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Therapy and the Human-Dog Bond

What is Sibling Rivalry?

What is Sibling Rivalry?

As some readers of this blog may know, I’ve devoted a lot of time to thinking and writing about this question (Beyond Sibling Rivalry, Why Can’t We Get Along) and have only recently figured out how to share my expertise in bite-sized chunks that you can read while drinking a cup of coffee (or tea). This is the first in a series of posts that will talk about sibling rivalry among children and adults, its causes, its varieties, and what can be done about it.

To begin: a definition. Sibling rivalry refers to a relationship between siblings of any age that is in most situations and most of the time characterized by envy, jealousy, anger, resentment, jockeying for power, and sometimes verbal or even physical aggression.

I generally try to avoid defining something by listing all the things it is not, but here I break my rule to add that a disagreement between or among siblings, even a heated one, does not necessarily make their relationship rivalrous. If that heated argument, whether it is about politics, religion, or the medical needs of aging parents ends amicably and with some sort of consensus in which everybody feels heard and valued, it is simply an argument and not a symptom of sibling rivalry. In adult relationships dominated by feelings of sibling rivalry, discussions quickly devolve into ad hominem attacks, by character assassination. And, contrary to the popular saying, it does not always take two: if one sibling has an interpersonal style focused on power and the belief that the best defense os a strong offense, it may not matter how empathic or understanding the other is. But I am getting ahead of myself. The question of how to handle verbal bullying by a sibling will have to wait for a future post.
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