Having someone to share your life with is a blessing. And if that person is a sibling, the joy is multiplied. Growing up together, sharing things, being a shield in front of your parents–these are things only a sibling can do. But this loving relationship can turn into a nightmare if your sibling is a toxic person. We are conditioned to love our parents, siblings, and family from a young age, irrespective of how they treat us. But sometimes, they make it almost impossible to love them or even like them. And this is a valid feeling that stems from toxicity.
Here are some signs to watch out for that will help you identify if your sibling is toxic or not.
1. No respect for boundaries
In any toxic relationship, be it family, friends or romantic, one trait that’s common is the lack of respect for boundaries. If your sibling is constantly crossing boundaries despite you telling them not to, that’s a glaring sign of toxicity.
2. They are manipulative
Toxic people love to manipulate and a toxic sibling is no different. They will turn your words around on you to make you into a villain. For example, if they ask to borrow your backyard to host a get-together and you say no, they’ll guilt trip you into feeling like you are a bad, unloving sibling. This manipulation can happen at the smallest of levels and you need to be aware of it.
3. Every interaction is draining
If you feel exhausted after spending time with your sibling every time, then make a note that they are toxic AF. Often, when interacting with a toxic sibling, you will feel like your energy has drained out completely, your good mood suddenly plummets, or they have taken away every iota of confidence you have. If a conversation with your sibling makes you feel any of these, it’s time to get some distance. Similarly, if you feel like you are meeting all your sibling’s needs but your needs are unmet, that’s another red flag.
4. They give you the silent treatment
The silent treatment is a manipulator’s weapon of choice. Some people love giving others silent treatment to make them feel guilty. They will refuse to acknowledge your presence and ignore you completely and use it as a form of punishment.
5. They dismiss your feelings
Toxic siblings often dismiss or invalidate your feelings. If you tell them an action of theirs has hurt you, they will just say you are being too sensitive. Or if you are talking about something that’s happened to you, they will find a way to diminish your feelings and make you feel bad about it.
6. Always play the victim
Playing the victim card is another thing toxic people love to do. For them, everything, even the smallest inconvenience, is a big tragedy. They love to go around telling people how they have been wronged. You refused to help your sibling with their bills because you know they are lying about needing money? They will make it a point that every single person in the vicinity is aware of how you refused to help them in time of crisis while crying over how hard their life is.
7. They are always right
Well, in our country, elders are always right, or so they believe. Sometimes, siblings believe that too. And while that is cute till about the time you are 10 years old, it gets old after that. If you have a sibling who believes they are never wrong about anything, that’s a sign of trouble. Such siblings often enjoy flaunting their knowledge, even if they are wrong. And if you dare to challenge or correct them, they will pick a fight with you and be condescending.
8. They must be the star…always
A sibling who always wants to be the centre of attention is a toxic sibling. Sure, one can be the golden child of the family, but that’s not to say the other sibling is not talented or that they don’t have any achievements. In a healthy relationship, siblings would be trying to push each other to greater heights. In a toxic relationship, on the other hand, siblings would be trying to pull each other down.
Here’s an example. You got good marks in an exam and are parents are showering their attention on you. A toxic sibling will not just be jealous of this, but they will also try to turn it around to make them the star rather than you. It could be saying that they tutored you so you got the marks, or they helped do something that allowed you to spend more time studying. Basically, a toxic sibling wants to be the centre of the universe for everyone in their life.
How to deal with a toxic sibling
It is not just enough to identify toxic siblings. It is equally important to know how to cope with them. Maintaining your individuality and your health in this precarious relationship is of the essence. Here are a few ways to deal with a toxic sibling.
1. Put yourself first
If you are living with a toxic sibling, chances are that your self-confidence is at an all-time low. Since your sibling loves to tell you how not-so-great you are, it’s time to remind yourself of your awesomeness. Practise self-love and remind yourself that you are loved. There are people who love you and you need to love yourself too. Indulge in some self-care practices so that you don’t rely on somebody else for love.
2. Pick your battles
Fighting for what you believe in is a worthy cause. But, when you know the other person is deaf to anything you want to say, it’s best to keep mum. So, pick and choose the battles you want to have with your toxic sibling. If you can, just agree to disagree. Ignore what they are saying and just pretend like you didn’t hear anything. In some cases, it might be fruitful to pretend that they are not around.
3. Talk to your sibling
Sometimes, toxic siblings are the way they are out of sheer ignorance. They may be unaware of their behaviours and how it affects you. In such cases, it is advisable to talk to them and let them know how their actions affect you. And if you think their actions are a cry for help, confront them. It might be a difficult conversation, but an important one nonetheless.
4. Set clear boundaries
Yes, we know a toxic sibling doesn’t care much for boundaries. But it is still important to keep reinforcing them. Set clear emotional boundaries and let them know what is and isn’t acceptable to you. Don’t let them have unfettered access to you and your time. Let them know what time they can contact you, how you prefer to communicate with them, and which of their actions are acceptable and unacceptable.
5. Stop normalising their behaviour
A lot of people continue with toxic behaviour either because it has been normalised or they are enabled. Stop doing both things. They need to be made aware that their actions are wrong and have serious consequences. Call them out on their actions and assert yourself, even if your sibling refuses to listen. Make it clear that you won’t be tolerating their behaviour by any means.
6. Cut contact
When you know for a fact that your sibling is not going to change or take your feelings into account, it’s best to cut contact. Nobody, not even family, is worth belittling yourself and ignoring your feelings. Your mental and emotional health takes priority every single time. So, if you feel the relationship is not adding any value to your life, it’s best to walk away and not turn back.
7. Seek counselling
A toxic relationship brings with it some trauma and a whole range of mental health issues. So, to deal with them, it is best to seek professional help. The anxiety and stress that comes with dealing with a toxic sibling need to be dealt with in a healthy manner.
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