What kind of sibling relationship have you got?

Even brothers and sisters who talk frequently can feel estranged from each other. Where are you on author Jeanne Safer's scale of separation?

by Psychologies

sibling relationship

Most sibling relationships fall under one of these six headings:

The chinks-in-the-armour siblings: 

You've had your fallouts but something has brought you together – personal growth or the death of a parent. Moments of mutual goodwill have meant there's more warmth between you and you can envisage a future where you enjoy each other's company.

The by-proxy siblings: 

You wish you were closer, but are afraid to raise the subject of your difficult relationship. You solution is to appraoch each other tentatively through a proxy, usually a child. If your child gets on well with your sister's child, for example, sharing common ground can make it easier to start talking properly again.

The cool civillity siblings: 

You talk (or, more likely, text or email) but you're not particularly comfortable in each other's company; it's intimacy that's lacking. Even though you might like to have a closer relationship, neither of you is willing to make the effort required to do that.Is it pride that's stopping you? Or the fear of being rejected?

The going-through-the-motions siblings: 

This is the most common kind of estrangement - you send each other birthday cards, but on the other hand you never know what to say face-to-face. You don't know that much about each other's lives, but you don't really care either. You're not friends, but you're also not enemies.

The weddings and funerals siblings: 

You meet only on these important family occasions, and tend to make sure you're never left alone with each other. At best, meetings can be tense, at worst, they're hostile.

Total alienation: 

You have erased your siblings from your mind. You have no desire to engage with them, and if you knew they'd be at a family event, you'd deliberately avoid it. Don't assume this is the worst type of relationship though – for some people it's actually the healthiest way to co-exist.

Jeanne Safer is the author of several books on sibling relationships, including Cain’s Legacy: Liberating Siblings from a Lifetime of Rage, Shame, Secrecy and Regret and The Normal One: Life with a Difficult or Damaged Sibling. For more information, see jeannesaferphd.com

Photograph: plainpicture/Cultura


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