Family Therapist Reveals How To Reconnect With A Sibling

By molly atherton 9 months ago

1. Make sure you're in the right headspace

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First things first, are you in the right headspace to commit to reconnecting with your sibling? This opportunity it something that shouldn't be wasted on drunken error or a spur of the moment decision. You need to take the time to consider if maybe you need to wait a little while, especially if the wounds are still fresh. Do you feel ready for the emotional journey this might end up being?

2. Consider the pros and cons of reconnecting

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Next, you need to think about the advantages and disadvantages of reaching out to your sibling. A pen and paper are really handy for this kind of thing. On one hand, will they be open to it? Is it a waste of time? Will it affect your family? On the other, could it be the chance to reunite the entire family? Would it make you happy? Do they have kids you haven't met and vice versa? Once you know whether this is worth it for you, you're ready to make the next step.

3. Understand the root of the problem

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You don't want to go into this in the dark - you need to take the time to work out what caused this rift. It might have been one huge argument about something really important, like your partner, or your parents, or responsibilities, or maybe it was a repetition of behaviour that set you on edge. Maybe they make degrading comments, or don't support you, or maybe they're just a jerk. But it's important to know what kind of challenge you're facing, and then you can understand how to fix it.

4. Get advice

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Don't be afraid to get advice. The worst thing you could do is to go into this conversation with your estranged sibling without a sounding board. Sometimes what we think is the right approach can actually be the worst, and while it's important to trust yourself, getting sound advice from someone who knows the situation and its importance in your life, will make all the difference.

5. Practice what you want to say

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Take out your phone. Open up the microphone. Rant to your heart's content. Without practice, who knows what you could say? You could undermine yourself, forget important thoughts, or stay silent just to keep the peace. It's best to think practically about the place you're coming from and how you want to portray it to your sibling. If you want results, you need to think clearly about what you want to say.

6. Be ready with questions

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As mentioned above, you want to get to the root of the problem, and that's just not going to happen without a little digging. Think about what happened between you and ask (but don't interrogate!), why? Was it something you said? Was it something you did? Was it their behaviour? And why did they behave that way? Or why do they have that certain opinion that drives you crazy? Engage with them, and ask all the questions you need to find out how you can trust each other again.

7. Be ready with answers

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Taking accountability in these situations is really hard. We all want to believe we were in the right and that they're the ones who have wronged us. But it's likely that maybe you did something wrong too. Think carefully about why you did or said what you did, not necessarily to defend it, but just to give your sibling some clarity into how your mind works. It will only make for a more open discussion.

8. Take the first step

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Okay, you've taken some time to get yourself ready and you want to reach out. It's up to you to take that first step. In any scenario, you don't want the conversation played out over the phone; tone and meaning can sometimes get lost via text, and phone calls can let your mind wander. Organise seeing them in person. You can't be misunderstood if you're sat across from someone, concentrating on what you both have to say.

9. Keep it private

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This reunion needs to be just the two of you. Outside sources, either from their side or yours, can quickly intervene and turn the whole situation on its head. The best thing to do in this circumstance is to keep it between you and them. Neutral ground is always best, maybe a quiet cafe on a Tuesday morning, or a over brunch. Being in public with keep you both accountable for your actions, but being private with you conversation can make sure you're on an even keel.

10. Use clear and concise communication

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It doesn't benefit anyone if you use the chance to reconnect as an opportunity to crack out your thesaurus. You want to be the Tamra Judge, not the Heather Dubrow of the conversation. Over-explaining yourself can make you feel flustered and out of sorts; your best chance is to make sure you're speaking clearly, and getting your point across in as few words as possible.

11. Remain thoughtful and considerate

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Remember that if they're taking this time to get to the bottom of the issue, they must want to fix it too. It doesn't help anyone if you're snappy or rude or hot-headed. Try and see things from their perspective, rather than leaping to the offensive. And if they're struggling with their words, or something didn't come out quite right, give them a chance to try again. It will help in the long run.

12. Take your time

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If you know you've got a nail appointment in an hour, or you've got to pick up the kids at 3, you won't be able to fully invest the time it takes to help reconnect. Your mind could be in 15 different places and, right now, it only needs to be in one. It doesn't need to take all day, but you both need the opportunity to not feel rushed or flustered by time constraints. So set out a time and know that for those 2 or 3 hours, you are with your sibling and your sibling only.

13. Take a time out

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Saying that, however, sometimes you might need a break. If you're out at a cafe, why not give each other fifteen minutes to check out the cute store next door, or nip to the car to decompress for a moment, and trust that you'll both come back to this. We all need a second, especially in a heated discussion, to take a break and focus on something else. If the conversation becomes to long and arduous, you're going to lose interest and this is too important for that.

14. Don't do it all at once

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Equally, there might be too much to talk about right now, and maybe you need to catch up another time. Rome wasn't built in a day, and any relationship worth saving deserves the time to heal rather than being rushed along. It also allows the opportunity for you to digest everything that has been said, and come back at a later date refreshed and ready to answer some of the harder questions you may not have had answers to at that moment. It's okay to walk away for a moment if you know you'll come back together later down the line.

15. Write a letter

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Whenever things feel too tough to say, writing your feelings down is a huge weight off your chest. If you are taking a time out of the conversation, put pen to paper and get your thoughts out into the world. You don't even necessarily need to send it to your sibling, but it could help articulate things you weren't sure of. Or take it as a moment to talk about something lighthearted, a memory you hadn't thought of in years, a story you've wanted to tell them. Letters are an awesome way of alleviating some of the pressure of talking.

16. Go to therapy

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If you've sat across from each other, tried to talk it all out, but it's just not working, maybe you need to go see a licensed professional. Find a time that works for the two of you and allow a mediator to guide the conversation. Sometimes topics and issues are too big to leave just to ourselves, and it is more than okay to reach out to someone with experience to help guide you through to a successful reconnection.

17. Patience goes a long way

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We've all been there. Your sibling is making a good point, but you have to talk. You need to get it out. It's on the tip of your tongue and it fits so perfectly into what you have to say. No matter what you have to say, no matter how apt it may be, this is not the time to be interrupting each other. Maybe that's even part of the problem. Be patient with your sibling. Let them say what they need to say so you can better understand where they're coming from.

18. Listen to what they have to say

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One of the first things you and your sibling need to agree on is that your phones go in your bags or pockets. They need to be away from your line of sight. That Insta notification will be there once you're finished, but you might never get this chance again. So put it on silent and put it away. Take in what your sibling is saying. Don't just hear them, but really listen.

19. Understand their boundaries

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Not all of us can wear our hearts on our sleeves, and really, what others need is boundaries. Overstepping the line can quickly offend or insult your sibling and make a tough situation even tougher. Remember that they might have certain topics they can't discuss, triggers that flare on the slightest of mention, and that you need to listen to what they're willing to give.

20. Take accountability

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I know what you're thinking: "but I didn't do anything wrong!". If that were true, you wouldn't be where you are now. In the words of Lisa Rinna, you have to "own it, baby" and be aware of the mistakes you've made, the part you've played in the breakdown of your relationship with your sibling. Try not to get defensive and instead think about your intention. If you never meant to hurt them but know you did, apologise and take accountability.

21. You may not get the apology you want

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You might walk away from this whole conversation not quite getting the recompense you feel you deserve. A grovelling apology can sometimes turn into a "I'm sorry you felt that way". It's a tough process for someone to say sorry, so be patient and accept that your sibling may truly believe they did nothing wrong. You need to come out of this knowing you made every effort you could and did everything you can do to fix the relationship.

22. Plan an activity

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You've talked and talked and talked and it's still not quite getting to where you want it to go? Then go do something! Maybe it's something you've never done before, like pottery painting or golf, or maybe it's an activity you did together as kids like playing Mario Kart or baking. It will take you out of your heads and remind you that you can have a good time together. This is your sibling and y'all have got a lifetime of memories together - now go make some more!

23. An ultimatum is not an option

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No ultimatums. Trying to control your sibling and their choices is not going to help you down the line. They won't bend to your will if you tell them "say you're sorry or I'll never talk to you again". I hate to say it honey, but they will just never talk to you again. Reconnecting with your sibling is not about exerting power over them. It's about honest and open communication and coming to a solution together.

24. Work on the relationship

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It might sound corny, but doing the work is the only thing that's going to ensure this kind of thing doesn't happen again. It's not fair on either of you to expect this conversation to fix the whole relationship. You need to continuously check in with yourself when you're talking to them, be considerate of them and their time, and trust that if you work with them instead of against them, you can have a bond that is downright unbreakable.

25. Remain positive

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You are not helping yourself or your sibling if you walk away from this reunion and consider everything that went wrong. That kind of negativity is not conducive to a healthy relationship moving forward. You are best, instead, thinking about everything that went right and look at that glass of milk half full rather than empty, especially if it was one of the reasons your relationship degraded in the first place.

26. Allow yourself to be vulnerable

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Defensiveness, impatience and guarded? It's a recipe for disaster. Talk to your sibling openly, and be as vulnerable as you can be. By explaining your feelings and showing that more emotional side, their walls may come down too. It's tough, that's not being disputed, but it will also pay off knowing that your sibling is seeing this side to you, and will help you both to understand how you came to be in the place you are.

27. Remember it may take some time

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This is no quick fix. You've worked through some difficult topics of discussion, opened yourself up, and seen that there is plenty more work to do. You need to be realistic and know that potentially, this is just the first step. You may be on a very long path back to the relationship you once had. But that's okay. Remain patient, take your time and do the work!

28. Talk to your loved ones

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You had the sounding board beforehand, now it's time to return to those friends and family who can help you decompress, especially if there is more work to do. They may be able to offer you some advice, share an experience they went through, or just allow you to decompress. If that tough talk was especially tense at times, being able to run through it all with someone you trust can allow you a little bit of relief. Hopefully, one day you can count your sibling in this gang too.

29. Be proud of yourself

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You did it! You should be so proud of yourself for taking these steps to help your relationship with your sibling. It might have been one of the toughest things you've done (owning up and taking accountability can be rough), but the pay off will be worth it in the end. Now is the time to take a second, be grateful you've had this opportunity and get ready for your next steps.

30. Arrange to see them again

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If the conversation went well and you managed to talk through everything you needed to, here's the fun part! You can organise to see them again, either one on one or maybe with your partners, and start the slow process of integrating each other back into your lives. If you know that you need to talk through some more of your issues, don't let too much time pass and arrange to see them again. Life can get real busy real fast, so make sure to pencil in that time to reconnect with your sibling.