya Ghimire (author) from Nepal on April 07, 2013:












Always Exploring



When I was a kid, I did not have many friends, my siblings were my friends. Our parents lived in the farm, and we lived in city for the purpose of education. There were no one to look after us except ourselves.We fought, but we also took support from each other. What I have shared in this article is my own experience.

Thank you my dear friends and writers for sharing your thoughts. Sibling relationship is very important in our life. I appreciate your comment.


Angelme566 on April 01, 2013:

I believed , one way to maintain good relationship with adults is to have a respect to them all the time. I learnt tips here , now at least have more patience in dealing with our olds.

Dianna Mendez on March 29, 2013:

You have reminded me of how important it is to keep in touch with your siblilngs, no matter what the differences. Great advice and well done. Thanks. Voted up++

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on March 29, 2013:

This is a great and much needed hub Vinaya...I think apologizing is one of the most important aspect of sibling conflict, i know i've had to do that several times. I had a brother twenty five years older than me and he was quick to tell me that i was spoiled and received many things he didn't have as a child. All of your advice is great. Thank you...

Ruchira from United States on March 29, 2013:

Great advise, Vinaya.

As siblings grow and have their own families...priorities shift. But, to maintain a line of respect for the sake of old memories is very important.

I liked your tips...greatly appreciated.

radhapriestess on March 29, 2013:

Excellent article on the topic. My brother who was one year older than me always resented my special relationship with my maternal grandmother. He also resented my attention from neighbors when I would sing and play the guitar. I laughed at him when he did this kind of thing. He was also competitive with my oldest brother. They had to put them in two separate grades in school because of it. Now my brother is fine.

Mary Craig from New York on March 29, 2013:

This hub is like a road map to happy sibling relationships. For many a great suggestion is to put childhood issues behind and reform or build adult sibling relationships.

Voted up, useful awesome, and interesting.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 29, 2013:

It is so important to be together an depend time with family and forget about the small stuff. Life is too short to bicker on common issues.

livingsta from United Kingdom on March 29, 2013:

Interesting and useful information here Vinaya. So true, that we all need to forget the past and maintain as healthy a relationship as possible.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

Votes up and sharing!

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on March 29, 2013:

Thank you for this. My illness makes any normal relationship impossible.

Sueswan on March 28, 2013:

Hi Vinaya,

I am fortunate that I have maintained a healthy relationship with both my brother and sister.

Voted up and sharing

Deborah-Diane from Orange County, California on March 28, 2013:

Thoughtful information. I think it is so important for siblings to learn to get along when they become adults, even if they had rivalry when they were growing up!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 28, 2013:

Hi Vinaya,

You are fortunate to still have living siblings. I had two younger brothers and they are both now gone. There are always differences between siblings just like there are differences between non related individuals...but we should always make an effort to love and respect those with whom we have grown up. I loved being able to laugh over our childhood experiences when my brothers were still alive. Up and useful votes and will share.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 28, 2013:

A great topic, Vinaya. I only had one sister and she died six years ago...we did have our problems and I regret them greatly. This is a very important topic and you handled it well.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on March 28, 2013:

Vin this is a very good hub to share with family.. I think it should be a must read great job!!!!

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