When You Hate a Sibling

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Reader’s Question

I don’t really know what my problem is. Ever since I was born, I’ve hated my sister so much. Yes, we do laugh at each other and chitchat, but deep inside there’s really something that’s bothering me. I hate her. Looking at her irritates me so much! I hate it when she gets very low grades, that she always asks for money from my parents, and that she’s so good with her eating and sleeping routine. I don’t want to hear her voice. I really don’t know what’s wrong with me.

Psychologist’s Reply

It sounds like you are falling into the trap of believing that hate is the opposite of love. It isn’t. If you truly didn’t care about your sister, then you would be completely indifferent to her. You wouldn’t care about how she looks, her grades, how she sounds, or even what she does. But you do care.

You mentioned that you’ve hated her since you were born. Leaving aside the obvious exaggeration (babies don’t hate), I take that to mean that you are the younger sister. As a younger sister myself, I can tell you that it is very common to be jealous of an older sibling. Older children seemingly get more attention (after all, they have been with your parents the longest) and they get to do many things first. This can be difficult to take. Older siblings also tend to set an example, good or bad. If your sister gets bad grades, then that probably is an example your parents would prefer you didn’t follow. However, since she’s done well with her eating and sleeping routines, that behavior may be something you and your parents would like for you to emulate. The point is: it is difficult to always be the one following; the one who has to live up or down to expectations, rather than setting your own. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that you can change this pattern in one of several ways. First, it is important that you distinguish yourself from your sister in a positive way. You two are not the same person, so the two of you will be different in many areas. Expand upon this by finding academic topics, sports or hobbies in which your sister has no interest. In this way, you will be the trailblazer, the one who goes first and sets the bar however you wish. These areas will be all yours.

Second, it may be helpful to change your perspective about your sister. Instead of looking at her as someone with whom you have to compete, try viewing her as a complete person. See her for who she truly is independent of your family tie. What struggles does she have? What are her strengths? Another way to view her is as an ally for you within the family. Only you and your sister (and any other siblings you may have) know what it is like to live within your family. You two will be the ones who share memories of family times and eventually will have to care for your parents as they age. If you can view your sister as someone fun and helpful, your feelings towards her may change.

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