Toxic siblings can put a damper on a lot of things. Depending upon the level of toxicity it can be hard to engage with the rest of your family, or even friends that have been there for some time. It can also put stress on you while you try to suppress your feelings for the sake of keeping things civil between the two of you. There is a myriad of reasons why we keep toxic siblings at arms length, but what can we do once we’ve identified the issue? Psych2Go shares with you 10 ways to deal with a toxic sibling.

1. Speak Up

In all reality, your sibling might not even know that they are hurting you. In this case it is imperative that you speak up and let them know how you are feeling. This could invite some issue if the sibling is aware of their behavior and doesn’t care, but for your mental wellbeing it is something that you should highly consider. Going into these conversations can be difficult so it is best to have a list of talking points, usually dealing with the things your sibling does that are toxic to you, and a plan on how to handle the confrontation if it were to get to that point.

Remembering what your sibling does, perhaps they guilt trip you or try to intimidate you, will help you to avoid those buttons as you lay out your feelings. It is important to keep in mind that your sibling might feel attacked or just be unwilling to discuss things with you. If that is the case it is best to take a break and revisit the conversation after your sibling has had some time to digest what you’d already told them.

2. Set Boundaries

It is often hard to avoid your sibling, there are holidays and birthdays all year round, but that doesn’t mean that you have to let them have unfettered contact. Set boundaries that let them know what you will and won’t tolerate. If you have a sibling that enjoys making you the butt of the joke you can remind them that jokes and funny stories are always welcome but ones that are harmful to you are not acceptable. If your sibling likes to belittle you this is the prime opportunity to stand up for yourself.

You’ll need to take baby steps with this one so as not to come off as confrontational, but asserting yourself just might give you the confidence you need to speak with them about how they make you feel. If you can’t make it to that point yet that’s fine! Knowing that you have taken some control over the situation should make you feel better, if only until the next time you see them.

3. Change the Opportunities

If setting boundaries doesn’t work and you are still getting nowhere with your sibling, you can cut the contact. If they have continued to target you it might be time to tailor your actions around them. You might have a sibling that likes to make biting comments towards you when you’re alone so you may need to stick with a small group while they are around. If they like to single you out at the dinner table perhaps sitting with other family and engaging in conversation with them is what’s needed. Minimizing the opportunities your sibling has to get under your skin will make it much easier for you to be around them. It will also allow you to be around the rest of your family and to be happy while there.

4. Don’t Normalize Their Behavior

Do not let them think that what they do or say that is toxic is in any way alright. Make sure that they know that what they did or said was wrong and why. In most cases your sibling will try to diminish your feelings or brush the entire thing under the rug, don’t let them. Make it a point to address these issues regardless of what they have to say about what they’ve done. Let’s be honest, they probably won’t listen to what you have to say because abusive people rarely do, but it is important for you to assert yourself in this situation. It may have taken you years to get to this point, but making sure that your sibling knows you will no longer stand for their behavior might be the log that breaks the dam for you. It may open up a line of communication that you’ve been needing for a very long time and if it does you should seize it and tell them exactly how they have been making you feel.

5. Walk Away

This doesn’t mean that you are walking away from them or your family, this just means that you are walking away from them and the situation at hand. If you aren’t there, then they can’t target you. They might talk about you a bit but it stops being fun when you aren’t there to give them visual or verbal feedback and chances are they will get bored and move onto something else. This will also give you the time you need to gather your thoughts and prepare for what you might need to do next, whatever you decide that to be. It will also stop you from reacting emotionally which might give that sibling another dose of ammunition against you.

This doesn’t have to apply solely to those siblings that are snarky and mean. It can also help you to deal with that sibling who is a user or who lies about random things regardless of the fact that others might know they are lies. If you don’t need to be there at that moment relocating yourself can be a big help to you on a mental and emotional level.

6. Take the High Road

Don’t get upset, no matter how hard it might be to accomplish, so not do it. If your sibling is cutting you down for something just let it roll of your back and be the bigger man. There is no reason for you to stoop to their level and causing a scene may turn the tides against you when it comes to others. Not showing that you are upset will also take some of the fun out of what your sibling is doing, just like walking away will. If you aren’t taking the bait, then they won’t put as much of it out there. This might buy you a little extra time to decide how you want to move forward with this sibling, or if you even want to move forward at all.

7. Counseling

Counseling can be a great way for you to get your feelings off your chest in a safe and secure environment. If you aren’t sure of how you want to confront your sibling, you can ask for advice and role play some scenarios to better plan for upcoming conversations that you might be having with them. If you’ve already spoken to your sibling and they are receptive to what you’ve said to them then family counseling could be the next step in mending your relationship. Having an unbiased mediator there will boost your confidence as well as add protection in case your sibling starts to become angry or frustrated with the direction of the conversation.

8. Trust Yourself 

Do not rationalize the toxic sibling’s behavior, it will only perpetuate the harmful cycle you are more than likely already trapped in. When someone treats you badly or say something hurtful they are doing it on purpose and there is no amount of internal monologue that will change that fact. If it feels like they are intentionally hurting you, and it sits within their pattern of behavior, then chances are it was done in a calculated way to get at you. Your feelings and intuitions are there for a reason, use them.

Take hold of an opportunity and ask for clarity. If they brush you off, then it may very well have been intentional and you will need to address that with them when you are ready. If they give you an offhanded comment or attempt to push it back on you then again, it is something that you need to take note of for a conversation later on down the line. Remember, no one has the right to tell you how you feel. If you feel that something is wrong then trust that and look into it, just to be sure.

9. Try to Trust Them

If you have spoken to your sibling and they appear genuinely remorseful, then you should at least try to trust them. Trust might be something that you have a hard time with given the track record of your relationship, but it is something that you should attempt. Don’t fall for an apology that lacks feeling, go with your gut on that one, but giving them the benefit of the doubt may be a much needed olive branch. You should continue to have boundaries and guard yourself when you feel most vulnerable around them but in the long run they may surprise you and change their ways. If they say they will try to change yet continue to do the exact things they apologized for then trusting them probably isn’t something that you need to visit at that time.

10. Say Goodbye

It is always hard to cut family out of your life but if all of your other efforts at reconciliation have failed then cutting ties completely might be your only option. Don’t do this lightheartedly, it is important that you put effort into the situations as well, but we all know that there are some things that can’t be savaged no matter how hard we try. If you do decide that saying goodbye is what needs to happen you’ll want to get your reasoning out in the open.

Use this as an opportunity to speak your peace, let your sibling know what they have done and why you have come to this decision. You don’t want to leave yourself with stones unturned so make sure that you get all of your feelings out there before you stop taking their calls. In the end, wishing them the best of luck and closing that door may be your key to freedom and better mental health.

 

Have you had to deal with a toxic sibling in your life? Psych2Go would like to hear from you! Please leave a comment below with anything you found helpful in your own toxic sibling situation.

If you liked this then you may also like these other articles from Psych2Go:

10 Ways to Deal with Toxic Parents 

 

Resources:

Hardy, Chrissa. “How To Deal With A Toxic Sibling Who Is Getting Under Your Skin.” Bustle, Bustle, 25 Feb. 2016, www.bustle.com/articles/141848-how-to-deal-with-a-toxic-sibling-who-is-getting-under-your-skin. Retrieved October 27, 2017

Streep, Peg. “8 Strategies for Dealing With the Toxic People in Your Life.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 14 Dec. 2016, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/tech-support/201612/8-strategies-dealing-the-toxic-people-in-your-life. Retrieved October 27, 2017

Weiss, Suzannah. “How to Deal With a Toxic Sibling.” Glamour, Glamour Magazine, 11 Aug. 2016, www.glamour.com/story/toxic-sibling. Retrieved October 27, 2017

21 Comments

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  1. I have a younger sister who is toxic. She exhibits many narcissistic personality traits and those of a sociopathic nature (though never diagnosed).
    She puts on a facade whereby she would act like my friend and biggest supporter, only to talk a bunch of garbage behind my back. She’s alienated family from me with her victim stance, she’s blamed me for her marital problems and gross husband, etc. She always needs to be the center of attention, and when she’s not, she lashes out. Her last rampage was 14 hours of texts to me calling me a liar, making light of domestic violence, and lying about the fact that she was stirring up drama with my ex (which also put my kids in danger). That’s when I was done. #10 all the way! She’s since tried to suck me back in and contact my oldest child, but none of us are having it. The rest of the family, her friends, her husband… They can all have her and learn on their own. No more for me!

    • I have the same problem! My younger sister calls me down for over everything, all the time everyday. She hates me and tried to get others to see what she sees, but when they don’t, she calls me messed up, and fake and that I am hiding who I “really” am. When really she oppresses who I really am. Shes so mean to me for no reason and tried to make me feel bad for her. I wish I could make this **it go away and go back to having an normal, fun home life.

  2. I have 2 toxic siblings. Both younger. The youngest one, after we did some family counseling around another issue that we needed to resolve (settling our mother’s estate) had always hated me, it turned out, much to my surprise, for the usual childhood squabbles, and has never been really capable of letting go of what she claims was hurtful behavior. She of course, did not remember or acknowledge her typical childhood behaviors, which I had also found difficult, but had long forgotten and forgiven. Even the therapist found her attitude to lack hindsight and maturity – not the exact words she said, but the gist was clear. The other sister is super nice in person, and spreads ugly rumors about me behind my back. Neither will talk to me about anything that’s wrong in person. I have helped both out, at crucial times in their lives, babysitting late nights when one sister was finishing her degree, even though she lived far from my home and I had to rise early for my job, and offering the other a place to live for several months (and I did not ask for help with rent or bills) during 2 breakups from boyfriends, when she had little money and no job. There were countless other smaller times when I was more than happy to help out. However those appear to have been meaningless and interestingly, I am the one who is treated as if she is toxic, because I have walked away when I was made the butt of jokes, or screamed at, etc…. It has taken me years to come to terms with their behaviors, and it has been painful and hard to have no immediate family. I have worked through it in large part, but it has taken alot of therapy and letting go of any hope of reconciliation or understanding, and perhaps that is best, given how much water is under the bridge now.

  3. During my parents’ divorce, I was made the defacto child carer for my little sister while my parents focused on their own issues In and of itself this would not have been so bad, but both undermined my position constantly. when I backed off, as a result, I was given 7 shades of hell for it by both. My little sister caught onto this and used it as a way to cause havoc in the family, and both parents normalized this an awarded it.I washed my hands of it all in my second year of university, when my sister’s constant dropping out of school was blamed on me. If only I was a better brother. I moved out of the country just to not have them drop in.

  4. im 16 turning 17 this year and my sister is 17 turning 18. She always gives me the silent treatment when she is angry with me and does not even tell me what I have done wrong.we have to share a room unfortunately and this just creates tension.she has given me the silent treatment for up to a month and just makes things awkward.my parents are aware but she is just so stubborn we can’t really do much.although she is 18 she acts so immature so most of the time I feel like Im the older one .im going to uni in about a year and 5 months.also to mention we are quite close.should I try to resolve the problem or just disconnect myself from her because I’m tired of always being hurt.

  5. My younger sister is toxic. I actually have her saved in my phone as ‘Jellyfish! Watchout!’ on account of all the stings i get when i have contact with her. We have a malignant narcissistic mother which has shaped the dynamics of our family to be toxic. And although i don’t believe my sister to be narcissistic i believe there is a lot of learnt behavior as she is my mothers biggest fan. I would like to go no contact, but i stay in contact because she has x3 children whom i believe will need me when they come of age. I keep the contact to a minimal but even then it is rather difficult when having to stand up for yourself all the time and enforcing boundaries (particularly when you don’t see some of the swipes coming). I live several thousand miles away from all of my family as the distance creates peace for me. I have also come off social media and instant messaging recently after realizing how much stress their behavior causes me. It has been liberating. I think it gets more difficult the older you get, as tolerance levels reduce and i see all the other great connections in my life.
    I have lost much of my life being stressed, upset, lack of sleep, crying, confused, angry. It is now time for me to look after myself and part of that is by being away from them.

  6. I have a sister, she is number 4. I was the youngest, since young she sees me as her rival (my other siblings quite less tense than her).

    I used to follow her around because we have almost same age, she just 3 years older than me. We used to play around despite the fact that she hates me (because I am the youngest, she wants to be the youngest but since I born in this world, she looked that her place was taken by me and no more special treatment for her).

    I used to loss argument with her every time because I don’t want to lose her, she is like my mentor but she is bullying. She used verbal abused and always cross the boundaries because she is older than me. I have zero authority.

    She only being nice to me when she needs something from me. When I said no, she’s turned against me and using my mistake to break me down. It always make me down. There is one day, she is very crossed the line when she keeps saying I have no future if I keep behaving like this.
    I was hurt because I got rejected from job interview and she didn’t ask how am I, she just constantly angry to me because I need her help. I swear that is the last time I need her help. I hate when she refused to say she want to help because of dad.

    I tried to use this topic but she always change the subject and use my past or my position against me. We never reach that topic because she keeps avoiding it.

    I give her silent treatment because there is no way I can have “real talk” to her if she keeps divert the conversation.

    Unfortunately, my dad didn’t give me permission to move out and it kind of hurts me because we can feel cringy, intense atmosphere every time we at home.

    I am very hate doing chores because none of them gives her satisfication. I abandoned one of my chores just want to her to do it since she is damn good.

    I was expecting she will remorsed, but meeh. I wasn’t surprised but feeling sad though. I going to keep this silent treatment because I need time to heal my emotional and mental despite the fact that will never happen because we are living in the same roof.

    Break my leg this year, hoping I got better job for me to move out. If not, hmmph. I better jump into the river.

  7. Recently, my sibling has what I describe as “gone over the edge”. She has declared her three siblings as “dead” to her. We no longer exist. She has shown erratic behavior in the past, this is nothing new but shocking just the same. None of us understand why she is saying these things to us. She has defriended my brother on FB. He was really hurt. And blocked his phone and email. This behavior showed itself after her complaints of feeling over worked and stressed regarding our 85 year old mother. Our mother owns the company her husband manages. He is well compensated and the company thrives in every way. My sibling is acting threatened and insecure but also evil and hateful. She has told us to never contact her again, ever. I don’t plan to contact her. I have defended her always and tried to understand her point of view and her weaknesses. She drinks regularly, she is impulsive. I fear she will eventually hurt herself. I have stated this to her husband in a kind way. He has ignored me. My adult sister is self consumed and lives 20 minutes from our mother, we have all chosen to live elsewhere and must fly to her area in California. We visit often but do not live nearby, we telephone, Skype and be as much a part of our mother’s life as possible. She recently fell down a flight of stairs and is recovering from this horrific accident. She looked into living in an assisted care situation, my sister insists this will bankrupt she and her husband, however my mother who owns the company has her own ability to pay for her living arrangements. My sister is basically a crazy person who needs serious help and is causing chaos in all of our lives. I am recovering from open heart surgery just a few weeks ago. She has contacted my adopted daughter and said it is “lucky” she has none of my blood and hopes she will end up on the “right” side of things. She picks this time to act out and be ridiculous causing more stress and actually calling me “dead”. Unbelievable. I have chosen to ignore her antics and pretend she doesn’t exist as well. Anyone with a similar situation. I need some support in this. Thank you.

  8. I have a younger sister, and I really don’t know what to do anymore In terms of having a common ground . I’m 23 and she’s 18. There were a series of events that had taken place through our childhood where our parents would always take her side . An this was due to that fact that she was born pre-maturely and the majority of doctors told my parents that she wouldn’t make it past a couple of month and she did she’s alive . But she’s absolutely disgusting to be around my parents let her get away with everything and anything She shows naccarastic tendencies and she can manipulate a situation she’s only nice when she wants somethings and never has consideration for my feelings , when she doesn’t get her way she’ll give the silent treatment or she’ll start slamming doors she’ll go out of her to make sure she’s disgusted by my presence. An when she’s really mad she’ll start to act on racially biased terms it mostly because I look more like our heritage then she does, an majority of her friends share her point of view that certain people should be treated a certain way . She has never said anything racist to me but sometimes she’ll state that specific term an I’d be like but I go under that term. But When we’re around family She’s completely a different person . An every time I set a boundary I feel she senses it and starts acting normal the moment everything seems to be fine she goes back to being disgusting. It makes me angry all the time and my parents and my sister know that I’ve even voiced it to the point of where it’s has become agonizing . I sometimes feel like my angers either amuses her or she uses it to validates why she normalize her behaviour and when I get really really mad she uses it as valaidtes why she can treat me like crap.
    I’m too the point where I just hate her . I wish I was never her sister I can’t stand her she has to be the worst that has ever happened to me . When I talk to people who I thought I could trust they’re response is almost always your older. I’m getting tired of dealing with someone who’s just mean . I meantly don’t know where to go from here .

  9. My sister and I are 13 months apart. She’s the oldest. We have really never gotten along. We, I think, are really opposites. I’m more easy going when it comes to “ time, when going places, having holidays; not setting up exact times to sit down to eat, etc.. I like to just go with the flow. We r both retired now. I’m divorced and she lost her spouse, unfortunately, one dad half years ago. When it comes to temperaments she flies off the handle quicker than I do. I won’t go into all the situations she done this in public; but has yelled st her deceased spouse put in public; screamed at her children; at me and embarrassed herself many times.. and really just doesn’t “ get it”! I confronted her a few times in as gentle as I can about situations and issues that had “ hurt” my feelings. No matter how gentle I say things to her ; she has a come back that is always attacking me in s manner that is do personal that ends up not sticking to the “ main issue” to begin with. She ends up pulling me into verbal abuse state with her; which I keep stressing in emails “ let’s stick to the topic” but she ends up pulling up the past, calls me names, pulls me through the mud, starts cussing at me.. it becomes so earth shaking horrific that I have to block her from all media of mine!! This has gone on for many many years. Now our Mother is soon to be 95. ( Her and our mother fought horribly too for years; my sister really says she hates her yet she sees her more than I do in the nursing home ( of course she and my brother looking forward to the day she died because of the inheritance!)today was yet another horrible emailing fight because all I asked her was to “ have my back over a rumor that was said to her about me “! She as my sister wouldn’t stand up for me to a lie that was said to her! Is it wrong for me to ask her in a loving way to stand up for me? Why in the world would she get outraged at my request ? It went from that to her telling me she would hope that my recent illness of stomach pains would bring me to my death!!
    OMG., I told her she had huge issues ( and an anger management course/ therapy would do her good! She acts like she’s my Mother when it comes to my spending; constantly giving me way too much advice when I don’t want it need it!!
    On and on she goes about how alone she is.. well I live alone too and I’m ok. She gets upset if I go out with my adult sons and ex spouse .. she doesn’t understand why I don’t invite her?! I told her she doesn’t invite me when she gird out with her family and it doesn’t bother me at all; so why does it bother her so much??! So this is really getting out of hand.. is it just me??
    Please give me feed back.. my Doctor told me I need to really back away from the stresses and my girlfriends told me to ease away from her too.. she really has other friends she can see but she’s grabbing hold of me too tight!! It’s scyuslly making me “ physically ill now “!’
    Need advice!
    Ro

  10. The problem starts from here that ever time she taunts me about my position and I am the useless person, calling me names but if I say anything , shows her unworthy attitude, bursting up, the conflict goes on and making snarky and harsh comments on me when I am not around , I don’t understand why is that so. The main reason is that she personally thinks that I am jealous of her. How can I justify that I am not obsessing over her or even hating her. Regardless the fact I doesn’t give a shit what she thinks of me but the main hurdle is it somehow hurts me, destroys my inner peace and is never remorseful , in the end of the day we have to keep moving on without letting it bothers.

    • that’s what my mom tells me, to keep moving on and not let him bother me but it’s so fucking hard my god, my brother literally torments me everyday I just cannot have peace.

  11. I have 6 sibling including me and I’m the fifth child . I was very closed to my elder sister who is 1 year older than me and younger sister who is the 1 year younger than me. So we are the last 3 kids in our family. I rented a house for my mom and my younger sisters since my mom asked because she unable to live with my father who has mistress whole over the world. and also my three elder sibling lived their own life which I feel happy for them. Our plan was to share the expenses while I pay only rental which is a huge amount. but mys sisters dont want pay and end of the day i was paying all the expenses till i have no money to spend for myself. While I finished my diploma and sacrified all of my dreams just for them, they were planning to study for degree once finished diploma .
    the best part is they get to choose what the would like to study , where and my father will take care of them. But I will be paying the bills while they will spend their holiday not even spending a penny. One day, when I try to ask them their plan, everything came out from their hatred mind and soul. That’s when I know, they were not happy with me. One that day they were pin pointing all of the small mistakes and things I DID. Obviously they did that too. But i was not taking all that very seriously as they were my siblings. I knew it even break up with your siblings can lead to depression and heart broke. those words they used againts me were so cruel and they never know about me. A person who hates you will find mistake and flaw in everything you do. That’s how my siblings view on me. They were just pretending until I ask them some money to help me out settling bills and their true version came out.
    I did all these for my mother but my mother only care about how I not hurt any of them. Of course my mom loves all of her kids. At the end of the day, I’m the only person who is hurt, broken and to make use of. After that fine day, I decided to keep distance with them, less talking(even I’m a person who loves to talk with my family every single things), no expectation, and not attached emotionally for them.But I’m still stuck.

  12. uhm my brother for sure knows he hurts me (emotionally of course) but that kinda fuels the fire I guess. his everyday goal is to make me cry and he succeeds? every moment of the day he finds a moment to get me uncomfortable or ruin my mood. one day I got my first phone an iPhone 8 and we went to the pool later that day, he starts making fun of me because I had a little extra fat on my stomach and ruined my mood. today he has failing grades and constantly talks back to my parents and he just won an iPhone XR and AirPods. also, my parents don’t think he emotionally abuses me, they have tried once or twice to stop him from bullying me everyday but nothing works. he literally finds any way to irritate me. it’s to the point I want to run away and I know that sounds cliche but nowadays I just lock myself in my room all day while he gets praised by my parents. I fucking hate living in this house, we’re suspecting that my dads cheating on my mom for the 4th time and I’m just a middle child that literally no one cares about. welp, as u can tell my childhood has been amazing so far. (I’m 13)

  13. I have a toxic and very crazy sister who is a controller.
    She always wants things her way.
    If she doesn’t get it she explodes on everyone around her.
    She has destroyed my life my marriage and my relationships.
    She is very mental.
    I tried several times to work things out with her and she doesn’t seem to want to change.
    My wife and I fight contact about it.
    My marriage is on strain over this.
    My wife is seeking councel for stress.
    I am driving golf balls for tension because of her craziness.
    Please let me know what we can do.
    I can’t even see my neice or nephew.
    She has controlled them to hate everyone who doesn’t see her way.
    It’s hard to deal with it anymore.
    My wife of 12yrs is finally saying to me she can’t take it anymore because of my toxic sister.
    My parents are controlled by her by the money thrown at them. It’s sick and humiliating.
    Please let me know what I can do?

  14. My wife and I fight constant about this.
    Whenever holidays parties or family gathers
    Is coming up or happening.
    We are never present because of my toxic crazy sister.
    It’s horrible that she has put us through this.
    She refuses any help and she is brainwashing my family.
    Please tell me my next step for peace of mind.
    I am myself getting counselor help for my stress.
    However that’s not enough.

  15. I have an elder sibling (sister) whom I hate her alot. I was in 6th when she left for college and since then I live with my parents. She used to visit twice a year and slowly things started getting terrible. She had her own fancy life. She used to come like a guest and sat all day like a stuffed toy. She helped no one in the house. My mom would use to do cleaning and dusting in front of her all tired but she wouldn’t give a fcuk! She sat shamelessly never offering a helping hand. God please punish her. Sometimes even if I pushed her by mistake she would make a issue on it. She would just shout and yell and pretend how bad I am that I hit her. She is just terrible. Don’t know how to deal with such toxic sibling. Talking to parents has never been an option because they are always busy in fighting and as a result abusing me. God bless me!

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