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Is it normal for siblings to grow apart?

It is very common for siblings to grow apart as they get older and go through different life stages. Even siblings that were once very close can drift apart due to differences in interests, values, geography, and more. While it can be sad to feel distant from a sibling you were once very close with, it is often a normal part of life and maturation. There are several factors that commonly contribute to siblings growing apart.

Differences in Interests and Values

As children grow up and develop their own identities, they often discover different interests and adopt different worldviews. Siblings may have been similar as kids, but divergence emerges with maturity. For example, one sibling may develop an interest in arts and activism while another goes into finance and business. One sibling might have a more traditional worldview while the other adopts a more progressive perspective. The greater the difference in interests and values, the harder it can be for siblings to relate to each other.

Moving Away and Geographic Separation

When siblings grow up and start their own independent lives, they often move to different cities or states. Physical distance makes it harder to stay connected on a regular basis. Siblings living far apart may only see each other once or twice a year during holidays or miss out on the small day-to-day interactions that bonding requires. Even communication can suffer due to time differences and busy schedules.

Getting Married and Starting Families

As siblings get older, they begin to form their own families through marriage and having children. Their spouses and kids naturally become their top priorities over siblings. Raising children is extremely demanding, leaving little free time to nurture sibling bonds. Additionally, in-laws and cousins may not relate as well, further separating siblings.

Differences in Lifestyle

Siblings can grow apart if they adopt markedly different lifestyles. For example, if one sibling gets married and has kids while the other remains single and childless, they may find they have less in common over time. Or if one sibling pursues a very fast-paced stressful career while the other opts for a laidback creative path, relating can become difficult. The greater the lifestyle differences, the harder it becomes for siblings to find common ground.

Personality and Temperament Differences

While personality is partly genetic, it is also shaped by environment and life experiences. Siblings may have started out with similar temperaments but diverged over time. One may have become outgoing and adventurous while the other grew more introverted and cautious. Or one became easy-going while the other is highly emotional. Vast differences in personality can leave siblings feeling like they barely know each other.

Differences in Maturity Level

Siblings often mature at different paces. One may be very responsible from a young age while the other lives more recklessly into adulthood. The more mature sibling may feel held back or frustrated by the other’s immaturity. Or siblings may enter different life stages at very different times and just not relate to where the other person is at. These differences in maturity can push siblings apart.

Competitiveness and Rivalry

A certain level of competitiveness between siblings is normal, but when it turns into outright rivalry it can damage the relationship. Siblings who are constantly competing with each other in school, sports, careers, popularity, etc. tend to have more tension and animosity that pushes them apart over time. Rivalry prevents siblings from being supportive and causes resentment to brew.

Favoritism and Differential Treatment

When parents treat siblings very differently through favoritism, punishment, rewards, etc. it understandably breeds resentment between siblings. The favored child may become arrogant and condescending, while the unfavored child becomes angry and jealous, driving a wedge in the relationship. Perceived favoritism is inevitable to some degree but can become very damaging when taken to extremes.

Bullying and Abuse

A huge factor leading siblings to grow apart is behavior like bullying, verbal/physical abuse, manipulation, and other toxic conduct. When one sibling torments, mocks, controls, or hurts the other it destroys trust and affection, often leaving deep psychological scars. The bullied sibling typically wants to avoid or cut contact with the aggressor when possible. Abuse within sibling relationships can shatter closeness.

Addiction and Mental Health Issues

If one sibling is dealing with an addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, or other vices it strains the relationship and often leads to the other sibling pulling away, especially if the addiction leads to harmful behavior. Additionally, untreated mental health issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. can render a sibling difficult to deal with, pushing the relationship apart over time. In some cases intervention and treatment can help mend bonds.

Political and Religious Differences

Siblings may drift apart over time if they adopt strongly opposing political party affiliations or religious beliefs. The more debates end in arguing and bad feelings, the less inclined siblings are to interact. While healthy debate is fine, hostile fighting over political and religious differences can ruin closeness and lead to avoidance. Agreeing to disagree civilly helps.

Major Life Transitions

During times of major transition, siblings may temporarily grow apart. For example, when a sibling leaves home for the first time to go to college, the routine time together is disrupted. Siblings launching careers may be too busy to connect frequently. Transition phases can distract from sibling relationships but there is often opportunity to reconnect post-transition.

Clashing Spouses

Sometimes siblings don’t get along so well directly but a clash between their romantic partners can still impact the sibling bond. If your sibling’s spouse rubs you the wrong way for whatever reason, you may interact less as couples to avoid tension. Spouse incompatibility can indirectly create distance between siblings over time.

Is Drifting Apart Between Siblings Permanent?

In many cases when siblings grow apart, the separation is not necessarily permanent. Life ebbs and flows. Siblings that barely interact during one life stage may reconnect down the road when conditions change. For example, empty nesters may revive the bond after their kids grow up. Retirement may leave more free time for sibling contact. And major life events like weddings, funerals, illnesses, etc. tend to bring siblings back together, at least for a time.

While the closeness of youth may be gone forever, new appreciation and understanding can develop when siblings reconnect as mature adults. And modern technology makes staying in touch with distant siblings much easier than in past generations. But sadly, some sibling bonds are damaged beyond repair and drifting apart becomes permanent estrangement. The key is to maintain at least some contact so the door remains open when circumstances allow you to come back together.

Tips for Staying Close With a Sibling You’re Drifting Apart From

If you sense yourself growing distant from a beloved sibling and want to preserve or revive the closeness, here are some proactive steps you can take:

Communicate Openly

Have an honest conversation with your sibling explaining you miss the relationship you used to have and want to make more effort to stay connected. This opens the door to brainstorming ways to improve contact. Voicing feelings is better than silently accepting the distance.

Schedule Regular Catch-Ups

Rather than vaguely promising to keep in touch, actually schedule video chat sessions or phone calls on a regular basis. Consistent communication bridges physical distance. Dedicate a set time weekly or monthly that you commit to connecting.

Plan Future Get-Togethers

Have something to look forward to by planning a future visit or trip together. Give yourselves an adventurous shared experience like a concert, hike, or museum to bond over. Shared events strengthen the relationship.

Reminisce About the Past

Talking and laughing together about cherished memories from your childhood and formative years can rekindle fond feelings. Remembering the past highlights the depth of your shared history.

Show Interest in Their Life

Make time to have in-depth conversations focused on what’s going on in your sibling’s life. Ask questions, listen, be supportive, and offer advice if asked. Show you genuinely care about their current circumstances.

Find Common Ground

Focus conversations on things you still have in common like family, cultural heritage, favorite sports team, etc. Shared interests are grounds for bonding, even if you have separate lives.

Avoid Touchy Subjects

Try to steer clear of controversial topics you clash over, especially in the re-building stages. Debate can wait – emphasize having fun together.

Give Each Other Space

Be understanding if your sibling needs space sometimes – pressuring will backfire. Contact them consistently but not smotheringly. Let the relationship progress organically.

Use Technology to Stay in Sync

Take advantage of tech like shared photo albums, social media groups, video calls, etc. to maintain a sense of connection in between visits. Technology bridges physical distance.

Coordinate Multigenerational Events

Make an effort to get together for family events where you can both participate like holidays, reunions, kids’ birthdays, graduations, etc. Shared family gatherings preserve the sibling bond.

Collaborate on Shared Interests

Find ways to work on hobbies or projects together like ancestry research, fantasy football league, book club, family vacation planning, etc. Shared activities unite siblings.

Provide Emotional Support

Check in if your sibling is going through a hard time like divorce, job loss, illness, etc. Having a shoulder to lean on repairs broken bonds. Offer non-judgmental listening and comfort.

When Growing Apart is Healthy

While it’s sad to feel sibling bonds weakening over time, in some cases drifting apart is actually a healthy, adaptive response. Clinging to unhealthy, damaging sibling relationships out of obligation serves no one. Situations when allowing space or separation is wise include:

Abusive Relationship

If one sibling is emotionally, verbally, physically, or sexually abusive, cutting contact or limiting interactions is often healthiest for the victim. Seeking connection with an unrepentant abuser prolongs trauma. Protect yourself.

Addiction Problems

Being close with a sibling who has an untreated addiction problem risks enabling their behavior and exposing you and other family to harm. Setting boundaries to encourage treatment may revive the relationship.

Destructive Influence

Limit contact with a sibling whose lifestyle, associations, or behaviors feel dangerous or undermine your well-being. Surround yourself with positive relationships instead.

Selfish One-Way Relationship

If the relationship is completely one-sided, with one sibling making all the effort, free yourself from an unhealthy dynamic with a narcissistic sibling.

Constant Drama and Conflict

At times, two siblings are like oil and water – contact always ends in explosive fights. Avoiding destructive conflict is mature, not cowardly.

Emotional Immaturity

It’s OK to distance from a sibling who is hurtful, manipulative, dishonest, malicious, jealous, etc. due to emotional instability. You can’t force maturity. Focus positive energy elsewhere.


In summary, it is perfectly normal, common, and even inevitable for siblings to drift apart to some degree as they grow older. Their lives, interests, and personalities diverge as they mature and have new experiences. While sad, this is a natural process, and strained sibling bonds can often be revived when circumstances realign. But allowing space can also be healthy when the relationship has become toxic or destructive. The key is maintaining just enough connection that you can rediscover closeness when the time is right. With effort and understanding from both parties, many siblings find their way back to each other across the distance of time.