Since I grew up without siblings (I have a half sister but she is 14 years younger than I am), I have underestimated the impact of brothers and sisters in people’s lives for a long time. Without being aware of it, I always had a rather rosy picture of sweet, protective big bothers and fun-filled, best-friend sisters. How I longed for them in my lonely childhood!
While these kinds of siblings certainly exist, I now have heard many other sad, deeply conflicted and sometimes downright cruel stories from my clients about their relationships with their bothers and sisters. This topic is often so painful that I have to dig it out of them: They rather talk about their parents than about that. The same happened over the years with my friends, as I came to realize. I knew everything about their relationship with their parents, but little about the deep-seated conflicts with their siblings.
There is the friend whose brother sues her over money she supposedly stole from their mother (she actually uses this money for her care in a nursing home). There is the brother who is a dentist but does not even want to talk with his sister about her scary dental symptoms, leave alone help her. And there is the sister who told my client that she made up the childhood sexual abuse and should just shut up. All of them grew up in extremely dysfunctional families.
I came to realize that we probably assume that siblings who were raised by dysfunctional parents stick together and, at least, have one another for comfort. This is, however, rarely the case. Usually, all the children have been hurt deeply – but, depending on many factors (for example, age, gender, and emotional disposition) in different ways. And so they act out their own dysfunction in different ways, adding to the hurt of their brothers and sisters.
Just being aware that your cruel or uncaring brother, your whiney or mean sister have been hurt by your parents as well, only in a different way, might improve the situation and soften your heart.