We Ask, You Answer: Do You Have A Complicated Relationship With Your Sibling(s)?

It was #nationalsiblingday yesterday, and I haven’t spoken to my brother in over two years. While he’s my half brother, and we definitely have a complex history being half siblings, we had an undeniable brother sister bond. I even lived with him for over a year after he went through his divorce. But after our dad died two years ago, and our lives came crashing down, all of the things in our childhood that were swept under the rug appeared, and our bond couldn’t hold their weight. It was as if our bond dissipated into thin air, seemingly overnight. Our dad was the glue that held us together, and when he took his last breath, he inhaled our relationship whole. 

Even today, over two years since we’ve last talked, it’s hard for me to address the reasons we don’t. I don’t know how to sum up our relationship and history. How do you explain the million different paper cuts that are now somehow embodied and simplified by the following sentence? My brother and I don’t speak.

Yesterday I saw my Instagram feed flood with happy sibling memories. I felt angry that my brother and I don’t match the Hallmark moments everyone was celebrating. And when I asked through IG stories if you could relate, I was overwhelmed by your answers. While I view my relationship with my brother as “complicated”, your answers provided me with insights on how broad “complicated” actually is. Addiction. Suicide. Step siblings. Step parents. Parent neglect. Age difference. Divorce. There are so many reasons one might categorize their relationship with their sibling as “complicated.” 

So today, we wanted to honor these parts of our family dynamics. It’s not always easy to talk about, but it’s important we know that a complicated relationship with a sibling does not equal a stain on our worth. And more importantly, it’s nice to know we aren’t alone.

How has your sibling impacted your life? Is your relationship complicated? Tell us down below.   

LET'S TALK: do you have a complicated relationship with your siblings?



  1. My brother is 13 years younger than me. He’s my half brother. We share an absent father. We were close when he was a kid but it got complicated when his mother took him away. She suffers from mental illness, so I stayed away for years. She frightened me. Fast forward. My brother is bipolar and is currently incarcerated. I used to support him thru these times, but he is now 38 and keeps making choices that aren’t aligned with my way of being. He called asking for me to put money on his books so he could get provisions but this time I refused. I’m grounded in my choice. But I do worry about him during this pandemic. The system isn’t kind to men of color and the virus isn’t either. 🙏🏽

  2. Oof this is a big one… I had to take care of my brother when my parents split at age 11 and it meant I couldn’t have a normal childhood and I (unknowingly) resented him for it and as a result treated him terribly for many years. I have since made amends and am working everyday to be a better sister but I am telling you it is so not easy because his resentment and feeling of being unsafe with me runs really deep and is so easily triggered. I walk on eggshells with him now and sometimes wish he would just get over it and realize we need each other more than anything. It makes me so sad that our relationship is this way and I wish it was better.

  3. This might be a little heavier than what you’re going for, but little known fact about me — my brother has mental illness. He has severe anxiety and OCD that keep him from living a normal life, so that’s complicated. I feel guilty because, even though we get along well enough, things got really bad with him around the time I was leaving for college and I kind of checked out of it all. I worry because he relies on my parents for everything and they’re not going to live forever, so one day I will probably have to decide between upending my life to help him out or putting him in a group home. It’s not something I like to think about so I rarely share this with anyone. I don’t know if I’d say I resent him, but it does bother me that he refuses to try any kind of medication despite it being prescribed and recommended. I often wish I had another sibling to share the burden.

  4. My brother introduced me to my husband at their boot camp graduation (they were best friends) and we started talking right away and things got serious. My brother was very jealous of our relationship while we were dating and it got even worse after we got married. We’ve been married almost six years and we no longer speak to my brother. A lot of ugliness has happened over the years, including not inviting my husband and me to his wedding.

  5. I feel like my siblings dont get me most of the times. But i still feel the feeling of love when i’m around them. But i just cannot speak my mind without hurting someone.

  6. I got married super young to an abusive man. When I got out of the relationship, my siblings NEVER asked me about it, they totally pretended it never happened. To this day if my ex hub or marriage get brought up in casual conversation, they get SO uncomfortable. This was super damaging and slowed my healing because it made me try to quickly move on instead of focusing on healing. I eventually realized what I was doing and saw a therapist and got help, but I am sad that they ignore this huge part of me.

  7. my half sister is 18 years older than me and it’s one of the hardest relationships in my life. really difficult because she doesn’t understand when she hurts me and doesn’t even realize that i resent her for not being the sister i wanted or needed. Both her and my brother who is 14 years older than me have really defined a lot of my shadow sides but as I’ve gotten older and have been able to forgive them/let go of my expectations things have gotten a little better

  8. i really appreciate this question because it has actually been really challenging to see all of the “national sibling day” posts. my older sister is an active addict and has been since she was 14. she’s 28 now and i’m 25. most of my memories in my early twenties are of me picking her up from/visiting her at rehab or hearing updates from mum if she’s called lately. she lives in women’s shelters mostly. i haven’t seen her in almost a year. i hold a lot of resentment and sadness from not having a best friend in her and doing normal sister things growing up. a few years ago i moved across the world and fell in and out of love for the first time. it was both beautiful and painful and i couldn’t talk to her about it. my brother is 2 years younger than me and was never close to her so is removed from it. he struggles with mental health + anxiety. i feel like the caretaker + have always strived to be perfect. it’s exhausting. sometimes i wish we were all best friends and it was light and fun.

  9. After moving out to attend school I had the opportunity to move home when I switched post secondary’s. Great to save money, and honestly it’s not a bad set up. I have a pretty good relationship with my family… except that my younger siblings and I aren’t friends. I know it’s hard on my parents and it’s all they want–for us to actually want to spend time together. But I guess I’m just learning that it’s okay that I don’t like spending time with them. We are all very different people with different religious beliefs, morals, and lifestyles. As much as I always wanted to be friends with my siblings maybe I need to changed my expectation. Maybe they just need to be my sibling. And thats okay. Except it would be great if they helped clean the bathroom once in a while, ya know??

    1. I think that’s a very healthy way to think of it—that it’s okay to just be siblings, and not close friends. I’ve been given similar advice by my therapist, and I’ve found it very helpful in figuring out what I need and want my boundaries to be with my sibling I’m closer to, and to recognize and respect his too. I hope your parents can see that you and your siblings can be loving family to each other without having to be friends too! I think those relationships are just as valuable as friendships. Love takes many forms.

  10. I have three half sisters who are from my dad’s first marriage. They’re 20+ years older than me, and they live in my home country of The Netherlands. I grew up as an only child in Vancouver. My mum worked all the time and my stay-at-home dad was physically + emotionally abusive. I felt isolated my entire childhood and envied anyone with a sibling with whom to share with.

    My sisters and I don’t keep in touch other than birthdays and holidays. But, when I go home and see them, it’s an indescribable bond. We pick up where we left off and it’s warm and safe and I feel like a part of a their sisterhood. It wasn’t until two years ago, when I was visiting, that I realized the depth of our bond: the shared experience of trauma stemming our relationship with our dad. We have all grown estranged from him at some point in our adult lives – myself, most recently four years ago.

    My sisters shared with me their fears that our dad treated me the same way as he did them. All these years they feared for my safety but the distance froze them. The four of us shared our deepest traumas. We held each other, we grieved for each other and for the first time, I began to heal.

  11. My sister and I used to have a close relationship but over the years we have grown apart and developed such different views and always feel she has anger toward me. Now our conversations are limited with a lot of passive aggressive comments. I find it difficult to be around her yet want to spend time with my niece and nephew. I find it hard to balance seeing her children and maintaining my boundaries with her.

    1. I find that last line terribly identifiable. I was once very close to my niece. But not long before her 10th birthday, I forced her dad/my eldest brother to confront the fact he’d abused me when I was a toddler. He was very angry at me and spent most of the following year gaslighting me by denying my memories and defending himself to other family members. He’s since admitted to it all and sincerely apologized to me. But my niece and I hadn’t seen each other for a year by then, and goodness knows what he said to her about me during that time. She and I see each other occasionally again now. But we’re not close anymore, because I had to draw and firmly maintain that boundary with my brother. And that hurts me every time I think about it. I’m so sorry you’re in a similar situation. It’s very difficult.

  12. I have experience with this. Having a controlling sibling with BPD is so hard and at times debilitating. I love her a lot but she flips at the drop of a coin and it makes it harder to connect and deepen our relationship. She is always trying to parent me. In her eyes we are best friends, in mine she sometimes feels like a chore to keep up with. I find myself withdrawing from her for my own mental health and it sends her reeling because she “thinks I hate her”. Not super fun!

    1. I’m glad you can set boundaries with her to protect your own mental health and needs. I have a borderline personality diagnosis (amongst other diagnoses), and it’s my job to remind myself that when someone I love needs to draw a boundary with me, they’re not punishing me or ignoring me. They’re doing something healthy and necessary for their own self care, and I love them, so I want them to do those things. I think it’s vital that those of us with mental illnesses that can make us fearful of being gently told “no” by loved ones learn to understand that. Otherwise, we risk continuing the cycle of abuse. I know for most mentally ill people, that’s the last thing we want to do.

  13. Oh wow. These are so hard to read, and yet it’s reassuring to finally hear that, no, family’s aren’t perfect bundles of unconditional love. For some of us it’s a tough subject, and not having a good relationship with siblings feels like a flaw on our own character.

  14. I do feel I have a good relationship with my two siblings – my sister and brother. But yes absolutely it’s still complicated. Our parents were/are neglectful and I think we all respond/ed to it differently and at times it can feel judgey towards how the other two have responded differently. I have also noticed my brother tries to connect but he also is a product of our patriarchal culture so he will tell me how to feel (or not) and I don’t think he sees that’s not helpful at all. My sister lives on the other side of the world which is challenging because yes video and email and messages make it possible to keep in touch but it’s really no substitute for in person conversation and connection. I also feel at times that distance can be used as a way to keep us here in Canada at a distance on purpose – which I realize is her boundary to make. But we are/were close and I do miss her like crazy sometimes.

  15. I have a very odd relationship with my sisters. I’m 27 and they are 37, 38 and 43. My mom had my oldest sister in high school and then my other two in her early 20s. The two closest in age have the same dad. My mom remarried my dad and my sisters didn’t like him.

    My sisters are all extremely close and will often get together without even inviting me, because I don’t have kids and I would most likely be bored. I feel as though they don’t know me at all as an adult. My one sister answered one of those Facebook “start a war with your siblings” posts and I was picked as the one with all the bad traits. Which I’ll be honest, I definitely had those traits when I was in high school. But now, at 27 they are absolutely not me. They really haven’t taken the opportunity to get to know adult me. I dread all holidays because the way they treat me. I instantly revert back to being a teenager because my sisters and mom all gang up on me. I find it incredibly challenging.

    To add to it all…My dad passed away 9 years ago and my sisters are not kind about it. I still mourn him and our relationship and they only ever bring up the bad things that happened or his less than great moments. I basically choose to pretend I’m an only child. I also feel incredibly lucky that my partners sister is my bff! Gives me that sense of sisterhood I never had.

  16. I am the only child from my mother and father. They divorced a year after I was born. My father remarried to the woman he was cheating on my mother with. She is my step mom and I love her dearly. Luckily, there is no animosity between either side (mom or dad.) My father then had 4 more girls before finally having a boy. My mother remarried to my (ex)step dad. I didn’t like him very much, but they gave me my younger brother and sister on that side. I’m very lucky to say that I love ALL of my siblings (I don’t consider them to be “halfs”) and we are all extremely close. Unfortunately, two of my younger sister’s on my father’s side passed away within 3 years of each other. Gabby was 15. She had been in a drowning accident several years prior that left her in a vegetative state for many years until she suddenly passed away in the night. Three years later my sister, Tsofia, passed away in an accident involving a motor vehicle. She was also 15. It has taken many years for us all to navigate through that grief, but because of that we have formed an untouchable bond. Our grief is something we share and is an intimate part of our relationship- in that we find consolation. I honestly don’t know if we would have ever gotten this close if it wasn’t for the loss of our two sisters. That’s the good in it.

  17. My sister and I used to share a good equation. But not anymore. My parents are divorced. We’ve already been through a lot of trauma. She’s sad internally, I know it. I am, too. But we have these ego clashes every now and then. We keep being passive aggressive to one another. It’s hard. It’s not like I don’t love her. But she gets on my nerves most of the times. I just want to get out of this house and not live with any of my family members. She creates a lot of chaos and i really don’t like it. Our relationship is getting worse day by day. But I still hope that it doesn’t go down the drain completely and recuperates as we grow older. Or else I’ll literally have no family to fall back on. It’s sad yk. It’s weird and difficult to maintain sibling relationships. We should have therapy focused on this too.

  18. Gah! This is such a good one. Again, something that I didn’t dive into til after therapy. I’m just now starting to rekindle my relationship with my sister. We didn’t relate to one another for years and it wasn’t until later in my adult life that I realized that we had unintentionally been turned against one another in our childhood. Each of us “sided” with one of our parents. We resented each other. We weirdly compared each other to the other even when comparison wasn’t needed. We used to be partners in crime and all that was ripped from us when we were forced into a separation. We talk more than before, but we are not close yet. I hope we get there one day. She probably knows the parts of me that scare me the most (from childhood) and that’s maybe why the relationship seems so scary to have.

  19. One of the ways my brother has made me feel loved and seen is: when I told him I felt that my childhood had been difficult and our mother bullied me, that my relationship with her was toxic, he said ‘I believe you’. One way my relationship with my brother is tricky, is – I don’t entirely love the woman he married.

  20. I don’t even know where to start this as a whole. Complicated is about as surface level as most of the relationships we have held. Since I’ve started to lean into the healing of lines of trauma and sharing my healing story from my eating disorder and sobriety- it’s been met with even more resistance. I’ve become the family trigger and thus dumping ground and have been forced to set up strong boundaries to keep myself safe. As I saw all the posts yesterday I had the exact same feelings.

  21. I used to have a healthy relationship with my sister. Throughout our 20’s, we talk, vent, be open about things and support each other. About 5 years into her motherhood, that started to change. She strives so hard to be the perfect mom, doing all the things, going absolutely full tilt all the time. She puts a tremendous amount of pressure on herself for things to look like they’re fine, when in reality she refuses to work through stuff. She puts pressure on her kids to do all the thing, she doesn’t communicate with her husband, and she makes fun of others to make herself feel better. Her marriage is now in shambles and her husband is at his wits end. She refuses to seek help or talk about it. I was patient and compassionate to what she was going through for a long time (lost identity, deep grief), but I don’t have anymore patience for it. We come from a very privileged family. We have access to tools and support. We were taught to be kind. I have had to set big boundaries with her because I’m not willing to let her fear and often, toxicity, consume my life. It is deeply sad to not see my nieces as much, but the boundary is most necessary for my mental health. I feel very sorry for my mom as she’s very close to her situation, but really doesn’t know how to support her in working through it. Instead she just ignores her for awhile when it heats up. I hope for the future that she invests in doing the deep work with a therapist so that one day she can be happy again.

  22. We have a great relationship. She’s one of my best friends. I still live near our parents and grandparents and she lives a plane ride away. as they age and needs arise, I find myself wishing she were closer and able to help. When our parents split, she had “better” boundaries (and distance) to fall back on. I was in the thick of it. I used to resent it. But I don’t anymore because it actually helped me move through the grieving process whereas she still struggled with issues around that. So even though we’re great,

  23. My only sibling, my younger brother, took his own life. He was 20 and I was 22 at the time (I’m 30 now), so yes, it’s complicated. I started to do a lot of self-work and self-healing mainly in the later half of my 20’s, but for many years after it happened I harboured a lot of resentment mixed with guilt that disguised my anger towards him. I didn’t let myself feel angry for so long because I didn’t feel like I deserved to. How can someone be angry at the dead? How dare I be angry when he was the one that felt so low he couldn’t take walking this earth any longer?
    But I was angry.
    I was angry at him for taking away my joy and for leaving me with all of the mess to clean up afterwards. Angry for having to be a parent to my grieving parents. Angry at him for not giving me the chance to help him. Angry for no longer being a big sister.
    I have absolutely no idea what our relationship would be like now. All I can say is that I was really lucky that for 20 years I had the privilege of being a big sister, sometimes I only wish I could have done more to protect him and I hope that he forgives me.

  24. All three of my siblings are half siblings. My brother’s are from my dad’s first marriage. My sister is from my mom’s first marriage. I’m the only child my parent’s had together, and I’m the youngest. Our blended family is a complicated and wounded one where we’ve each witnessed and experienced things that have influenced the trajectory of our lives.

    When I look back, I realize that being the sibling with parents who stayed together gave me certain socioeconomic advantages that can stir up feelings of guilt and shame, especially since I’m not close with my brothers, and I know that they’ve had (and still have) an especially rough time in life. Thankfully, my sister has always made an effort to be in my life, no matter what she was going through, and we’ve only gotten closer with age– I think sharing a mom (the same womb) created more of a bond for us.

  25. Yes, complicated would be the right word for my relationship with my brother. We are both adopted (not related to each other) and were raised by wonderful and caring parents. His depression started in middle school, culminating with his door being removed over our family’s fears he would harm himself. He then continued living at home until his late 20’s and drank away most of those years while living with my parents. He is brilliant, funny, and incredibly capable. He is also selfish, can be mean, and does not, or cannot, recognize how much people love him. He is also impacted by his depression and alcohol misuse… it’s so unfair. Our father died a fews year back. I had to be the strong one, making funeral arrangements, supporting our mother, doing everything around the house, etc. We have to walk on eggshells around him most of the time and I resent him for it. I love him, but also also exhausted by him. I feel angry sometimes, especially since it feels like I have to shoulder the burden of caring for our mother. I try to be happy for people who seem to have loving and reciprocal relationships with their siblings, but I cannot relate.

  26. This is probably late but my relationship with my only sister is basically nonexistent. My sister outed me to my parents when I was 19. This lead to physical, verbal, and emotional abuse and eventually them kicking me out of the house. I have so much hate and resentment towards her because I used to be her big sister, her favorite comedian, her trusted friend. She was 15 at the time, maybe scared of something different. I try to tell myself that I understand but I don’t. She betrayed me and still refuses to see me as human. I’ve been told she acts as the victim telling people that I was selfish for “leaving them and choosing someone who isn’t a man rather than my family”. Her actions got my parents to see me like she did. I lost them. Even tho they call sometimes and tell me they love me, I know they mean that they love the person I was, not who I am now

  27. Complicated? I don’t have ANY relationship with my siblings. We don’t speak. It’s soul crushing to live through let alone describe.

    My father was a very kind soul, but he was a somber and depressed alcoholic. My mother, adopted, had a difficult relationship with her mother, my wonderful grandmother whom I adored, as well as issues I believe were related to feeling abandoned as a child. She is narcissistic, always asking “what about me” and was very absent for us in many ways. My mother and I never got along and fought a lot, especially when I was a teenager. She had the five of us kids young and found it underwhelming and often emotionally neglected us.

    When my parents couldn’t work their marriage out and divorced we were all separated. We were sat down and asked who we wanted to live with. My younger brother, sister and I remained with my father and my older sister and brother went to live with my mother. From this point on there was bitternes, hatred, neglect and anger.

    My older and younger siblings continuously moved between parents which made it extremely difficult. There was no consistency. We all did our best just to survive. I was the only child who had remained with my father until I finally left home at 18. And I was very angry person.

    In my family there was no emphasis on relationships. Family dynamics were so scued that it made it difficult to interact let alone resemble a family. Life was chaotic, unhealthy and dangerous at times. We fell into alcohol and drugs and developed risky sexual behaviour, all of us believing one was better than the each and very disapproving of one another. There were too numerous to count battles and arguments and “events” that the best thing to do was to disappear. My dad, whom I dearly loved, died and afterwards I disappeared for a long time from all of them. Life was hard.

    November 3 years ago my younger sister died from triple negative breast cancer. She battled that demon for 5 years, and I was there for her the best I could be after I found out. She wanted me to know she loved me, in her own way, and was sorry her time was cut short. But my older sister was in control of everything and everyone around her, especially at the end of her life. There were arguments and battles of who could and could not see her and people being blind to the chaos that existed. My heart ached. On her death bed I saidmy goodbyes and left before she actually passed away. I couldn’t bare it any longer. In the end, my younger brother and I were left out of her obituary, written by my very bitter older sister.

    The dysfunction of this family is so astounding it’s almost unbelievable. How I made it this long in life is a true mystery. I have longed for a close, loving family and how I have dreamed of siblings I can call on a daily basis to share life experiences with. I ache and I hurt.

    My older and younger brothers have once again disappeared, probably into their vices, and I am left with shame, guilt, remorse, pain, bouts of depression, anxiety attacks, and fear – all the while wishing I had a sibling to rely on.

  28. I am one if 5 blood siblings, and 2 half, and growing up it was chaotic but not horrible. My parents managed but honestly should have thought about how to properly give their kids as well as themselves enough time to take care of. Once my parents split when I was about 14 it caused so much drama and pain, that reflected differently in all the kids. To this day, 3
    Of my 4 sisters are constantly talking negatively about each other, competing, and distancing themselves all the time. I admit I don’t try to keep up with any of the relationships in my family besides my oldest sister who stays out of all of it (due to an age difference) and my youngest brother and mom. The rest of my family I have unfortunately realized, is very negative and hurtful and has their own issues that they reflect outward. Therefore it is hard to keep a constant relationship or bond with them as you know they could switch back and be mean/rude/selfish so easily. Anyway, soooo many other people and families have problems and it is sad. I wish that everyones family units could be strong without reason, however, not usually the case. Don’t fret, as maybe your brother will come around. Just be patient and maybe every once in awhile send a card or letter or something personal to let him know you’re thinking of him (but dont expect anything in return). That is one thing i want to start doing- to let those i still do care about to truly know that- even though they dont return it- but those that do stay close with you, even if not connected by blood can also become your new family! 🙂 happy easter!

  29. “Complicated” is a word one could use for my relationship with my eldest brother. He sexually abused me when I was 3 and he was 12. He basically got off with no consequences until I was over 30 and finally needed to make it clear to my family that, despite their attempts to pretend he’d never abused me, I had in fact never forgotten what he did, have never been okay because of what he did, am frankly frightened of him and of men in general, and always have been. All because of him. I have complex PTSD and a host of comorbid mental illnesses because of his abuse, none of which I had diagnosed until I was over 30 and finally talked about my memories of CSA at his hands—first to my partner and then to my therapist. No one but him knows whether he kept abusing me after my parents thought they stopped him. And he’s hardly about to tell us.

    I didn’t talk to most of my family for 8 months after telling them I remember him abusing me, and didn’t talk to him for over a year. He spent most of that time trying to gaslight my family, and my through them, into believing that he couldn’t have sexually abused me because, as he would say, he was “just a child too”. When I started speaking with our mom again, I got a lot of questions from her that implied she wanted to believe him about that. Until I showed her that child-on-child sexual abuse is recognized both legally and by trauma therapists as a very real form of sexual abuse. Then those questions slowly petered out.

    When I finally did see my eldest brother again, to my incredible surprise, he took responsibility and admitted he’d abused me. He apologized and didn’t want me to feel like I accept the apology or express forgiveness. I’ve seen him several family occasions since then, and it’s been okay each time.

    Except inside my head, where I live in an endless state of dissonance.

    Am I still afraid of him? Yes.

    Do I forgive him? Sometimes. Not always.

    Do I think he really believes he abused me? Yes.

    Do I trust that he’ll never turn on me and gaslight me about that if he’s angry? Not at all.

    Do I feel safe around him? Physically, yes. Emotionally, never.

    Do I believe that he never abused other children? Yes. I think it was a crime of convenience. Because I was there, and he thought he could get away with it.

    Do I love him? Like him? Sometimes. Not always.

    Do I wish him ill? Not always. But sometimes.

    Would I be the person I am today if he hadn’t abused me? No. I can’t see how I would be.

    And I don’t know what that last part means. Because I don’t hate myself anymore since I unpacked all this. And I’d rather die than give my abuser a gram of credit for the person I am today. Yet, I must admit I cannot begin to imagine who I might have been, had he not made me a sex abuse survivor as a toddler. So how can I deny that he’s instrumental creating the person I’ve grown up to be?

    I do know that I can’t think about all that for too long without finding it hard to breathe.

    So, yes. “Complicated” is a very apt word to describe my relationship with my eldest brother. And with the rest of my family, and frankly the rest of the world, because of what he did to me.

    Thank you for a chance to express all this. It’s difficult to find places where it feels appropriate to talk about it.