Whether you have one sib or ten sibs, “there may be no relationship that can run quite as deep or survive quite as long as those among siblings.” ~ Jeffrey Kluger
If you are as lucky as I am, then you have been fortunate to have siblings that have enhanced your life. Originally, I was one of three. With my father's remarriage, I became one of four. I could not imagine my life without any of them. That would feel imbalanced. We have had disagreements over the years. The distance, both emotionally and physically, along with life changes, have affected our relationships.
But, we have also experienced great conversations, crazy holidays and shared interests, all within the confines of an intimacy that exists within sibling relationships. My relationship with each of my siblings has changed and evolved over the years. Our relationships have become closer. We stay more connected now than we previously did. I see that as a result of desire, the many ways to stay in touch, age, perspective and our parents getting older.
What is it about sibling relationships? Siblings validate our history. They help tell our story. They are an important part of our narrative. Although each one often has a different reaction to the same life experience or event, it doesn't matter. Siblings reminisce and digress in their own special way.
Conversations about a family event can be started anywhere — the beginning, the middle, it doesn’t matter. We know. They fill in the blanks. They make sense of things that sometimes we cannot. They validate our feelings. They get us. They hold us accountable. They are often more forgiving. They keep us honest and can get away with being more honest with each other than other people in our lives. Somehow we tolerate that.
Yet, despite all the good, the truth is not everyone has or has had a positive relationship with their siblings. They are estranged. Distant. Past family squabbles have left a rift, a divide that for many cannot be repaired. Some people "love" their siblings, but do not "like" them and wouldn't want to be friends with them outside of their family structure.
They feel "stuck" with their siblings. There is a sadness to that but, like other relationships in life, some sibling relationships are unsalvageable. An even sadder circumstance? The death of a sibling, which changes not only the family structure in profound ways but has lasting effects on the sibling(s) that remain.
Birth Order and Sibling Relationships.
Most people remain curious about their birth order. They want to know what, if anything their birth order means and how it affects their family structure and their relationships with their siblings.
A few sibling facts according to Jeff Kluger, author of The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds of Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us:
- Conflict with parents can bring siblings closer. When parents are no longer with you, it's the siblings that become the glue. Siblings tell the stories to the next generation. They encompass our past, present and our future.
- After about six years, your step siblings can become as close as biological siblings. Until then, it's all about competition.
- Middle children really do get the shaft in terms of parental attention. Being the middle kid, I can relate to this. My father still refers to me as "middle kid".
- Youngest siblings are the smartest.
- Men with sisters are better at talking to girls.
The descriptions below are by no means exhaustive and offer just a brief overview of the main "players" in families.
Oldest. Firstborns often model parents' behavior. They like taking charge and have oodles of confidence say Kevin Leman, PhD, author of The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are. Adults take them seriously and that boosts their confidence. When parents gush over every firstborn "first," it motivates oldest children to achieve. They can easily become perfectionists. They also may have trouble admitting when they're wrong. First-time parents can be overprotective and tentative while at the same time strict and demanding. This can translate to kids that overachieve.
Middle. The second-born will seek out a role that's completely the opposite of the first born. Their personalities emerge in response to how they perceive the next-oldest sibling in the family. Middle-borns are the most willing to wheel and deal. They are negotiators. They remain agreeable, more relaxed attitude and compromising. They handle disappointment well and have realistic expectations. They are the least likely to be spoiled and tend to be the most independent. They will go along with most people but often feel left out and neglected.
Youngest. Parents tend to let things slide once the last child comes along. Last borns usually do get away with more than their siblings do. They shoulder less responsibility, so are more likely to be carefree, easygoing, fun-loving, affectionate, sociable and make people laugh. Does the youngest in your family assume the role of class clown? Last borns will often become more rebellious and might be spoiled and manipulative.
Only Children. Are often self-entertainers and often the most creative because they spend so much time alone. They are often confident, pay considerable attention to detail and tend to do well in school. They may develop a self centered streak because they are used to feeling important. They may have a difficult time when things don't go their way. They are even more susceptible to perfectionism than firstborns. Many older children also act a lot like firstborns — responsible and mature.
There are many variables that affect sibling relationships. The number of years between siblings, the number of siblings, the gender of each sibling, among others. Each sibling has their own unique personality, temperament, struggles and challenges that affect their relationships.
One's relationship with their sibling(s) will always exist along a continuum and over a person's lifespan. They will continue to change and evolve.
What about you? What is your birth order? Do you believe it affects your relationship with your siblings?