Adult sibling rivalry is not only childish, but, also, it is unnatural.
Don’t misunderstand me! I know that adult siblings have disagreements. That’s par for the course, but effective, grown-up conflict resolution is in order, as it is in any relationship.
Never mind the pundits who say that sibling rivalry, regardless of age, is natural and healthy and should be accepted as a norm. Nonsense! Picking on a sibling and falling out over major or minor issues is stressful and can cause emotional and physical health problems — headaches, heartaches, not to mention backside aches.
I should know; I am one of seven siblings. But at the risk of causing further rivalries, I’ll refrain from airing our dirty spats and focus on dispelling the belief that adult siblings have a right, a license if you will, to hurt one another. Far from it, as such licenses should never be given in the first place; but when and if they are, they ought to expire with adulthood.
So, why do so many adult siblings fight in the first place? Of course, for the same reasons they did when they were children.
1) History in the making. Since sibling relations have been written about, conflict has been evident. Think only of the Bible’s dynamic duels. Remember the well-known stories: Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve who made history with the world’s first murder; the brothers of Joseph, the sibs who stopped short of killing the younger brother, the dreamer, who was their father’s favourite son; and Jacob and Esau, the Bible’s first twins, who rivaled over Esau’s birthright as eldest son.
Also, there are lesser-known rivalries such as Isaac and Ishmael, sons of Abraham, who had different mothers; and Absalom and Amnon, sons of David, who also had different mothers. In the first instance the older Ishmael mocked and teased his younger brother and was therefore sent away to live a less privileged life; Absalom and Amnon became enemies after Amnon raped Absalom’s sister, his half-sister, Tamar. Eventually, Absalom killed his brother.
History, though extreme in the stories above, suggests that siblings are somehow predisposed to rivalry. So it continues with brothers and sisters today. Although they duel in far less extreme ways for the most part, their fights appear to not only follow history but also relate to genealogy.
2) I call this the parent common denominator factor. As in the Biblical examples, children are often jealous of one another because one or both parents have a favourite or are perceived as having one anyhow. A former boss often told the story, which of course she had been told, of her older brother trying to poke her eyes out when she was a baby.
To this end, The Guardian offered adult readers the opportunity to tell their own tales. One boy had cut up his sister’s prized music and gym certificates; another told his sister that she was illegitimate. Yikes!
I can’t remember any moments of jealousy in childhood per se, but I do remember as a teenager thinking that I had to look out for my younger sister and follow my older one. Stuck in the middle, I thought that adulthood would spring me from this trap.
Wrong, wrong, wrong! Once a middle child, always a middle child in the eyes of parents, who innocently insist that different folks with different strokes rap to the same beat. I don’t think so!
When their children grow-up, parents still find themselves at the centre of their conflicts. But in this instance, the roles are likely to be reversed with the children now acting as guardians.
According to the 2009 National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP study, some 65 million people provide care with about 66 per cent of those taking care of someone aged 50 plus. In the UK, 6.4 million people provide voluntary care. Many of them care for elderly relatives, too.
No wonder almost everyone I know is either caring for an aging parent or knows someone who is.
And interestingly enough, those with siblings find themselves arguing about care.
The US based Family Caregiver Alliance attributes the friction to:
1) Legacy of family dynamics. Hence, the Biblical examples.
2) Denial over a parent’s condition.
3) And the most cited of all is unequal division of caregiving. Not surprisingly!
Tough topics for any siblings but perhaps not cause for broken or strained relationships. Many siblings often treat each other with disdain, living outside of the norms of society.
They say and do things that they would never dream of doing to others. It’s the old license to hurt. Ludicrous, isn’t it?
As such the sibling who has been offended is expected to forgive all too often, just as she was taught in childhood. Make no mistake about it; I’m all for forgiveness but this is a learned, practiced behaviour, not automatic. If you don’t believe me, try to forgive through osmosis.
If Joseph’s brothers were operating in modern times, they’d be thrown into prison and therapy for many years.
And rightly so!
Thus, modern day sibs might give bad behaviour a second thought if consequences followed. If that isn’t enough, health hazards should be. Worse, I’d say for all those who continue to commit offences, that they are the ones living with heavy hearts and over active minds, both recipes for disastrous health.
Finally, my advice to the millions of adult siblings throughout the world is to kick the habit.
1) Agree to disagree.
2) Consider, respect and tolerate others and their opinions.
3) And finally do unto others, as you would have them do unto you!
Sibling rivalry is not natural nor is it a God given right and should not be accepted as a norm. Congrats to those who understand this. For everyone else, it’s time to ditch the expired license or suffer the consequences. Plain and simple!
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