What To Do When Your Sibling And Partner Can't Seem To Get Along

Your siblings are the built-in friends you've had since birth. Your partner is your chosen rock and confidant who you can't picture life without. Both mean a lot to you, but that doesn't mean they're destined to get along. Sometimes, our siblings and significant others can't seem to see eye to eye, trapping us in the middle of the tension. As Fern Schumer Chapman, an expert on sibling estrangement and author of the book "Brothers, Sisters, Strangers: Sibling Estrangement and the Road to Reconciliation," wrote on Psychology Today, there are multiple explanations for this animosity. For instance, jealousy, power struggles, and even a fear of change can be the reason a sibling and romantic partner clash.

Sometimes, loved ones may reject someone we care about simply because it's not who they pictured us with. One 2016 study published in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences found that women tended to prioritize different traits in their sisters' romantic partners than in their own partners. "For their own partners, women focus on an attractive appearance that suggests good health and an ability to pass on their genes. At the same time, they prioritize qualities in their sister's partner that can provide direct benefits for the whole family," the researchers noted via ScienceDaily.

So what can you do if your sibling and partner constantly butt heads? You don't have to break up with your S.O., nor must you cut off your family member. However, you might have to change how you approach each relationship.

Hear them out

It might seem like the best thing to do is to ignore your sibling or partner's complaints about the other, but it might be a good idea to listen to their perspective if you haven't already. Sometimes, siblings can pick up on a partner's red flags, and a significant other can detect a dysfunctional family pattern. "Give your family the gift of listening to their complaints, once," Susan Winter, a relationship expert, love coach, and author of "Breakup Triage: The Cure for Heartache," told Elite Daily. "Allow them to cover each issue without defense. When they're done, thank them for caring. Tell them you've heard their concerns. This diffuses their resistance. Knowing they've voiced their warnings, and you've listened, helps to eliminate their underlying anxiety."

Clinical psychologist Carla Manly also suggests extending the same listening ear to your S.O. "For example, a partner may dislike certain family members because they are controlling, rude, or unwelcoming. Listen without judgment; the goal is to understand your partner's thoughts and feelings," she explained to Romper.

In many cases, your sibling and partner want what's best for you, and they might be quick to assume the worst for the sake of being cautious. It's okay if you disagree with their views, though it's worth considering if there could be any truth to their concerns.

Honor each relationship separately

If you're close with your family, you've likely fantasized about having big get-togethers with your siblings and significant other, where everyone gets along and seems to just click. The reality, however, is that romantic partners don't always fit seamlessly into pre-existing family dynamics. "Any new addition to a family holds the possibility of a profound shift in family culture," Dr. Geoffrey Greif, a professor of social work and co-author of "Adult Sibling Relationships," revealed to Refinery29. Bringing a new lover into the picture can feel like an "earthquake experience" for siblings in particular, he added.

Fern Schumer Chapman also explains in Psychology Today that families may reject anyone who threatens their shared identity or values. If your partner comes from a different social background or follows a different religion, for example, siblings may make it their duty to exclude them to preserve family relationships.

If you suspect these factors may be why your sibling and partner despise each other, try to nurture each relationship separately. You might attend family functions without your partner, so your sibling still feels like they're a priority in your life. Similarly, you could make a rule to not let phone calls or surprise drop-ins from your sibling distract you and your boo on date days.

Set boundaries

Loving two people who can't seem to get along can be exhausting, particularly when there aren't any ground rules in place. You might be on the receiving end of judgmental comments, complaints, and even pressure to break things off with your sibling or partner. If these issues sound familiar, it's time to instate some boundaries. "Recognize you can't control who likes who, but you can ask them to keep their opinions to themselves if it's hurtful to you, and you can ask them to stop endless criticism," Gail Saltz, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine, told Romper. "You can agree to disagree rather than having a running painful litany of guilt and judgment."

Boundaries can also extend to times when your sibling and partner must come face to face, such as at birthday parties. ​​"If either the family member or your partner is not managing to be civil with each other, then their [behavior] needs addressing, and who they like and dislike is irrelevant," senior therapist Sally Baker shared with Metro.

When setting boundaries, be clear about your expectations and the consequences that will take place if the boundaries are crossed. This may include vowing to hang up the phone if your sibling bad-mouths your S.O., refusing to invite your partner to family dinners if they make rude comments, or — in extreme cases — distancing yourself from a loved one who refuses to be cordial.

Know that it's okay if they don't get along

If you're feeling stressed managing the rift between your sibling and your partner, here's a gentle reminder: It's not your job to make them like each other. In fact, it's totally fine if they don't get along. As Sally Baker told Metro, "Family members are not obliged to like your partner, and your partner isn't obliged to like your family either." All that matters is that you like your siblings and partner and that respect is still woven into each relationship.

Susan Winter echoes this, telling Elite Daily, "Having your family support your relationship is important, but not essential." The relationship expert added, "It certainly helps when they accept your mate, but as an adult, you've got greater freedom to live the life you see fit — with whom you see fit — in the way you see fit."

At the end of the day, you don't need anyone's permission to maintain a relationship, no matter how two people in your life feel about each other. If you believe a loved one is trying to isolate or cut you off from other people in your life, be sure to take note. After all, according to Healthline, control and isolation are warning signs of emotional abuse.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.