How To Become Better Friends With Your Siblings
My little sister is my best friend. My mother often compares us to the March sisters from Little Women, and whenever we get together for family events or holidays, we spend the entire time in a corner, laughing. But it wasn't always that way, considering we didn't become close until I left for college. As we've gotten older, developing our personal interests and personalities, we've grown to complement one other while staying aligned on the important foundational parts of a sibling relationship.
"As siblings age, they tend to develop better relationship skills and experience new opportunities to connect," psychiatrist and licensed marriage and family therapist Whitney Goodman says. "They may connect over a similar career path or having children. However, if there was a lot of sibling rivalry, tensions, or fighting in childhood, siblings may not get closer if those issues are not dealt with."
Through trips abroad, family emergencies, and little weekend staycations, my sister and I have combed through difficult things in our past and have had conversations about how we can be better sisters. There are different things that might distance you and your siblings, whether it be an age gap or opposite interests, but that doesn't have to prevent your relationship from growing.
If There's An Age Gap
Trying to cultivate a relationship with someone who's significantly younger or older than you can be difficult. While you're not stepping on each other's toes the same way you would if you were super close in age, your connection will be unique because your life experience is, and will always be, so different from one another.
If your sibling is younger than you, try to remember the specifics of what life was like — both your difficulties and your interests — when you were in their shoes to get an idea of what they might be going through. Having similar experiences will give you a common ground and give you something to talk about.
If your sibling is older than you, don't be afraid to ask them questions about something you're going through. Chances are, they've experienced something very similar and can offer a perspective that you won't be able to get from peers that are your age.
If You Have Spouses
Getting married and/or having children takes up your time and attention in a whole new way, and if that's impacted your sibling relationship, figure out a plan for how you can still spend time together.
"Additional people will always change the dynamic and complicate things," Goodman says. "It’s important to give people time to adjust to new individuals that have been added to the mix. Siblings may also benefit from spending time alone without spouses and other family members to help maintain their relationship."
Can you schedule a coffee date (or a FaceTime date) every two weeks? Are you able to organize holidays so that you're together every other year? You can also figure out an activity that is special to your relationship, like going to your favorite coffee shop or taking a weekend trip to your favorite small town. That will give you room to breathe and have fun together without any responsibility.
If You Have Different Personalities
Just because you and your sibling might be total opposites (I'm into fashion and writing, and my sister's pre-med and loves sports) doesn't mean you have to let that separate you. It could be a great opportunity to learn more about something you wouldn't normally pursue.
"Finding a shared hobby or interest, spending time getting to know each other, asking for help in an area where a sibling has experience or expertise," Goodman says. "If you have completely different personalities it helps to approach them with curiosity and interest in what makes them unique."
Similar to learning their love language, try out a sibling's hobby with them to get a better idea of why they love it. Taking the time to understand what makes them tick will make them feel special, and you might end up discovering that you enjoy their hobby more than you expected.
If You Have Different Personal Views
When you don't share the same personal views, it's hard to not disagree on everything or to always come back to topics that make conversations tense. If you do end up disagreeing with a sibling on everything, figure out what works best for your specific relationship. That might mean calmly working through conversations that turn sour or just avoiding particular topics altogether.
"Adult siblings have to focus on moving past childhood issues and forming a new relationship based on mutual respect, shared interests, and a desire to be close," Goodman says. "It may help to set boundaries around certain topics or issues to avoid miscommunication. Adult siblings should also discuss how they would like their relationship to function and what expectations they have for the relationship."
If you need to, you can come up with a list of topics that you know you agree on or that you both love (like movies or favorite recipes) to keep things light.
While you strengthen your sibling relationships, it's important to focus on communication styles. For example, since my sister is pre-med, we're not able to text as often as we did when I was in undergrad so we switched to periodic phone calls and FaceTimes. We also love playing question games like We're Not Really Strangers on long car rides to find out new information about each other. Our favorite way to play is to guess each other's answers!
Not only is cultivating your sibling relationships as an adult a way to learn how to love your sibling better, but it's a great opportunity to have a lifelong friend who is always in your corner.
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B+C Editorial Assistant, Swiftie | Chloe is from the Outer Banks (yes, like the Netflix show!). When she isn't writing or updating her blog Pastels and Pop Culture, Chloe enjoys watching Marvel movies or texting her sister about the latest celebrity news. Say hi at @thechloewilliams on Insta and @popculturechlo on Twitter!