Anyone who grew up with a sibling knows how unique that relationship can be. Step siblings, half-siblings, full siblings, younger siblings, older siblings, each combination offers something different, but what remains is the connection you share with them thanks to your combined upbringing.
As siblings grow older, many start to face issues that divide them and keep them at odds until they stop talking to each other altogether. Why does this happen? What reasons could siblings have for estranging themselves?
Some of these struggles that siblings face have roots in childhood trauma, be it something only one sibling went through or was shared across them. This type of trauma can affect your relationships all throughout your life, including how you connect with your own family.
It doesn't have to stay that way, though. Healing from trauma can start with something small, something as simple as this quiz here, so you can learn where this all comes from and take the first step on your path to happiness. Click here to get started today and soothe your soul.
Siblings are often the first friends we make in life, and for many, they remain close confidants and supporters into adulthood. We grow up with them, share formative experiences, and bond over the unique experience of being raised by the same parents.
However, not all sibling relationships are smooth sailing, and at times, they can be fraught with conflict that ultimately leads to estrangement. The complex nature of these relationships means that the path to estrangement is rarely straightforward. Understanding the things that cause sibling estrangement can help in navigating these complex relationships and possibly mending these broken bonds.
1. Long-Standing Competition
From the earliest days of childhood, siblings can find themselves locked in a battle for parental attention and approval, even if this battle is subtle or subconscious. This rivalry can be a normal part of growing up, but for some, it sets the stage for a lifetime of competition. These struggles can leave lasting scars, particularly when siblings perceive that their parents have been unfair in their attention or affection.
As adults, these childhood competitions can transform into more complex forms of rivalry. Successes and failures in personal and professional life may be measured against those of siblings, perpetuating a cycle of comparison and competition. When the quest for parental approval carries over into adulthood, siblings may feel they are still fighting the same battles they faced as children, grow tired of it, and then estrange themselves to escape that war.
2. Differences In Views
As siblings grow and develop their own identities, the differences between them can become more evident and sometimes more divisive. It is not uncommon for siblings to discover that they have different beliefs, political views, or lifestyles, which can create barriers that affect the close relationship they might have had as children.
What starts as minor disputes over preferences or opinions can escalate into more serious conflicts when core values are at stake. For instance, one sibling's commitment to a particular cause or lifestyle choice may be completely at odds with another's, leading to a breakdown in communication and understanding. When siblings cannot find common ground or respect each other's choices, the result may be gradual or sometimes abrupt, bringing them closer towards estrangement.
3. Financial Troubles
Financial disputes are a common and often-cited cause of sibling estrangement. The distribution of inheritance especially can become a battleground where deeper issues of fairness, worth, and familial love are contested. In some cases, the death of a parent can trigger disputes over wills, properties, and possessions, with siblings finding themselves pitted against one another in a fight that can seem both materialistic and deeply personal.
When money is involved, emotions often run high, and what might have started as a simple disagreement can quickly become a heated conflict. The resulting estrangement not only divides the siblings but can also fragment the extended family as well, further complicating the possibility of reconciliation.
4. Trauma Tension
Trauma and shared pain have the potential to either strengthen sibling bonds or contribute to their destruction. When faced with a traumatic event, especially one relating to one or both parents, siblings may find that their individual coping mechanisms are vastly different. One may seek closeness and support, while another might withdraw, seeking solace in solitude or denial. These differing responses can create misunderstanding and resentment as each sibling struggles to navigate their own grief.
The shared history that once united siblings can become a source of pain if the trauma associated with it is not processed and addressed. Family secrets, past abuses, or collective hardships can become burdens too heavy to bear, leading some siblings to distance themselves or even estrange themselves in an attempt to move forward.
5. Failed Communication
Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship, and this is no less true for siblings. When communication breaks down, misunderstandings begin to arise, leading to misplaced assumptions and secretive judgments. A lack of communication can cause minor irritations to escalate into major conflicts, as there is no avenue for clarification or resolution. Over time, the silence can become a comfortable, if painful, norm, solidifying the path to estrangement.
It's not just the absence of talking that can lead to problems, it's also the quality of communication when it does occur. Passive-aggressive behavior, sarcasm, or outright hostility can all serve to undermine the bonds between siblings. When these negative patterns of communication become normalized, they can be difficult to break, and the desire to engage diminishes, making estrangement an increasingly appealing option.
6. The Effects Of Mental Health
Mental health and other emotional issues present unique challenges in sibling relationships. When one sibling is struggling, it can place an enormous strain on the other, who may feel responsible for their welfare while also dealing with their own emotional response to the situation. The behaviors associated with these struggles, such as unpredictability, volatility, or withdrawal, can make it difficult to maintain a stable, healthy relationship.
Furthermore, the stigma and misunderstanding surrounding mental health can lead to judgment and a lack of empathy from siblings who do not face these challenges. When there is a lack of support or an unwillingness to understand the complexities of these issues, the affected sibling may feel isolated and disconnected, potentially leading to estrangement as a means of self-preservation or due to feelings of rejection.
7. Physical Distance
The impact of physical distance on sibling relationships can also have a deep impact. As siblings move away from their childhood homes, whether for education, career opportunities, or personal reasons, it becomes much harder to stay connected. Life transitions such as marriages, the birth of children, or new job responsibilities can compound this issue, either due to busy schedules or focusing too much on one's own world.
The logistics of maintaining a relationship across distances can cause the emotional connection to wane as it's not nurtured as consistently. Significant life events may be missed, and the day-to-day sharing of experiences becomes less frequent. Without a concerted effort to remain involved in each other's lives, siblings can drift apart indefinitely.
8. Extreme Jealousy
Petty jealousy isn't just something you feel as a kid. Envy can persist and even intensify as siblings transition into adulthood. Achievements in one sibling's life may be met with jealousy rather than joy by the other, particularly if there are underlying insecurities or unresolved issues from their shared past.
This rivalry can be particularly pronounced in families where there is a strong emphasis on achievement, whether in academics, professional life, or social status. When siblings feel they are constantly being measured against each other, the pressure can be suffocating, and the desire to distance oneself from the source of that pressure so they can find their own worth becomes stronger.
Reasons For Drifting
Recognizing the things that cause sibling estrangement is the first step toward reconciliation. Whether it's addressing past wrongs, improving communication, or simply accepting different life paths, healing is possible for every pair or group of siblings out there. However, it's also important to acknowledge that, in some cases, maintaining distance may be the healthiest option for all involved.
Sibling estrangement is a multifaceted issue with no one-size-fits-all solution. Working on this issue is something that will take time, there will be frustration and probably a lot of tears. Even if you can't come to an agreement, you can at least use all this knowledge to better understand the root cause of the tension between you. Use that understanding to find peace.
Finding peace in understanding can help you overcome many struggles, including ones rooted in childhood trauma. By knowing the direct cause or where your pain still rests, you can then take a targeted approach to defeating it.
If you need some guidance on where to start, this free and simple quiz can help with just that, pinpointing where your healing journey should begin. Click here to get started today and open the door to more happiness.