It can be one of the most heartbreaking things to go through outside of losing a loved one — to become separated from a brother or sister whom you’ve spent such a large portion of your life with.
Someone that may have, at one time, been much more than just a sibling — but an inseparable best friend.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose who our siblings are. And with so many factors influencing who we grow up to be, many outside even our own parent’s control, sometimes your sibling grows up to become a toxic influence on you and your life.
There’s something about having a sibling that you know will always stick with you.
If you think that’s happened to you, or if you’ve just begun to question whether your relationship with your sibling could be toxic, here are some signs to know for sure (plus some tips for repairing a broken relationship).
1. They hurt you and never apologize for it
Does your sibling say or do hurtful things to you on a regular basis and seems unaware or unconcerned with how they’ve hurt you?
If your sibling never seems to show remorse no matter how they hurt you, that’s a compelling sign your sibling is not only toxic but narcissistic or sociopathic.
2. They always try to use you and give nothing in return
Does it seem like your sibling only ever calls or messages you when they need something?
Do they always miss your important dates but they never fail to call when they need money, help moving, a babysitter, or a reference on an application?
If your toxic sibling has this pattern of behavior, they might be a master at manipulating you to feel bad about turning them down.
If you say yes, you know you’re being taken advantage of. But if you say no, you convince yourself they probably don’t have anyone else to turn to if they’re calling you. So, you feel pressured– and manipulated.
3. They blame you for everything
Does your sibling always act like you do everything wrong?
Toxicity never faces itself, it lives off others as if it were some inhuman substance that needs a host to survive. To a toxic person, the entire world is doing it wrong and it is simply the victim.
If your sibling never admits to doing anything wrong, and especially if they always try to pin it on you, that’s a sign that they’re as toxic as they come.
4. They’re constantly criticizing you or your decisions
If your sibling always tries to kill your ideas and make you feel stupid, like nothing you ever do is right, their criticism isn’t coming from a place of love but from a heart filled with pain and suffering.
Constructive criticism, or tough love, is a part of any real loving relationship. But tough love is fare and, first and foremost, loving. If your sibling never shows any concern for your well-being and seems to intentionally make you feel bad, that’s toxic criticism.
5. You almost always feel exhausted after spending time with them
Sometimes, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is so toxic about the relationship. You just know– you can feel it.
Every time you leave their company you feel utterly drained. Not physically but mentally, as if all your brain power had been sapped right from your skull. It might be because they complain incessantly, have a victim mentality, or harbor anger in their heart towards another. Whatever the reason, they’re without a doubt toxic.
How to repair a toxic sibling relationship
A toxic relationship with a sibling is tough, but ending a relationship with a loved one whom you’ve grown up and likely have decades of good memories with can be heartbreaking, so it should be reserved for as a last resort.
If you’ve already become estranged from your brother or sister, there’s always a chance to repair the relationship.
Here are some tips for repairing the relationship:
Put yourself in their shoes and have compassion
Maybe your sibling is suffering on the inside and takes their frustration, anger, or sadness out on those around them. Maybe they need help funneling these painful emotions.
Think back to what your sibling has had to go through. Do you know of anything they might have experienced that would have caused them great pain? If you’re not sure, try to extend the olive branch and have a conversation with them from this perspective.
That doesn’t mean necessarily pressuring them from an assumptive point of view but rather opening up and being honest about how you don’t know why you’re always their punching bag or why they’re simply always so draining or negative.
Sometimes just starting a conversation can get the other person to spill in a therapeutic way.
Create terms you can clearly define to keep the relationship within healthy boundaries
Another option is to create terms for you and your sibling which are clearly defined to mend and reestablish the relationship.
If they’ve done something wrong, they need to be willing to open up and apologize. If they’re not willing, it’s not worth it.
But if they are, lay some ground rules about what you’re not okay with.
Did they tend to lay all their dirty laundry on you every time you saw them? Tell them they need to get a different avenue for releasing their tension, that you love them, and that you want to spend quality time with them enjoying their company and not being someone else’s sounding board.
However, be careful about pushing them away with this strategy. You don’t want them to think you’re trying to control the situation as that might rub them the wrong way.
Rekindle the relationship with new space
Rekindling a relationship is easy. It’s keeping it going that’s tough. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to begin communicating again but start very, very slow.
Get together with them, talk things out, and catch up. But only plan to see them occasionally, at a few holidays during the year for instance.
Over time, the more you see one another the more your bond can and likely will strengthen as long as it’s something that both of you are willing to put the work in for.