We usually take it for granted that family members have a strong bond of affection that unites them. In the case of siblings, this emotional bond is often described as a relationship between people who help each other and give each other emotional support, especially when there There isn’t much of a gap between their ages. This even leads us to use the concept of “brotherhood” to designate close relationships based on solidarity and mutual respect. To say that “that person is like a brother to me” is an easy and simple way of expressing that there is a deep friendship.
However, beyond theory, practice tells us that poor sibling relationships are a relatively frequent reality. What can we do to improve them?
How to improve the difficult sister relationships
Let us now look at a series of tips to improve the difficult sister relationships. In all cases we must keep in mind that even if we have more than one brother or sister and our relationship is bad with more than one, these tips should be applied to each case individually, focusing on one person at a time, since each relationship is different and has its particularities.
1. Detecting asymmetries in the relationship
The first step to improve the relationship is to stop and analyze honestly if the distant or hostile treatment between us and a brother or sister is the result of the other’s bad behavior or if both parties have comparable faults (not necessarily equal, but comparable).
For example, if the main problem is that our younger brother hit us during a good part of our childhood, our strategy will be aimed at helping that person to recognize his or her mistakes and repair the damage. But if we inflicted as much damage on a brother or sister as he or she inflicted on us, when it comes to improving the relationship we must also know how to apologize and repair the damage.
2. To be clear that an attack does not cancel another attack in the opposite direction.
It would be a mistake to think that everything bad that one sibling does to the other is counterbalanced by the bad that the second one does to the first one. If this were so, the relationship after the exchange of attacks would be the same as before it occurred, and this is clearly not the case.
Therefore, to improve the difficult sister relationships, we must clearly identify as unacceptable excuses all thoughts that come to mind that are along the lines of “I played that trick on him, but he also played that trick on me, so I have nothing to apologize for”. This brings us to the next point.
3. Acknowledge past mistakes
The difficult sister relationships often rest on many events and anecdotes that have occurred over the years and in which important sources of resentment and frustration have accumulated. Many times, the simple inability to look back and acknowledge those problems or inappropriate behaviors on one’s own part is what causes that distant or hostile treatment to arise.
If looking at a sibling’s face evokes all those episodes of fights, accidents due to recklessness, or moments of hostility, it is difficult for the relationship to be smooth and satisfactory.
Therefore, to improve the relationship it is necessary to modify the way in which we interpret those memories about things that happened long ago, and this can only be achieved with the willingness to admit mistakes. Making it seem that the sibling bond was born out of nothing relatively recently, wiping the slate clean without having done anything wrong in the past, will only aggravate the situation.
4. Taking the first step by showing vulnerability
The difficult sister relationships are due in part to the struggle of Egos, a competitive drive to offer the best image of self-sufficiency and skill in certain domains of life. Well; to improve the difficult sister relationships, we must put aside this mentality, and take the first step in showing our vulnerability.
Even in the case that we do not have great reasons to ask for forgiveness and we really just want to make it easier for the other person to apologize, for this you must first show that this is important to yourself, something that in a way we need because we do not like the kind of treatment we have with our brother or sister.
We have to express that there is this vulnerable side in us, in an honest way, to make it easier for the other person to reciprocate.
5. Show faith in the other person’s goodwill.
Any attempt at reconciliation will end badly if from the beginning you communicate that you do not trust the other person, or that you have a low opinion of him/her. These are attitudes that invite you to settle the issue quickly and quickly, or directly to reject this interaction, since it is easier not to want to know anything about the other person than to try to make things right with someone who claims to seek to make peace and at the same time behaves as if he or she does not want to.
Therefore, although as we have seen, we cannot pretend that there were no problems between us and our brother or sister, we must act as if we know that at that moment a version of ourselves capable of recognizing our mistakes, asking for forgiveness, and repairing the damage can be “born” in the other person, even before that has happened. In psychology, expectations often create reality; we must pass on to the other person our expectations that the relationship will improve.
6. Assume one’s own mistakes and encourage the recognition of one’s own mistakes.
As we have seen, there are times when, objectively speaking, most of the responsibility for the deterioration of the sibling relationship lies with the other person. However, even in those cases, it is good to be willing to acknowledge mistakes. Mistakes that have not necessarily harmed the other person in a specific way, but mistakes nonetheless. In this way, without the need to ask for forgiveness, we at least foster a climate of honesty and a certain intimacy.
The logic to follow here is, once again, to take the first step in stripping off that mask of perfection that we often try to show to our brother or sister, so that the other person can do the same without great resistance.
7. Repairing the damage
Once the responsibilities have been acknowledged, it is time to give closure to this moment of reconciliation. And this can be achieved by repairing the damage, whose value is more symbolic than material. The idea is that the person who has done wrong must make a certain sacrifice to objectively show that he/she assumes the consequences of his/her bad decisions. This not only serves to benefit the party that was harmed; it also helps the party that caused the harm not to feel bad, and therefore the deal is not strained.
As we have seen, if both we and that brother or sister misbehave, both of us will have to perform this ritual of repairing the damage. If it is the other person who has behaved badly, we must propose this action in an honest and direct way, not as an order but as a personal desire for the relationship to improve, and obviously proposing a reasonable sacrifice in comparison to the faults assumed.