There’s no law that says we have to get on with our siblings. Thankfully, most of us have pretty good family dynamics. But some people have toxic sibling relationships.

So what’s the difference between say typical sibling rivalries to toxic sibling relationships?

Healthy sibling relationships are compassionate, loving, willing to listen and help. They are non-judgemental and caring. They want the best for their brothers and sisters. That’s why they are happy and pleased when their siblings achieve success. They are independent of their siblings but not distant from them.

Toxic sibling relationships are simply the opposite.

Here are 10 other signs of toxic sibling relationships:

  1. They are the favourite child

Parents should not have favourite children. But was your sibling always praised and given the best opportunities in your family? Did they get away with murder? Did the rules not apply to them?

Favouritism can lead to narcissistic behaviour. When a child always gets want they want and is never made to feel the consequences of their actions, it gives them a false sense of superiority.

  1. They are controlling

Do you feel like you always have to do what your sibling wants to do? If you don’t, they will sulk or get aggressive? In the end, it’s just easier to go with whatever they want?

This is a form of control. Whether it is what friends are suitable for you or the type of college course you should study. If you find that you are not able to make your own decisions without your sibling getting their way, this is a sign of coercive control.

  1. You don’t feel you can say ‘no’ to them

This is another form of control, but it also impacts a great deal on your life. Do they get upset if you say no to one of their requests or demands? Do they make you feel guilty for saying no? Finally, do they play on your emotions and try and make you feel bad for not helping them?

This is typical behaviour of a younger sibling that has narcissistic tendencies.

  1. They manipulate you

People that think and act in a rational and logical way can quite often be deceived and manipulated easily because they just don’t think in that kind of devious way. Someone who is lazy and can’t be bothered to work themselves will use deception to resolve their issues instead.

The problem here is that, of course, families are supposed to help out one another, but not to the point where one person is always benefitting to the detriment of everyone else.

  1. They are always right

No one is right all the time. We all have to have an open mind, even if we think we know the truth. But some people that believe that they know what is right and won’t listen to anyone else’s opinion.

This kind of closed mind can be exhausting and inevitably leads to arguments and breakdowns in a relationship. It also invalidates your feelings because you don’t feel as if your opinions and ideas are important or that they matter.

  1. They ‘play’ you against your other siblings

Does one sibling constantly gossip or badmouth to you about your other brothers or sisters? Does this undermine your relationships with them? This is one of the worst signs of toxic sibling relationships as this behaviour can cause lasting damage.

They do this to elevate their own position by making their other siblings look bad in your eyes. This is because their own behaviour is not good enough by itself, so they have to trash the reputation of others in order to look better.

  1. They dismiss your feelings

We need validation when we are feeling angry, unloved, frightened, anxious or sad. When someone does not take our feelings into account, they are telling us in effect that we don’t matter. We are not important.

Our emotions are what drive us, they are interwoven into every action or behaviour that we take. To have them ignored is extremely detrimental to our psyche.

  1. They are constantly criticising you

Not only do toxic siblings like to trash their brothers and sisters to other siblings in the family dynamic, but they also like to make you feel bad about yourself. They do this by constantly criticising you.

They will judge every aspect of your life and find you wanting. Nothing you do will be good enough in their eyes. Their barrage of putdowns will have a cumulative effect until you begin spending less time with them to escape the mental battles.

  1. They only ever contact you when they need something

You get friends like this, ones that you only get a phone call or a text when they need money or a shoulder to cry on. And it can be exactly the same with siblings.

Do you go for months without hearing from your sibling and then suddenly out of the blue, you get an email or phone call from them?

It will start off innocently enough, perhaps asking how you are, but then the real reason for the call will soon become apparent. They want something from you.

  1. They make threats all the time

Making threats is a toxic behaviour in itself. Well-adjusted people don’t tend to have to make ultimatums in order to get what they want or need in life. If your sibling is constantly making threats, it shows they do not have the mental capacity or the patience to get what they desire in a civilised way.

So how do you deal with toxic sibling relationships? It may be too late to change their behaviour, but you can certainly do something about yours.

How to deal with toxic sibling relationships

Ignore toxic behaviour

Do not engage in bad behaviour, just ignore it. If you engage in it, it may encourage your sibling to carry on.

Surround yourself with positive people

It is easy to doubt yourself when you have a toxic sibling. But if you are with positive well-balanced people, you’ll be able to recognise bad behaviour immediately and not put up with it.

Set clear boundaries

Some toxic behaviour is quite intrusive and can take over a person’s life. By setting clear boundaries, you can regain control.

Sever contact if necessary

Finally, there’s no rule that you have to stay in close contact with your sibling. If the situation is really bad and affecting your health, it is best to sever contact.

Do you have a toxic relationship with your sibling that you would like to talk to us about? Let us know in the comments section.



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This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Cam

    This is very true. I grew up with two older sisters. Our oldest sister is the toxic one. We don’t talk to her anymore because it is impossible for her to be open to making things fair and justified. We three had a good, normal relationship when we were kids, but once she started 7th grade our family dynamic took a turn for the worse. To this day I’m not sure what exactly her reasons were for treating my other sister and I the way she did. She was a very big criticized. Always judging what we wore, what we said, how we looked, how we reacted in social situations, what we enjoyed (hobbies, music, books), etc. At first I (9 years old at the time when this started) just brushed it off and ignored it. But she wouldn’t stop until she got a reaction out of us (we would eventually get very upset because her criticism was so harsh and personal). Unfortunately our parents were no help. My mom just told her “oh stop it” and brushed it off no matter how hurtful she got. My dad was never really around (always working, and when he got home he resorted to his man cave, rarely spending time with his kids. And when he did spend time with us, he acted like he obviously didn’t want to be there). Because of the harsh criticism I endured during developing years (elementary-high school), it took a huge toll on my self confidence. It got to a point where I considered suicide multiple time because she was so emotionally damaging. I developed severe major depression because of my toxic sibling relationship. I had extreme social anxiety in high school where it got so bad I couldn’t even go to school.

    I’m in college now for age reference. My “toxic” sister and I have not talked in about 7 years. I still battle depression and minor anxiety that resulted from the detrimental impact she had on my brain development. Thankfully I recently found a medication that has been helping me feel less depressed. And I am finding my place in the world.

    If anyone else has one of these “toxic relationships” with your sibling(s), you’re not alone. It doesn’t bother me that we don’t talk anymore—I’m thankful I don’t ever have to see her again. The only thing that lingers from childhood is the severe mental damage & emotional pain loneliness caused by my oldest sister.

  2. Light

    All of them is definitely true for what I experienced

  3. AnonymousGirl

    Unfortunately I’ve recently discovered that my eldest sister is extremely toxic towards me and my family. Despite her living in a different state I have severe anxiety over things like hearing her voice on the phone or footsteps outside my door, as she has a history of staying with us and ambushing me to get something. When I tell her no she emotionally abuses me, despite the fact that she owes my parents thousands of dollars which I have paid them back so they wouldn’t struggle. She doesn’t speak to my other sister (due to the same thing happening) so she always tries to get us to go against her and plays the victim. She always criticises me, sometimes outwardly commenting or by things like wearing a kids size skirt and bragging about it to me (she’s incredibly skinny due to smoking and I’m quite curvy, which she’s often hated me for I think because of me catching her staring at me). This is her way of bringing me down and body shaming me. She always wants to know where I’m going, who I’m seeing, and tries to take over my friends. I’ve had to lie, put locks on my door when I went away, hide my mail (applied for a car loan so had to hide the mail so she didn’t know I had extra money), feel guilty over not doing everything with her, etc. We even have three of her animals because she can’t be bothered to take care of them. She almost never contacts me unless she wants something out of the blue and forces me into uncomfortable situations such as taking photos of us to flaunt in my other sisters face despite me not wanting to. She has no concept of privacy whatsoever, she’ll come in my room and act innocent like she just wanted to see what I was doing, and then slowly start going through my clothes or other possessions and ask for them. I’ve googled signs of a toxic sibling and she has ticked all the boxes. And to top off how toxic she is, my parents are in complete denial to the point where the won’t even listen to the fact that she is emotionally abusing me and that it’s affecting every aspect of my life. I’ll never wish this experience upon anyone, it’s so draining and not good for you. If anyone is experiencing a similar thing don’t be afraid to put yourself first. I’m still kind of at that stage but am working towards cutting all contact because she’s affecting me without her being anywhere near me now. Sometimes you have to put yourself first, especially if it affects your mental health.

  4. Tough-Full-Health

    I’ll say this first: I have an unusually huge family from my mom’s side- so lots of toxic people- some I either don’t care to know or conveniently avoid them when I can. Lately I’ve been in a pretty serious financial hardship- my job went under and I’ve tried applying for more jobs and had to quit this one I was just hired to that was paying me a lot more- quit due to deliberate and negligent work conditions- in other words I was hired as a disposable employee for a huge corporation- I’d rather not get into that furthermore for now. But I’m living with my mother, my father, my older brother close in age, and an older sister not close in age. I would often get along with my brother in recent years as well as my mother- whom I would get along with for as long as I can remember. I never was the closest to my sister that I live with but I remember getting along with her at least remotely until a few years ago. I got along with my father as a younger adult and most always prior to- then kind of strayed a few years ago- he’s one of the biggest narcissists and my mom’s family as well as my sister in this household love to hate on him. But he has a severe case of Aspergers as well as some other social hangups so I just kind of consider him “special” in my head and I just feel bad for him- I addressed some of his hangups to my mother and it looks like she got it through for him that I was concerned so at least he’s trying- I don’t hang out with him too much otherwise because he really is toxic by all other purposes. My nearby sister has always been weird herself- growing up she would always throw these bad tantrums and demand to my mom (not my dad- she has a different father) to do things -her way- even if it doesn’t make sense and is a super knee-jerk thing- if anything she toned down a little bit-she plays nice, but she’s not nice- will establish something that seems respectful and just a little bit later (sometimes just the next day) goes back on her word and do whatever that bad thing is that goes against us- she used to be considerably obese but took some surgical procedure to force herself to lose weight over time- and on a crazy forced restrictive diet- now she lost a lot of weight, keeps screwing up her own diet, in and out of the hospital and is still basically the same person she has always been. I do feel bad for her getting sick and pray she can find a way to get better and soon; however my mom always has gotten mad at me for even calling out my sister’s rude behaviors and nothing ever gets done. My brother seemed fine but like my sister and my father it’s like I’m growing up and he doesn’t seem to be. He keeps putting himself into a personality rut- he used to go to the gym with me and hang out and watch TV but- our gym closed down, he’s working graveyard shifts at a grocery store now- sleeping odd hours, eating these same “bedtime snacks” that aren’t always the best choice every day, didn’t want to immediately register for a cheap 24 hour gym like I did and still, packed on pounds and is noticeably more out of shape, and often likes to yell a lot, insult and bully me when I converse with him and justifies most of his slipups with things that put others down. It also shows that he has become a huge two face (more like a bunch of faces at once just to “please” others). And don’t I dare to call anybody out for doing wrong- right in front of him or my sister- it will somehow be “my fault” even if I see clearly that someone is miserable and is hurting themselves. Now I’m not perfect by any means, but I’m always striving to grow while still being mindful and having a heart. My family mostly makes a lot of unhealthy and heartless decisions that makes me often feel so cold in my house even on the hottest day. I can hardly wait to get my job and money together and move on from this house and only speak to and influence people who actually will listen, and see how things go from there. But for now, any good support will be appreciated, and I hope things will be better than just to “tough it out” from all of this vile and unappreciative behaviors. That isn’t everything wrong that they do, but that’s all I will say for now.

  5. Broken Sister

    Tough-Full-Health … It would seem the whole world is wrong but you…. I have a brother like that

    1. Tough-Full-Health

      The toughest person in the household to deal with is my sister. She says a valid point and hardly sticks to her guns- she screams every day to my aging mother- for things that make no sense, and my mother who is finally getting the picture says she just feels sorry for her for allowing her to initially move out when she was 19 just to live with more relatives in that unhealthy lifestyle. I know none of that excuses the antagonizing screaming- sister and I hardly share the same joy that everyone else shares at least every now and then.

  6. Giselle Del Valle

    I’m 32 and my older sister is 36, the youngest is 24. We all have different dads, we did not grow up together. I am the only one who was raised with my mom. My older sister came into our lives when she was 14 and I was 10. It was hell, she was evil and a bully. Life went on and we grew seperate from each other, letting go of the past and embracing new lives as adults. But, the eldest always makes remarks about my physical appearance to my mom and anything I do or say that she doesnt like, she will text me about it. If my son behaves a certain way, she will text me about it and tell me what i should do. These are all intrusive comments and opinions. Yesterday she did it again and I clearly stated I wished for her not to speak to me about my private matters, she continued to give intrusive advice… again I stated for her not to comment on my personal life and to respect boundaries. She continued to bash me saying I am overrracting and absurd. I became annoyed and acused her of being absurd for getting in my business and that her intrusiveness is what bothered me. I asked her to never again text me with her opinions of my life. Well, now she’s blocked me from all forms of communication and acused me of bringing drama into her life with my attitude.
    I feel like I have had to endure her toxic comments about me for years and all I did yesterday was pull out a Hard Stop and she makes a big deal about it. I dont feel bad at all, I feel like its time for boundaries and to say what I feel about her toxic criticism. Except my mom blames me for all this. My mom says its my fault she got offended, that I should have kept quiet and let her talk all she wants. Now, I dont feel that what she criticizes about me changes who I am, not at all. I feel confident of who I am and what I do. I just feel like its just time to say “Stop! This is how far you can go with me.” I am not 10yrs old anymore. How can I address this in a healthier way… because my mom will always blame me for it.

  7. Jeremy

    Just my brother is really smart.. I’m not great with words but hes makes me feel like I’m not worthy of being his brother. Like if I say anything he rebuttals everything I say. If I’m into something he always shoots it down an says its dumb. He basis my decisions as to being dumb. If you only talked to him daily like I do you would understand.. he has the right to his opinions. An what he says could be the truth but that’s where I’m like struggling with having a relationship with him. I do love him but I do have anxiety around him. He hates people but I dont. If it helps we are half brothers an 7 years apart. I do look up to him but I dont know why he makes me feel this way… if I even tried to talk to him about it he just says I have sensitive skin

    1. Tatyana

      i know exacly what you mean but in the end we are always the sensitive ones because they don’t know how to interact with people who don’t feed their ego. I don’t think you should have anxiety talking with someone who you love let alone it being a brother/sister but yet here we are seeing all the traits that they are in fact toxic. I too love my sister but she’s toxic and i don’t think she will change so soon. Best thing would be move out and remove this people from our lives but in the end we would become the bad guy for preserving our mental health………………………


    I don’t love my sister anymore. We were estranged for years for very good reasons, and after 30 years I tried again…we are fraternal twins, will be 62 in May. And it just never changes, never ends. She takes no responsibility for her actions, or lack of actions. She lies, plays people off each other….it goes on and on and on. I’ve read some of the comments, and oh my, I hear you all and feel you. My sister likes to hold me an “emotional hostage”…she ” loves me, misses me”..etc. Just because you are related to someone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do what is best for you! “But she’s your sister!”…… what about me and all the trauma she inflicts on me? I know, I know, I am the one who LETS her do this to me. There is so much more that has gone on as most of you can well imagine….it’d take me weeks to recount it all…but I don’t want to be an “injustice collector”. I am the one who guilts me the worst, by far, that she’s my sister. And I can’t do it anymore, her being in contact with me is not healthy for me. Latest thing, oldest sister in hospital, has Corona virus. My twin sister talking about it all like she’s already dead, relaying made up updates, etc. Why?!!!!! After almost 62 years you’d think I’d get that she will never change and this with her will never end. I, naively keep trying, because she’s my sister. I am letting myself be held an emotional hostage. And I am the only one with the power to make it stop. Me. You can’t reason with her, talk to her, present accurate facts/info. She doesn’t listen, she won’t hear. I tried. I really did. This is all just not fair to me, but how I let it affect me affects my husband, kids, grandkids, other relatives and friends. It affects my health, physically and mentally. Thank you for listening to me. I am obviously very upset, once again. It’s like she’s not happy unless she has me in hysterics…and that is MY fault. And I have to stop it. Again, thank you for listening as I rambled in my frustration and hurt. We are not alone in this.

    1. Caroline MacDonald

      I have just read this and just wanted to say I hope you are well. Sending you a virtual hug. I can feel the pain in your writing and I hope things have improved since you wrote it.

  9. Leigh Leigh

    I hear you. Set your boundaries and guard them.

  10. Ray'el

    I am the second oldest one of the family, I live with 6 other siblings And they are really toxic towards me at one point in time two of my siblings told me to go kill myself and their insults got worse by the hour, Soon enough I couldn’t take anymore and broke down my father came in the room and told them they needed to stop because they wouldn’t like it if I did it to them, It got to the point where I started going into depression, Their toxic behavior has been going on for 5 years now and I considered going suicidal but declined that thought and said there are better things in life than those darn brats and I’m thinking about cutting all kinds of communication with them and isolate myself from people like them

  11. Karen Foster

    I am a twin and 63. For 59 years I thought my twin was my best friend until the night mom died. There is something badly wrong with her. I have begged her for 4 years to tell me what I did. She emotionally and physically abusive and IM a prisoner at her mercy. I cant take it anymore all I do is cry. I see not a living soul but her because she took everybody including my boyfriend of 20 years. I know she wants me dead so she can have my money and I used to protect myself . It is never going to end and I just wish shed kill me and get it over with. Most nights finds me with my weapon in my hand but I know I will never have the courage to use it. I wish I was brave but IM not. I wish shed go back to loving me or she never has I guess but I wish I never found out the truth. I pray to God but he must think IM bad too because he DOESNT listen or hear me. I so wish he would just take me home.

    1. Sarah G.

      Hi Karen. It’s been a while since you made your post, so I really hope you see this. I’m so sorry to hear about what you’re going through. Have things gotten any better for you in the past few months?

  12. Sara Scrimshaw

    Hi There I am a young lady on the autistic spectrum, I have a sister who I find is quite unreasonable and toxic with me, sometimes she can be nice when she wants to text me being nice, then will start being toxic with me, and it makes me feel emotional, can’t cope with it, and we dont exactly have a perfect relationship, and I try really hard to get on with her, but sometimes I cant cope with her toxic behaviour, which pulls me down, especially when I asked for help politely, and get an unreasonable responce back, and when its new technology I have never had such as a new fitness watch that I have never used before, I politely asked her tom help, and she became unreasonable and wouldnt help, so for the first time in a few days that I have had the fitness watch, I have had to struggle with learning how to charge it up at my mums home as she has an USB Port, where as I dont have a a USB Port at home, so today has been a challenge in to A Charging it up, and reassembling it again,

  13. Julie M.

    I have two older siblings and they are both toxic! The worst part is that my mom and dad are constantly making me feel guilty about the fact that I just can’t have a relationship with either one of them. My mom has said to me “why don’t you love your sisters? We are going to move away from all of you if you all don’t start getting along!” Etc., etc. I truly feel constantly guilty for not being able to have a relationship with either of them but having a relationship with them is just painful too! It is so so so hard.

  14. Beatriz Mendoza

    My older sister and I were once close as we were growing up, but as the years went by, she changed a lot and she grew jealous of me and she had everything;a husband , a good-paying job, a husband, a family, a nice house; so I couldn’t figure out why she would be jealous of me; I had a good-paying job, a nice car, etc. but I was single and I was happy; I had a younger sister and to this day, we still in touch with each other and we have a close bond; now my older sister isn’t speaking to either me or my younger sister and we don’t miss her; I am sad that this happened but eventhough I loved her; sometimes it’s best that Ii don’t speak to her; she chose to estrange herself from our family and I accepted it and moved on!

  15. Stephani

    I guess I’m relieved that this is more common than I thought. When I post on quora or reddit to ask questions or get things off my chest, people act like I should just love her, or that it’s my fault. Maybe we’re both toxic but I see from the list above that my younger sister has done these things and still does some of these things. I go to a counselor now that my sister is back in the family home while I’ve been primary caregiver for parent. My sis is very difficult to live with and I would rather she not have returned at all, but she asked our parent if she could and he said yes and my protests didn’t matter. I urged her to go to a counselor because I told her that she needed to work on herself due to her constant dramatics. She acts like her life is a secret while at home, and she tries to control all the cleaning, and chores. She complains about everything being dirty, and about me or my dad’s hobbies. But when I initially asked her before she moved in to help with appointments, and cleaning, cooking, sharing the house. Well, she got mad at me and told me I should never ask her to do things and she still says this even about insignificant things. But she does help with cleaning, and appointments. It’s like walking on eggshells either way. At least she will be leaving in a month and I’ll get some relief from her drama.

  16. Rick

    Just like others here, I endured a lifetime of abuse from my bitch mother. I also had to drop out of college because of anxiety problems from this. Issues with assertion, perfection, etc… as well. I am slowly becoming aware that I’m a pretty good person.
    I just started learning about all of this about age 60. The more I read, the more I realize just how nuts my family was. I’ll go as far as to say that the parents destroyed the lives of 4 brothers. The oldest fled at 18, the next oldest (first golden child) died last year in a mental hospital, the youngest (the replacement golden child) has revealed himself to be a malevolent little money grubber. He really surprised me with that, because I always believed we were close. Now I see that his mimicry of me was just mirroring, which is common with Narcissists. Happy they’re out of my life, but I do miss my Dad even though he was a necessary ingredient in the Narcissistic family system.

  17. Christine

    I have an older sister that is extremely jealous over me. i have had my own preschool business. She is always bragging. I try to help the homeless as much as possible. She is self-absorbed and does not stop. It’s all about her. When we have a conversation about our mentally ill brother and her trying to help me, she blows up about and says she has her own family to care for, she is embarrassed to ask her church for help when i try to talk she calls me names and yells REBUK me. She says she is a disciple for God.
    MY brother is living in a shed ,i will never stop helping him I love him. I am upset that my sister won’t help me. He sleeps on the floor.

  18. Julie

    Thank you Janey. Helpful information. The battle is in recognizing the toxic. Which is a challenge. But.Not impossible. Once a person does. Recognize it. Healing begins. Severing is required. Thank you.

  19. Bobbie Junker

    I can definitely relate to this article. I have two brothers and they are both horrible to deal with. The one brother fits every single category listed. He is the drummer for my band, and let me tell ya, he is toxic beyond anyone I’ve ever met. The belittling is constant when he is around. The threats are thrown every practice, every show, random texts threatening. It is miserable to try and keep him happy. He never will be, happy, and it will always be somebody else’s fault. My decision has become easier after reading this article. I’m firing him from the band, I’m firing him from my life!
    I deserve better. I love my brothers, I’ve just grown to not like them at all. I’m tired of getting my feelings hurt.
    Thanks for the good advice!

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