Hating Siblings: What Do I Do Cause I Hate My Sister!

By: Sarah Cocchimiglio

Updated November 16, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Stephanie Chupein

Sibling rivalries can be harsh, even into adulthood. It’s a conflict as old as humankind-one of the best-known examples being the epic tale of Cain and Abel. So if you’re having a tough time with your sister or brother, you’re not alone. To best cope, it’s helpful to understand more about this type of conflict.

I Hate My Siblings! What Is Sibling Rivalry?

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Sibling rivalry disorder (SRD) might be diagnosed where there is a conflict between siblings so severe that it:

  • Leads to marital problems between parents
  • Poses a real danger of physical harm to one or more family members
  • Is damaging to the self-esteem or psychological wellbeing of one or more family members
  • Needs the intervention of a mental health professional

Sometimes siblings never outgrow this rivalry, and the conflict perpetuates into adulthood. Here we’ll discuss what causes sibling rivalries, and how to either overcome or accept them.

How Does Sibling Rivalry Manifest?

According to child specialists Alexander K. D. Leung and Lane M. Robson, rivalry occurs between most, if not all siblings to varying degrees. This often manifests as early as the age of two to three years. Leung and Robson say, “Rivalry may be manifested as a verbal or physical attack, frustration, persistent demands for attention, or as regressive phenomena.”

Regressive phenomena include thumb-sucking, bed wetting, temper tantrums, baby talk, etc. Another symptom may be tattling or lying to the parents about a sibling’s transgressions.

Rivalry between adult siblings may include behavior like stonewalling, open aggression, fights, cruelly manipulative behavior, as well as avoiding each other or unpleasant exchanges.

What Causes Sibling Rivalry?

Simply put, sibling rivalry is caused by the sense that children are competing for their parents’ love and attention. This perception of parental favoritism can manifest very early in a child’s life, with dire effects if severe and left unaddressed. It can cause mental health and behavioral issues in children and teens, but also continue to have negative effects into adulthood. It doesn’t have to be this way. There are steps you can take, like talking to someone who can help you identify and work through your emotions in an effort to resolve the conflict with your brother or sister.

Researchers at Cornell University conducted multiple interviews with mothers and their adult children, who were asked about:

  • Their emotional closeness
  • Excessive conflict with a specific child
  • The mother’s expectations regarding which child will care for her if she becomes disabled or ill

Results demonstrated that only 15 percent of children felt they were treated equally by their parents. Also, where the mother assigned a specific child the task of taking care of her (possibly demonstrating favoritism), all the children in the family showed greater symptoms of depression. However, the children didn’t link their mental health directly to the perceived unequal treatment.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are the chosen child or not, the perception of unequal treatment has damaging effects for all siblings,” said Dr. Karl Pillemer, a Hazel E. Reed professor in the Department of Human Development at Cornell’s College of Human Ecology. “The less favored kids may have ill will toward their mother or preferred sibling, and being the favored child brings resentment from one’s siblings, as well as the added weight of greater parental expectations.” Parental favoritism, therefore, doesn’t only burden the ‘black sheep,’ but also the favored child.

But What If I’m an Adult and I Still Hate My Siblings or Sister/Brother?

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Your hatred can stem from rivalry when you were children, and fight for your parents’ favor, but what if the hatred towards one or more of your siblings is overwhelming, and continuing even in adulthood?

Consider Your Relationship Realistically 

If you’re an adult and feel resentment towards your sister or brother because he or she still seems favored by one or both of your parents, it could be wise to contemplate the source of your ill feelings. Perhaps start by considering all factors of this favoritism realistically.

Maybe your parents and siblings are drawn to each other for geographical reasons and therefore get to see each other more often out of convenience. Or perhaps they share personality features that make it easier for them to relate. Since they probably think alike, they are more likely to share opinions, views, etc. It’s a natural tendency in relationships to gravitate towards those we agree with.

Also, your view of the world or your beliefs may differ from your family’s. Research has shown that parents feel more ambivalence towards a child who doesn’t share their values. It’s a shame, but not an error on your part. Just because you were raised together doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get along with your siblings as adults. This is true also for your parents. Life shapes all people differently, and often we change drastically over time. It’s a painful truth that the people we were close to as children sometimes grow up to be adults very different from us.

Your parents and siblings are human and fallible. Also, as children, we tend to unconsciously put our parents on pedestals. This is another natural tendency, but one that could hamper your emotional growth and development in adulthood.

Sometimes the divide can hurt. The longing to be unconditionally accepted and loved by our parents and siblings is primal, natural, and strong. Feeling like the black sheep of the family could be debilitating and isolating for an adult. Also, relationship conflict can cause a lot of stress. For this reason, it could be beneficial to make an effort to work through your difficult emotions.

Six Steps to Deal With Difficult Emotions on Your Own

According to relationship specialists Drs. John and Julie Gottman, the key to overcoming the difficult emotions in relationships is mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness enables you to calm and soothe yourself, and in this state, you will have space to reflect and thoughtfully respond, rather than reacting. They offer six steps to remain mindful while dealing with difficult emotions about almost any relationship:

  1. Become aware of your emotions and identify where in your body you feel them. This could manifest as a pounding heart, clenched jaws, or a sick feeling in the stomach. If this step is difficult, stop and take a break. ‘Listening’ this way to difficult emotions gives them the gentle space they need-these emotions just want to be felt, nothing more. Bottling up will only result in them popping up elsewhere. According to the Gottmans, these emotions are trying to help you wake up to what is going on before a major crisis occurs.
  2. Mentally identify the emotion, and give it a label or name, i.e., say out loud to yourself: “This is hatred,” or “This is sadness.” Don’t say, “I am hateful,” or even “I feel hate towards my sister.” This way, you distance yourself from the emotion. You should then feel better able to deal with it. This can be empowering and take some of the pain out of difficult feelings.
  3. Accept your emotions. Don’t resist, deny, or try to change them. It may even be helpful to say this out loud to yourself: “I accept this feeling of hatred.” The Gottmans suggest that you call to mind a best friend going through a difficult time, and imagine what you would say to him/her, such as: “You’re okay. You’re not to blame. You did the best you could.” Then, also say the same to yourself. This way, you treat yourself the way you would a best friend-with compassion, understanding, and gentleness. Taking this step will soothe you greatly. It may even open you to viewing your sister or brother differently. Eventually, you will find the difficult emotions more fleeting.
  1. Realize the emotion will pass, i.e., that it is impermanent. This is an important step even when the emotion feels overwhelming. Nothing in life is permanent, and this includes the most powerful, gripping emotion or circumstance. You will gain an important skill of mindfulness if you can internalize this truth. Eventually, emotions will evaporate by themselves.
  1. Inquire and investigate the trigger for the emotion. Ask yourself: “What triggered this feeling of hatred? What set me off and why do I feel this way? Was it a result of my critical mind or because of the way my sister acted?” Another good question to ask would be: “What is happening here?” This step is important once you have calmed down. It introduces realism and objectivity to the situation if you’re able to be honest with yourself and let your deep, authentic self answer. It will create a space for you to see things differently.
  1. Let go of the need to control this emotion. The Gottmans recommend you simply remain open to the outcome of your emotions and what unfolds. If you can, step out of yourself for a moment, and listen to what your sister or brother is trying to communicate to you. This is the first step to more compassionate, balanced, and kind relationships.

BetterHelp Can Help

Hating Your Sister Is An Awful Feeling - Learn What You Can Do About It
Get Connected With A Licensed Online Therapist Today
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If you feel your family relationships are affecting your peace of mind or ability to function, it might be time to consider therapy or counseling. You don’t have to do this alone. BetterHelp can be the perfect online platform to find psychological assistance. You can connect discreetly with therapists trained to deal specifically with family issues and sibling rivalry, and all other types of relationship conflict.

Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

“Alisha has let me view situations in another perspective. Like the stressful times I’ve gone (still going) through with my family and my work. I’m really grateful for her time to listen to what’s on my mind and really making me comfortable to share so much with her. Thank you, Alisha!”

“I started working with Jeana a few weeks ago mainly because I am trying to really step out and learn who I am without the influence of my family and others. She has been so very helpful in guiding me through this process and helping me manage those emotions that will pop up while trying to dig through life.”

Conclusion

Your relationship with your siblings doesn’t have to be painful. They’re the friends you’re born with. Of course, like any relationship, the ones with your brothers and sisters are a two-way street and you alone may not instantly fix everything. But by taking the initiative and the first steps, you will show your siblings you are willing to put in the effort, and hopefully they will follow suit. Take the first step today.


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