7 Ways Your Relationship with Your Sibling Might Change After You Get Married
What to expect from your brothers and sisters as your family grows.
If you have a sibling, or a few, they likely played an important role in your wedding. Whether or not they were part of your bridal party, the fact that they're family and have seen you grow from a child into the married adult that you are today is a big deal. You've likely shared some wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) childhood experiences and know some secrets about each other that you've been pinky-sworn to keep between the two of you. While marriage is an exciting step and one that should be celebrated by a sister or brother, it often signals a change in your relationship-sometimes, but not always, for the better. We talked to psychologists to help figure out how you can expect your relationship with your siblings to change once you say "I do."
You may become even closer.
If your fiancé or spouse gets along well with your siblings, it may be the glue that holds your bond together, and you could even grow closer than ever before. Unfortunately, the opposite can also be true, Marissa Nelson, a licensed marriage and family therapist, points out. If they have negative feelings towards each other, that can drive a wedge between you and your siblings. "I know many instances where partners are protective of their spouse and try very hard to defend and show their other half in the best possible light," she says. "If their siblings have an unfavorable view of their husband or wife, people often get defensive and may distance and isolate themselves." This is why it's important to nurture your relationship with both sides. "They have one thing in common, which is loving you, so it's incumbent to make sure that with every shared experience you are building stronger bonds between your spouse and your family," Nelson says.
You may start to become more protective about your marriage.
"I have counseled many couples who say they were open with their siblings about their relationship issues before they got married, but that this changed after they said 'I do,'" says Nelson. "Couples tend to be quite private about the challenging issues that they may be facing as a couple and some only reveal problems such as affairs, frequent verbal arguments, and lack of connection until things are dire." For others, however, siblings are the last to know about internal issues in their brother or sister's relationship. Nelson says that it's fine to treat your marriage as sacred, but that no one should suffer in silence either. "Tell your sibling you don't need judgment, just a shoulder to lean on, and they will be there for you."
Your unmarried sibling may feel jealous.
Siblings who are close in age may be more sensitive to the new change that is this legal contract tying one sibling to a whole other person. This can impact the bond between siblings directly, especially when one is unwed. "Siblings often have a strong bond that glues them together," explains relationship coach, Midori Verity. "When a marriage comes into play, one may worry that the bond will be broken." Of course, resentment is natural for the sibling that feels left behind. She recommends the unwed sibling find a shared interest with the spouse to form a special connection with them. "In effect, you'll win the admiration of the new partner and quickly see there is no need for jealousy."
You may not talk on the phone as much.
Especially if you and your sibling don't live in the same town or state, you're probably used to catching up over text message or phone call. But, when one of you is planning a wedding or enjoying newlywed life, the frequency in these catch-ups may dwindle. Their list of things to do might not shorten once the wedding bells have rung-in fact, things may only become more busy as the couple takes the next step: buying a home or having a baby. "It's important to schedule sister or brother phone dates at least once per week," suggests Nelson. "Group texts may also make it easier to stay connected rather than on the phone."
You may lean on them a little bit more for advice.
Marriage brings about many "adult" experiences that are significantly different than any set of experiences you've encountered thus far in life. This is when your siblings, more than anyone, can be genuine sources of support, especially when they've already gone through this life stage him or herself. "If you are expecting your first child, for example, and you already have a niece or nephew, you may lean on your sibling for counsel and feel like you have more in common as parents then your other siblings," says Nelson. "Don't be afraid to keep your other sibling(s) involved and active in your life, too, even if they don't get everything you're going through." Keeping the lines of communication and connection open is key.
You may have less time and energy for family drama.
Many siblings play the role of the buffer between some of the more hot-headed members of the family, whether that be a bold and opinionated sister or an agitated and difficult-to-deal with father. "If you happen to be the go-to family mediator and peacemaker, you may find that you have less tolerance to get involved with any in fighting once you're married," says Nelson. This is totally normal, but it's smart to set some ground rules. "The focus is making sure that you're pouring as much love and devotion into your own marriage, and not sweating the small stuff and allowing your family to adjust to that new role is healthy and necessary balance," she says.
Your siblings may expect you to do more for the family.
Now that you're a married person, you're more mature and responsible, right? Your sibling likely thinks so. This might come with certain expectations that you're not totally prepared for-i.e. Hosting the family holidays at your home. "Sit down with your spouse and identify whether this is an expectation that you want to meet," suggests Terri Orbuch, PhD, relationship expert and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great. "If you're okay with hosting the holidays in your home, make sure you communicate to your siblings how you want everyone to help." Delegating can help pave the way for a team effort, instead of letting the weight sit solely on your shoulders.