Sibling Strife

Dear Dr. Darcy,

I’m in my 20’s and STILL fighting constantly with my siblings. They are always criticizing my choices, my life, who I date and anything else they hear about.  They say that I’m never doing enough for our father who is widowed. I’m starting to feel like they’re never going to be happy with me.  I so badly want a relationship with them but I wonder if it’s possible.  Is it ever ok to stop speaking to family?  At what age will the fighting stop?

ANSWER

The reality for most of us is that discord from our childhood does not magically disappear when we enter adulthood.  The speed with which the mere proximity to siblings can cause us to regress to the developmental stage of an adolescent is shocking and, often, embarrassing.

The relationship between siblings is strongly influenced by several factors which include parents and other siblings.  In short, estranged siblings typically have parents and/or other siblings who have fed into dysfunctional familial patterns and who have failed to provide the support necessary for siblings to relate more appropriately.  That’s not to say that you’re not responsible for the dissension between your siblings and you, rather, to say that it's unlikely that you could relate as you do without the other family members’ consent, be it passive or active.

I am not of the belief that common chromosomes gives people the right to behave and treat us despicably.  Though I don’t suggest writing family off as a first line of defense, sometimes it’s an act in self-preservation.  So yes, sometimes it’s appropriate to stop speaking to a family member.  And to answer your last question, that is, the age at which we stop fighting with family, I’ll let you know when I get there.