Sibling Rivalry; Private Wars

siblings2This may well end up being a 2-Parter. It’s a tough subject and one that may open old wounds for anyone choosing to read this to any depth but if old wounds are re-opened, then they never truly healed.

A battlefield of sibling rivalry is waging around me. I hate it. It is just so senseless and ridiculous. When all is said, when all is done, the only thing that ever truly matters is your family; wives, husbands, lovers and friends will come and will go in our lives but family is constant. Obviously, I am not talking about severely dysfunctional families, where true abuse takes place; I am talking about average families.

My brother spent far too many years being jealous of me. Irrational jealousy. He was jealous of my marks in elementary school, jealous of what he saw as the ease of my life. Jealous of my friends. Imagined that I was the favourite. I wasn’t, I was simply very high-maintenance. I caused a lot of trouble for myself and my parents did their level best to limit collateral damage. It took time. My brother never gave them trouble. He didn’t consort with the “wrong” type of people. He listened and obeyed rules. I, on the other hand, thwarted authority whenever it showed its face.

I was an excellent reader, I loved to read and still do. My brother has Dyslexia and reading has always been very difficult for him. He was in school when the diagnosis of Dyslexia was still in its infancy. While I could read about logic and the mechanics of life; he was able to get to it. He was able to do what I could only read about and grasp, tenuously. Our interpretation of life was radically different. We were two polar opposites. I love him to pieces and would fight, to the death, anyone who chose to cause him grief or harm but as adults, we have had some major issues. We’ve gone months without speaking. I love him but damn, he has the capacity to piss me off like no one else, save my own children…..they have the same ability.

Took a long time for me to figure out what was going on with him. Yeah, yeah – plain as the nose on your face but when it is that close, sometimes it is that much harder to see, to understand.

Whenever there was a get-together of any sort; he would act out. I saw it as playing the fool, as “Look At Me!!” behaviour and that’s what it was. He was trying to garner attention. I don’t like large gatherings and prefer to sit quietly so I found his antics very upsetting. I didn’t want people to think ill of him. He was my baby brother. Sometimes his behaviour bordered on foolhardy, on childishness but I failed to see the underlying cause. I couldn’t really conceive of anyone being jealous of me. I mean, really? I was a wife, mother and work-a-day person. Not famous, not rich, not talented in any way. I can’t sing to save my life, my artistic ability is limited to stickmen and my dancing days are long over. What, on earth, in my life, could cause this reaction?

Well, it seems that this jealousy has deep roots. It comes from his perception, as a child, of what it meant to be my little brother. I was the only girl, the only granddaughter for a very long time, in a totally male dominated family. I was a test case, so to speak. So attention was paid because I was a novelty but novelties wear off. I wasn’t interested in being a test case. I wasn’t interested in being anyone’s princess. Life was out there and I wanted it. I didn’t want prom or hairdressers or glitz. I wanted life. This, however, backfired on my brother. I would get into all sorts of trouble and my parents would need to sort things out. My behaviour was a topic of discussion and my brother, being the “Good Son” didn’t warrant special talks or interventions. He perceived this, in his childhood as being left out.

So, as I grew older and settled myself down into a place with which I was comfortable – he, in turn, attempted to grab the attention, the spotlight that he saw as having been mine. Never realizing that it was a black sort of light and one that caused me a lot of pain.

It took a long time, a lot of anger and recriminations for me to understand the dynamics of our relationship. He is insecure. He is totally unaware of his goodness, of his intelligence, of his skills. He is still that little boy inside. That jealousy transferred or spread itself to my eldest son. He is jealous of him as well.

It doesn’t tick me off anymore. I understand where it is coming from and my heart breaks for him. If only he knew how special a man he is and that he doesn’t need to live up to anyone’s ideal. He is perfect the way he is. One day, perhaps, we’ll sit down and have a long talk about this. I have a feeling that this issue is pretty common and again, when you are too close, sometimes you just don’t see it.

Yup, this will be a 2-parter. I have a large family and larger extended family; it’s safe to say that we probably engender every form of sibling rivalry, alone and in combination.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Sibling Rivalry; Private Wars

  1. Well at least you are part-way to understanding it. As you say it is within the bounds of normal. The biggest rivalry among my kids is between Sian and James, my middle children. I’ve never understood it, and I’m not sure they do. As I’m an only child, I’m clueless, frankly. All I can ever do is not take sides, loudly sometimes, as in LEAVE ME OUT OF IT. Poor Sarah gets the brunt of it, married to James, and being Sian’s long-time friend, and she’s the best person to deal with it too, she’s as patient as the day is long. She rolls her eyes a lot. I’m just hoping if they can get over it now they won’t be writing stuff like this in 30 years time!

  2. “If only he knew . . .” Why not tell him?

    • I have but he hasn’t been ready to hear it yet. I think he believes it to be a way of making him feel better as opposed to being the truth. Sighhhh, human psychology…it’s a bitch.

  3. What about sibling rivalry that starts showing in adulthood? There were minor signs of it in childhood, but now is completely full blown war?

  4. I dunno Joby; communication is the first step – it may lead somewhere but you have to be realistic as well though, sometimes the wounds, real but more often imagined, run too deep. I figure, we can only try to extend a hand but when it gets nipped or actually bitten – you have to initiate self-protection mode. People can’t be helped unless they want to be helped. I’ve seen families blow apart, up close and personal – Dave’s family. He lost contact with his older sister and brother almost 20 years ago and they have not spoken since. Sad but they were destructive entities who loved their misery. So, we make the best of a bad situation and do your utmost not to allow it to influence your own happiness.

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