How to Cope With Adult Sibling Jealousy
Jealous of your brother's great job? Envious that your sister's kids are always so beautifully behaved that your parents compliment her constantly? Whether you're the jealous one, always feeling like your sibling has a better job/house/car/kids than you, or you're the sibling that others in your family are jealous of, envy can be stressful and draining. Jealousy can easily tarnish a relationship with your sibling, so it's worthwhile trying to overcome it.
If you're the jealous one:
1. Try to focus on your own achievements, advises Susan Bartell, Psy.D. Make a conscious effort to try to not compare yourself to your siblings. "Think about what is good in your life and your family," Bartell advises. "Focus on the good that you do, and that your children do."
2. Think of your jealous feelings as an opportunity to learn something about yourself. It may be time to take a long look at your lifestyle and your relationships, and to spin those envious feelings into feelings of motivation to deal with your own issues, says Susan Shapiro Barash, a gender studies professor at Marymount Manhattan College and the author of You're Grounded Forever....But First Let's Go Shopping.
"Sometimes jealousy can inspire you to go after the dream job that you want," Shapiro Barash says. "Or it may help you decide that you want to work on your own marriage."
3. Know that your family is not alone in being plagued by sibling jealousy. "Our culture really fosters this jealousy," says Shapiro Barash. "There are TV shows that feature which celebrity sister looks best in a certain dress, which sister in a family is the prettiest." Constantly comparing and contrasting various siblings' assets detracts from each one's special qualities, she says.
If you're the focus of a sibling's jealousy:
1. Chances are that you typically bend over backwards to please the jealous sib, Shapiro Barash says. "You tend to overcompensate and look for ways to mitigate the jealousy," she says. "You go out of your way to be nice." Instead, she says, have a conversation with your sibling about how you are feeling toward her. "There are often many layers involved where jealousy is concerned," she says. "Rather than keep it all bottled up inside, get it on the table. Talk it out."
2. If you are constantly being criticized and treated disrespectfully by a jealous sibling, you need to get firm with her. "Tell your sibling, I don't feel respected when you do that," says Sheenah Hankin, Ph.D. "Your sibling may not be totally conscious of what she is doing and doesn't really understand why she is doing it." Speaking up for yourself may help end the sib's perpetually disrespectful behavior toward you.
3. Reflect upon the psychological drain all the jealousy has taken on your psyche, and resolve to not let green-eyed monster rear its head where your children are concerned. "If your mother is constantly bragging about your brother's great job or your sister's great kids, of course it can have an effect on you," Bartell says. Don't compare your children to their siblings. Get the message across to your kids that each one is unique and individual. Your actions now may be enough to envy-proof your children later in life.
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