In Our Longest Relationship and Our Happiness, we discussed our longest relationship, the relationship with our siblings. Our siblings know us as children, adolescents, single adults, married adults, and possibly widowed adults. They have known us, and we have known them, for a lifetime. Even more, sibling relationships, beginning in childhood, form a training ground for all kinds of other relationships in our lives. As adults, our siblings can provide guidance and insight as well as fun times and companionship in our lives. To keep those relationships strong in spite of the passage of time and physical distance, practice these tips.
- Reach out. Take the initiative to reach out to your sibling. Reaching out to your sibling is an expression of love. It communicates how much you value them and their relationship.
- Share your life with your sibling. Talk about the “happenings” in your life. Share stories about activities, relationships, and interests. Take a deep breath and courageously talk about some of the struggles in your life as well. Share your disappointments and sorrows. People grow closer by sharing themselves with one another.
- If you do something that hurts your sibling, either knowingly or unknowingly, apologize. See the hurt from their perspective. Apologize and determine not to do it again.
- When your sibling talks about their struggles and disappointment, don’t try to “fix” it. Simply be available and listen. If they need a professional counselor, they will get one. They need us to be their sibling, a person who will be available, listen, and understand. After you have listened, they may ask for advice. Then you can share ideas and talk about possibilities.
- If you and your sibling have grown apart over the years but are now reuniting, start slow. Start off with small talk. Avoid touchy subjects. Enjoy memories. Enjoy your different perspectives. It’s alright to have differences. Allow those differences and celebrate them. They may contribute to growth in both you and your sibling.
I do offer one caveat. Sometimes we need to maintain distance and strong boundaries with siblings for our own mental health. There could be a number of reasons for this. It is unfortunate, but the truth for many people. If this is the case in your sibling relationships, I encourage you to maintain those boundaries and continue to grow as an individual. Find good friends who can become your “adopted siblings” and offer you the support you need. Even with your newly formed “friend siblings” you can use the practices above to deepen your relationships for a lifetime.