Mental Health Parenting Teens

The Bully at Home; When it’s More Than Just Sibling Rivalry

When people talk about toxic family members, they usually speak about a dad they don’t get along with, or a mom who is too controlling. But toxic family members can include siblings too.

Siblings should be friends to lean on, shoulders to cry on, and occasionally scapegoats to put the blame on. However, if you’re now an adult and your relationship growing up harbored more bad than good, such as constant arguments, emotional/verbal abuse, or never-ending competition; you may want to take a step back and ask if it’s worth it to repair the sibling relationship you’ve been dealing with since childhood.

The following six signs will help you determine if it was more than meaningless sibling fights.

  1. You were constantly the butt of all jokes.

Abuse comes in many forms — from name calling, endless insults, hitting, to sexual harassment and more. If you find that your sibling grew up constantly belittling you with harsh words, that’s verbal abuse.

When a married couple argue constantly and rarely have a calm, loving moment, it often ends in divorce. But when siblings fight on a regular basis, too many times it’s dismissed as innocent sibling rivalry.

2. Majority of arguments were over insignificant topics.

If you fought daily, even over something as little as the TV remote, that is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. Not every little thing should cause a fight.

For young girls, when one of the first male relationships in her life (with a father or brother) is toxic, it can be devastating. Name-calling and making negative comments about her physical appearance can cause her to have poor body image and low self-esteem.

This type of sibling rivalry can have long-term effects on your mental and physical health.

3. You constantly felt controlled or manipulated

It’s common for an older sibling to manipulate a younger one. It gives them a sense of power.

This control could have been used for the better, like encouraging the younger sibling to try the same sport as, but more often than not it’s used for sinister reasons.

4. Lack of Trust

Could you trust your sibling with your secrets? If not, the “sibling bond” was never there.

You may have wanted to confide in your sibling as opposed to a parent. But they waited for the perfect time to spill the beans to the rest of the family or embarrass you in front of friends.

If you couldn’t count on your sibling to keep it a secret, it wasn’t a trustworthy relationship.

5. You stressed about your toxic sibling even when they weren’t around

It’s common to think about a blowout fight the day after it happens; however, if you constantly carried negative thoughts when your sister or brother weren’t around, that’s a different story.

Our family and friends should bring out the “best” side of us. But if bad thoughts of your sibling outweigh the good and negatively affected your schoolwork or job performance, it’s likely you had a toxic sibling relationship.

6. Interactions are still forced

It’s not a good sign if you’re all grown-up and you still prefer to stay away during the holidays.

If you only run into them at family gatherings and have no desire to make plans with them any other time, it’s likely your relationship never outgrew a toxic stage.

Just because they are a family member doesn’t mean that it’s a relationship built on mutual love, respect and support for one another.

You are family by blood and that may be the only connection your relationship is thread together by.

It’s completely normal to want to know “why” the relationship was so toxic. But be empowered with the knowledge that you may never understand why.

“When you are living in constant anxiety never knowing or being able to predict how any engagement is going to turn out, it is time to love yourself enough to let go.”

~Genevieve Shaw Brown,

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