I can’t wait until my sister, Amanda, comes home for the weekend. I miss the little fluffy dog she brings in tow, the company to my left at the dinner table, the yellow glow from the lamp in her bedroom as I close my eyes to sleep. I miss my companion at the end of the bar, and the stories we share over a couple of gimlets.
My sister is four years older than me, so I was lucky to be born with a built-in best friend for life. Our connection can be messy at times, especially the decade or so it took us to climb out of the trenches of adolescence. But when you are born into the life of another person, or they are born (against your will) into yours, a perfect bond doesn’t fuse naturally. You don’t automatically love your sibling the way you love the woman who gives you nourishment from her own body, or the man who is biologically programmed to tell you bedtime stories. Often, your sibling is just the one who steals your barbie dolls or stains your favorite shirt. A good relationship between siblings isn’t a given; it takes work.
This effort is important because they might be the only person you have left later in life. That sounds morbid, but it can actually be a beautiful thing if you think of it this way: born at similar times in history, you understand each other in a way your parents never will, you trust each other in a way you can’t trust your friends, you love each other in a way you don’t share with anyone else.
As someone who has fallen in and out of understanding with my sister, I know that my life is more fulfilled when we get along. We’ve got the best friend-thing down, from the inside jokes, to the occasional fights, to the deepest trust. If your sibling relationship needs a little healing, or you’ve fallen out of touch, there’s still hope.
Bring Up The Past
Whether good or bad, this is a great way to bond with your sibling, as your shared history is something entirely unique to your relationship. Bring up that thing that your sibling did years ago that still bothers you in a non-judgmental, honest way, or apologize for something long overdue. Once the messy stuff has been cleaned up, lighten the mood. Recall a time when you were both truly happy, bring up embarrassing stories from your childhood, or, if you really can’t think of anything, bond over the things that Mom and Dad don’t know about. This aspect of your relationship is something you don’t share with any of your other friends or family, like a juicy secret that has been pinky-promised between you two. Enjoy the exclusivity.
Embrace Their Personality
Sibling relationships are often strained because of a difference in personality. Amanda and I are nothing alike. She’s quirky, adventurous, and colorful, while I am more conventional, prudent, and beige (like a chic, Stella McCartney beige, ok?). Conflicts over differing personalities are often just refusals to understand one another on a deeper level. Take a personality quiz together, discuss your likes and dislikes, talk about the kind of people you hope to be one day. You can’t change your sibling’s personality, so you might as well understand where they’re coming from. Once I embraced Amanda’s traits instead of dwelling on our differences, I found her quirks amusing, her spontaneity envious, and her vibrancy compelling.
Give Them A Call
Or, fine, text them. Siblings need reassurance that you think of them when they’re away, that you miss them, and that you care about what goes on in their life. Instead of listening to the same songs on the radio as you drive home from work, call your sibling from the speaker on your car. If something comes up that reminds you of your sibling, shoot them a text to let them know. While you may not permanently loose touch with your sibling like you would a friend from high school, it’s important to check in regularly to give advice, provide support, or simply listen.
Who Are They Now?
You have to get to know your sibling when you are both adults. Your sister is not the shy, skinny eighth grader with that weird friend from down the block. Your brother is not that pimply, arrogant high schooler who didn’t speak to you from the ages of 13-18. Aging changes us into vastly different people, so chances are you might not even know who your sibling has become as an adult. Ask them where they want to go in life, what kinds of relationships they want, and their overall personal and professional goals.
Host a Day of Fun
There’s nothing like spending some quality time with the people you love, or the ones you’re trying to love. If Joey can learn to tolerate Janice, you can learn to enjoy the company of your sibling by spending a day (or an afternoon, if your sibling likes to sleep in…ahem) together. Think of something you might plan for a date, something you’d both enjoy that’s a little out of the ordinary. Here are some ideas for your Day of Fun:
- Go to a local museum then hit up your favorite coffee shop
- Help your sibling shop for new clothes then grab a drink together
- Try a wine or beer tasting then enjoy a picnic
- Dinner and a movie is never a bad idea
- Ice skating! Roller blading! Bowling! Followed, of course, by a meal
Better yet, if you’ve got some extra cash, treat them to that cup of coffee or that drink. It shows them that you value their time enough to spend money on it. Just like when your date picks up the check at the end of the night, it’s flattering to know that someone values time spent with you at least as much as they value their cash.
Whether or not you have the money to spend on it, a good relationship with your sibling is priceless. They are often the only person with whom you have a lifelong relationship, and they can provide essential support in times of stress or anxiety. A sibling can be the most familiar of friendly faces, a comforting constant as you navigate the complications of life together.