When people talk about toxic family relationships and coming from a toxic home environment, they usually mean their parents. But toxic sibling relationships are an overlooked dysfunctional family dynamic that can be just as damaging to your mental health and emotional well-being.
Some people are lucky enough to grow up with brothers/sisters who end up being their best friends for life. And while most of us don’t always get along with our siblings, we know that in spite of all the arguments and slamming doors and playful teasing, that they love us and will always look out for us when we need it. We make fun of each other and embarrass one another, but deep down inside, the love and friendship that we share with a sibling is special and worth holding on to for the rest of our lives.
But what about those of us who aren’t so lucky? Who grow up with siblings that are abusive and manipulative? Siblings who bully us and take advantage of us instead of protecting and taking care of us? If this sounds painfully familiar to you, then there’s a good chance your relationship with your sibling has become toxic.
With that said, here are 8 more warning signs you need to look out for:
1. They don’t respect your boundaries
Is your sibling always asking you for more help than you can give? Are they taking up most of your time and draining a lot of your energy, asking you to bail them out of every problem they find themselves in? Siblings who don’t respect your boundaries, who always expect you to be there to save them or take the fall for them whenever they do something wrong, are toxic for your mental health. They don’t care much about what’s going on in your life, so long as you’re around to help them with theirs. They have no problem abusing your kindness and love for them to their advantage, and will never take no for an answer.
2. They make you feel anxious
Whether it’s because of their volatile emotions, anger management problems, or relentless judgment of you, you can’t help but feel anxious at the thought of seeing your sibling and having to spend time with them. You just know it’s not going to end well for you every time you do, and so you try to avoid them as much as you can. You dread family gatherings and holidays because of them and you’re always in a hurry to leave once they arrive. They make you feel nervous, uncomfortable, and on edge with their presence.
3. They’re exhausting to be around
Another way to tell if your sibling is toxic for you is if they’re emotionally draining to be around. Every conversation with them always leaves you exhausted and sighing to yourself. They demand that you attend to their every want and need, and they make you listen to every little complaint they have about their life or the people around them. They dump all their negativity on you and even take out their problems on you sometimes. You feel obligated to stay by their side, no matter how overdramatic or emotionally unhinged they get, but deep down inside, you wish you didn’t have to deal with them.
4. You have an unhealthy rivalry with them
Sibling rivalries aren’t uncommon, especially when you feel like you have to compete for your parents’ love and attention. Still, there comes a time when we all outgrow them and realize that our siblings are our family and not our adversaries. But if you still have an unhealthy rivalry with your sibling even when you’re both emotionally mature adults, then it might be because your relationship with them is toxic. They always make you feel like you have to prove your worth to them and that they won’t respect you unless you outdo them in some way. They have you spinning so many plates just to gain their approval, but they, on the other hand, undermine all your accomplishments and try to outshine you every chance they get.
5. They manipulate you
Toxic people are masters at emotional manipulation and they will try to control you without you even knowing it. This is all the worse if they happen to be your siblings because they will know a lot of intimate details they can use against you. A toxic sibling will try to bend you to their will using tactics like guilt-tripping you, giving you the cold shoulder, and making you feel sorry for them. Sometimes they might even feed you lies or tell you stories just to get you to side with them or do favours for them.
6. They constantly criticize you
Your sibling is always the first to call you out when you mess up or fall short, and even though they say it “comes from a place of love,” you just know that they’re rooting against you. They’re always putting you down to make themselves look better in comparison. They give you back-handed compliments, prey on your insecurities, and criticize every little thing about you with thinly-veiled judgment. No matter how successful, wealthy, or well-liked you become, you know that it will never be enough for them and they will always find some way to tear you down.
7. They blame you for everything
Even when it’s not your fault or when it’s absolutely out of your control, your sibling will always pin the blame on you for the things that go wrong in their life. They are constantly playing the victim and making you out to be the bad guy. They can never take responsibility for their own actions or hold themselves accountable for the way things turn out because of the choices they’ve made. No, in their eyes, they can do no wrong and you are always to blame.
8. They’ve left a lot of damage in your life
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, a sibling relationship can turn toxic if they’ve left a lot of damage in your life that they can never undo. Maybe they sabotaged your chances at success or held you back from pursuing your dreams. Maybe they ruined your relationships with the other important people in your life or tormented you for most of your childhood. Whatever the reason may be, they certainly aren’t showing any remorse for it. They’re not sorry for the pain and hurt that they’ve caused you, and they don’t seem to care about how it’s affected your life. That’s when you know you’re better off without them in your life.
Do you relate to any of the signs mentioned here? Do you think you have a toxic sibling or relative in your life?
It’s hard living with someone so damaging to your mental health, and even when you leave home, you can never truly escape them because they’re your family. But you don’t have to make room in your life for people who bring you nothing but negativity and misery. Don’t feel guilty about cutting them off if you need to. Take better care of your mental and emotional wellbeing by setting healthy boundaries and distancing yourself from them, as well as opening up about it to someone you can trust.