How to Manage Adult Sibling Rivalries During the Holidays

6 Ways to Cope with Adult Sibling Rivalries


The holiday season brings families together for festive gatherings and, in some instances, stressful interactions. If you have a lingering rivalry with a sibling, things can quickly become heated. Here's how to cope with an adult sibling rivalry without losing your cool.

Set a good example. If a sibling always seems to try to one-up you, even as an adult, it's likely a sign they have self-esteem issues and poor engagement skills. Once you recognize this, you can approach the situation with a little more compassion. You can also try modeling appropriate behavior in your own interactions to show them a better way to communicate.

Try to have empathy. While it can be maddening when an adult sibling carries a rivalry into adulthood, you should try to have compassion. Bear in mind that you and your sibling have had different experiences and different relationships with your parents. This doesn't mean you have to be passive and let your sibling walk all over you, it just means trying to be kind and understanding when possible. 

Don't take the bait. It's important to understand that adult sibling rivalries are often driven by lingering childhood feelings of insecurity. If resentment persists into adulthood, it can cause some people to look for ways to demonstrate that they no longer play "second fiddle" to a sibling. Instead of reacting to every little comment, try to keep the conversation moving and don't let yourself be antagonized into giving a response. Remember that it takes two people to create and sustain a fight. Refuse to participate whenever possible. 

Walk away. Sometimes even the best tactics won't keep a sibling from bombarding you with antagonizing comments. If you've had all the baiting and squabbling you can tolerate, don't engage further. It's not your responsibility to appease your parents and other family members by putting up with your brother or sister. If their actions create conflict during a holiday event, it's not your fault. You are not responsible for your sibling's actions; if you feel you can't tolerate their behavior, find an excuse to stop interacting or leave if necessary.

Check yourself. Sometimes adult rivalries stem from envy. If your sibling is envious of your relationship, success or money, don't throw these things in their face. Instead of talking about the gifts in your life, celebrate the accomplishments of others. Practice humility and don't get into a tit for tat where you itemize your accomplishments in a competitive way.

Try talking. If a sibling seems unable to let go of the past, consider having an open heart-to-heart discussion with her or him. Try sharing your perspective on how you may have felt inferior to the sibling growing up. Listen attentively to your sibling's point of view and don't interrupt them with your own perspective. If you just can't seem to make headway but value the relationship, consider suggesting family counseling which can help each of you get to the root cause of your rivalry and develop effective tools to better manage your feelings and communicate more effectively.

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