How to Deal with Sibling Rivalry

Adrian Fernand – Australia’s seriously stylish agony uncle and creator of – answers your questions on life, the universe and everything. This week, Adrian has advice on how to deal with sibling rivalry.

Dear Agony Uncle,

My older sister and I have never got along. At the tender age of five, playing ‘hide and seek’ and never being sought was scarring, yet it was easily written off as sibling rivalry. At the age of twenty (sister, age twenty-four) her games are getting old. Her latest attack at my expense concerning my weight despite that I am in good shape and she is 10kg heavier. Both my love and patience for her are wearing thin but alas, you can’t choose your relatives. Short of murder, how can I silence her? 

Bitter Sister, Melbourne

Dear Bitter Sister,

Now I probably shouldn’t admit this in quite a public forum at the risk of getting the reputation of being a pansy (I prefer the terms ‘dandy’ or ‘fop’), however, it is my duty to help you, dear reader. Call it humble human sacrifice; I’m a modern-day St. Francis of Assisi, only with a more figure-hugging and leg-revealing robe. Oh, and it definitely wouldn’t be brown: either black or pink – it really brings out my thighs. I digress.

Growing up with my younger sister, life at the Agony household was always interesting, to say the least. Four years younger than me, we shared a love-hate relationship reminiscent of the vast majority’s opinion of Lady Gaga (Go on, admit it: ‘Poker Face’ is stuck in your head right now and you’re reaching for iTunes to play it to get it out again. You can thank me later.). Fighting like cat and dog is too insignificant a cliché to describe the angst and torment that occurred daily. The yelling, the screaming, the door-slamming, the Chinese burns … and that was just the next door neighbours’ children. There was always some beef and my poor mother had to hear all about it. We were the real-life, living and breathing von Trapp family crisis – cuckoo!

Unbeknownst to me, my sister had developed an even more evil alter ego known as ‘Mrs Strong’, who could be summoned with her taking an imaginary pill thus rendering her an intolerable beast à la the Jekyll-Hyde duo. She would stamp around the room screaming, “Apologise! Apologise!” then would pin me to the floor and strangle me until I relented and begged for forgiveness and oxygen. I realise now that this doesn’t sound particularly conventional, however, after discussion with others’ about their childhoods, I feel relatively normal. The other glaring question is, as her older brother, why didn’t I just fend her off? In my defence, I was a spindly little thing who could barely lift a sack of potatoes, let alone fight his significantly stronger sister off with bare fists. Okay, so there’s no excuse – I’m a pansy.

It appears that you and your sister are maturing at different rates and that the sibling rivalry has continued all the way through your adolescent years and into early adulthood. You must address your issues with her head-on otherwise you run the risk of a lifetime of ridicule. Calmly tell her that what she says to you is hurtful and that you want to love her but sometimes she makes it difficult for you. Assess her reaction: if she scoffs then you might never get through and it’s time to take evasive action by playing your relationship coolly and waiting for her to come to you; otherwise you might be pleasantly surprised and you’ll have a sisterly love-in and a stronger relationship. If all else fails, I’m sure my sister is available at a fee to munch on her invisible pill and pin your sister down until she surrenders.

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