EX­PLOR­ING SIB­LING RI­VALRY Un­der­stand­ing brings a deeper con­nec­tion.

Many of us have felt the twinge of sib­ling jeal­ousy at some time in our lives, whether th­ese feel­ings are long past or still ten­der. But with un­der­stand­ing, our sib­lings can be a source of mu­tual sup­port, love and pride, says Xe­nia Tali­o­tis

In the Moment - - Contents -

“The only time my name was men­tioned in the me­dia was as the less suc­cess­ful Minogue sis­ter,” lamented Dan­nii, when she was yet again asked about sib­ling ri­valry. No mat­ter how ve­he­mently she de­clared her love for Kylie, the in­sid­i­ous in­ser­tion of the word “in­sists” or “claims” in ev­ery ar­ti­cle – as in “Dan­nii in­sists/claims she feels no re­sent­ment,” im­plied that the jour­nal­ists were onto her: that they could see past her words to the rag­ing jeal­ousy within.

The Minogues are not the only ones to have their sib­ling­hood scru­ti­nised through the prism of sus­pi­cion and as­sump­tion. Any­one who has a suc­cess­ful sis­ter or brother will face sim­i­lar ques­tion­ing, par­tic­u­larly if they have fol­lowed the same ca­reer path, and even more so if they are deemed to have done less well. Ser­ena and Venus Wil­liams get it all the time; so do Cara and Poppy Delev­ingne, psy­chi­a­trists Su­san and Steven Pinker and David and Ed Miliband, who caused me­dia melt­down when they stood against each other for the Labour Party lead­er­ship.

For un­fath­omable rea­sons, we like to see sib­lings at war: in Ro­man mythol­ogy, Ro­mu­lus kills his twin Re­mus; in the Bi­ble, Cain mur­ders his brother Abel, and in the book What­ever Hap­pened to Baby Jane, sis­ters Baby Jane (a for­mer child star) and Blanche (a suc­cess­ful ac­tor in adult­hood) de­stroy both their own lives and each other’s through envy.

Per­haps it is be­cause of th­ese as­so­ci­a­tions that no one will ever ad­mit to be­ing the teeny tini­est bit jeal­ous of a sib­ling. “The mo­ment we shake hands we’re done with the match, we’re sis­ters,” says Ser­ena Wil­liams. “I don’t com­pare my­self with my sis­ter. We sup­port each other, we’re both in the in­dus­try – that’s the end of the story,” says Dan­nii Minogue. Yet a lit­tle healthy com­pe­ti­tion is an en­tirely nat­u­ral and in­built re­sponse to hav­ing to share. All of us with sib­lings, no mat­ter how well we get on now, will re­mem­ber ght­ing at some point dur­ing our child­hood. As psy­chother­a­pist Phillip Hod­son ex­plains: “Sib­lings ght be­cause one dis­places the other. They en­ter an evo­lu­tion­ary strug­gle for the milk sup­ply (also known as the love sup­ply) and a con­test for en­dorse­ment. Un­der­neath this is the fear of parental re­jec­tion.”

Although this all sounds rather neg­a­tive, this ri­valry is noth­ing to be wor­ried about, or to try to pre­vent. “Com­pe­ti­tion be­tween sib­lings is univer­sal and un­avoid­able,” says clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist and par­ent­ing ex­pert Linda Blair, au­thor of Sib­lings: How to han­dle sib­ling ri­valry to cre­ate life­long lov­ing bonds (White Ladder Press, £12.99). “Peo­ple view it as some­thing dread­ful that should be elim­i­nated, when it’s ac­tu­ally bene cial, push­ing chil­dren to achieve and teach­ing them in­valu­able skills.” Ac­cord­ing to Linda, healthy ri­valry be­tween sib­lings builds emo­tional in­tel­li­gence. “When a new child arrives, the older ones have to learn how to ne­go­ti­ate, compromise and share if they are to re­tain parental ap­proval. Th­ese are es­sen­tial life skills they will need through­out their lives.”

Our sib­ling re­la­tion­ships are likely to be the most en­dur­ing of our lives. Our brothers and sis­ters share our genes, our his­tory and our mem­o­ries. As

Je rey Kluger so beau­ti­fully put it in his book,

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