When it comes to handling difficult family dynamics, I have read many articles ranging from ‘signs you have a toxic sibling’ to ’10 ways to deal with a toxic sibling’. However, these articles tend to normalize what are oftentimes unhealthy relationships simply for the sake of family relation. Sometimes, familial conflict is not a sibling rivalry or common ‘brother-sister relationship, it is toxic dynamic and we should not ignore it.
Having grown up as a triplet, I am well aware of sibling rivalries and the difference between a simple argument and toxic comments. It is normal to argue over shower time and who’s watching the TV, but when comments are made towards intimate aspects of yourself like your sexuality, it is no longer a simple sibling rivalry.
Before puberty hit us, me and my siblings were always close and enjoyed doing everything together; however, once the teen years arrived, so did the comments. Me and my sister were called fat and ugly, but the comments were ignored and we were told to get on with it- we carried on. Then I came out as gay.
At least once a week, I would suffer verbal abuse from my brother and receive a river of homophobic slurs, while being told I needed a doctor. That’s just sibling rivalry though, right?
It was only recently as he suffocated me with punches, pinned my head to his bed and threw me down the stairs that I realized: this isn’t a sibling rivalry. This is a toxic relationship that is affecting my mental and physical health. I looked at myself in the mirror covered in bruises and tears dripping off my cheeks, and I knew I had to put my foot down and save myself.
We should not ignore those suffering the same abuse just because the perpetrator is a sibling. If someone comes to you about the way a sibling has treated them, do not tell them it is just a sibling rivalry. Many studies have been conducted that conclude sibling relationships that are negative will have an impact on your adult life and will leave you suffering. It is okay to break away from a toxic family member no matter how close you once were. I will always hold my brother close to my heart, just not the person he has become.