AdobeStock / Fairygodboss Staff
As a career community focused on helping women achieve their goals, Fairygodboss members often remark on how difficult it is to succeed when working among difficult and toxic personalities. We also hear how difficult it is to focus on career goals when things on the homefront are troubled.
If you avoid visiting your family because your siblings drive you up the wall, you know that toxic siblings can put a damper on your mental state. It can also be hard to engage with other family members who you may normally enjoy, if toxic family members are around.
Healthy sibling relationships are those that are compassionate, loving, helpful and empathetic. Unfortunately, blood relations don't necessarily mean that that's what you're going to get.
Do you have toxic siblings? Here are the signs — and how to cope and still be a productive, healthy human being -- if you do.
To put it simply, they're always right (even when they're not). They constantly think they have all the answers and are condescending towards you if you challenge them in any way, shape or form.
They always take credit, every opportunity they get. When you were kids, they took credit for the chores getting done even though you spent your whole afternoon cleaning. Now that you're older, they take credit for caring for your parents, even though you're the one always running around doing everything for everyone.
Instead of loving everyone equally, they tend to play favorites. Your brother or sister is the clear favorite, too. They don't try to hide their favoritism; rather, they make it readily apparent that you're not the one with whom they prefer to spend the bulk of their time.
They only ever do what they want to do, when they want to do it, how they want to do it. That family outing you have coming up? If it doesn't suit their schedule or it's not somewhere beyond convenient for them to get to, it's not happening. Oh, and you want to have the holidays at your house? That's too bad, because they decide where the family will be spending the holidays.
They're always guilting you into helping them out when, in fact, they're never or, at the very least, seldom there to help you out. You're always helping them move, babysit the kids, take over care duty for your parents, bail them out of some financial situation, listen to their rants about whatever is affecting them that day, and so much more. But when you need help, they're never there for you in the same way.
If you're ever feeling down, sad, angry, irritated, depressed, empty or something else negative, they dismiss your feelings. They tell you to suck it up and get over whatever it is that's plaguing your happiness. Instead of listening to you or helping you to find professional help, as a concerned sibling likely would, they invalidate you and make you feel totally irrational.
Theyre always pitting one sibling against the other or one parent against the other. Some people just feed on drama, and they're one of those people. They love to create conflict.
If ever you have a conflict of some sort, or they're angry or upset with you for some reason, you find out about it through another sibling or a parent. That's because, instead of confronting you like an adult, they constantly talk about you behind your back.
Whenever you're in front of others, whether its friends, family or new people, they tend to demoralize and humiliate you. They do this by saying demeaning things about you in front of others to the point that you're constantly uncomfortable and don't ever feel like socializing when they're around.
They're absent from your life altogether. Instead of making an effort to spend time with you, keep in touch with you, be there for you and journey through life with you, they just fall off the face of the earth. Whenever you make an effort to reach out to them, they swear they'd love to catch up, but they always end up coming up with a thousand excuses. In other words, they lead you on and are never actually part of your life, missing everything important.
Dealing with toxic siblings isn't easy. Of course, everyone argues with their siblings from time to time, and it's not always necessarily easy to come back from that. But how do you revitalize a relationship that's a constant argument or that doesn't exist altogether?
Here are five ways to deal with your toxic siblings.
If your toxic sibling is always bringing you down, start preaching to yourself just how loved you are. Practice some self-care activities that allow you to give love to yourself, so you don't feel so reliant upon love elsewhere. The less you need these relationships, the less it'll hurt. And, the more confident in yourself you become, the less you'll stand to be treated poorly — and the less they'll hopefully treat you that way when they realize that you're not going to stand for it. Plus, self-love is something you should be practicing day in and day out, anyway!
Sit down and have a conversation with your sibling who is causing you pain. Sometimes, a toxic sibling might not be fully aware that their actions are hurting you. Other times, they might be aware but they may actually be acting in these poor behaviors because it's a cry for attention or help — they've been wanting you to point it out for a while and talk to them. Sometimes, these conversations can be tough; confrontation is never easy. If you need to, visiting a family therapist might also be a good idea. This way, you have a professional to mediate your discussions and help bring you both to a positive place. You'll never know unless you try.
Sometimes in life, it's best to just pick and choose your battles. If you can, accept your sibling for who they are and the role that they play in your life, and remove any and all expectations for anything more. Of course, you can hope that you'll have a better relationship some day and do your part to work towards that, but don't have expectations for one. If you can understand the person they are, and then pick and choose your battles when dealing with them, you'll feel a lot saner at the end of the day.
If you have been dealing with your toxic sibling for quite some time, and it's still driving you up a wall and causing extreme stress and anxiety in your life, perhaps it's time that you talk to a therapist or a counselor about your relationship. You don't need to do this with your sibling to resolve your relationship, but you can go ahead and do this on your own for you to be able to sit with your relationship as it is. The fact of the matter is that not everyone is going to have the best relationships with their siblings, and some people just learn to accept their sibling relationships for what they are. Of course, that's a hard pill to swallow. But it's a lot easier to cope with when you have professional help, a shoulder to lean on and a listening ear who understands and can give you advice and the tools you need to be okay with it.
If you find that you're always helping your toxic sibling out, doing chores for them, giving them money, bailing them out of situations, lying for them, etc., stop. Sure, it's easier said than done — they're your family, and you don't want them to be in any trouble. But, sometimes, by constantly helping them out, you may be enabling their toxic behavior. And, while maybe it doesn't really matter to you, but they're not doing the same for you. Of course, you're not helping them out so that they'll help you — you're doing it because you love them. But you are spending a lot of your time, energy and possibly money, and that's not doing you any good. It's doing you a disservice and taking away from the time and energy you could be spending on and with people who give you the same unconditional love. This isn't to say that you should never help your siblings out and that you should leave them high and dry, but perhaps consider helping them to get professional help instead of always being that person for them.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.
© 2022 Fairygodboss