7 Strategies to Deal with Your Toxic Sibling

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Our siblings are some of the most complicated people to deal with in our lives.  Sibling rivalries started as kids over pretty trivial stuff… like when we started to fight over our teddy bears, who sat in the front seat on car rides, deciding what shows to watch on TV and who was better at certain sports. 

Then there is sibling abuse… when older siblings assert dominance over the younger siblings, whether physically or intellectually.  Whether it is bullying or playing mean tricks on them. These things are to be expected, although they can be sad.

But unlike these two seemingly “harmless” offenses, what happens when you are forced into a situation where your brother or sister turns toxic?  Chances are that parental favoritism, parental abuse, or family dysfunction has created a perfect storm of toxicity within the heart and mind of your sibling. 

And now you realize who was once a close friend and confidant to you has become your biggest rival and arch nemesis.  But who do you just give up on family? Or accept these is no opportunity to repair what is now broken.

What is a Toxic Personality?

The most challenging personality type to deal with is a toxic personality.  A person with a toxic personality is one whose behavior negatively affects the lives of others.  Moreover, not only do they act in ways that upset others, but their actions don't reveal the best side of their personalities either.  

Toxicity in a person isn’t widely considered a result of a mental disorder.    However, mental problems and personality disorders could make a person act in unhealthy ways.

Reasons Why Someone May Become a Toxic Person 

There are many reasons someone may become a toxic person.  One of them is that it is in one’s nature.  Character traits such as Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy can be passed down genetically from the parent to their child. 

Another reason a person becomes toxic is that they were overprotected as a child.  They may have also been excessively pampered or praised, leading to a toxic personalityAdditionally, some people may behave poorly because of substance abuse or growing up in a dysfunctional family.    

Mental health conditions such as bipolar disorders, personality disorders, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) could be reasons for people to become toxic.

One thing to remember is that toxic behavior, no matter the relationship the person has with you, has more to do with the things going on inside of them and is not your fault.  

Signs You Have a Toxic Sibling

For a sibling to be labeled “toxic,” they must show repeated patterns of harmful and despicable behavior.  One sure way to know is to realize that after interacting with them, you are completely drained physically and emotionally

So, again, this is not just a one-time issue either, but a consistent behavior pattern and feeling you have in response to it.

Here are a few signs indicating your sibling is toxic.

  • They are controlling toward you.
  • They don't respect the boundaries you have up for you and your family.
  • They consider your feelings invalid or dismiss them.
  • They feel they are always right.
  • They create conflict out of nowhere.
  • They take all the credit for things, especially when they had nothing to do with the success of it.
  • They are manipulative.
  • You are constantly defending yourself to them.
  • You feel bad about yourself around them.
  • You are always confused about their behavior.
  • They are a very self-entitled person.
  • They are overly critical of you and others.
  • You can’t trust a word that they tell you (because they show a pattern of dishonesty).

These signs are important to be aware of so that you can learn to deal with your sibling’s toxic behavior going forward.

The Harmful Ramifications of Having a Toxic Sibling

Eight out of ten children live with siblings, which is more than those who live with fathers in the home.  Additionally, children spend more time with their siblings after school than with their friends or parents.  So, siblings have a greater chance of influencing each other's lives than anyone else. 

For these reasons, having a toxic sibling can have tremendous ramifications.  It is very hurtful when the people who are to love us the most hurt, abandon, and betray us.  Those wounds cut us profoundly and affect other areas of our lives. 

So, when a sibling relationship is broken, we live each day as if we don't love or need them, when in actuality, in the back of our minds, we long to reconcile with them. 

Another ramification of having a toxic sibling is waiting on them to apologize, but the apology never comes.  Moreover, it is harder to accept that your sibling, who knows “where all the bodies are buried” in your life, is showing their true self.  And the chance to see things between you two get better seems bleak.  

Lastly, after getting frustrated with trying over and over to get to some common ground and have a meaningful relationship, you have to walk away from the one person you crave the most in your life. 

That may be how to deal with toxic sibling in your situation. Because that is the only way you will have some semblance of peace.  

7 Strategies to Deal with Your Toxic Sibling

1.  Learn to Set Healthy Boundaries and Stand Your Ground

It is never easy to deal with a toxic sibling.  Because they often feel like there are no boundaries between the two of you.  After all, they know so many things about you that nobody else knows.  You could let your sibling know you understand the things they are saying or doing come from a place of love. 

However, you don't find what they are saying helpful.  Then set clear boundaries about the type of things that you will accept their commentary on and things that go too far.  In doing this, you clearly make boundaries between you and your sibling.   Then, stand your ground and be firm in a polite way so that they get the point. 

2.  Try to Understand Their Point of View

When people are toxic, they may be used to others arguing with them and distancing themselves.  Hence, a different way to respond is to try to understand where your toxic sibling is coming from. 

For example, you may find that their behavior is rooted in a place of hurt, feeling disconnected from others, or jealousy.  Also, you may notice that your sibling is speaking or acting out from a place of low self-esteem. 

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Make sure you are only around your toxic sibling when other people are present.

When you seek to understand your sibling, you may find a productive way to encourage them and help.  However, when you don't try to understand your sibling before walking away, it could lead to a fight or flight response in your mind as it relates to them. 

Some people with a toxic nature are so wrapped in their own negativity that they swallow up the whole atmosphere of a room when you're around them.  So when you leave the room, you leave drained, in a bad mood, and completely exhausted.  But don't give up on them quite yet. 

Instead, seek to understand your toxic sibling.  Doing so will reveal to you if there is something you can do, such as offer encouragement and spend time talking through things.  Or if you need to help them connect with a medical professional who can dig deeper into their psychological needs.

3.  Be on the Defense

Toxic people, especially siblings, can often be on their best behavior when around others.  For example, when they are around parents, grandparents, or other authority figures.  So, to avoid the frustrating and mentally draining interaction with that person, ensure you are only around them when those people are present. 

Someone, I know recently experienced the awkwardness of being around her toxic sister at a group gathering.  She only decided to attend the meeting because she would be around people who would serve as a buffer between the two. 

Sadly, her sister was still her usual toxic self while being determined to be in close proximity to her.  However, when their pastor sat near them, she was on her best behavior.  In fact, she was a completely different person until the pastor left the meeting.

4.  Don't Look at Their Behavior as a Regular Thing

Just because your sibling puts you down and mistreats you regularly doesn't mean it is ok to normalize it.  Your sibling may get a kick out of putting you down, even getting others in on it as if it's a joke.  However, you don't have to accept this behavior.

Tell your sibling what they said was mean, untrue, and inappropriate, and you think it is wrong.  They need to know that it's not ok to mistreat you, and you are not ok with simply “sweeping things under the rug.” 

5.  Don’t Stoop to Their Level

When you have been in a sibling rivalry for decades, you may be used to having an eye for an eye approach to you and your toxic sibling's relationship.  However, it may be best not to stoop to your toxic loved one's level to keep things from going too far. 

Instead, let things roll off your back.  You don't have to seek revenge for the hurtful things that they do to you.  I know it is hard to do, but let it go and don't even give their behavior the time of day.

6.  Trust Your Feelings

When you are hurt by the people you love the most, you often desire to give them the benefit of the doubt.  Which, in this case, could result in looking at yourself as the guilty party for misunderstanding what happened.  It may also cause you to feel you deserve the terrible treatment you received. 

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Let it go and don't even give their behavior the time of day.

Learn to trust yourself and what you have observed from interactions between you and your toxic sibling.  For example, if you see the behavior as repetitive and unjust, trust your observations and intuition, then govern yourself accordingly.

7.  Cut Ties with Them Completely

I know that saying goodbye to a sibling and cutting off all communication seems a bit drastic.  And it is something that shouldn't be taken lightly.  So, give this much thought before deciding to cut ties.  

You have to decide if it is worth the roller coaster of emotions you feel when interacting with your toxic sibling.  Also, it would be best to see who their behavior affects.  

For example, suppose it is just you that their toxic behavior is aimed at.  In that case, you may be able to simply set healthy boundaries.  But if their behavior negatively affects your spouse and children, that is a different story.

Be open with your sibling, letting them know that you made this decision and why you did it.  Unfortunately, they may become angry initially.  However, they will have a chance to think about what you said over time.  Whether it leads to reconciliation between you two, only time will tell. 

Final Thoughts on 7 Strategies to Deal with Your Toxic Sibling

Depending on our family dynamics… our siblings are usually our first friends, confidants, and playmates.  But, no matter how our home life was framed, the best memory-making moments in the family aren't the same when we are at odds with a toxic sibling.  Their behavior ruins baby showers, birthdays, and gatherings at all major holidays. 

So, first, it is crucial to recognize the toxic signs your sibling has.  Then you can decide how to help them, deal with them, or avoid them.  But, whatever you do, don't leave any stone unturned before deciding to walk away and block phone calls.  

And lastly, remember, you deserve better than being gaslit, manipulated, and traumatized by anyone… especially your sibling. You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends and you can always choose positivity!

Finally, if you want to identify YOUR personality type, then take one of these 11 personality tests to better understand what makes you tick.

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