Sibling Rivalry Among Grown-Ups | How To Deal?

  • 2 months ago
3 minute read.
Sibling Rivalry Among Grown-Ups | How To Deal?

Family bonds are strong, but surprisingly, not all siblings get along well. Even as adults, sibling rivalry from childhood can persist causing complications in family relationships. The turbulence between siblings can create unexpected problems, like storms in the ocean of family ties.

As we get older, we anticipate that our relationships with siblings will evolve, mature, and blossom into an unbreakable alliance. We envision Sunday family dinners filled with laughter and camaraderie, where shared memories knit us together in unity. However, the reality can be starkly different. Deep-rooted emotions, unresolved conflicts, and lingering childhood rivalries may surface when least expected, causing adult siblings to clash with each other as if they were still children.

Understanding sibling rivalry in adulthood

Sibling rivalry in adulthood can manifest in various ways, from subtle competitiveness to outright conflicts. As individuals grow up, they may still find themselves comparing their achievements, lifestyle, and even relationships with those of their siblings. These comparisons can lead to jealousy, bitterness, and strained relationships, often fueled by unresolved issues from the past.

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Signs of sibling rivalry

  • Constant Comparison
  • Jealousy and Resentment
  • Competitiveness
  • Passive-Aggressive Behavior
  • Blame Game
  • Lack of Support
  • Difficulty in Celebrating Each Other's Successes
  • Emotional Distance
  • Silence about Feelings
  • Feeling Threatened by Each Other's Choices

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Reasons for adult sibling rivalry

  1. Parental expectations and comparisons: Throughout childhood, parents may inadvertently compare siblings' achievements, behavior, and personalities. This constant comparison can create a sense of competition and lead to a lifelong rivalry as adult siblings strive for recognition and approval.
  2. Limited resources: In situations where resources like parental attention, affection, or financial support were scarce during childhood, adult siblings may continue to compete for these limited resources even as adults.
  3. Financial disputes: Conflicts related to inheritance, sharing family assets, or financial assistance can also contribute to sibling rivalry among adults. Disagreements over financial matters can quickly escalate if not handled with care and understanding.
  4. Competing for parental care: As parents age and require care, adult siblings might find themselves in competition for the responsibility and decision-making regarding parental well-being. Differences in opinions can lead to conflict over what is best for their aging parents.
  5. Lingering jealousy: Feelings of jealousy or insecurity may linger from childhood into adulthood. Adult siblings might envy each other's achievements, relationships, or personal qualities, fueling ongoing rivalry.
  6. Unresolved conflicts: If conflicts from the past were never addressed or resolved, they can fester and influence current interactions. Unresolved issues may resurface repeatedly, exacerbating sibling rivalry.
  7. Favoritism: Parental favoritism can be a potent trigger for adult sibling rivalry. When parents show preferential treatment to one sibling over the others, it can cause deep emotional wounds and create a sense of unfairness and resentment. Adult siblings who feel less favored may carry this sense of injustice into adulthood, leading to ongoing competition and conflict with their favored sibling.

Also read: Positive parenting tips

Coping strategies for adult sibling rivalry

Open communication: Encourage open and honest communication with your siblings. Avoid making assumptions and actively listen to their concerns and perspectives. Communicating calmly and respectfully can foster understanding and help resolve conflicts.

Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries with your siblings to prevent unnecessary friction. Be respectful of each other's personal space, opinions, and decisions.

Let go of past grudges: It's essential to let go of past resentments and grudges to move forward in your relationship. Holding onto past issues will only perpetuate the rivalry and hinder any chances of reconciliation.

Find common ground: Identify shared interests or activities that can bring you and your siblings together. Engaging in mutual hobbies or spending quality time together can help strengthen your bond and reduce tension.

Practice empathy and understanding: Put yourself in your sibling's shoes and try to understand their perspective. Empathy can be a powerful tool in resolving conflicts and building a more compassionate relationship.

Avoid comparison: Resist the urge to compare your life or achievements with those of your siblings. Remember that each person's journey is unique, and comparison only breeds animosity.

Accept the reality of the situation: Acknowledge that adult sibling rivalry exists and that it's normal to experience conflicts with your siblings. Recognize that you may have different personalities, values, and life paths, and that's okay.

Also read: Tips to strengthen bond with siblings


Sibling rivalry in adulthood is a natural part of complex family dynamics. However, it doesn't have to define your relationship with your siblings. By fostering open communication, empathy, and understanding, you can navigate conflicts and cultivate a more supportive and loving bond. Remember that each sibling relationship requires effort, compromise, and forgiveness. Embrace the opportunity to grow together and celebrate the unique connections that only siblings can share.

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