Being friends with your siblings as adults looks a little different than being roommates with them when you’re little. Your relationship with your siblings, if you’re like me, has ebbed and flowed over the years. I have two sisters and I am the one in the middle - I’m sure you can imagine there have been quite a mix of both.
When it’s good, you can’t spend enough time together; when it’s not good, any time is too long. The latter can be said for time apart. When it’s good, being a part feels too long and being together feels too short.
Hanging out isn’t laying on each other's beds when you get home, piling on the couch or sitting around the dinner table every day anymore. It’s buying a plane ticket, filling up a tank of gas or asking for a day off.
Growing up, I had the experience of sharing a room with both of my sisters at different times. My older sister has me by four years, so it was mostly her trying to keep me from ruining her things. On the other hand, I have my younger sister by two years. So it was a constant question of where’d you put my (fill in the blank)?
When we were under one roof, not solving a problem wasn’t an option. We had to find a way to build a bridge and get over whatever it was we were upset about. I think I took this for granted. It was so much simpler to work things out in person.
I've noticed that when you live far apart you don't have the luxury of solving arguments with a simple apology and a hug. I’ve seen how little miscommunications like asking why you haven’t heard from them, giving unsolicited advice or reading a text wrong can snowball into not talking for months or threatening to not come home for the holidays.
While living apart, these arguments sting a little more, hurt a little deeper and take a little longer to get over. Add different time zones and busy schedules into the mix and somehow you’ll always call at the wrong time, the text will be read out of context and the drama gets passed around to other family members and grows.
It takes effort to be intentional and choose words carefully. (Even more so when the communication is just over the phone and not in person!)
Here are some things I’ve tested out to avoid as much miscommunication as possible:
- Send voice memos instead of texts! My little sister and I have pretty much switched to just sending voice memos to each other instead of texts. We were reading the messages wrong too often and becoming frustrated for nothing. Hearing the tone really helps.
- Have time to talk? Call or FaceTime/Video Chat instead of texting! My older sister and I FaceTime almost every other week and talk on the phone at least once a week. Tone of voice makes up 38% of communication and body language is a whopping 55%. It’s a lot harder to misinterpret what’s being said when you have 93% of the picture!
- The benefit of the doubt. This is something I need to keep working on. Sometimes I have to remind myself of the facts: I know my sisters love me, they are busy, and they want what’s best for me. If I can read their texts or talk to them however I get to with this mindset, I’m less likely to dissect and pick apart every nuance they bring up. This is so much easier said than done. (Especially since the three of us are blunt and sensitive... how does that even happen??)
- Be intentional when together. If one of your siblings is going out of their way to come and visit, spending time and money to come and see you, then show them why it’s worth it! Make plans together before you make plans with people you can see more regularly. It’s so important to show you value them. If you aren’t intentional, the situation can very quickly turn into feelings getting hurt and resentment can settle in just from not talking beforehand.
- Don’t talk just when you need something. No one likes feeling like the only time you care to talk to them is when you need something from them. Call and catch up when you can, share exciting news, or challenges you’re working through, I’m sure your siblings would be more receptive to helping you out if you all have been communicating regularly.
Don’t let the responsibility of reaching out, having patience and being intentional keep you from enjoying your siblings as friends! Though they didn’t have a choice in growing up with you, you have the option to choose each other now that you’re grown up.
Written by Sarah Ham